Q&A with Molloy College President Dr. James Lentini

By Jill Nossa

On June 15, Dr. James Lentini began his tenure as the seventh president of Molloy College following the retirement of Dr. Drew Bogner, who held the position for the past 20 years. Lentini, 62, and his family - wife Dana, sons Luke and Noah and daughter Evalina - relocated to Rockville Centre from Rochester, Michigan, where he served as senior vice president and Provost at Oakland University from 2013 to 2020. The Herald recently spoke with Lentini about his thoughts on the new job and his vision for the future.

Herald: What made you interested in taking the position as president of Molloy College?

Lentini: A colleague and friend of mine who knows me well is a president of one of the prominent universities on Long Island. He knew that Drew Bogner was getting ready to step down after serving at Molloy for 20 years and said I should investigate the opportunity. I did just that, and it seemed that so many things aligned with my background and experience, including Molloy's mission as a Catholic Dominican college. My family and I knew of Molloy through its musical theatre program, CAP21, as we are all involved in various forms of arts disciplines.    

Herald: Where did you work before, and for how long?

Lentini: Before accepting the presidency at Molloy, I served for seven years as Senior Vice President and Provost at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, about 35 miles north of my hometown in Detroit. At Oakland I oversaw a campus of 19,000 students with a medical school, nursing, health professions, business, education, arts and sciences and more. I also served as Dean of the College of Creative Arts at Miami University in Ohio and I was the Founding Dean of the School of the Arts and Communication at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). My foundational years in higher education were as a professor of music and administrator at Wayne State University in Detroit.  

Herald: What are your biggest personal and professional accomplishments?

Lentini: As a university executive, I was proud to help develop and advance the first new medical school in 50 years in the state of Michigan, the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. I led our university to record highs in enrollment, retention, graduation rates, and the numbers of degrees awarded. At Miami University, I led my school as a part of a $500 million fundraising campaign, and I raised the visibility of the arts that culminated in bringing 400 students and faculty to a full-house Miami University concert in Carnegie Hall-quite a thrill for all involved. In my musical career as a composer and a classical guitarist, I was awarded the Andrés Segovia Composition Prize in Spain and I've had multiple publications, performances, and recordings by prominent performers, publishers, and labels. My most recent recording, "Through Time and Place," was selected by Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune as the "Most alluring classical recording of the year."  

Herald: What is your educational background?

Lentini: I received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Southern California, a Master of Music from Michigan State University, and a Bachelor of Music from Wayne State University.  I also completed the Management in Leadership and Administration program at Harvard University.  

Herald: What have you learned during your time on the job?

Lentini: That Molloy College has a proud and loyal faculty and staff, and that the students love the institution. Admittedly, it has been a challenge to arrive at a time when the global pandemic has required immediate actions to manage a multitude of uncertainties facing all of higher ed, including course delivery, budgets, and safety measures. I am most impressed, however, by the level of expertise and resilience I've witnessed in my short experience so far. There has been excellent planning and proactive action taking place to ensure continuing success at Molloy. 

Herald: How has your vision about the job changed, finding yourself as school leader in the middle of a pandemic?

Lentini: Before the pandemic, I would have spent my first days and weeks on the job simply getting to know everyone through in-person listening tours and gaining ideas for updating the strategic plan. Instead, there is no time for a typical transition, since major decisions now must be made on a daily basis. That said, it is allowing me to get a close look at how individuals and teams respond under very stressful times, and I have been most impressed by the leadership shown by so many at Molloy College.

Herald: What is your five-year plan for Molloy?
Lentini: We'll get the strategic plan updated, look for ways to grow the endowment, build on the strength of our nursing program to envision other areas where enrollment and academic strengths can flourish, deepen our commitment to community engagement, expand our efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and much more.   

Herald: Is there any particular area of the college you would like to see improved?

Lentini: Striving for continuous improvement is an important part of my leadership approach, so we'll always be looking to improve on everything we do. I'd like to be able to expand our resource base, partnerships with health care organizations and businesses, and make sure that we have the support structures for our Molloy graduate to thrive and succeed. 

Herald: What academic programs are the strongest right now?

Lentini: We are certainly known for our excellent nursing and health profession programs. In fact, College Factual just named our nursing program number one in the country. CAP21 is well-regarded by anyone seeking a musical theatre degree. Our School of Education remains one of our best and our School of Business, particularly in Accounting, remains strong. We also have a lot of excellent majors in our School of Arts & Sciences, to name but a few areas. We'll want to assess where we have even more room to grow, particularly in our many graduate and doctoral programs. 

Herald: What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming school year?

Lentini: Like all school programs across the country, we're heading into a new experience this fall and I'm looking forward to a successful start with our in-person, online, and hybrid courses. While this is underway, I am beginning my "listening tours" across campus, and I look forward to building plans for growth and expansion of impactful programs and opportunities for Molloy College.

Read the article at LIHerald.com