President Grant Cornwell, Rollins College’s new president, has only been on campus for a few weeks. His temporary office is still mostly empty as he waits for the president’s office to finish renovations.
In his short time on campus so far, his goals have been to visit every building on campus and to start meeting with the college staff—a process he expects to take one year.
“Before the year is out, I will have had a one-on-one meeting with every single faculty member here, every single tenured and tenure track faculty member here. I will have met with every academic department here,” said Cornwell,“because the only way for me to lead the college is for me to really know the people of Rollins, because that’s really the soul of the place. So, I just have a lot of listening to do and a lot of learning to do.”
Cornwell was chosen as Rollins’ fifteenth president after a yearlong search by a committee made up of faculty, alumni, and students. There were over 100 applicants, but the decision to hire Cornwell was unanimous.
He was introduced to the college at the end of last year, during a neighborhood event. He was preceded by Interim President Craig McAllaster. McAllaster was interim president for a year after President Duncan stepped down following the 2013-2014 academic year.
Cornwell’s current goals for Rollins span about two years as he believes that Rollins needs to go through a process of strategic planning. But before the college begins that development, he wants to fix some of the community’s foundations.
“A small college like this, we should be a model for having high quality, open human relationships that are undergirded by trust and honesty as a way of how we work together—we’re humans, that’s not easy or a given. And we need to work on that, I think that’s the first thing that we have to do, and then we can do strategic planning.”
Cornwell previously served as the president of The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. Wooster is a liberal arts school with an undergraduate student and faculty size slightly smaller than Rollins. Before Wooster, Cornwell worked as the vice president of the university and dean of academic affairs at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Prior to that, he worked in St. Lawrence’s Philosophy department.
Cornwell has been known for his commitment to the liberal arts and to student life.
“I’ve devoted my whole life to liberal education. I have been called here to help rally Rollins around a vision of liberal education for the 21st century.”
One of Cornwell’s initiatives to engage with students this year is to open up the president’s mansion, Barker House, for dinners with students. The series of dinner conversations will be called “At Home with the President.” He and his wife, Peg Cornwell, will invite groups of students over for dinner and discussions.
During freshman orientation, Cornwell will lead convocation and greet the new first years. He also intends to participate in his first SPARC day.
His advice to first year students is to take advantage of all that Rollins has to offer because the four years will go by fast.
“What I really want to say to them is that first year students should really throw themselves into the mission of the college.” Cornwell said. He added, “The more they throw themselves into that, the more they are going to get out of Rollins.”