THE BRONX - The new president of Lehman College says he's part engineer, part advocate, and dedicated to improving the school and its community.

"My approach is just to hit the ground learning," says Jose Cruz, who replaces Ricardo Fernandez, the man who held the job previously for 26 years. "And through the experience that I've had, we can address the challenges head on."

Cruz, a native of Puerto Rico, previously worked as vice president of academic affairs at California State University, Fullerton.

"Before that, I spent some time in Washington, D.C. lobbying on behalf of low-income students," he says.

The experience has prepared him for the resilient and diverse college community at Lehman, Cruz says.

"I'm looking forward to working hand-in-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder with our faculty, students and staff to take this institution to the next level," he says.