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These are busy, hectic days for Andrea Talentino, the new president of Augustana College. Since starting her new job on July 1, she has been kept busy with a plethora of big and small tasks on the Rock Island campus. Some of those jobs include: Meetings. She has been in a series of meetings with college, community and business leaders. On many days, she has a full schedule. Touring the campus. The new president has been looking over the buildings and facilities in Augustana. “I’m getting into the business of the college,” she said. Touring the community. Ms. Talentino has been getting to know the Quad Cities by going on walks with her husband and dogs, visiting the farmers market and eating in local restaurants such as The Monarch restaurant in Davenport. “The Quad Cities is great. We do a lot of walking around. The dogs love the walks,” she added. And even getting her office set up and organized. As of late July, her office was, to put it kindly, in a state of transition. The office had few personal touches but also had cardboard boxes on a table and framed academic degrees on the floor. “Hopefully, it will be ready by the time classes start,” she added. Fall classes at Augustana begin Tuesday, Sept. 6. And in the next few weeks, the new president will continue her busy journey of getting to know the college, the students and the community.
Get to know the presidentIn December, when she was introduced as the ninth president in the college’s 161-year history, she told a crowd this about herself: “I know a lot of you are asking what drew me here. The easiest answer is, I think, that I love the mission: ‘To prepare students for lives of leadership and service in a diverse and changing world.’” The search committee, which eventually hired her, appreciated that point of view of education. “Dr. Talentino is a scholar, a teacher and mentor for students; an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion; and an innovator and engaged citizen. She is looking forward to connecting with the Augustana community, including alumni around the world,” John Murabito, chair of the board who led the national search, said back in December. Political Science Professor Mariano Magalhães, one of four faculty members who served on the search committee, added then that the community needs to know this about the new president: “One of the many things that impresses me about Dr. Talentino is her dedication to and focus on students, from the several programs she helped develop to increase student retention and bolster academic performance at Nazareth College to her commitment to teaching one course a year despite extensive administrative responsibilities.” The QCBJ recently interviewed Ms. Talentino about her responsibilities and her views on Augustana, the Quad Cities and today’s students. Here are some of her thoughts: What makes a great college president? Ms. Talentino said a great president needs these qualities: Be open to people and ideas; an ability to deal with criticism; make students feel that they have a meaningful place; and be able to raise money. Goals for the year: Ms. Talentino outlined these four – Strengthen existing and develop new community partnerships; continue to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion; build on academic programs; and address campus master plan. Do today’s college students differ from students a generation ago? “They are definitely different,” she said, adding some of those differences are spurred by technology that can help and hurt students. For instance, cell phone technology makes it possible for students to easily contact parents at any time and place. This makes some students less independent and more reliant on their parents. “But students also expect to be more engaged in the world; they expect to do good,” she added. Educators need to be aware of this and perhaps focus lessons on this quality. Mentors: Many leaders like to talk about the mentors who helped them and encouraged them over the years. Ms. Talentino is no exception. She recently pointed out three mentors from her life: 1. When she was 18, after her freshman year at college, she was at a summer camp in New Hampshire. The husband and wife team who ran the camp saw leadership qualities in her, and made her the head of the tennis staff. 2. In graduate school, her adviser and his wife saw great qualities in her. “They made me a part of their life.” 3. When she was a dean at Norwich University, the president of the university was her mentor, who a fellow faculty member described as being “filled with the milk of human kindness.” Keeping young people in the region: Many community and business leaders have long commented that they are troubled by the exodus of young adults from the area. Once many earn their degrees, they are quick to leave for bigger cities. Ms. Talentino said she needs to get to know the community better, but her first impressions of the region are: “The Quad Cities is friendly and comfortable and all about community.” And maybe young people are not looking for that. They are looking for “cutting edge … They want to go to a place that they think is cool.” So, perhaps, the answer is to work to make the Quad Cities a “cool” destination for younger adults, she added. Heroes: Ms. Talentino said her heroes include Elizabeth I, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Relaxation. When not working, Ms. Talentino has many hobbies and activities including exercise, hiking, word puzzles, and learning the guitar. “I’m still hoping to learn the guitar one of these days.” In late July, she was reading a book on Winston Churchill entitled “The Splendid and the Vile” by Erik Larson.
Andrea Talentino: At a GlanceHere is a quick look at the life and some of the milestones of Andrea Talentino, Augustana College’s new president:
- Born in Binghamton, New York, Andrea Talentino grew up in nearby Cortland, New York. Her mother, Winifred Eisenhauer Talentino, was a public health nurse, and her father, Arnold Talentino, taught English at SUNY Cortland. Her brother Justin Talentino is an Austin (Texas) Fire Department captain.
- Before joining Augustana, she was the provost of Nazareth College in Rochester, New York. She also served as the dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Norwich University in Vermont. She also was an associate dean at Drew University in New Jersey, held a faculty position at Tulane University and a postdoctoral position at Princeton University.
- Earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Yale University, then completed a master’s and doctorate in political science from UCLA. While serving as dean at Norwich, she earned an MBA with a concentration in organizational leadership.
- Married to Thomas Tarnow, a public interest attorney. They have two children: Lucien, 14, and Julia, 10.