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Breaking News: RLE Director leaving Rollins

Director of Residential Life and Exploration (RLE) Juan Escobar will be leaving Rollins College on Sept. 23, according to a message he sent to staff on Thursday, Sept. 1. Escobar worked with the college for seven years, and has said he will be pursuing a career opportunity outside of higher education. 

Escobar’s time with higher education began in his undergraduate career, when he became an Orientation Leader and Resident Assistant at the University of Central Florida. He’s remained in the field of higher education housing since then, serving at a number of institutions including Stetson, Rollins, and Georgia Southern University. In 2017, he returned to Rollins as the Assistant Director of RLE. 

“I think we have a really fantastic opportunity to make some meaningful impact in students’ lives with our residential programs,” said Escobar, who believes that the student residential experience is one of the most fundamental parts of higher education. 

He also cites the impact of the residential experience as the reason he stayed in the field for so long.

“We’re so collaborative in nature [with other departments on campus] and it’s so student focused, so I feel like it’s been a functional area of higher education that has really allowed me to make a significant impact.” 

During Escobar’s tenure in RLE, the college faced a number of housing challenges: from the process of tearing down the old McKean Hall in order to build the Lakeside Neighborhood, housing the largest class in Rollins history this past year, and planning for the return of students after the college shut down in the spring of 2020 due to COVID-19. 

“It was really hard for us to be here at the forefront of some of this, in the middle of a pandemic,” Escobar reflected. “The thing[s] that I always kept at the top of my list [were] student safety and my team as human beings. I would hope that they would say that I led with empathy, that I led with courage, [and] that I cared about them and I truly did my best to make sure they were heard and valued.”

From that challenge also came Escobar’s most rewarding experience during his time at Rollins. 

“[Spending an entire summer planning for how to reopen the college] was one of the most challenging but rewarding things,” he said.  “We were able to be so intentional about how to bring students back to what really makes Rollins so special, which is the one-on-one relationships and the classroom interactions and the community.” 

For his colleagues in the Rollins community, the news of Escobar’s departure has been both exciting and melancholy. 

“I have always admired Juan’s team team-centered approach to his work, his strong work ethic, his unwavering commitment to collaboration, and his commitment to our students and their success,” said AVP of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Leon Hayner in an email to campus staff on Sept. 2. “Rollins is better today because of Juan’s work and his meaningful contributions.”

Peer Mentor Liam King (‘24), expressed similar feelings. 

“As excited I am for Juan to take on new opportunities, it’s always a disheartening blow to hear that a distinguished director in such a critical area is leaving,” said King. “Ultimately, though, RLE is a notoriously robust and well-organized office and I’m excited to see what the future holds.” 

As for the future, Escobar will be working with global Tax, Auditing, and Consulting form RSM as a Strategy Execution Senior Associate. 

“I’m extremely grateful for Rollins and for my overall time in higher ed. because it’s truly allowed me to think about how transferable my skills are and how well equipped I am to now bring those skills to this new role,” he said. 

Although the departure is bittersweet for Escobar, this transition feels like the right one: “I feel it in my heart that this is the right next step for myself and my career, and my family.”

While reflecting on his time at Rollins, Escobar expressed his deepest gratitude for his RLE team and his colleagues in departments across campus. He also thanks Hayner for being “one of the best mentors and friends” in his career, and his wife Kacie Escobar for being a constant source of support. 

Escobar’s career change, however, doesn’t signal the complete end of his time with the Rollins community. 

“I’m staying local, I want to stay connected to the Rollins community. It’s a part of me now,” he said. “Maybe I’ll even take Fox Day off and just come hang out on campus.”

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