Rollins Reimagined: A Student’s Guide to Fall 2020

September 22, 2020

By Audrey St. Clair ’03

Sydney Brown ’20 walks across campus with a mask on during the COVID pandemic.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Rollins is redefining social engagement as college life embraces a breadth of creative, low-risk ways to connect with each other on America’s most beautiful campus.

Paddleboarding on Lake Virginia. Racial justice workshops. Outdoor fitness classes. Netflix movie nights. Bicycling to the polls. This fall, there will be unlimited opportunities for you to build community both virtually and in person.

Rollins faculty and staff have laid the foundation for a vibrant, active, and safe campus experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. As our community practices mandatory mask wearing and responsible social distancing, we’re also reimagining ways for you to forge and fortify social bonds in an educational environment still very much powered by human relationships.

“Human connection looks really different right now, so we need to create a unique experience for all members of our campus community,” says Meredith Hein, director of Rollins’ Center for Leadership & Community Engagement.

What will that look like? From outdoor classrooms to virtual community engagement, here’s how Rollins is setting out to prove that social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation.

Students paddleboarding on Lake Virginia.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Staying Active

It’s easy to stay six feet apart on Rollins’ beautiful Lake Virginia, the perfect playground for outdoor, socially distanced fun and exercise. You can launch a canoe, sailboat, or paddleboard from the Boathouse (or a wakeboard for more intrepid water enthusiasts) while abiding by the new rental schedules and guidelines.

Back on land, most all campus recreation facilities will be open this fall, with new rules, hours, visual markers, and signage. Daryl’s Fitness Center, the Alfond Sports Center, the Boathouse, the Tiedtke Tennis Courts, and the Alfond Swimming Pool will all be available to the Rollins community. Multiple hand sanitizer stations have been installed, and indoor facilities will be cleaned regularly throughout each day.

“We want the opportunities for activity to be present for any students who would like to be outdoors in the beautiful Florida sunshine,” says intramural and rec sports director Nate Arrowsmith. “We’re counting on students to use their best judgment when it comes to being outdoors and distancing.”

A full group fitness schedule of at least 15 socially distanced classes per week will feature longtime popular instructors: yoga with Theresia, Dave, and Mikaela; Zumba with anthropology professor Rachel Newcomb; Body Works with Garry; Pilates with Sheree; Abs with Dena; and Barre with Simone. Some classes may even take advantage of the sunset hour under the lights on Sandspur Field. Virtual fitness classes will be delivered daily via WebEx.

Daryl’s Fitness Center—which includes a range of cardio equipment, weight machines, and free weights—will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with occupancy limits, closing for an hour of deep cleaning each day.

Although varsity athletes won’t compete this fall, all Tars can participate in a variety of intramural sports, including tennis, paddleboarding, frisbee golf, table tennis, spikeball, and eSports. Multiplayer online video game lovers have a shiny new community space in the Alfond Sports Center featuring state-of-the-art hardware for 15 gaming stations and boasting Respawn chairs and Republic of Gamers hard drives. Entry is limited to 10 gamers.

Students socializing on Mills Lawn.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Getting Involved

Under Rollins’ fall reopening plan, students opting for face-to-face learning are asked to abide by the Tars Promise around health and safety by wearing masks and keeping six feet apart, guided by signs throughout campus. Hybrid and virtual events will also engage students who have chosen to attend remotely, offering a multitude of ways for everyone to come together for education and socialization.

For the fall 2020 semester, Rollins’ Center for Inclusion & Campus Involvement (CICI) has a full menu of both in-person and virtual options that celebrate the College’s commitment to unity, diversity, and inclusion. Through the following initiatives, you’re sure to connect with your fellow Tars while also discovering a sense of purpose around tackling some of the most pressing social issues of our time.

Student walking past the Annie Russell Theatre as it shows support for the #BlackLivesMatter on its marquee.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Diversity and inclusion

CICI is tackling racial and social injustice as an integral part of campus conversations and events. Following staff and faculty antiracism learning groups that launched this summer, new student learning groups will kick off in September, and already 70 students have already signed up. New, one-off educational programs around diversity and social justice will include the Black Lives Matter 101 workshop, part of a series of programming designed to create action-oriented pathways to actively support antiracism and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus. Programming will continue for traditional culture and heritage months, such as Hispanic Heritage Month and LGBTQ History Month.

