A Lifelong Commitment to Service

Dr. Larry Eng-Wilmot, along with students in New Orleans, LA.

Written by Kaitlyn Alkass

Recently retired Professor of Chemistry Larry Eng-Wilmot, affectionately known as EW, joined the Rollins community in 1980. Throughout his career he has been honored with several awards including the Rollins’ Cornell Distinguished Service Award in 2006. He was also named “Most Dedicated” on Professor Appreciation Day in 2007 and elected as a distinguished member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars in 2009.

Aside from his prolific academic career, service has always been important to Dr. Eng-Wilmot.  He was previously involved with the Boy Scouts and Habitat for Humanity prior to his career at Rollins. Currently, Dr. Eng-Wilmot works closely with the Office of Community Engagement as a volunteer as the first Professor Emeritus Engagement Fellow with an emphasis on advising Rollins Relief.

“This is an innovative program—one that not many other institutions have in place, and in fact, one that many schools were interested in learning more about,” says Marissa Corrente, Assistant Director for the Office of Community Engagement. “Dr. Eng-Wilmot is amazing at facilitating and leading student organizations and it’s wonderful having him continue his work now that he has retired.”

Rollins Relief was founded in 2005, just after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Eng-Wilmot made the first trip to New Orleans, LA (NOLA) alongside 15 staff and students.  Rollins Relief has been back to New Orleans multiple times since Katrina, teaming up with Habitat for Humanity and collaborating with the underserved of the community. January 2014 marked their 14th trip to New Orleans, fulfilling their mission to be active within the local community and respond quickly to disaster.

“Dr. Eng-Wilmot has been the advisor of Rollins Relief since the beginning and usually participates as a co-facilitator for the January Immersion to NOLA,” says Corrente. “He is fantastic with the students and is one of the best mentors I’ve ever met. He gets community engagement type work and knows how to help students think through some of the more systemic issues facing our communities.”

In addition to Rollins Relief, Dr. Eng-Wilmot is involved with the organization Making Lives Better (MLB), a student-led service philanthropy group that focuses on international education and medical outreach in the developing world. Established in September of 2009, MLB has made two three-week trips to Nepal, working alongside the community with health care and education resources.

Dr. Eng-Wilmot is an example for the Rollins community, demonstrating that one can always remain active in the commitment to both Rollins students and social change.

Rollins Students Learn to Value Sustainability

Dr. Bruce Stephenson and students in Pearl District in Portland, Oregon.

Dr. Bruce Stephenson and students in Pearl District in Portland, Oregon.

Written by Dr. Bruce Stephenson

Sustainability, an amorphous term, appears in corporate slogans and civic metrics.  Last Fall Rollins students spent five days learning to value sustainability in Portland, Oregon, the nation’s most sustainable city.  With its walkable neighborhoods, European style bike and transit systems, and exemplar parks, residents drive less and spend more time outdoors. The city is green, profitable, and safe, especially for college students.  Auto accident fatalities, the lead cause of death for ages 18-24, are seven times higher in Orlando than Portland.

Students assessed and valued nine greenspaces based on criteria Dr. Bruce Stephenson established with a research grant. The class arrived at each site by foot or transit with a day spent at Zenger Farm, an organic farm in a food desert where access to fresh, healthy food is limited.

The 16-acre farm is a model of urban agriculture. Investing in growing organic produce for an underserved community has proved both profitable and enlivening—the definition of social entrepreneurship. Students spent the morning laboring in garden beds followed by a tour that afforded lessons on organic crop production, natural pest controls, native landscaping, stormwater management, and the raising of chickens and bees. The day ended with a trip to Zenger Farm’s annual farm-to-table dinner, where $87,000 was raised for the farm’s education initiative, the Urban Grange.

“Rollins students walked away having the chance to work on the farm, attend the dinner, and really see what farm to table means; brought my passions and studies full circle,” Kassie Berger noted. Rollins student Scott McMillan added that he “gained valuable insight into community supported agriculture. The quality of the food produced is only matched by the enthusiasm of the people involved with the project. I would strongly recommend this experience.”


Strides in Social Entrepreneurship

Dr. Mary Conway Dato-On, Associate Professor of the Crummer Graduate School, featured in middle.

Dr. Mary Conway Dato-On, Associate Professor of the Crummer Graduate School, featured in middle.

