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Rollins SWOT identifies key areas for improvement

During the past year, Rollins College has been undergoing a strategic planning initiative known as SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). Recently, the SWOT summary report was published, and several changes are coming to the college next year that will affect students as a result of this strategic planning.

Generally, the college needs to focus more on its mission and dedication to the liberal arts. President Grant Cornwell noted that, “The main thing we need to improve upon is deepening and broadening each and every student’s engagement with our mission.”

“We are not alone in this, but our focus should be on doing all we can to insure that students have a strong and deepening sense of purpose in their studies. The opportunity to pursue a liberal education for global citizenship and responsible leadership is a privilege that is not to be taken lightly.”

Perhaps most important to students is how this will affect the rFLA system. This system was implemented in 2014, and this year the last of the students under the old general education system will graduate. Since its inception, the plan was to re-evaluate the system during the 2017/2018 academic year to see if it is positively impacting student learning.

SWOT indicated that the neighborhood curriculum needed “attention,” according to Dr. Jennifer Cavenaugh, Dean of the Faculty. “This summer the Dean’s office will work with the Director of General Education to plan for a systemic evaluation of the rFLA curriculum to be conducted during the academic year,” said Dean Cavenaugh.

“Based upon that assessment the faculty will consider 1) if the curriculum should be continued and 2) what changes need to be made in order to improve learning outcomes for students as well as student and faculty experience.”

Any major changes to the rFLA system will most likely occur in the 2018/2019 academic year. Some minor changes have already been implemented, including eliminating the 150 level class requirement. Students now must take one 100 level class, three 200 level classes, and one 300 level class.

Cavenaugh also noted that “Other changes include revising neighborhood descriptions and cutting back on co-curricular experiences.” These changes are based on student and faculty feedback and course surveys.

Also affecting students is changing how majors are declared. Students will now enter with their major listed as “Exploring” or “Exploring—x [Major Name].” This motion was passed by the CLA faculty in late March. After taking two classes in the major and classes from other areas of the college, the student must fill out a major declaration form that includes a reflection on why the major has been selected. The “Conceptual Underpinnings” listed in the “Task Force Report” for this change include that “Students should experience a variety of classes at Rollins College before declaring a major” and that “Major declaration should be accompanied by a thoughtful reflection by the student.”

This major declaration change is being made for two additional reasons: departments need to know how many students they will have so that they can staff properly, and some departments have more students enrolled than their optimal number. Departments that have more students than optimal, according to “The Task Force Report,” “will determine autonomous curricular measures to reduce the numbers. The plans will be brought to the Curriculum Committee.”

Cornwell had an overall positive view of the process, noting that “Perhaps what was most surprising is the confluence in thinking between students, faculty, and trustees. We really do know Rollins well. We know our strengths. We know those things we need to improve. And we all value Rollins and our shared purpose very deeply.”

According to the Strategic Planning page on the Rollins College website, the Board of Trustees will review and approve many of the proposed strategic initiatives in May and implement the approved initiatives in June.

In May 2018, the college will formally assess the initiatives that were implemented, and in Fall 2019, they will renew the process.

Other topics covered by SWOT, as listed on the SWOT BlackBoard Page, include the mission and structure of the Holt School, a new facility for Crummer, a new facility for CFAM, diversity and inclusion, civic engagement, post-graduate success, on-campus housing requirements, graduation rates, faculty compensation, and data stewardship and analytics.

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