New Queens College President Felix Matos Rodriguez attempted to decorate his office in Queens Hall. However, he attended events throughout campus over the past few weeks since his appointment.
From welcoming incoming residents in The Summit to speaking with incoming faculty members, the number of events Rodriguez appeared at is still growing in order to familiarize himself with the campus.
Rodriguez called this “busy but very good busy.” He mentioned how important QC is as a community and was “eager to connect” with faculty, staff and students.
“It has been a hectic but really warm. People have been extremely friendly in both face-to-face encounters that I’ve had in meetings and events. I’ve got a nice group of emails, cards and letters wishing me well. It has been incredibly warm and I am hoping I can reciprocate the warmness back,” Rodriguez said.
On June 30, 2014, the CUNY board of trustees unanimously voted to appoint Rodriguez as the new president of Queens College starting Aug. 28. He succeeded Interim President Evangelos Gizis, who was appointed after the departure of former President James Muyskens.
President Rodriguez was educated in the Ivy Leagues as he studied as an undergraduate at Yale University. He later received a Ph.D from Columbia University after studying history.
His previous position was president at Hostos Community College, located in the Bronx, where he held the post since 2009. As a result of the new position at QC, David Gomez replaced Rodriguez as Interim President of Hostos.
Current Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who worked with Rodriguez in the past, praised the appointment of Rodriguez as QC president.
In a public statement, he stated Rodriguez “made a tremendous impact on the life of countless students and residents in the Bronx during his five years serving as President of Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College.”
“Felix has demonstrated a commitment to public service and to the success of all students. I, as well as the 1.4 million residents of the Bronx, thank Felix for his great leadership and a job well done and wish him continued success in his new position,” Diaz Jr. said.
President Rodriguez was born and raised in Puerto Rico before coming to the U.S. to attend college. In fact, prior to his position as the president of Hostos, he worked as Secretary of the Department of Family Affairs in the Puerto Rican government from 2006 to 2008.
The Department of Family Affairs is one of 15 executive departments of the Puerto Rican government. It mainly deals with social aspects of the country and providing help to citizens.
Under his tenure, the commonwealth experienced, for example, a boost in literacy after free books were provided to children, an introduction of a new law to prevent child abuse and a health care program set up to provide medical insurance for foster care minors.
Rodriguez mentioned how it was more of a collective effort in the department for such achievements as he listened to what his staff recommended and follow-up on that. In fact, he stated it was the same for when he was president of Hostos.
In addition, he was once a professor at Hunter College as well as holding other public and private sector posts. He currently holds positions in the Council of Foreign Relations, Bronx Chamber of Commerce and Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.
Sara Just-Michael, secretary of the Student Association, stated President Rodriguez was a “fun-spirited man” in the few times the organization met with him.
“We are very excited by the appointment of President Rodriguez. We had a great relationship with Presidents Muyskens and Gizis and are looking forward to building the same kind of tight relationship with President Rodriguez,” Just-Michael said.
Rodriguez stated he enjoyed the student events he went to as it gave “hope and faith in the world” due to the diversity of the student body. However, before acting on any new policies or changes for QC, President Rodriguez stressed the importance of listening to people at the college.
“The most important idea so far is to listen and to learn. It is the most important thing for going forward,” Rodriguez said.