Dan Lugo, new Queens University president, wants to make the school a household name

As the city and region continue to grow and change, new Queens University of Charlotte president Dan Lugo hopes the school can not only attract far-flung newcomers, but better serve those with long-time roots in the area as well.

On the first day of his tenure Monday, Lugo said he hopes to increase Queens’s name recognition beyond Charlotte, reaching more international students and becoming an institution that can be a pipeline into the city’s economic growth. He also stressed the importance of supporting first-generation college students, who make up about 30 percent of Queens’s undergraduate enrollment.

“As we’re opening the front door to folks from all over the place, we can’t forget the people that have always been here,” Lugo said. “How can we be welcoming to the world while also understanding that there are folks that have been here a long time, who have built the foundation for why we’re able to thrive? How do we bring them along?”

Lugo comes to Queens from Colby College in Maine, where he served as vice president for college advancement. He succeeds Pamela Davies, who led the school for 17 years through its transformation from a small liberal arts college to a university that offers graduate and professional degrees. The Queens Board of Trustees unanimously voted for Lugo as president, announcing his selection in January.

Right now, Lugo said, Queens sits in position to go from “good to great,” and he hopes to turn the university from a “best-kept secret” into a household name beyond Charlotte, even internationally. To make the university and its students essential to the growth and development taking place in Charlotte, Lugo pointed to expanding programs in technology, data science and analytics while maintaining a commitment to the liberal arts.

He pointed toward South End, where Lowe’s just announced it will build a new hub that will create 2,000 technology jobs.

“Are all 2,000 of those jobs going to come from people outside of Charlotte, or to places like UNC Charlotte, and Queens University of Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith?” Lugo said. “Are we going to get great at educating the next generation of technology workers, to ensure that some of the folks that have always been here can be in those jobs?”

The first in his family to attend college, Lugo said he draws on that experience in his work and in considering questions of diversity and student support. While college can be a sharp transition for almost any student, those who can’t turn to their families to help navigate higher education are at a disadvantage, Lugo said. To him, it’s the institution’s job to fill in that gap.

“The better we understand the first generation experience actually translates into the better we are serving all of our students,” Lugo said. “Most kids don’t actually know how to navigate that first year, but the difference between someone who comes from a first generation background or an underprivileged background is that they can’t pick up the phone and say, ’Hey, Dad, tell me about the experience,’ because Dad didn’t have it.”

Lugo will draw on his experience in development, including at Colby, where he worked on a campaign to raise $750 million. He also said he expects Queens will need to grow its enrollment, both via residential and non-traditional students in addition to online learning.

“Dr. Davies’ leadership did so much to to tackle the challenges of getting into all these diverse lanes of delivering educational content,” Lugo said. “I have the job of figuring out how do we scale all of those things, and create revenue models from them that are not only sustainable, but allow us to grow and invest.”