Gateways to Orlando

Rollins College and Stetson University

Sometimes it seems as though I see more colleges and universities on grey days – or rainy days – or cold days. That was the case in January in Florida where the temperature in Central Florida dipped into the 30s.

I flew into Orland and turned my attention to Deland, Florida, about an hour away. I had been to Stetson University too many years ago, and it was time to return. What I discovered was a completely rejuvenated and attractive small university just steps from a cute downtown, only half an hour from the beaches of Daytona. Stetson in 2020 is one of the smallest Division I universities in the country, and yes, it does field a football team! The university is test optional in admissions and consists of the College of Arts and Sciences, The School of Business, and The School of Music.

There is a general education requirement, although students in the university honors program (UHP) enjoy an alternative with fewer requirements –  only ones in writing, languages and quantitative reasoning or the physical and natural world. The School of Music is a professional school that requires an audition/interview for admission and features a range of areas of study that award the Bachelor of Music degree, including organ, piano, guitar, voice and orchestral music, as well as a BM with an outside field, and in music technology. The School of Business offers a number of areas of study including finance, entrepreneurship, international business and professional sales. Arts and Sciences areas of study include global development, military science, computer science and communication and media studies. 

Service is important at Stetson – the idea is for each student to connect his or her major with a need in the world. That is reflected in experiences like the Bonner Scholarship program in which students commit to weekly leadership training and to eight or more hours of community service each week through an internship with a local non-profit partner.

Back to Orlando – actually Winter Park right next door – where the weather was warming up. I was again after many years on the campus of Rollins College, which was largely as I had remembered it, save for a new residential area under construction on one area of campus (the Lakeside Neighborhood) and a renovated dining hall. The school is designed in a decorative Spanish Mediterranean style, and as my tour guide noted, it features many archways! The college sits right across the street from the historic district of Winter Park, an extension of campus for students with cafes, restaurants and shops.

Rollins is the oldest college in Florida, and the other side of campus overlooks the shores of Lake Virginia. As a small liberal arts college, class size is topped at 25, and it’s easy to double major or minor. Mentorship is important at Rollins, which features research with faculty on campus during the school year and a summer student/faculty collaborative research program. Greek life is healthy and despite the attractions of the growing Orlando area –  many options for internships, visits to Disney World and Universal, and a 45-minute ride to the beach – around 2/3 of students study abroad. There’s also a DI water skiing team!

Although psychology and biology are popular, Rollins also features preprofessional programs, like a popular 3/2 accelerated  business management program and an international business dual degree program in which students graduate fluent in German. One of the students on my tour talked excitedly about the music program – no audition required – especially in his chosen instrument, bass guitar. Concentrations in music include commercial music.

Rollins calls its approach to education the Rollins Gateway. The Gateway is also the entrance to the college. As my tour guide noted, the idea is that a freshman student enters the gateway as one person and passes through the gateway at graduation as a different person. Each student has his or her own gateway, because each student has his or her particular experience at Rollins.