With many relatives who are alumni, Sylvina Rollins says that UConn runs in the family. Her own UConn landscape design degree is valuable in her endeavors. Rollins is an award-winning artist and also has a job where she uses CAD and GIS to prepare municipal plans and maps and do utility research. Here is how she answered our questions.
What was your major in the College? When did you graduate? With what degree? My major was landscape design. I graduated in 1986 with a BS.
What class was most useful to you? There were so many! My plant ID classes with Professor Edwin “Pat” Carpenter were extremely useful and built my confidence. Landscape Planning and Design was where I got my taste for drafting plans by hand with Associate Professor John Alexopoulos and Professor Rudy J. Favretti. I loved my art and architecture classes, which included figure drawing with Professor Roger Crossgrove.
Tell us some of your fond memories of UConn. I loved traversing the campus with my peers and Dr. Carpenter while learning about woody ornamental trees and shrubs. He would identify about eight to 10 plants and test us on them the following week. The scientific names could be a handful, and I felt like Dr. Seuss when I spoke the names in Latin.
Nyssa sylvatica, sometimes called black tupelo, is one I remember. It was located by the geology building, and I looked for it when my niece, Sierra Cameron, recently graduated in allied health.
The William Benton Museum of Art was one of my favorite places to go between classes. I loved seeing all the different ways people expressed themselves. Color and sketches really excited me.
I enjoyed social life on campus, which included dance mixers, spring break concerts at the Student Union with the Ramones and meeting new friends each year. When I lived in Towers, we had a toga party one night, which might sound commonplace. But, it was fun dancing and listening to music!
The farm girl in me loved the wide open spaces and animals out on Horsebarn Hill. I had a good time taking polo and riding lessons and visiting all the lamb, calf and foal newborns in the barns.
Please describe your current job. For almost 30 years, I have worked as a computer aided draftsperson (CAD) for a fantastic municipality. I prepare presentation plans and mapping for staff and citizens. I also process requests as part of the Call Before You Dig program and research town-owned utility locations using a graphic information system and utility records.
In my free time, I am an artist and love to paint cows, other farm animals, landscapes, flowers and pet portraits in oil. My recently published book, Luna – A Tribute, is full of paintings of our life with our rescued white shepherd. This book has brought me many new requests for painting dog, cat, horse and pig portraits. I truly enjoy expressing myself through painting and writing.
Are you doing what you imagined you would be doing at this point in your life? No, I started off as an animal science major. I was aiming to be a horse trainer or, possibly, a veterinarian. As a child, I felt like I’d be working in an office when I was an adult, and that has come true.
I am not a landscape designer. However, my skills in and knowledge of that area prepared me for my career as a CAD technician for a municipality.
Do you have any advice for current students that will help them in the future?
- Be adaptable and willing to learn because learning never ends. When I graduated, I was drafting by hand and could not imagine the technology we have today. Now, I am drafting with a computer.
- Follow your passions, and take one step at a time. Keep doing the next thing to avoid being overwhelmed.
- Take time to unplug and reconnect with yourself and nature to regenerate, rest and restore. Balance brings vitality.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? Farmland preservation has always been important to me. I successfully suggested preservation of a 150-acre farm in the municipality where I work, and it is leased as a hunt club instead of being made into a subdivision. I also contribute some of my art sale proceeds to the Humane Society to support recent natural disasters rescue efforts and donate my art to CAHNR fundraisers.
I grew up on a farm in Colchester and love all aspects of farm life. Now, I live with my loving family and fabulous pets on a small Connecticut farm. My husband and I love to spend time with our dog and two horses and to encourage people to rescue pets. The farm gives me inspiration almost every day, and I like to keep a camera with me when I am not painting.
Here are some of my awards and mentions:
- Celebrate West Hartford 2006 Blue Ribbon “Best in Art”
- Paintings featured in exhibits at New Britain Museum of
- Estelle Coniff Award by West Hartford Art League, Judge Charles Sovek
- First Featured Artist of 2013 by Glastonbury Arts
- Recognized in the “Women in Art” section of Southwest Art magazine
To find out more about my art and book, please visit my website.
By Patsy Evans