Bright Lights

May 01, 2024

By Laura J. Cole ’04 ’08MLS

Alise Fortune, Alexis Munsey, Olivia Tamburlini, Rivers Lenholt, Coco Marshall, and Alec Kriegbaum.
From top left: Alise Fortune ’24, Alexis Munsey ’24, Olivia Tamburlini ’24, Rivers Lenholt ’24, Coco Marshall ’24, and Alec Kriegbaum ’24.

Rollins’ 2024 valedictorians share how the College connected them to their purpose, what they’ll miss most, and what’s next in their meaningful lives and productive careers.

Rollins’ 134th commencement is on the horizon, and shining brightly are this year’s six accomplished valedictorians. All but one hail from the Sunshine State, and like this year’s selected commencement speaker Alise Fortune, all credit Rollins with helping them connect their passions to their purpose.

Along with Fortune, they represent nearly the full kaleidoscope of liberal arts experiences, with majors ranging from business and communication studies to philosophy, psychology, and environmental studies. They participated in internships, study abroad programs, field studies, campus leadership positions, student organizations, and student-faculty research. And among them, they include two student-athletes, a real estate agent, two Phi Beta Kappa inductees, and two Fulbright semifinalists.

From improving waterways to participating in four highly competitive international internships, each of the valedictorians charted their own unique path to success at Rollins. Now they step into the real world as global citizens and responsible leaders ready to forge a lasting legacy.

Alise Fortune
Photo by Scott Cook.

Alise Fortune ’24

  • Majors: Philosophy and psychology
  • Hometown: Sarasota, Florida

Alise Fortune took full advantage of all that a Rollins liberal arts education has to offer, beginning with pursuing a wide range of interests. In addition to double majors, she double-minored in ethics and sexuality, women’s, and gender studies, took advantage of conducting original undergraduate research, and served as a member the Black Student Union, a copy editor for The Independent, chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Student Advisory Council, and a tutor and writing consultant. All of these experiences allowed her to deepen her passion for social justice, which she will continue to pursue in graduate school.

My mentor and how they made a difference “I’ve had many mentors at Rollins, but one who helped me the most was [philosophy professor] Eric Smaw. He has been my faculty advisor since my sophomore year, served on my Fulbright committee, wrote many of my recommendation letters, and is now serving on my senior thesis committee. Dr. Smaw has given me endless support throughout my time at Rollins and has consistently provided advice, encouragement, and resources whenever I needed them.”

A grid of images showing students on a field study to Vienna and Alise Fortune giving a presentation.

An experience I’ll never forget “The two-week field study in Vienna and London to study the history of psychology in Europe, prominent Austrian psychologists including Sigmund Freud and Viktor Frankl, and Austrian culture. It was the first time I ever left the country—and made me more excited to continue traveling abroad in the future.”

What I’ll miss most “I will definitely miss my friends, roommates, and professors the most. Because of the small class sizes, I truly feel that I was able to make close connections with all of my professors at Rollins, and I will miss getting the chance to be in more of their classes in the future. My friends and roommates at Rollins have always been there for me, and I’m excited to see what they will accomplish in the future.”

What’s next “I was named a Fulbright alternate, and if I advance to a finalist, I’ll be pursuing a master’s in equality studies at University College Dublin. If not, I will most likely be beginning a doctoral degree in behavioral and social health sciences at Brown University, where I will study how social injustice, inequality, and structural stigma impacts the mental and physical health of marginalized minorities in the United States.”

Alec Kriegbaum
Photo by Scott Cook.

Alec Kriegbaum ’24

  • Majors: Business management and communication studies
  • Hometown: Naples, Florida

Alec Kriegbaum saw his world expanding on his first day of classes. It was then, in Intro to Responsible Business Management, that he met business lecturer Mary Whitesides, who encouraged him to become a peer mentor, served as his thesis advisor, and gave him career and life advice throughout his four years. It was also then, in his Rollins College Conference (RCC) course Communication Climate, that he discovered a love of communication and eventually added it as a major. At Rollins, Kriegbaum served as the events chair for the Business Student Leadership Council; received the Peer Educator of the Year award; participated in a field study; and earned his real estate license, which he’ll continue to use after graduation while exploring other options, including law school.

