By Jonathan Sperling
Queens College President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez will become the eighth chancellor of the City University of New York and the first Latino to fill the role, the university system announced Wednesday.
Matos Rodríguez, 56, has served as Queens College’s president since 2014 and was appointed to the position after a vote by the CUNY Board of Trustees. He will officially assume the post on May 1, 2019.
“This would be an extraordinary opportunity for anyone who is passionate about the role CUNY plays in the lifeblood of the world’s greatest and most important city,” Matos Rodríguez said in a statement. “For me, this appointment is particularly special because CUNY is home. I am immensely proud to have risen through the University’s ranks and am deeply honored to now have the opportunity to lead an institution I love and treasure. I will strive every day that I am Chancellor to fulfill the promise of our noble mission to afford academic excellence and economic opportunity to all. And I will endeavor to elevate to new heights CUNY’s legacy as the paradigm of a people’s University.”
Matos Rodríguez, a native of Puerto Rico, earned his B.A. from Yale University, where he was a cum laude graduate, and his doctorate in history from Columbia University. He is a scholar and authority on the history of women in the Caribbean, a recipient of the Albert J. Beveridge Award of the American Historical Association and the author of “Women and Urban Life in Nineteenth-Century San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1820–1862.”
Under Matos Rodríguez’s tenure, Queens College achieved its highest rank in college social-mobility rankings, according to CUNY. A 2016 study by the Equality of Opportunity Project ranked Queens College in the top 1 percent of all colleges in moving students from the bottom fifth to the top fifth of the country’s income distribution. In August 2018, The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked the Flushing school 11th of all U.S. colleges for upward social and economic mobility.
CUNY highlighted Matos Rodríguez’s fundraising skills. During his tenure at Queens College, the Queens College Foundation nearly doubled in value. He also encouraged the development of an accelerated B.A./M.A. program to encourage more undergraduate students to pursue graduate studies.
Nearly half of the current members of the Queens College cabinet are people of color, a significant change from its composition since his appointment. Under Matos Rodríguez’s Presidential Hiring Initiative, 48 percent of faculty hires have been from underrepresented groups.
Matos Rodríguez also served as president of Hostos Community College in the Bronx from 2009 to 2014, making him one of the few U.S. educators to have served as president of both a four-year college and a community college. Under his leadership, Hostos’ fall-to-fall retention rate increased to 68 percent from 57 percent, the first time in the college’s history that it recorded five consecutive years of increased retention, and the school’s graduation rate increased to 28 percent from 22 percent, according to CUNY.
Matos Rodríguez’s appointment comes after current CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken announced his decision to step down following a battle with throat cancer.