“I wasn’t looking for Rollins… I wasn’t looking for anything really.” Dr. Mamta Accapadi, the new Vice President of Student Affairs, has a very similar back-story to many students who apply to Rollins.
Accapadi was comfortable at large schools; before coming to Rollins she served as the assistant director of the Multicultural Information Center at the University of Texas at Austin before acting as the dean of student life at Oregon State University. Both schools have over 30,000-member student bodies, with the University of Texas at Austin consistently placing in the top ten largest public university campuses by enrollment in the United States.
Her switch to Rollins, a very small, private liberal arts school, was surprising to her; she “didn’t know that Rollins existed” until she attended the national conference by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. When looking at the panel listings, one on higher education caught her eye. “I wanted to be re-energized on how to continue to improve higher education and connecting academics to student engagement.”
The first speaker at that panel was Micki Meyer, Director of Community Engagement at Rollins College. Meyer talked about the partnership between faculty and students, particularly through immersions. Accapadi was blown away.
“Rollins was doing something amazing: creating high-impact engagement experiences by combining what students learned in the classrooms with their real life experiences. I asked myself what I am doing with my life.”
Accapadi planned to take what she learned back to Oregon State with her, but, upon her return, she saw a random email advertising the posting for the Vice President of Student Affairs position at Rollins College. At first she was hesitant to apply, but she decided that it must be a sign, so she filled out the application—”I put my heart out there.”
She already had great respect for Rollins when she came to visit for the in-person portion of the interview, but once she had the opportunity to talk to the students, she “fell in love with Rollins. I was just blown away… every moment I have is a moment of gratitude.”
Since becoming a permanent figure at Rollins, Accapadi’s love for the students has not changed. “They are among the brightest, most compassionate, most visionary students I have ever met. I am challenged by them every day.”
Accapadi loves that the students are the center of the discussion at Rollins as well “every decision I make is grounded in whether this is better for students. I am glad that is also the political conversation at Rollins that I get to a part of. Thomas Jefferson had a vision of an academic village where the faculty learners come together to support a thriving, healthy academic democracy—we have that at Rollins.”
Accapadi has spent her first semester at Rollins getting to know the students by attending athletic events, visiting fraternity and sorority houses, and stopping by the library during finals to hand out donuts. Wherever there are large groups of students, you will find Dr. Accapadi.
She has plans for the future of Rollins as well: “I want to increase the number of students who say they have heard of Rollins and say they came here because it is where they want to be.” Once those students have arrived, Accapadi further wants “to make sure students feel connected to something all four years they are here.”
Obviously Rollins fell in love with Accapadi as much as she fell in love with Rollins, since she has been serving as the Vice President of Student Affairs since August. In her new role here, she is proud to be achieving one of her main goals in life–“helping people do what they want to do”—and Rollins has been proud of the positive impact she has made.