Learning by Doing
January 25, 2024
By Jessica Firpi ’11
Each year between the fall and spring semesters, enterprising students return to campus a little early to participate in Intersession, a weeklong course dedicated to an interesting subject not typically offered during the regular semester.
From animal conservation to the fandoms of Taylor Swift and Harry Styles, students have the opportunity during Intersession to deep dive into one topic that often takes them outside the classroom and out into the surrounding community to put what they’re learning to the test. Besides being a fun, engaging way to earn course credit outside of major requirements, this hands-on approach to learning is an invaluable part of our students’ liberal arts education, one that will resonate as they emerge as responsible leaders and global citizens. Here’s a closer look at a few of our favorite courses from this year’s Intersession.
Alfond & Bonner Immigrant Rights Immersion
- Raghabendra KC ’13, assistant professor of business, director of Honors and Alfond programs
- Victoria Teske, associate director, Center for Leadership & Community Engagement
Recipients of the College’s most prestigious scholarship programs, the Alfond Scholars and Bonner Leaders participated in an Immersion Intersession course, ticking two big boxes in the liberal arts education here at Rollins.
Funded by proceeds from The Alfond Inn at Rollins, the Alfond Scholars are entering first-year students who have displayed the desire and commitment to pursue additional distinguished recognition as undergrads. The Bonner Leaders Program, a national philanthropic organization, bestows scholarship on those students passionate about service work with local nonprofits.
In this course, “Bonfond” students explored issues of immigration rights and the interplay of economics, agribusiness, and labor policies through an Immersion experience in Apopka—just 40 minutes northwest of Winter Park. The group traveled for an overnight visit to the Hope CommUnity Center and to complete service work, engaging with community members and learning about their important work with immigrants and farmworkers. The course is not designed as a one-time experience but rather as a catalyst for their continued exploration of and involvement in social issues.
“The hands-on experience of farmworking, living with the host family, and creating an act of commitment immersed us into the world of immigration and gave us knowledge and willingness to make a change,” shares computer science major Katerina Latushka ’27. As an immigrant, the Alfond Scholar from Belarus felt a personal connection during the course. The experience cemented Latushka’s passion for helping others legally move to the United States, and in particular, invigorated her commitment to creating a step-by-step guide to help Ukrainian refugees obtain legal refugee status.
- Zack Gilmore, associate professor of anthropology
Archaeological museums are not just repositories of things, but rather social institutions that actively shape our understanding of the past. In this Intersession course, students explored the history, ethics, and social role of archaeological museums through class discussions, activities, and field trips to museums across Central Florida, including the Orlando Museum of Art, the anthropology department at the University of South Florida, and the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, where students were even given a behind-the-scenes tour of the curation facility.
- Bobby Fokidis, associate professor of biology
Open to both biology majors and non-majors, this discussion-based course introduced students to the theory and practice of wildlife conservation before taking them into the field for a firsthand look. Field trips to various habitats around Central Florida to observe Florida’s diverse wildlife included trapping freshwater fish, turtles, and amphibians at Mead Garden—a 47-acre botanical habitat just a five-minute drive from campus—as well as traversing Orlando Wetlands, one of the best birding spots in the state.
“Becoming a wildlife conservationist has been a lifelong goal of mine, so when I saw that this course was available during Intersession, I didn’t hesitate to enroll,” shares environmental studies major Yanelle Hernandez ’25. “We gained valuable hands-on experience. For instance, we all got into a creek to check various hoop traps for turtles, fish, and other wildlife for conservation surveying purposes, and we even got to handle and collect data on a snapping turtle.”
Hernandez called the experience rewarding and aims to apply the knowledge and skills she learned during the Intersession course toward building a future career in wildlife conservation.
Managing Your Money
- Richard Lewin, associate professor of finance
Intended for non-business majors, this course introduced students to the ever-important subject of personal financial literacy, which directly contributes to living a happy, healthy and successful life through financial independence. The course defined foundational knowledge of budgeting, mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, FICO scores, insurance, and investing for future retirement.
Swift & Styles: The Psychology of Fandom
- Sharon Carnahan, professor of psychology
That James Dean daydream is just not the same as it was. … Designed for fervent fans and newcomers alike, this course compared works of music artists Taylor Swift and Harry Styles, with their tropes of love, loss, relationships, and rebellion. Students explored these universal themes before reviewing the psychology of fandom and analyzing concert videos, films, and interviews to understand crowd behavior and the act of devotion.
- Ian Biazzo, visiting professor of environmental studies
This Intersession course gave students the opportunity to learn about native Florida ecosystems and biodiversity with an emphasis on birds; key identification points and ecology for 100-plus species; the scientific inquiry process; and considerations for conservation before flocking to see multiple bird species in action during the field component of the course. The class visited Mead Garden, the Genius Preserve, Orlando Wetlands, and Wekiva Springs State Park using their eyes and ears to study the wild birds right in our own backyard.
“‘Ornithology’ was a term I hadn’t heard previously,” shares environmental studies major Riley Morton ’25. “Over the course of the class, we learned about over 100 bird species and saw over 60 of them in the field, including the rare ovenbird and hermit thrush.”
Her biggest takeaway? “I think it hit me, finally, that everything in our environment is so interconnected. Thanks to Rollins, I’m able to explore the many aspects of the natural world around us that are worth protecting.”
- Paul Reich, professor of English
Ellen Ripley, Dr. Ryan Stone, Ava, Imperator Furiosa, and Rey—in a genre traditionally dominated by men, these women emerge as compelling heroines that challenge gender stereotypes. In this class, students explored fiction films from Aliens to The Force Awakens and discovered how these characters speak to the changing role of women.
Brazil: Culture, Society, and Business Field Study
- Kip Kiefer, professor of business
The Brazil field study offered students a chance to explore beautiful Rio de Janeiro on an experiential learning trip focused on immersing themselves in Brazilian society, culture, and business.
“This field study was important to me because of the cultural differences and challenges I witnessed—it opened up my eyes to see how others live in different countries,” shares business management major Jacob Hair ’24.
Alongside readings, lectures, and discussions, students met local business owners and visited businesses such as Globo TV and the Dara Institute as well as toured the college Fundação Getulio Vargas and popular national sites like the Christ the Redeemer statue, Museu do Amanha, and Copacabana Beach.
Black Student Union (BSU) Immersion
- Teasa Mays, associate director of diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Robert Whetstone, student outreach coordinator, Center for Campus Involvement
In honor of Martin Luther King Day, BSU members headed to Charleston, South Carolina, where they visited the city’s brand-new International African American Museum and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that strives to provide affordable, sustainable housing for families in need, as well as One80 Place, a shelter dedicated to ending homelessness by offering services like medical, food rescue, and job training.
“Lifelong bonds are made on these Immersions,” shares anthropology major Savannah Nurse ’24. “This immersion is extremely important because it allows the Black community at Rollins to connect with one another and serve together.”
Nurse says the Charleston experience inspired her to look more into nonprofit work, as these organizations are so integral to the communities they serve.
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