Commencement 2016: URI marketing student excels in and out of classroom

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KINGSTON, R.I., May 6, 2016—Full disclosure: Johan Molina did not have a great first year at the University of Rhode Island. His grades were slipping, and he wasn’t involved in any student activities.


“I wasn’t really engaged,” he says. “I wasn’t being productive.”


He sat himself down and had a little talk. Coasting through college was not an option. Growing up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Providence, he knew he could do anything if he set his mind to it.


He charged into his sophomore year with determination and enthusiasm—and hasn’t stopped since. “I made it a point to get out of my comfort zone, and I did—in a big way.”


That’s an understatement. He became a URI 101 mentor, helping 17 to 20 freshmen transition from home to college. Then he became a member of the URI mentor team responsible for selecting mentors.


His outreach continued when he became a civic engagement leader, guiding students on community service projects, and an orientation leader responsible for assisting freshmen with everything from signing up for classes to informing them about activities on campus.


Even with his busy schedule, he will soon achieve a milestone: the first in his family to get a college degree. In May, he’ll graduate with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.


His success has not gone unnoticed by professors: His junior year he won the Service and Leadership Award from the College of Business. He is also a recipient of the Cynthia and Byron Deysher Business School Scholarship.


“I’ve learned so much at URI,” he says. “I’ve done things I didn’t think I was going to do. I’m on my way to success.”


Raised by a single mother in Providence’s Elmwood Avenue neighborhood, he figured out early that education was his key to success. He excelled in grade school and won a spot at the highly competitive San Miguel School, also in Providence.


There, he learned discipline and the value of hard work. “I learned how to look people in the eye, shake their hand,” he says. “I learned that life is about principles, that small things make a difference.”


La Salle Academy, a Catholic school in Providence, was the next stop. While other parents were driving their kids to school, Molina was taking two buses to get there. He excelled: “I only got one C—in anatomy.”


At URI, he was accepted into the Talent Development program, which he credits with giving him focus and direction. After his shaky first year, he excelled in and out of the classroom.


Besides his work with students, he is also co-founder of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and was a residential advisor for a year in Hutchinson Hall—“the greatest of them all.” He was also a college mentor for the Providence-based College Crusade of Rhode Island, and he worked in the Ram’s Den.


After graduation, he might attend graduate school. He’s also applying for marketing jobs in the state. “I had a great experience at URI,” he says. “I can see myself in the future working in a college setting. I learned a lot at URI. I’m very happy.”


URI Photo by Nora Lewis