Summer, Shared 2023
September 13, 2023
By Jessica Firpi ’11
From hands-on field studies and prestigious internships to real-world research and study abroad programs, Tars share some of their biggest accomplishments from summer 2023.
This past summer marked another moment in time when Tars near and far put their Rollins education to work in the world. From installing water filters in the Dominican Republic and teaching schoolchildren in rural Rwanda to working with sea lions at the Audubon Nature Institute and measuring the sound of rocket launches, our students harnessed life-changing, career-defining opportunities to discover what drives them. Here are a few of our favorite stories from summer 2023.
Environmental studies majors Riley Morton ’25 and Yanelle Hernandez ’25 both interned with LEO Africa, a monitoring program for the big five—elephant, jaguar, lion, buffalo, rhinoceros—in the Abelana Game Reserve in South Africa. The pair took part in anti-poaching initiatives, monitoring the animals while out on drives or bush walks, as well as major conservation efforts, like invasive plant removal. Hernandez calls the experience “rewarding,” while Morton muses, “I hope that I can make change in this world so that more people are able to access the benefits of nature and realize that Earth is worth protecting.”
Angelina Khourisader ’23 ’24MBA completed a supply chain finance internship with Siemens Gamesa, honing soft skills in communication, organization, and project management. She points to her Rollins experience for preparing her for this opportunity. The computer science major was able to network and apply lessons from her finance classes as well as draw from her experiences in Gateway Fellows, Rollins’ prestigious funded internship program, and Career Champions, a mentorship program that pairs students with alumni who share their professional interests and aspirations. Khourisader is appreciative of the internship and its impact on her future. “I was hoping to gain a better understanding of what it means to pursue a role in finance post-graduation,” she says, “and this role gave me that exact experience.”
Through the prestigious Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program funded by the National Science Foundation, physics major Makayle Kellison ’25 spent the summer at Brigham Young University, where she had the opportunity to continue research she started at Rollins on the acoustics of rocket launches. Traveling to Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, Kellison and her research team attended various launches, recording the noise and sonic boom to study the effects of rocket noise on people, plants, animals, and even the rocket itself. She credits her research experiences in acoustics and optics at Rollins for teaching her the skills to succeed in the REU program.
“As someone who wants to continue conducting research with the goal of working toward a PhD,” says Kellison, “having the opportunity to be immersed in a graduate-level environment before I complete my bachelor’s is one of the biggest things I am taking away from this experience.”
Business management majors Allison Bergman ’25 ’26MBA and Victoria Foradi ’25 both traveled to Japan, where they focused on the cultural, economic, societal, and religious challenges and opportunities of doing business internationally. Business professors Richard Lewin and Marc Sardy led students on an immersive experience through Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo, visiting an array of Japan-based companies, temples, and shrines; viewing a sumo match; participating in tea ceremonies; and more. “It allowed me to connect my RFLA [Rollins Foundations in the Liberal Arts] classes to my major classes and introduced me to new cultures,” says Bergman. “Participating in field studies is a fantastic way to connect with other students and professors.”
Environmental studies major Raven Putzier ’24 spent the summer as a divemaster on the Caribbean island of Bonaire with Buddy Dive, where her responsibilities ranged from assisting instructors in dive courses and cleaning wash tanks to ensuring diver safety, assessing divers’ skills, and offering courses to help them improve. Since Buddy Dive is committed to reef restoration and Bonaire is a protected marine park, Putzier found the opportunity a perfect match. “This internship focused on the environmental impacts of diving and the measures divers can take to ensure a safe dive experience with marine life,” she says. In the future, Putzier plans to open her own dive shop.
Biochemistry/molecular biology major Emily Gross ’25 worked alongside chemistry professor Pedro Bernal and three other students to monitor water quality in remote villages across the Dominican Republic. Throughout the course of this decades-long project, Bernal and his students have installed more than 20,000 water filters in rural communities across the island, leaving a lasting impact on the Dominican people and creating life-changing experiences for generations of Rollins students. “Many of the communities we visited helped others as if they were a part of their own family,” says Gross. “The kindness many of these people displayed reminded me how much you need support from the people around you.”
Psychology major Ashley Sawyer ’24 spent her summer as an undergraduate research assistant in the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center, formulating a research project, working on a manuscript for eventual publication, and analyzing key data on the computational neurogenomics team. As a Gateway Fellow, Sawyer says she was able to focus exclusively on her internship, contributing to significant research and effectively using skills she’d been learning inside the classroom.