Written by Kaitlyn Alkass

While most members of the Rollins community spent their fall term in Winter Park, one member was a little more southwest of campus—in Mexico. Dr. Mary Conway Dato-on, Associate Professor of the Crummer Graduate School, spent her days at the IPADE Business School in Mexico City, conducting research on social entrepreneurship. The J. William Foreign Scholarship Board (FSB), in conjunction with the U.S.-Mexico Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (COMEXUS), awarded the accomplished Dr. Conway Dato-on with a Fulbright-Garcia Robles Award which allowed her to conduct research and forge a special partnership.

Teaching international business and marketing, Dr. Conway Dato-on is no novice when it comes to social entrepreneurship. “I was teaching social entrepreneurship before it was called social entrepreneurship,” says the professor. Her research question for her Fulbright scholarship digs a little deeper, attempting to explain the theoretical and managerial overlap of traditional and social entrepreneurship in the Mexican cultural context.

“Ultimately, we are looking for similarities and differences among social and traditional entrepreneurs in their personal motivations for becoming an entrepreneur.  The focus on this includes specified social/ industry issue, the processes of going from an idea to establishing an organization, and the current state of the organization they lead in relation to the enablers and constraints that exist in the Mexican environment for the work they seek to do,” says the professor.

In addition to teaching a course at IPADE, Dr. Conway Dato-on spent the majority of her time on research. She engaged in establishing interview protocols, conducting interviews, and sharing ideas with others at IPADE.

“I hope to contribute to the academic and popular literature to make the work of the Mexican entrepreneurs known to more people. Ultimately, I hope we have theoretical contributions to the emerging field of social entrepreneurship and practical implications for current and future entrepreneurs.”

Dr. Conway Dato-on worked closely with Ashoka Mexico and Endeavor Mexico organizations and also presented three individual sessions on Nonprofit Marketing & Branding to IPADE Executive MBA students. Teaching at IPADE was a convenient fit for the professor, considering her second language is Spanish. Also fluent in Japanese and Tagalog, Conway Dato-On lead biannual global consulting projects by assisting student teams in solving real-world business issues. Allowing others to realize their potential, whether it be students or an entire country, seems to be a natural-born talent of the professor.

“Mexico, in particular, is full of potential, nascent, and experienced social entrepreneurs who are doing tremendous work in all fields. Little is published about them and I hope my work changes that a bit. We can learn much from how the social entrepreneurs in Mexico, and Latin America operate in resource constrained environments but accomplish great outcomes.”

Dr. Conway Dato-on has submitted two cases for publication, including one for a competition at Michigan State University that focuses on “green branding” as well as business models crafted to decrease poverty. In addition, she presented her research at the Ashoka Exchange at Brown University in February of 2014.

Prodigy of Pedagogy


Julia Foster, Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera

Written by Kaitlyn Alkass

Julia Foster, Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera, has a spectacular resume holding voice performance degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (BM), the Eastman School of Music (MM), and the Moores School of Music, University of Houston (DMA). Not only is she an active educator but also an avid performer. She has played a variety of characters in opera productions around the world, including Elisetta in Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreta with The Third Ward Opera Company in Houston, Rose Maurrant in Kurt Weill’s Street Scene, and Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in Salzburg, Austria. Aside from her many operatic title roles, Dr. Foster has also performed for political figures such as the President of the Czech Republic.

Foster currently teaches and coordinates a voice area of over seventy-five students, teaching music in both classrooms and studios. She has also performed with the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. Foster strives for excellence and has a passion for impacting the community in a positive way as exhibited in her partnership with Winter Park High School.

“This is the second time that I have partnered with Winter Park High School,” says Foster. “My Vocal Pedagogy course lends itself to this sort of collaboration because we have talented students at Rollins that benefit from hands-on experience teaching voice.”

Dubbing it a “natural partnership,” Foster and her students in the Vocal Pedagogy course have the opportunity to work with the talented Winter Park High School singers who have not been afforded the option to work on their singing technique individually.

“My vocal pedagogy students learned about the anatomy and physiology of the voice as well as pedagogical techniques in class, but so much learning takes place by actually explaining concepts to another person, offering various suggestions, and seeing what a student’s response may be.”

Students in Foster’s course were paired with either a Winter Park High School student or a Rollins student that demonstrated an interest in learning about vocal performance. The students would explore vocal technique exercises and classical and non-classical songs in preparation for a final workshop performance at the end of the semester.  “The goal of each one-on-one lesson was to find a natural, free, and beautiful vocal quality that would allow the singer to express their songs musically and dramatically,” Foster stated. “I encouraged my students to seek out opportunities to teach voice as they continue to grow as musicians.  In collaboration with Matthew Swope and Joseph Kemper, choral directors at Winter Park High School, we were hoping that this introduction into solo singing would inspire the children to continue studying voice whether with a solo voice teacher or through their school ensembles.”

