#NBCLatino20: Felix Matos Rodriguez — The college chancellor

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By Carmen Sesin

Felix Matos Rodríguez is the first educator of color and first Latino to lead the nation’s largest urban university since he became Chancellor of the City University of New York in May.

He has been recognized nationally for boosting college retention and completion rates in the previous institutions he led. Now, his goal is to make sure that students who enroll at CUNY are able to complete their degree, regardless of personal hardship and financial circumstances.

Felix Matos Rodríguez.Illustration by Aaron Fernandez for NBC News

Boosting college completion is key to Latino progress. Only 20 percent of Hispanics in the labor force have bachelor’s degrees, compared with 40 percent of non-Latino whites.

Matos Rodríguez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has described himself as an avid reader and a history buff who grew up surrounded by smart, strong women.

He graduated cum laude from Yale and obtained a doctorate degree in history from Columbia. He has taught at Northeastern University, Boston College and the Universidad InterAmericana in Puerto Rico.

In 2000 he was recruited to head the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, which is part of CUNY and at the forefront on research about Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican communities in the U.S.

“I am aware that this is not an individual achievement,” Matos told NBC News in May of his appointment as chancellor. “There is a motif of spaces that Puerto Ricans and other communities of color have fought to create."

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