Immersed in Ideals

The path to national recognition as a Newman Civic Fellow began for Raul Carril ’14 ‘16MBA in a hot, sweaty swamp.

Carril works to fill raised garden beds at Kimball Wiles Elementary School during an Immersion trip to Gainesville, Florida, in January. The school uses produce from the gardens to make healthy student lunches. (Photo by Scott Cook) Carril works to fill raised garden beds at Kimball Wiles Elementary School during an Immersion trip to Gainesville, Florida, in January. The school uses produce from the gardens to make healthy student lunches. (Photo by Scott Cook)

A few years ago, Raul Carril ’14 ’16MBA found himself sloshing around in the brackish water and mud of the Everglades. He was learning about the importance of preserving the area and digging in to help with the cause.

In that remote, overwhelming spot, where it might be easy to feel lost, Carril found his place at Rollins.

It was during the fall break of his first year, and he had decided to try one of the College’s intense, service-oriented immersion programs. When he saw an email about “Hot and Sweaty in the Swamp,” he thought: Why not?

“That Immersion experience was particularly meaningful for me because it introduced me to Rollins’ mission of global citizenship and responsible leadership and to an amazing group of people at Rollins,” says Carril, who just completed his first year at Crummer Graduate School of Business.

The Everglades experience was part of Immersion: Citizens Take Action. And it was the start of his serious interest in creating socially responsible businesses that improve the communities in which they flourish.

He found the experience so vital that he remained with the Immersion program, serving as a graduate assistant this year, and working to rebrand the look and message of the materials.

“Immersions gently push people out of their comfort zone,” Carril says. “My first Immersion pushed me to be more adventurous. I tried gator for the first time, had a giant snake placed around my neck [by an animal expert], and went on an airboat ride. Throughout the weekend, I was put through Immersion’s three pillars of service, education, and reflection.”

Those efforts and others ultimately led to his being honored recently as a Newman Civic Fellow. The prestigious national award, given to 200 student leaders this year, honors those “who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country,” according Campus Compact, a national coalition of 1,100 college and university presidents.

The award did not surprise Meredith Hein, who is director of the Center for Leadership & Community Engagement. “Raul is creative, strategic, and innovative, and he mentors a lot of people on campus,” Hein says. “His work ethic is such that he puts his heart and soul into everything he does.”

That work ethic and sense of social responsibility matured at Rollins, but they stem, in part, from Carril’s family history. His grandparents and parents emigrated from Cuba during the political turmoil that resulted in communist rule.

“My family’s story affects the way I look at my future career because of how I have seen them work for themselves, for me, and for others,” says Carril, who majored in Asian studies. “Both sides of my family left Cuba shortly after Castro came to power. They had to figure out how to make a living outside of what they had known and replace all they had lost.”

The efforts he saw and the obstacles he heard about shaped his outlook. “I have grown up hearing stories from my grandparents about not having enough food on the table. I’ve seen pictures of them celebrating Christmas with a twig as a tree. I’m proud of all that they have accomplished to provide themselves and myself with an education and a better life. They have worked hard and helped themselves and others along the way.” 

Growing up immersed in that history and surrounded today by those who are paying it forward left an impact on Carril.

“My father is a physician assistant and volunteers at Shepard’s Hope [health clinic] in Orlando, and my mother is a daycare teacher and believes in educating and installing empathy in future generations. I want to continue to work not only to make my family proud and advance myself and my standard of living, but to impact and improve the life of others.”

Meanwhile, he keeps looking for ways to mix the practical with the ideal. “I’m hoping,” he says, “to use business as a mechanism for social change.”