Diversity and inclusion are ongoing focuses of Rollins and new initiatives are frequently being implemented to improve the experience of racial minority groups at Rollins.
Joshua Colson ‘19 and Arianna Montrose ‘19 are two students healvily involved in an admissions program called Envoys, which aims to increase the enrollment and inclusion of minority students on campus.
The first half of the year, about 12 students take a class together focusing on race, religion, diversity, and how Rollins compares to national statistics on these topics.
For the second half of the year, they will focus on hosting incoming minority students before they come to Rollins. They will give tours and host student panels for minority representation.
It is “a year long program where students participate in a 2 credit class in the fall” and are trained as diplomats (the office’s name for tour guides) in the spring “as brand ambassadors for diversity at Rollins.” Said Lester Alemán, associate director of admission for diversity and inclusion at the Admissions Office.
Montrose shared her value for the program. “As an Envoy, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to engage with my high school sisters and brothers showing them that regardless of the school statistics, Rollins College provides a remarkable experience.”
Colson provided similar regards for the program, yet he emphasized that there is still work to be done at Rollins.
While the school’s mission states that “Rollins College educates students for global citizenship and responsible leadership,” Colson comments that “we’re not creating national citizens or community citizens first.”
By this, Colson meant we should focus on “having the demographics that represent America before having demographics that represent the globe” in relation to the student body.
The increase in campus diversity can be largely attributed to campus initiatives like Envoy, which not only brings students to campus but helps integrate them into the community.
As demonstrated by the perspectives of Rollins’ early black students in the Sandspur article “Discrimination to diversity: the history of black students at Rollins,” it was not always comfortable or welcoming to be a person of color on campus.
The students from the 1970s spoke on their issues in identifying with other students at Rollins.
Colson said he understood their perspectives: “My first year, I shared some similar experiences as far as finding my way. I was a little uncomfortable in class being the only black in 3 out of 4 classes.”
However, since then, Colson has embraced involvement at Rollins. Colson participates in WPRK, Black Student Union, Fraternity & Sorority Life, Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, Rollins Marketing, and by being an Admissions Diplomat.
“I always have a social life on campus amongst everyone, not just people of color. [There’s] not a time where I can’t walk [into a room] and just speak to someone.”
In last week’s article, a quote from a black student, Laurence Martinez ‘71, was retrieved from a 1970 alumni journal: “There is nothing here that blacks can relate to; you have to make yourself happy with what is here or become very dissatisfied for four years. I decided that I was in a system that I had to become a part of.”
Colson contrasted this statement by saying he never had to change himself to fit into a ‘system’ because he never tried to fit in.
Instead, he took what he had within his environment, such as Chase Hall (which is a hub for diversity and inclusion on campus), and working with the Admissions Department to make sure the college has systems in place for when students of color come to campus. “I fought for that,” he shared.
Montrose seconded Colson’s positive outlook. “To me, being a black student on campus is not a challenge, but an honor. Every day I strive to be the best version of myself paving a way for my sisters and brothers on their way. These four years will be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I refuse to allow my beautiful melanin skin to make this experience anything less than amazing.”
Colson also shared that he appreciated the black staff on campus. This was one of the suggestions of students from the ‘70s—having more black faculty.
He continued by saying that at Rollins, minority students receive a lot more than academic education. They realize that they are also a minority in the world, which is “not a bad thing, it keeps yourself aware.” These themes are central to both the campus inititaives, and the classes Envoy offers.
Envoy’s classes are co-taught by Alemán and Abby Hollern, director of the Center for Inclusion and Campus Involvement, and the name ‘Envoy’ is the term for a diplomatic messenger.
The point of the course is to “be well versed in the field of diversity and inclusion,” explained Alemán.
“We talk about how race and ethnicity play a greater role in the scheme of U.S. public life.” Every theme ties back down to the Rollins experience with a range of topics discussed such as religion, stereotypes, and gender identity.
Next, they start to personalize the topics by asking, “What has your experience been like?”
One of the realizations that this question resulted in is that even if people are the same (in race, religion, socioeconomic class, sexuality, gender identity, etc.), they might be having completely different experiences. Alemzán emphasized that improvement of diversity on campus is “not just for numbers and quotas, [but] for increased quality experience.”
“Students really like talking about their experience… they value that space,” Alemán shared in terms of their conversation-based class time. “It was alive.”