Masked-up students during fall 2020 orientation.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Student organizations

From the Archaeology Club to the Student Government Association (SGA) to Women in the Sciences, most student organizations are gearing up to meet this fall, so you’re sure to find the right fit. Check out Rollins’ Get Involved page for a comprehensive list and to access the Virtual Involvement Fair. As always, students are welcome and encouraged to launch new groups. In accordance with the Tars Promise, in-person meetings of student organizations will be limited to 30 people. Various outdoor campus spots will be available for meetings, and all open meetings are encouraged to be virtual as well. Fraternity and Sorority Life will follow the same guidelines as student organizations.


Rest easy—college life amid COVID won’t be all about WebEx meetings and Canvas assignments; it also promises to be lots of fun and full of new adventures. America’s most beautiful campus offers ample space for Tars to gather safely on lawns and plazas for casual chats and formal activities alike thanks to the Central Florida climate, which boasts nearly year-round sunshine and an annual average temperature of 72 degrees.

Community Common Hour will kick off the first week of the fall semester, featuring giveaways throughout campus in addition to pop-up locations on Bush Patio, Mills Lawn, and Tars Plaza. Movies on an inflatable pop-up screen will premiere on Mary Jean Mitchell Plaza, and Saturday-night Netflix parties in real time will let you chat with your friends while enjoying your favorite flicks.

“We’re doing everything possible to still have the community feeling both on campus and virtually,” says CICI director Abby Hollern, who invites all new students to find her office on Facebook or Instagram at @rollinsCICI, and to reach out at “It might feel challenging to make friends at this time or get to know your peers, but there will be so many opportunities to do that.”

Rollins’ campus calendar and social media feeds will provide the latest updates about inventive new pop-up events and any adjustments to respond to the ever-evolving needs of the community.

Skylar Knight ’19 setting up yard signs on campus to promote civic awareness.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Making a Difference

When the coronavirus crisis sent most of the campus home last March, CLCE and CICI joined forces to launch the ever-evolving TarsTogether campaign to rally Rollins around community-building efforts and vibrant new offerings to stay connected. Campus-wide emails with programming updates will be sent every Monday, but in the meantime, here’s a look at a few of the ways you can engage with our greater community.

Community connections

The revered tradition of SPARC Day is evolving into a series of highly personal experiences for community engagement throughout the academic year. These SPARC Moments—which could include everything from donating blood to creating snack packs for underserved children—will combine virtual and in-person experiences as a way to guide you in finding your passion while serving the unique needs of our community partners.

Designed to squeeze meaningful service into spare moments, Rollins’ 5-Minute Differences will take place every Tuesday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., starting in person on September 22 and alternating virtually every other week. These include small gestures that pack a big punch, like sending cards to loved ones or writing letters to political candidates.

Stay connected with the Center for Leadership & Community Engagement on Facebook or Instagram at @rollins_clce.

Civic engagement

Global citizenship and responsible leadership are at the heart of Rollins’ mission. With a historic election fast approaching, CLCE and the student-led Democracy Project are hard at work building awareness around the political process and planning ways to support voter registration and education on campus.

“Debate Watch” parties on WebEx will stream the presidential debates alongside live dialog from faculty, students, and staff, and Politics on Tap virtual events will take place the last Thursday evening of each month, fostering deliberative dialog about a hot political topic related to the election in addition to racial justice issues.

On Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, fleets of students can bike over to the Winter Park 9th Grade Center either to vote on-site or turn in mail-in ballots. This new, two-wheeled Rally to the Polls effort is developed in partnership with Rollins’ Sustainability Program.

Follow the Democracy Project on Instagram at @democracyprojectrollins.


This fall, the Immersion program will focus on half- and full-day on-campus and virtual educational experiences and service opportunities to meet the needs of the greater Rollins community. During these experiences—aimed at building community safely and fostering meaningful connections—students will engage in journeys of education, reflection, and action, tackling a range of issues from affordable housing to immigration while learning what it really takes on the ground to create lasting change.

To get the latest on all things Immersion, follow @rollinsimmersion on Instagram or email

Knowles Memorial Chapel lit up in blue at night.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Finding Serenity

In addition to addressing social, intellectual, creative, and other needs, Rollins continues to take a holistic approach to supporting spirituality, which is among the nine dimensions of wellness. Our beloved Knowles Memorial Chapel maintains an open-door policy both for in-person and virtual worship and reflection, adapting to the safety protocols of the pandemic while supporting the community’s spiritual needs.

