CUNY leaders top ‘Higher Education Power 100’ list



Basmalla Attia

CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez ranks No. 1 and Baruch College President S. David Wu is No. 27 on the City & State’s 2022 “Higher Education Power 100” list.

“Higher Education Power 100” is a list that recognizes New York’s most influential leaders in higher education institutions. It was published on March 28 in a special edition of the City & State magazine.

This is the second consecutive year that Wu ranked on the list. Wu has been also named to City & State’s “Power of Diversity: Asian 100” and “Outstanding 50 Asian Americans” lists.

“It is an honor to be acknowledged by City & State along with so many of my esteemed colleagues in higher education,”Wu said.

Wu holds master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Pennsylvania State University and is a scholar in the fields of game theory, optimization and econometrics.

Before Wu came to Baruch, he was a provost and executive vice president of George Mason University. Prior to that, he was a dean and professor at Lehigh University’s Rossin College of Engineering. He has also been a serving board member of Dartmouth College.

Hunter College President Jennifer Raab, City College President Vincent Boudreau, John Jay College of Criminal Justice President Karol Mason, Queens College President Frank Wu and Lehman College President Fernando Delgado also were ranked on the list.

In an interview with City & State Editor-in-Chief Ralph Ortega, Matos Rodríguez shares his journey to attain the top leadership position at CUNY.

Matos Rodríguez is the first chancellor who is both Latino and a person of color. He taught Black and Puerto Rican/Latino studies at Hunter College in 2000. He also served as the director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies.

He spent five years as Hostos Community College president and another five as Queens College president.

Matos Rodríguez assumed office in 2019. In his interview, he said certain challenges and expectations came along with his new title, including addressing issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said a challenge is not being on campus to interact with students, faculty and staff as much as he used to.

“I get incredible energy and encouragement walking through campuses,” he said. “That’s why I’ve been trying to visit a lot of the schools in a systematic way because it’s a way for me to reconnect with that.”

He describes how he sees his parents in these students. He wants others to benefit from social mobility and the opportunity he and his parents got through education.

An area Matos Rodríguez is looking to improve is connecting students to the work world

“When you think that half of our students are the first members of their families going to college, I think we have an extra responsibility to make sure that those students from the earliest opportunities are thinking about possibilities, and then expose them to those possibilities,” he said.

He said the most rewarding part of his job is seeing the success stories and how far people can go when they are given an opportunity.

“To see them succeed, to see them fulfill their educational dreams, and to see the multiplying effect that has on their families, their neighbors and communities – that is the biggest adrenaline rush,” he said.