Why Rollins “I absolutely fell in love with Winter Park and the campus. I’m from a small beach town and grew up attending small private schools, and I know how important it is to get to know your teacher or professor. The environment and tight-knit community were really important for me.”

Alec Kriegbaum at the Louvre in Paris

An experience I’ll never forget “Going to France with [business professor] Tim Pett as part of the business major requirement. We went to Paris, Bordeaux, and Pau and explored France’s tech incubator world and the wine industry. I had never left the country before and was nervous, but I learned so much about myself, business, and another culture—and had so much fun.”

My mentor and how they made a difference “Professor Whitesides taught the first class I ever had at Rollins. It was an 8 a.m. course that met three days a week, and I thought that’d be awful. But she was so entertaining, truly cared, and wanted us all to succeed. That was so great to have coming to college. She told me I’ll succeed in a competitive environment where I can write and should consider law school. She has a really honest perspective and doesn’t sugar-coat anything, so I trust her advice.”

What I’ll miss most “Being part of a supportive community where everyone is going in the same direction and working together. Because of Rollins and living in Winter Park, I learned how to be more independent, stand up for myself, and ask for what I need while having a group atmosphere. Having that collective experience is a nice way to enter the professional world.”

Rivers Lenholt
Photo by Scott Cook.

Rivers Lenholt ’24

  • Major: Philosophy
  • Hometown: St. Petersburg, Florida

Rivers Lenholt is not meant for the sidelines. Both academically and athletically, he is often found center court. In addition to being among this year’s valedictorians, the philosophy major and ethics and sociology minor is a Fulbright semifinalist and Phi Beta Kappa inductee. And as a guard for the Tars’ varsity basketball team, he served as team captain, developing skills in leadership and teamwork that will serve him well beyond Rollins. After graduating, he plans to leverage his pursuit of knowledge with his knack for leadership as a lawyer focused on addressing inequality.

Why Rollins “It offered the perfect balance of athletic and academic opportunity.”

Rivers Lenholt shooting a basketball during a game.

My mentor and how they made a difference “[Philosophy professor] Margaret McLaren has been an invaluable mentor to me. She encouraged me to conduct a senior thesis project and to submit some of my papers for publication, two of which have been accepted. She has been very helpful as my thesis advisor, and the undertaking has been very rewarding as a learning experience. I would have never pursued these goals if it weren’t for her guidance.”

What’s next “If I’m a Fulbright finalist, I’ll pursue a master’s in philosophy at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands. I’m interested in learning about the societal effects of tolerant drug policy and how such practices could be implemented safely in the United States as a means of reducing mass incarceration. Eventually, I hope to enter some realm of public interest law, which addresses racial and economic inequality from within the legal system.”

Coco Marshall
Photo by Scott Cook.

Coco Marshall ’24

  • Majors: Environmental studies and social entrepreneurship
  • Hometown: Oviedo, Florida

For Coco Marshall, the gateway to everything Rollins has to offer is the people. She chose Rollins for its tight-knit community and met mentors and friends along the way who expanded opportunities and deepened her roots. Marshall credits professor Tonia Warnecke for showing her how social entrepreneurship can amplify her passion for the environment, associate director of international programs Mary Choi Robinson with helping her embrace her identity, and EcoRollins and the Asian American Pacific Islander Student Union for allowing her to find lifelong friends who share her passions and heritage.

An experience I’ll never forget “Spending a semester abroad in Rome. It allowed me to see a new part of the world, meet some amazing people, learn a lot about myself, and, of course, eat some pretty great food.”

A grid of images showing Coco Marshall and students participating in study abroad and Immersion experiences

My mentors and how they made a difference “Mary Choi Robinson began as my study abroad advisor but quickly became both a mentor and friend. We connected over our backgrounds and identities, and she encouraged me to embrace these aspects of myself. I will always be grateful for this, as it’s given me the opportunity to explore my identity more. And Dr. Warnecke fostered my interest in social entrepreneurship and showed me how it can work alongside my passion for the environment. She has also been a trusted mentor who is always ready to offer her time and advice whenever needed.”

