Fulfilling a Dream
Michael Molla '84
Unlike many students whose parents question their decision to major in art, Michael Molla ’84 had the full encouragement of his family to pursue an art degree – if he attended a small, private college.
“They knew I would only flourish in that environment,” Mike recalls. “It was important for them, and me, that I had a broad based education that offered a comprehensive student centered experience.”
Accompanied by his grandfather, Mike came to campus for an interview and portfolio review with Professor Ralph Parente, then chair of the art department. Professor Parente began the review by asking him to talk about each of the 15 pieces in his portfolio for which Mike was well-prepared. Professor Parente then asked a question that caught him off guard.
Within minutes of flipping through his portfolio, Professor Parente asked Mike to describe in detail, ‘How do you think?’ “I remember responding nervously that I don’t really know,” shares Mike. “I was prepared to talk about each piece of work in my portfolio, not answer the type of question he was asking.” According to Mike, Professor Parente responded, “this is one of the first questions you will ask yourself on your journey to become an artist this September here at Anna Maria.”
For Mike, his education started right then and there and continued through his four years at AMC. “Professor Parente systematically raised my creative and professional aspirations beyond what I ever thought possible,” he says.
Mike’s education was rounded out by other faculty and staff, including Dean of Students, Hollie Ingraham, Sr. Rollande Quintal, SSA ’62, and Sr. Paulette Gardner, SSA ’67. “Their commitment to students...continues to echo in both my heart and mind today. They helped inform, educate and develop values that are reflected in my daily work to this day,” he claims.
After graduating, Mike planned to become an art teacher, but teaching jobs were in short supply in the wake of Proposition 2 ½, which impacted school systems in Massachusetts. Utilizing his experience as a resident assistant at Anna Maria, Mike accepted a full-time job as a Resident Director at Fitchburg State College. This led to a residence life position at Denison University in Ohio, followed by a stint as Assistant Dean of Student Life at Mount Saint Mary’s College in Maryland.
Fulfilling a dream to combine his dual love of art and student affairs, Mike moved to Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, one of the top art colleges in the country. After rising through the ranks to become a chief student affairs officer, Mike currently serves as MICA’s Vice President for Operations. Although very happy in his current role, he hopes to one day serve as a college president.
Mike credits Anna Maria College with providing him with both a strong academic and co-curricular preparation and for supporting his aspirations. “Every moment at AMC, whether in the classrooms, studios or participating in student organizations, I felt as though the entire College was there to support my personal and educational journey,” he comments. “We could not get away with just being average students at AMC; we were expected to be great students.”