By the end of the Spring 2019 semester, Felix V. Matos Rodriguez will no longer hold his position as president of Queens College, but will be in charge of all CUNY as a chancellor. It is a shift that he does not take lightly, expressing his understanding that nearly 20 years of experience working within the CUNY system in various capacities – from working as an adjunct at City College, to faculty at Hunter College, to president of Hostos Community College, to his current position as QC president – may have given him, in his words, “a more nuanced understanding of the system’s needs,” but not necessarily a complete one.
“One of the things I need to remind myself and those that work with me is that I need to keep the attitude of a student, in the sense of needing to be humble enough to know how there’s a lot of things I still need to learn, to understand,” Matos said, describing this concern as he takes this next step in his long career.
In this respect, CUNY Board of Trustees Chairperson William C. Thompson Jr. in February expressed a feeling of confidence in Matos, saying: “He is keenly acquainted with the issues that are unique to community and senior colleges…I don’t think we could have ever expected to find an educator with this breadth and depth of expertise.”
President Matos spoke on this topic and more during an exclusive interview with The Knight News, during which he elaborated on the work done and, in his words, the “seeds” for the future planted throughout his career at QC – programs such as “QC in 4” meant to help guide students to graduating within 4 years, as well as investments into graduate scholarships and programs and “accelerated BA/MA” programs which would allow undergraduate students to take some graduate-level coursework and complete both degrees within 5 years.
Another of these “seeds” is a contract with a global partner that Matos explains will help bring students from international regions to the campus, the first of whom may be appearing as soon as next year. He believes that this particular move will add value to the campus in making it even more reflective of the diversity of Queens as a whole.
Matos explained that these efforts were beyond simply his own role, but were made possible by contributions university-wide, saying: “I like to think that whatever we built together in five years was really a collective enterprise, in which students, faculty, alumni, staff, administration all came in.”
Taking the voices and opinions of people from different levels into consideration when putting together plans is something President Matos wishes to continue doing as CUNY Chancellor, despite that being a largely external position. For that reason, he seeks to find opportunities to visit each of the 25 campuses spread across the five boroughs whenever possible to interact with students and staff.
“When you talk about policies that affect all the campuses, I think if people see that you’ve taken the time to be able to consult [them], it will be easier to deal with implementation,” Matos said. “We are who we are. I get energy from people. I enjoy talking to students, talking to alumni, talking to faculty. It’s partly how I learn, and how I am reminded of what the mission is and what we need to do.”
Matos highlighted this aspect of his personality as being something that has made his time at QC more enjoyable, making time for such activities as participating in events that bring him in closer contact with the student population. The importance the college holds for him is part of the reason he will be presiding over graduation in May not as chancellor, but as president still, taking his new position only after this point.
“Here he’s starting this great new position, and he didn’t want to miss the opportunity to be with Queens College students who are graduating, and their families,” added Jay Hershenson, Vice President of Communications and Marketing and Senior Advisor to the President.
As a final note for QC students, staff and faculty, President Matos assured that he will not simply be “disappearing into the sunset,” but fully intends to remain “connected and committed with the next chapter of success here at Queens College.”