Roger Casey: (KNFP-14), Dean of Faculty, Rollins College, Florida
This article was originally published in the July 2005 issue of the KFLA Newsletter.
As the 21st Century rolls in, Roger Casey is helping to ensure that the small, liberal arts college where he oversees faculty and curriculum stays at the crest of the new era’s advancements and changes. In working to create a liberal arts curriculum appropriate for the emerging century, Roger has identified four over-arching themes: community engagement, leadership, diversity, and internationalization. In the coming academic year, Rollins College will engage in a conversation about how to structure its curriculum and programs to encompass those four principles. ”So often, programs in higher education are in silos with little conversation between them,” says Roger. ”I envision a model that is circular similar to the yin/yang in which all the forces work with each other.”
Before coming to Rollins College five years ago, Roger was associate dean for teaching and international programs at Birmingham-Southern College, where he worked for 10 years. There, with assistance from other Kellogg Fellows, he helped launch a center for leadership and service learning, taking students to study in Mexico and Belize. Once at Rollins, Roger started a community engagement initiative to connect students with both local organizations and international programs. ”My passion for service learning programs came out of my Kellogg experience,” he says. ”My goal is to saturate our curriculum with these opportunities.”
In 2003, Roger took part in a Kellogg Fellows trip to the Galapagos. The following year, he took 16 students on the same trip to ”recreate some of the learning experiences I had with the Fellows,” he says. This year, he returned with a group of faculty. Roger explains, ”My goals are to internationalize the faculty and students, to allow them to experience the community that is created by living on a small boat for 10 days with a group of people, and to have people think about the natural world and the issues of sustainable development.
The Galapagos also have personal significance for Roger. ”The Fellows’ Galapagos trip was the last time some of us got to spend with Ray Gatchalian. Ray died in an accident about a week later. A lot of what I’m now doing in the Galapagos is in tribute to Ray.” He adds, ”I keep a photo of him on my desk to remind me of his unbounded energy and commitment.”
Roger has also worked with a Rollins chemistry professor to establish a water purification project in the Dominican Republic. Students assemble and teach people how to use water purifiers, and also conduct research on the affect of the purification project on infantile diarrhea and other ailments. Roger’s style of leadership is such that ”no one recognizes the guiding hand that made it all possible.” He explains: ”There’s a verse in the Tao Te Ching that reads, And when the work is done, the people say: Amazing! We did it ourselves. As a leader, that’s the measure everyone involved feels an ownership.”
His advice to aspiring leaders in his field is: ”Ignore structure. Structure in higher education is the biggest impediment to getting anything done,” he says. ”Do everything you can to smash down the walls and ignore the rules. Then,” he says, ”whatever it is you’ve set out to do will probably have a good result.”