“It’s not business as usual; it’s new business,” says Dean of Religious Life Rev. Katrina Jenkins. “We are here to support the well-being and spiritual and religious lives of all students, faculty, and staff. We will continue to be a presence on campus whether it’s in person, virtual, or both.”

The main sanctuary of Knowles Chapel will resume nondenominational Christian worship services with music on September 20, with pews marked to foster social distancing. Catholic mass with a priest will continue there as well in partnership with St. Margaret Mary’s Catholic Church of Winter Park.

Shabbat will be held in person outside on Fridays and stream remotely at 6:30 p.m. starting September 25. Students will lead blessings together with Emily Block, associate director of Jewish student life, before enjoying a Shabbat picnic on the lawn. For pickup on Friday afternoons, the chapel will offer affectionately nicknamed “Sha-bags,” complete with electric tea lights, a mini-challah bread, grape juice, a prayer card, and a sweet treat.

Imam Abdurrahman Sykes, chaplain to the Muslim community, will lead his popular Sunday school via Zoom, while a new campaign on mindfulness will launch in October focused on developing practices to reduce stress. Available on Canvas, virtual labyrinth walks are meditative, restorative experiences designed to quiet your mind and steady your spirit.

Rollins radio station, WPRK 91.5 FM
Photo by Scott Cook.

Harnessing Creativity

Hosting shows and podcasts for our award-winning radio station WPRK. Reporting for The Sandspur or The Independent. Crafting stories for the Brushing literary journal. The creativity and ingenuity of Rollins students continues to be expressed via Student Media, as participation has evolved for social distancing.

After student DJs left their live broadcasts from WPRK’s new recording studio in Kathleen W. Rollins Hall, they kept the station going by sending in audio files from afar. Sometimes this meant setting up pillow forts to record audio at home.

“It sounds best when I have two blankets over my head, not one,” says Greg Golden ’11 ’16MBA, director of student media. “We’re seeing a lot of the media industry rely on the parts of the job that have been traditionally remote and really embracing technology to augment some of the traditionally in-person elements.”

Remote students will continue, while in-person DJs will respect booth occupancy limits. Golden will ensure that students can access the software to participate remotely, such as Slack, the Google Suite, WebEx, and Adobe tools.

The Sandspur and The Independent welcome new reporters and editors, and will publish online exclusively this fall.

Student biking on Rollins College campus.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Going Green

Rollins’ Sustainability Program continues to focus on reducing waste and pollution while amplifying connections with nature. Amid the pandemic, its popular outdoor activities, including the bike-share program and the urban farm, are getting a boost.

The Rollins bike-share program has tuned up and expanded its fleet of 44 bicycles, which are now sanitized from the handlebars and seats down to the brakes after every use. For renting out geared bikes or cruisers, the Olin Circulation Desk now offers new contactless procedures where tags and keys can be returned to an outdoor book drop box and are then sanitized. A Google doc tells bike specialists right away when a returned bike is ready for inspection and cleaning.

Now in its fifth year, the 900-square-foot urban farm outside the EcoHouse promises new harvests, and it’s the perfect time to get involved. The farm has supplied everything from lettuce and kale to beans and papaya to Rollins’ Dining Services. Look for an upcoming collaboration event with Rollins Wellbeing for the fall seedling of the farm.

Rollins College students enjoying lunch by the Lakeside pool.

Experience #RollinsLife

There’s no better way to get a feel for life at Rollins than by scheduling a campus tour.

Schedule a Visit

Read More

May 15, 2024

83-Year-Old Walks in Commencement with Class of 2024

Lula Mae Gaines, a Rollins graduate from the former Patrick Air Force Base campus who was unable to attend her commencement ceremony in 1980, walked with the Holt Class of 2024 on May 11.

May 15, 2024

At the Center

Past experiences inform future goals for Olivia Demarco ’02 ’15MBA, Rollins’ new executive director of alumni engagement.

May 10, 2024

Transforming Lives

We're celebrating seven faculty members and one head coach who retire this year after nearly 250 years of combined service to Rollins, where they’ve had a profound impact on their students, the community, and their areas of expertise.