Queens College president is first Latino chancellor

After a yearlong search for a new chancellor, CUNY finally concluded its mission and named the Queens College president, Felix V. Matos Rodriguez, as its eighth chancellor. He will take over the role on May 1.

Matos Rodriguez, a scholar, professor and administrator, also gains the title of the first Latino and first minority chancellor in CUNY history. He is also one of the very few executives in the nation to have been both president of a community college as well as a baccalaureate college. Govorner Cuomo has called him a “trailblazing educator” as Matos Rodriguez has drawn national recognition with his work.

Students here expressed the pride they feel in knowing that a minority chancellor will know be running the university.

“This is a huge moment for us as Latinos, it’s exciting,” said Karen Duarte, a Latinx Hunter student. “I feel like he’s going to represent us well.”

Matos Rodriguez, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, has always been an advocate for increasing diversity college-wide, according to CUNY. Throughout his five-year presidency at Queens College, nearly half of the current members of the college’s cabinet were people of color, m

eaning that the majority of the faculty hires under his presidential appointment have been from underrepresented groups.

Growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Matos Rodriguez graduated from Colegio San Ignacio High School and later moved to the East Coast to pursue higher education. He began his studies as a Latin American culture and history major at Yale University, where he graduated cum laude. He went on to Columbia University, where he received his doctorate degree in history.

In the statement he made after being appointed, Matos Rodriguez promised to make sure that “CUNY continues to invest and innovate in creating such spaces of inclusion and diversity for  students, faculty and staff who come from so many different heritages, cultural identities, economic backgrounds and experiences.”

Despite the fact that the chancellor has oversight over their college, many students are unaware of what the chancellor’s job is and how it can impact their campuses.

“I didn’t know we got a new chancellor,” said David Bohorquez, an eboard member of the Hostos Puerto Rican Multicultural Club. “I feel like most students feel indifferent about it but, they still expect to have more programs that benefit them as students.”

“I honestly don’t know what a chancellor does but I hope that he’ll promote aid for students who are minorities,” Duarte said.

During his five-year presidency at Hostos Community College, Matos Rodriguez oversaw a double-digit increase in the school’s retention and graduation rate. This led the college to become a finalist for the prestigious Aspen Best Community College award in 2014.

“Since he is Latinx, he has more understanding for us Latinx that come from humble backgrounds and can help us with better tools to succeed with our education,” Bohorquez said.

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