BY STEVEN J. FERRARI
When first-year students arrive at Queens College for the first time later this month, they will be joined by the college’s new leader.
On Aug. 28, Dr. Felix Matos Rodriguez will begin his job as Queens College President.
“I’m proud to be joining the freshman class this year,” he said. “I’m going to be there when students move in, as a chance to meet them and get to know them.”
The new president will officially take over for Dr. James Muyskens, who retired at the end of 2013, almost close to 12 years at the college.
“I have big shoes to fill in every way,” Matos Rodriguez said in an interview on Monday. “Jim was tall in stature, and he also did so many good things for the college.”
Dr. Evangelos Gizis served as interim president while a search for a new president was conducted.
Matos Rodriguez comes to Queens College from another CUNY institution. He has served as president of Hostos Community College since 2009. An Ivy League-educated scholar, he received a Ph.D. from Columbia University and has taught at institutions including Yale University, Boston College and Northeastern University. Matos Rodriguez also served as a cabinet secretary for the Dept. of Family Services for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
The new Queens College president said that the institution’s motto – “We Learn So That We May Serve” – was part of what attracted him to the college.
“As a historian, the college’s motto fit with my personal motivations,” he said.
Matos Rodriguez said he hopes that his first year as Queens College president will serve as a chance to learn about the institution and to meet with key players throughout the Borough to shape his time in office.
“I want to meet with people, hear from them on what needs to be improved upon,” he said. “From there, we can start generating ideas that will move us forward.”
Citing the college’s connections to the Borough as a cultural hub and economic engine for jobs, Matos Rodriguez said he hoped to build upon its past successes in the future to create new opportunities not just for future students, but for people throughout Queens.
He noted that as he meets people from Queens, he has been excited to see how linked the college is to every aspect of the Borough.
“It’s a great joy to come in to a place that is so connected culturally, politically and socially to Queens,” he said. “Queens College is part of the story of accessibility and affordability in higher education.”
One of the aspects of the college that the new president praised was The Summit, the college’s residence halls. Matos Rodriguez said he hoped to find new ways to utilize that space during the summer months, including the possible expansion of summer programs or using the building to house international students visiting the campus.
“[The Summit] is a wonderful opportunity for the diverse students who come to Queens College to meet people from other cultures,” he said. “It’s an incredible asset to the college.”
He also touted the college’s new honors program for transfer students, which he said would acknowledge the accomplishments for a new subset of students, creating new opportunities for them.
With experience as a teacher and a historian, Matos Rodriguez said he was looking forward to shaping the role that Queens College plays within the Borough.
“I want to be part of the story of people with modest means and talent following their dreams or finding their path at Queens College,” he said.
Reach Steven J. Ferrari at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 122, firstname.lastname@example.org or @stevenferrari.