This type of community engagement reflects Rollins’ core values of service and impacting the community in a positive manner. Foster’s course is an example of service-learning as an essential extension of the classroom.

Energized for Engagement


Ashley and Kim

Kimberly Dennis and Ashley Kistler take home the top faculty awards for engaged scholarship and research, respectively.

Written by Kaitlyn Alkass

Rollins College has always dedicated itself to civic engagement and the past year proved to be no different. For the seventh consecutive year Rollins faculty members received the Florida Campus Compact award, which acknowledges commitment to academic service-learning in their fields of expertise. Florida Campus Compact (FL|CC) is a federally funded organization dedicated to increasing student involvement in civic engagement and social change. “What makes this truly phenomenal is that Rollins is the only school in Florida that has been recognized for academic service-learning for the past seven years,” says Michele Meyer, Lord Family Director of Community Engagement.

Rachel Newcomb, previous FL|CC winner and Associate Professor of Anthropology, shares this campus-wide passion for service-learning. “I think the courses in which I do service-learning have a certain kind of energy in them that comes from students encountering unpredictable real-life situations that resemble situations we’ve been reading about. I often learn a great deal from the students and their projects, which means that education becomes a two-way street. Service-learning has definitely led me to strive to include active assignments in all my classes in which students are required to engage with the world.”

Most recent winners of this prestigious award include Ashley Kistler, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, and  Kimberly Dennis, Assistant Professor of Art History. Dennis was honored with the Engaged Scholarship Faculty Award in the Independent Colleges and Universities category. A member of the Rollins community since 2005, Dennis received recognition for her Introduction to Women’s Studies course, in which she paired students with nonprofit organizations including the Center for Drug Free Living and the Hope CommUnity Center. “The greatest success we’ve had is with the Center for Drug Free Living,” says Dennis. “The women living at the recovery center were able to identify with the various topics of feminism that the students prepared for discussion.  They examined topics such as domestic violence and helped the women work through the recovery process.”

Ashley Kistler is the first Rollins faculty member to win the Engaged Scholarship Research Award. This category honors those who have completed exceptional research in the field of service-learning, leadership, and engaged scholarship. Kistler has engaged in ethnographic research in San Juan Chamelco, Guatemala for the past seven years.  Her scholarship involves working alongside the local Mayan community after learning of their desire to know more about the story of Aj Pop B’atz’, the town’s 16th century founder and culture hero.

“My engaged scholarship in Guatemala has also led me to rethink the way in which I practice service-learning in my classes at Rollins College,” wrote Kistler in her application she submitted for the award. “In ‘The Maya’ class I delivered a lecture series on Maya culture at several local older adult community venues. This project helped students to deepen their knowledge of Maya culture and develop their presentation skills while providing continuing educational opportunities for the community.”

The faculty of Rollins acknowledges service-learning as an important educational tool. Previous winner, Julian Chambliss, Associate Professor of History, believes it is a “vital extension of the classroom that gives students a chance to clarify theory and test assumptions we read about in books.”

Chambliss believes that the key to making Rollins a seven time winner of the FL|CC award is the “emphasis on pragmatic application that pushes beyond volunteerism to a space of active learning and engagement. The result is a greater depth of learning for the students and improvement to the community.”

Newcomb is confident in Rollins’ success.  “We have all the necessary ingredients to be successful including synergy among like-minded colleagues who want to do this work, an excellent director to help facilitate it, and the support of the administration. We continue to grow and learn together in a supportive environment, and I think this enables us to flourish in our teaching as well.”

Here’s to another seven years of excellence in community engagement as Rollins continues to be a leader in social change in Florida and beyond.

Find out more about:

Florida Campus Compact

Center for Drug Free Living

Hope CommUnity Center

Previous winners:

1st year:  Dr. Rhonda Ovist (Sociology)

2nd year:  Dr. Gabriel Barreneche

3rdyear:  Dr. Rachel Simmons (Art)

4th year:  Dr. Margaret McClaren (Philosophy & Religion)

5th year:  Dr. Julian Chambliss (History)

6th year:  Dr. Rachel Newcomb (Anthropology)

7th year:  Dr. Kim Dennis and Dr. Ashley Kistler