What I’ve Learned: Hanna Cody ’16

The 2016 Arts & Sciences valedictorian is set to graduate as Rollins’ first gender studies major.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

It’s 80 degrees outside, and Hanna Cody ’16 is a little chilly in her white, long-sleeved shawl.

Maybe it’s the iced latte she’s drinking in the courtyard at Mon Petit Chéri on Park Avenue. Or maybe it’s just that this native of Rochester, Minnesota, has been acclimatized to the hot Florida air. Four years at Rollins will do that to you.

And what a four years it’s been. Cody, the 2016 Arts & Sciences valedictorian, will be the College’s first gender studies major when she graduates on May 8. She created the major—an interdisciplinary program examining how gender and sexuality impact individuals and societies—with the assistance of the Leadership Ally Program.

Cody has held a number of leadership capacities on and off campus—from participating in the Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program to representing Rollins in Washington, D.C., as an LGBT advocacy fellow.

In addition to serving as a research assistant in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, she has studied international conflict resolution as a Dean’s Scholar at American University, interned at the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, traveled to Bosnia and Jordan, and conducted research on the women’s rights movement in Kurdish Turkey.

We caught up with Cody on a warm April morning to reminisce about her experience at Rollins. Here’s what she’s learned—starting with the weather.

The Lucy Cross Center was Hanna's home base at Rollins. (Photo by Scott Cook) The Lucy Cross Center was Hanna's home base at Rollins. (Photo by Scott Cook)

Sometimes I’ll be cold in 80-degree heat. But when I go home and it’s 30 degrees outside, I might find myself wearing shorts. It’s a mindset thing, depending on where I’m at. It’s funny, but seasons are kind of optional here. Winter in Florida is sort of like fall in Minnesota. I remember moving into the dorm my first year, and my glasses fogged up. That never happened before. I had this moment of, “what did I get myself into?”

Growing up in a single-parent home, I learned about the importance of being in a collaborative relationship. Even though my mom was obviously the authority in the house, we were equal partners. She always treated me like an adult, and in doing so always expected the best from me. That contributed to me being the person I am today.

As a kid, I took myself too seriously. As I’ve gotten older, that’s become less of an issue. I don’t always have to be this smart, put-together person. Not everything in life has to be an A-plus.

I’m a little biased, but I think very highly of my generation. I have full faith that millennials are going to do good things. We’re pushing a lot of boundaries about questioning the status quo and finding solutions to address complex issues.

It’s really important to understand religion, because it’s so heavily intertwined with how we craft our laws and view morality, which translates to advocacy work. It’s a fascinating part of life that changes the way people think and influences the way people are.

Identity is how you define yourself, and that’s something that’s unique. You have complete ownership over it.

We live in an environment that’s complacent about objectification, sexual violence, and retaliation toward those who report rape. With college students, there really is a culture of skepticism and apathy.

Traveling overseas, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Let go and accept that you’re going to be in situations where you make mistakes and look ridiculous.

Food brings people together. When you meet new people, especially in a welcoming place like Jordan, they want you to drink their tea and sit down for a meal. Trying new food is a good entranceway into the heart of a culture. At Rollins, a lot of people study abroad, and our generation really craves going to new places and experiencing new things.

My friends and I eat at Tako Cheena way too often. We’re totally addicted. As for coffee, if you want to hang out or study, it’s Stardust. The best-tasting coffee, though, is Propagation.

I spent a lot of time in Olin, especially on that back porch or in the rocking chairs. The Lucy Cross Center, though, is my home base.

A liberal arts education teaches you to think critically. It also helps make you more interesting at a dinner party.

The sense I’m getting is that most graduating seniors—and I’m certainly in the same boat—are worried about landing that perfect job. But this is just one step. The next one or two years won’t define who we are. It’s an ongoing process.

I’m glad I took time to invest in relationships with faculty and staff. The fact I can go around campus and have professors know my name and what I’m interested in, that’s really cool. I had amazing opportunities to connect with people who believed in me and wanted to give me a chance.

As a first-year student, there’s a desire to want to define yourself right away. Take as much time as you need to find who you are and what’s really important. Cut yourself some slack, meet new people, and try out for things you’re curious about.

Enjoy the four years, because they go by fast.