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Queens College President Felix V. Matos Rodriguez Joins the 2015 Class of Aspen Institute Ascend Fellows

QC President Felix V. Matos Rodriguez was chosen to participate in the Aspen Institute Ascend Fellowship.

The Ascend Fellowship was launched in 2011 with its primary mission of combating intergenerational poverty using a two-generation strategy.

“I look forward to using my experience as an Ascend Fellow to explore ways to improve the educational outcomes of college students who are parents both at Queens College and throughout the City University of New York system,” Rodriguez said.

The announcement was made on March 10.

 “Too many families are struggling, and it is time for a new generation of leaders who have the vision, innovation, and drive to develop a portfolio of solutions focused on building an intergenerational cycle of opportunity,” Anne Mosle, Ascend vice president and executive director said.

In his former position as President of Hostos Community College, Rodriguez successfully launched student success initiatives such as the Two Generation Student Retention and Degree Acceleration Pilot Program, which yielded positive outcomes such as an increase in graduation rate.

 The Ascend Program includes “a range of emerging and established two-generation programs from across the United States that provide opportunities for and meet the needs of vulnerable children and their parents together.”

The idea is to cater to parents and children concurrently rather than focusing on one while ignoring the other. To achieve this goal, the program assembles a team of smart, diverse leaders from all over the nation who are passionate about low-income families.

During the 18-month fellowship, they brainstorm together and share ideas and knowledge on how to successfully run the initiatives under the program.

The program also works with their philanthropic partners, which include foundations such as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who are dedicated to impacting low-income families and increasing educational success.

According to an anthology from the Aspen Fellowship, a motivating factor of the program is the “growing recognition that, despite our deep seated belief in its importance as part of the American Dream, social and economic mobility in the United States is well below that of most of the countries we compare ourselves with.”

The anthology also quotes a statistic that states that “less than 8 percent of children born to U.S. families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution reach the top fifth, compared to 11.7 percent in Denmark.”

QC students are also looking forward to the positive impact the program would have on campus.

Leigh Sanchez, a freshman student of the SEEK Program, which supports students with academic and financial problems, shares the vision of the Ascend Fellowship.

“I think it’s important for not just kids but parents to get educated, that way people can get to the middle class faster. I don’t see a problem with that. It’s a beneficial program and I’m glad that Queens College is participating in it,” Sanchez said.

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