As part of the celebration of the 125th anniversary of Rollins, the Department of Archives and Special Collections in the Olin Library is expanding the Oral History Archive. In 2004, an expert from the state library archive gave an Oral History Seminar for the staff at Rollins. During the summer of 2005, 10 long-standing faculty members were interviewed.
Now, five years later, the archive has been reopened for the addition of 18 new interviews from various realms of life at Rollins including faculty, staff, administration, and alumni.
This past summer, two Rollins students, Alia Alli ’11 and Jennifer Ritter ’13, worked to expand the Oral History Archive. After receiving a list of the interview candidates, Alli and Ritter researched them, wrote short biographies, and created a list of draft questions to ask during the interviews.
Several participants were interviewed each week for approximately 80 minutes each. Transcripts of each interview would then be typed – often taking as many as seven hours each – and audio bites would be pulled from the interviews to feature on the page. These interviews can be found online in both audio and written form.
These new interviews provided a broader range of perspectives about experiences had at Rollins. In the words of Dr. Wenxian Zhang, head of Archives and Special Collections and supervisor of the program, the interviews are “designed to give people a platform to reflect on their years at Rollins, focusing on their longevity, teaching, service, and scholarship.” He also stated that it was “an amazing experience… to spend time with people and to learn from people who have done such amazing things. They share their insides with you… their whole life.”
The students enjoyed many of the same aspects of the project. Ritter discussed how she loved meeting so many wonderful people.
“I learned a lot of life lessons from their stories and had a great time getting to know them. That’s what makes oral histories, in general, so special. They’re not like textbooks or journal articles; they’re the thoughts, feelings and experiences of real people. And not only do we get the amazing benefit of learning otherwise unknown pieces of information about the College, we also get to save these individuals’ memories for posterity.”
Alli loved the one-of-a-kind opportunities the project gave her.
“How many students can walk into a classroom with a full knowledge of their professor’s academic and personal background? I loved getting to know these amazing individuals and hearing about how some of them rose from their ordinary upbringings to leaders of the community,” Alli said. “I got to dine in the President’s house! What really floored me was when I thought about how very few students actually got the same opportunity like I did.”
Both Alli and Ritter had prior experience in journalism and interviewing techniques and were recommended by a faculty member to assist with the highly competitive program. They were thrilled at having the opportunity to participate in student-faculty research in the social sciences.
One of the reasons Ritter decided to attend Rollins was for the amazing research opportunities.
“The summer research was less stressful than regular course work. Since I didn’t have other assignments to worry about it was a lot easier to completely commit myself to the project. It was also a nice change to be able to work with a small, close knit group of people who were all interested in the topic.”
Alli loved the empowering aspect of completing her own project.
“Doing summer research gives you a feeling of individuality that you wouldn’t normally feel because it’s just you, your team members, and the professor. Though there may have been some difficult moments in between, the end results produced a sort of empowerment within me, and I am proud to show people what I have accomplished in just a short eight-week period.”
Ritter would also like to give a special thanks to Trudy Laframboise for her “hard work and her commitment to preserving the history of Rollins College.” Laframboise is retiring after 25 years as the Rollins College Archival Specialist.
The Rollins community should make sure to take the time to explore this unique record of the history of Rollins College online. This is a historical opportunity you do not want to miss.