ROCKLAND COUNTY – After an extensive search process including multiple interviews, campus tours, and lively town halls, Rockland Community College has selected its eighth President in the College’s 64-year history. Dr. Lester Edgardo Sandres Rápalo will succeed Dr. Michael Baston who stepped down in 2022.
At a special board meeting on March 13, the RCC Board of Trustees approved the appointment of Dr. Rápalo who was then approved by the State University of New York at a public meeting on June 6. He will formally begin his leadership of the College on July 1st.
“Dr. Rápalo is an ideal fit for Rockland Community College. We believe he will chart an exciting course that will take RCC into the future. His strong academic background, extensive involvement in community outreach, and his leadership efforts with regard to developing Hispanic-Serving Institution programs are the bedrock of what we were seeking in a new president. We look forward to seeing his vision for RCC take shape,” stated Martin Wortendyke, Chair of the Board of Trustees.
The announcement concludes a national search that launched in September 2022. The 32 members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, with the assistance of search firm Isaacson Miller, received interest from a diverse pool of applicants and selected four highly qualified finalists. All candidates visited the RCC campus early in March and met with the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, and students. Feedback from the town halls and the search committee was incorporated into the Board’s final decision.
“I am truly honored to begin my tenure at RCC and I thank RCC and SUNY’s Board of Trustees for the opportunity to lead this wonderful institution. Community colleges have been at the heart of higher education in this country as an agency of upward mobility and RCC is an integral part of providing such critical opportunities. I am excited to lead the college in addressing our students’ needs and build upon the college’s nationally acclaimed programs to ensure quality education and pathways to employment and workforce training. There has been no greater time to assume this crucial role and I thank the search committee for the opportunity to contribute to RCC’s legacy of excellence,” stated Dr. Rápalo.
“As SUNY moves forward with the four pillars of our vision—student success; research and scholarship; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and economic development and upward mobility for our students—our campus leadership is crucial to fulfilling our promise to transform SUNY into the best public higher education system for our students, faculty, and staff,” said SUNY
Chancellor John B. King, Jr. “My congratulations to Rockland Community College as we look to welcome Dr. Lester Edgardo Sandres Rápalo and prepare for Fall 2023.”
Dr. Lester Edgardo Sandres Rápalo
Dr. Lester Edgardo Sandres Rápalo, Ed.D., MBA, MA, has over 25 years of experience bringing together multiple stakeholders to provide and make accessible quality education to all members of the community. As a college administrator, Dr. Rápalo has experience in academic affairs, student affairs, enrollment management, strategic and fiscal planning, fundraising, business partnerships and coalition building, study abroad, on-line learning and assessment, and faculty and student conflict resolution. In addition, Dr. Rápalo has demonstrated a strong commitment to celebrating diversity and fostering an inclusive environment conducive to faculty, student, and staff success.
Prior to joining Rockland Community College, Dr. Rápalo was the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Bronx Community College, City University of New York (CUNY). In this role, Dr. Rápalo was responsible for the total College budget, approximately $140 million, and supervised 5 deans, 15 academic departments, 260 full-time faculty, and 440 adjuncts. Dr. Rápalo also oversaw the Associate Dean for Success Programs, the Associate Dean for Curriculum Matters and Academic Programs, the Director of Institutional Research, the Assistant Dean for First Year Program, the Scheduling Office, and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology. He helped lead the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) and worked closely with Admissions to increase the automation of the enrollment process for CUNY Start and Math Start programs. He was also involved in CUNY-wide (25 colleges and universities in total) governance, including serving as the Co-Chair of the Recognizing and Rewarding Excellence in Teaching Task Force Committee and membership in the CUNY Academic Council, the Committee on Academic Policy (CAP) and the Reimagining Strategic Finance Committee.
At Bronx Community College, Dr. Rápalo facilitated the College’s win of the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He also oversaw the accreditation renewal process with the Council for Education in Nursing (ACEN) for the College’s Nursing Program. In addition, Dr. Rápalo’s leadership efforts secured various grants for the College, including a $3,000,000 Title V Grant awarded by the Developing Hispanic-Servicing Institutions (DHSI) Program to assist Hispanic-Servicing Institutions build academic programs and improve program quality to help Hispanic student retention. Dr. Rápalo has also worked to strengthen the Workforce Development initiatives at Bronx Community College, partnering with organizations such as JPMorgan Chase, Ernst and Young and Blackstone.
Dr. Rápalo is a National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC) fellow and board member. He is the author of several textbooks and has made multiple appearances in media outlets such as Telemundo, ABC Channel 7, and Azteca TV (México). Dr. Rápalo was born in Honduras and speaks Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.
About Rockland Community College, State University of New York
Rockland Community College (RCC), located in Suffern New York, provides purpose driven educational opportunities in a supportive, affordable, and accessible environment, empowering individuals to positively transform themselves and their communities. RCC welcomes students from diverse backgrounds who appreciate small class sizes and personal attention from a distinguished, award-winning faculty that includes Fulbright scholars and SUNY Distinguished Professors. Many graduates go on to top universities to further their education on their own or through RCCs institutional collaborations. RCC also provides career training and professional development to adult learners looking to change careers or upgrade their skills through a variety of programs and educational opportunities including workforce training, certifications, and microcredentials. Many of the programs are developed with employers in the community in high-demand industry areas to enable graduates to move into a new career upon graduation. More information can be found at sunyrockland.edu.