What I’ll miss most “The people are really what have made my Rollins experience so special. I’m going to miss my friends the most, and it’s going to be tough starting this new journey of my life without them right down the hall.”

What’s next “I’m currently working for the City of Winter Park’s Lakes Division, where I will continue to work after graduation. Longer term, I hope to explore more of my interests relating to environmental consulting or sustainable urban planning.”

Alexis Munsey
Photo by Scott Cook.

Alexis Munsey ’24

  • Major: Psychology
  • Hometown: Winter Park, Florida

Alexis Munsey is fascinated by human behavior and why we do the things we do. A member of the Psi Chi and Lambda Pi Eta honors societies, Munsey credits her psychology professors with being engaging and supportive, making it easy to learn the material and caring about their students in and out of the classroom. She plans to carry all of that with her while pursuing career opportunities in human-computer interactions and UX design.

Why Rollins “When I toured Rollins, I noticed how friendly all of the students and staff were. My mom and I sat at a table outside and watched students greet their friends and work on their homework outside. I knew I wanted a school with a sense of community and pleasant weather, so Rollins was a good fit for me.”

An experience I’ll never forget “I’ll never forget my professors’ patience and how knowledgeable they are about their subjects. I’ll always remember getting to train a rat and how cool it was to watch the processes we learned about in class play out during the training.”

How Rollins helped me find my purpose “My professors and classmates exposed me to a lot of careers that I’d never heard of or thought about before, which has helped me figure out what I’m interested in doing with my life. More importantly, I think my time at Rollins has helped me learn what I enjoy doing and what is important to me, such as learning new things, spending time outside, and cultivating relationships.”

What I’ll miss most “I’m going to miss bumping into my friends while walking around campus, getting to sit in class and learn from my professors and peers during lectures and class discussions, and, of course, I’ll miss the beautiful campus and weather.”

Olivia Tamburlini
Photo by Scott Cook.

Olivia Tamburlini ’24

  • Majors: International business and social entrepreneurship
  • Hometown: St. Gallen, Switzerland

Olivia Tamburlini admits Rollins’ beautiful campus and warm weather have a strong appeal, but she ultimately chose Rollins for its outstanding academics and first-class golf program. She rose to the top in both—as a member of the honor societies Omicron Delta Kappa, Beta Gamma Sigma, and Sigma Nu Tau and being named a three-time All-American Scholar by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association. In between tournaments, she participated in internships, competed in—and won—the 2023 Ideas for Good pitch competition, and conducted original research alongside business professor Marc Sardy.

My mentor and how they made a difference “My coach Julie Garner has been a great mentor over the past four years. Being an international student can be challenging in many ways, especially since I arrived in the U.S. by myself during the COVID-19 pandemic. Coach Garner has helped me every step of the way, whether picking me up from the airport after break or writing letters of recommendation for me. She has not only contributed to my development as a golfer but also as a person and always encourages me to be the best version of myself.”

Olivia Tamburlini taking a golf swing during a tournament

How Rollins helped me find my purpose “I had been interested in sustainability and social change before I came to Rollins, but my major in social entrepreneurship has shown me that business can be used as a force for good, and I plan to apply the lessons I’ve learned to make a positive difference in the world.”

What I’ll miss most “The little things, like evening golf rounds with my teammates, the smell of spring in the morning, and walking around our beautiful campus and Park Avenue. I think sometimes we students don’t quite realize just how privileged we are to study in such a beautiful place. We really have so much to be grateful for.”

What’s next “Over the summer, I will move to Berlin and do an internship in strategic venture building at Accenture. After that, I will participate in Bain’s Power of 4 gap-year program, which consists of four internships at Bain & Company, Procter & Gamble, T-Mobile, and FC Bayern Munich. I plan to pursue my master’s after that.”

Students wearing caps and gowns walk to a commencement ceremony on Rollins College’s campus.

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