“This experience has further solidified my passion for going into medicine,” shares Sawyer. “In addition to performing computational and data analytics in my lab, I’ve also shadowed a neuropsychologist and a pediatric consultation-liaison psychiatrist who have shared coveted information that I believe to be useful in the field of medicine. Being able to observe both of these in tandem has motivated and strengthened my passion for going into a field that combines both medicine and clinical research.”
Rollins’ Rwanda field study offered elementary education major Cydney Adams ’23 and political science major Isaiah Parra ’24 an opportunity to live and work side by side with children, families, teachers, and villagers while teaching English in rural Rwanda for three weeks. It offered them perspective and gave them confidence to step out of their comfort zone. “This experience helped me understand more deeply about the importance of having the global perspective that Rollins embodies,” shares Adams. “I gained firsthand experience in the career I want to go into, and I couldn’t have imagined a better way to start my journey.”
Jay Kirkley ’24 attended the distinguished Public Service Weekend hosted by Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Public Policy and Management, where he put into practice the research and policy-analysis skills he’s fostered during his time at Rollins. The double major in public policy and political economy and biochemistry/molecular biology joined other service-minded students and future changemakers to learn about and discuss the intersection of technology and policy. During the Scopeathon for Social Good, his breakout group collaborated with DC Hunger Solutions to devise a proposal to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment in disinvested D.C. communities, with his group winning “most implementable.”
“The hands-on, experiential learning offered at Rollins has empowered me on my journey to improve health-care access and quality for all Americans,” says Kirkley.
Communication studies major Andrese Parks ’23 and studio art major Emily McClave ’25 traveled to Colorado on an Immersion experience that put them face to face with issues like poverty, climate change, mental health, and housing shortages and engaged them in creating new solutions for change. “On this Immersion, we learned the importance of listening before you act,” says Parks, “and I believe that is needed in the communities to ensure we serve them correctly.”
The group partnered with local government officials, nonprofit organizations, community leaders, businesses, and alumni to better understand how Colorado deals with the pressing issues facing its citizens. “My major is studio art and my minor is social entrepreneurship, but I’m also passionate about the environment,” says McClave. “I saw ways that enterprises and organizations were able to combine all of these interests, inspiring me to think of ways that I can combine what I love with what I have learned to make a difference.”
As a special events coordinator with Hilton Grand Vacations, Fiona Bown ’24 planned and facilitated exclusive guest experiences, scouted new partnership opportunities in Orlando, and served as a liaison between sales and marketing. An international business and communication double major, Bown applied classroom lessons to real-life scenarios. “My Rollins experience has exposed me to hands-on projects,” she says. “Through my communication studies major, I have been involved in crisis communication and directly implemented theories of interpersonal communication. In my international business major, I’ve applied marketing framework concepts in real life, and I’ve drawn on knowledge from my classes to understand the different business reports that I’ve analyzed in this internship.”
Emma Greene ’24 traveled to New Orleans, where she served as a sea lion intern at the Audubon Nature Institute, assisting in diet preparation and exhibit maintenance, attending lectures, and even hosting educational events for guests. The marine biology major intends to focus her attention on sea lion/marine mammal care and credits Rollins’ interdisciplinary curriculum for helping her forge her path.
“My Rollins experience has provided me with a very diverse educational background,” says Greene. “Taking classes in marine biology is obviously a big help, but psychology, sociology, and even history classes have also helped provide a deeper understanding of sea lion care. I am applying the critical thinking, problem solving, and presentation skills I gained at Rollins every day at Audubon through crafting training plans, coming up with unique enrichment initiatives, and giving educational workshops.”
Business management majors Gabriel Soares ’24 and Jaime Neto ’24 studied at Hong Kong Baptist University as part of the summer study abroad program in China. Soares and Neto took a course alongside local Mainland Chinese and other international students and visited interesting locales in Hong Kong and Macau, like temples, beaches, and even Hong Kong Disneyland. “This was definitely one of the most valuable experiences of my life, and it definitely got me out of my comfort zone,” says Soares. “It was interesting to learn things from a different point of view.”
