On Feb. 13, Rollins welcomed Tykina Williams to campus as the new Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Education & Explorations.
Williams is no stranger to Winter Park: while in graduate school at the University of Central Florida, she worked as a Hall Director in Rollins’ very own dorm, Elizabeth Hall.
“I really learned a lot from that experience. I always really loved Rollins,” says Williams.
According to Williams, Rollins has grown a lot since she was last here: “After coming back for my interview 28 years later, I could not get my bearings. Before you could see Fairbanks Avenue, and now I can’t see it at all!”
Williams moved to Orlando from New Jersey, where she lived for twenty years; an aversion to the cold weather and a connection to the campus influenced the thousand-mile move back to “The City Beautiful.” \
“People have been so kind and helpful. I just feel very welcomed by everybody in the Rollins community,” Williams added.
As Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Education & Explorations, Williams will work with residential life, resident assistants, and the peer mentor program. She will also help to curate the residential curriculum and oversee housing operations, in addition to collaborating with facilities and campus safety to ensure building safety and resources.
Though Williams obtained her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration-Hospitality Management at UCF, for graduate school, she shifted gears and received her Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and Student Personnel Administration in Higher Education. After working as a restaurant guest service manager at the Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace by Cinderella’s castle, she realized that hospitality in this capacity was not her path.
“I wanted to work for theme parks. And I did—I worked for Disney for a while and then I realized that I like to go to theme parks, I don’t like to work in them. They need to make a show called ‘drama in the kitchen,’ because between the servers and the cooks and the chefs, it was a lot!” joked Williams.
Williams’ career has taken her to a collection of higher learning institutions, including Rutgers University, Drexel University, and Thomas Jefferson University, working in roles pertaining to student conduct, academic integrity, Fraternity and Sorority violations, Title IX hearings, as well as Residence Life and Housing Operations, to name a few.
Another component of Williams’ position is to have conversations with parents and students and quell their concerns. Working in a field that was dramatically influenced by the Coronavirus pandemic, Williams notes, “Coming out of early Covid, I’ve learned that while everybody may want single rooms because they want the comfort of what’s familiar, that is not necessarily good when coming to a new place where you don’t have any established connections. It can be very isolating and lonely. Especially if you experience anxiety or depression, putting you in a single may do more to isolate you.”
Loneliness has been recognized as an issue felt by students on college campuses and at Rollins, and Williams hopes to connect these students with the support and the care that they need.
“One of the goals I have is to get to know the Rollins culture. I want to know what students want to see from their Residential Life program through RA programming and other opportunities. I also want to improve the housing experience for students,” said Williams. “If we have the budget, I want to make sure that buildings get renovated and facilities issues are tackled, by working with various campus partners to bring more programming into the halls—if that’s what students want to see.”
Moving to Central Florida, Williams also addressed the threat of hurricanes, as Hurricane Ian devastated many areas of Florida and led to a two-week evacuation of students from their on-campus housing. “It is kind of a concern of mine, just because I’ve never experienced that aspect of the hurricanes, so I am really interested to see what our emergency preparedness plan is.”
As a fan of horror fiction podcasts, an avid reader, and a self-proclaimed “Disney adult,” Williams says, “I am looking forward to getting my annual pass to Disney and to Universal—I’ll be going to both of those!” Though her daughter prefers the Magic Kingdom, Williams’ favorite park is without a doubt Epcot: “It always has been. I’m a foodie, so the food and wine festival is my jam.” Williams also gave the seal of approval to the food on campus, adding “Especially coming from other universities, so far the food on campus is excellent. Top-notch.”
Williams has been at Rollins for three weeks, and her office is located in the Office of Residential Life and Explorations in the Lakeside building. She says emphatically of her first week, “I am so excited to be here.”
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