Felix Matos feels very close to the link between CUNY, the city’s public university, and Latin American art and culture.
And it is that Matos is the first Latin Chancellor in CUNY’s 172-year history.
“Certainly for me it is a great pride to be the first Latino Chancellor in the CUNY system, but it seems to me that it is not an accident … I have had the opportunity to grow in various spaces within CUNY, but which are spaces that the university created to accommodate the Hispanic community, “explained Matos.
As he walks through Lehman College in the Bronx, Matos recalls that in his native San Juan, Puerto Rico, his family acquired a taste for history and education.
“I come from a family with the great blessing that I met all my grandparents and I met three of my great-grandparents, so in my family the stories of the past were part of my life … I love letting the world know what we Puerto Ricans do and the Caribbeans, “added Matos.
Matos’ first contact with CUNY was at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, the only one of its kind in the country and where he was a professor.
He also had a stint as president of Hostos College and Queens College, where he improved the numbers of graduates and opportunities for students from minority groups, including Latinos.
“In a city like New York, so diverse but with such a large Latino population, it was very important that at CUNY that diversity was reflected in the students, administrators and faculty (professors).
Today about 30% of CUNY students are Latino and that is why the university system created the ‘CUNY Comeback’ program, in which it forgave the debt of more than 50 thousand students who were impacted by the pandemic, knowing that the Latino community was one of the most affected.
“The people who come to CUNY where almost 40% of the students were born in countries other than the United States … the fact that you have a person who you think understands that experience of leaving the country for whatever reason and coming and creating a new life in another place, the person takes it with joy, “said Matos.
Meanwhile, Matos hopes to continue opening opportunities for the university to be more representative of the diversity in the city, especially opening the door to more Latinos.