Environmental studies major Hailey Manitz ’25 spent her summer as a natural areas and trails management intern with the Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Department in the Sarasota County government. From assisting with protected-species monitoring and habitat restoration to aiding emergency services with prescribed burns, Manitz found her experience essential. “My internship gave me an abundance of skills in addition to the [pesticide applicator] certification and [chainsaw] training, which will collectively assist me in obtaining jobs in the future,” she says. Perhaps most notable, Manitz had the opportunity to plan and enact a large restoration project, which consisted of removing invasive plant species and planting 160 native plants in the cleared areas.
Through Rollins’ Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program, history majors Liam King ’24, Peyton Connor ’24, Reagan Cooney ’25, and Helen Hutchinson ’24 undertook the ambitious task of producing a photographic history of Rollins from the student perspective. Alongside history professor Claire Strom and digital archivist Rachel Walton, the group combed through hundreds of photographs in the Rollins Archives before narrowing them down and researching their significance.
“I found myself occasionally seeing reflections of myself and my generation when looking at photos taken long before my time,” says King. “These kinds of histories inspire me not only to continue my activism but to do so in a more mindful and informed way.”
Sometime in 2024, their research will be published as a book available for purchase from Arcadia Publishing. “I felt moved to take on this project because I started my freshman year of college telling myself that my ultimate life goal was to publish a book,” says King. “Now that I’ve achieved that before I’ve even graduated, it’s on to a new goal.”
Orlando is the heart of theme park entertainment, and Hayley Stoddard ’24 took full advantage while interning at Universal Orlando as a travel industry sales intern. The international business major organized several events and even facilitated a first-time conference for Universal’s preferred partners. Stoddard noted her biggest takeaways as learning the importance of intentionality and problem solving. “One point that sticks out to me the most is [business professor Emmanuel] Kodzi’s leadership class. With the lessons I learned from it, I have been able to apply myself better in this internship with confidence in myself and my abilities.”
A double major in public policy and political economy and environmental studies, Abrielle Mannino ’25 explored her dual interests while interning with Seaside Sustainability. As a legislation and advocacy fellow, Mannino worked on sustainability projects related to public policy and legislative advocacy, such as projects on plastic reduction and bills banning single-use plastics across the United States.
“Rollins has set me up for success by facilitating my responsibility, time management, and leadership skills,” says Mannino. “This experience has complemented what I’ve learned in class by giving me the opportunity to engage with the material I read about: writing policy, making projects, and similar policy-related issues in the field of environmental studies.”
Marine biology major Hollie Tweedie ’25 spent her summer studying Caribbean marine life at the marine sciences laboratory of the Gerace Research Center in San Salvador, Bahamas. Led by biology professors Kathryn Sutherland and Paul Stephenson, Tweedie and her fellow students snorkeled and collected specimens during the day and then identified the collected species, such as sea stars, hermit crabs, and sea slugs, in the lab. Tweedie found this field study invaluable because it allowed her to put skills she’d been learning in the classroom into practice in the field.
Psychology professor Andrew Luchner and religion professor Todd French led students on a field study from Vienna to London to study the history and influential figures of psychotherapy. Along the way, the group stopped in museums, universities, and key locations, like the Mauthausen concentration camp.
“This experience granted me the ability to draw closer to the material I’ve learned,” says psychology major Janie Inscore ’25. “It truly is priceless to walk in the footsteps of those who essentially created the field of psychology. This trip has only solidified what I hope to do in my career, and this experience has encouraged me to continue questioning my own understanding so that I can keep growing every day.”
On this conservation-focused field study in Panama, environmental studies major Isabella Botelho ’25 and social entrepreneurship major Marina Newell ’24 observed monkeys, alligators, agouti rodents, baby sloths, owls, and all manner of flora and fauna alongside environmental studies professors Barry Allen and Lee Lines. Their time among the rich tropical rainforests and cloud forests reinforced and expanded classroom lectures and readings as well as fostered connection with their fellow students. “Everyone on the trip cared about the environment as much as I do,” says Botelho, “which made me feel welcomed and understood within the Rollins community.”
“The field study solidified my commitment to pursuing a career that addresses sustainability issues and inspired me to work toward finding innovative and holistic solutions,” says Newell, who is also minoring in sustainable development and the environment. “It also provided valuable networking opportunities and connections with professionals and organizations in the field.”
International business major James Hall ’25 served as an intern in the district office of Florida Rep. Mike Waltz, learning how the government handles veterans affairs, expedited passports, and virtually everything directly involving constituents. “I am a believer in both textbook learning and real-world experience,” says Hall, “and this internship has led me to consider working in a role that involves the federal government.”
Thanks to Rollins’ Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program, Nchimunya Mwiinga ’25 spent his summer researching human-computer interaction alongside computer science professor Valerie Summet and psychology professor Jennifer Queen. A double major in computer science and psychology, Mwiinga worked to analyze individual learner differences and predict academic performance in STEM, which can ultimately help improve student success in different fields of expertise and maximize a student’s learning experience by tailoring it to their needs and learning differences.
“I really enjoyed working one on one with two professors from my majors of interest,” says Mwiinga. “Working with both professors has really helped me have a clearer picture of the career I’d like to pursue and use my interests in both fields to set me up for success. My professors were not only present to discuss the research but also invested in helping me navigate my future pursuits, which I think made my experience even more meaningful.”
Along with a cohort of Rollins Bonner Leaders, political science and English double major Arusham Shah ’26 participated in the Bonner Summer Leadership Institute. The four-day program connects Bonner Leaders—members of the national service-focused scholarship program—from all around the country around a common theme. This year’s was “Together Towards Tomorrow: Juntos Lo Logramos,” emphasizing the importance of unity and community in advancing social change and equity for a brighter future. “My biggest takeaway was learning from others about how to make not just our space but our campus more inclusive and accepting,” says Shah.
Social entrepreneurship major Mona Belakbir ’23 was among the first cohort of students to participate in the Tunisia field study this past summer. The experience included taking a culture-focused language class, meeting with leaders from the civil society, and debunking persistent stereotypes. Belakbir appreciated the hands-on learning and the way it fostered cultural competency. “My experience of discovering the differences between Tunisia and Morocco shattered my initial assumption that they would be similar and easily comprehensible,” she says, “highlighting the importance of remaining open-minded and continually expanding my perspective as a global citizen.”
Nelson Telemaco ’24, long stick middle for the Rollins men’s lacrosse team, took his talents all the way to the World Lacrosse Championship, playing for the Puerto Rican national team in San Diego. After the game against England went into overtime, the team ultimately placed 10th out of 86 competing countries in the world. “There are not many minorities in lacrosse, let alone Puerto Ricans,” says Telemaco, “so playing for my heritage, with people who share the same culture, and doing as well as we did was an amazing experience and one I will forever cherish.”
Alongside Spanish professor Alberto Prieto-Calixto, international business major Olivia Kurzban ’24 explored beautiful Madrid on the Verano Español study abroad program, spending six weeks studying the Spanish language and making memories that will last a lifetime. The group also visited historical sites like Segovia and Salamanca and culturally rich places like Candelario. “This experience was one of the most memorable times in my college experience,” says Kurzban. “I think it is so important to put yourself in positions that force you to grow because you learn so much about yourself that you would not have known before.”
As a software engineer intern with Liberty Mutual, computer science major Nicole Edoziem ’24 wrote code to build new features and make existing programs better and more reliable. Edoziem immersed herself in exploring different facets of software engineering in a hands-on, real-world setting. “This internship aligned perfectly with the forward-thinking approach embraced at Rollins, and its collaborative nature closely resembled the team-oriented projects I’ve completed at Rollins,” she says. “This experience has not only complemented my computer science major but also laid the groundwork for a successful and fulfilling career in the field of software engineering.”
Alexa Macias ’23 earned a highly esteemed U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program spot to study the Chinese language at the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Tainan, Taiwan, this summer. A triple major in international business, Asian studies, and international relations, Macias was selected from over 5,000 students to further her passions for understanding the global economy and exploring cultural differences.
“Learning to be open-minded and being able to critically analyze different cultural situations was something that really allowed me to thrive here in Taiwan,” says Macias. “The accessibility of professors [at Rollins] and their genuine interest in my growth fostered an environment where I felt supported and valued. Their insights and advice have been instrumental in shaping my academic and professional trajectory.”
Vee Santa Lucia ’24 made the most of her field study in Chile, from traversing the Atacama Desert to visiting the National Archives in Santiago. The balance of experiencing unbelievable terrain and coming face to face with history left her with a deeper understanding of her studies and an appreciation of culture. “As a Latin American and Caribbean studies major, it is one thing to learn about Latin America in books, but it is another thing to experience it in person.”
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