President Lester Edgardo Sandres Rápalo, EdD, MBA, MA
Eighth President of Rockland Community College

Dr. Lester Sandres Rápalo

Dr. Lester Edgardo Sandres Rápalo, EdD, MBA, MA, joined Rockland Community College as the Institution’s eighth President in July 2023. RCC is one of 30 community colleges within the State University of New York (SUNY) system, located about 25 miles outside of New York City. The College offers a safe, supportive learning environment for thousands of students from diverse backgrounds. Affordable tuition, an array of degree, certificate and workforce development programs, and a commitment to career readiness and upward economic mobility makes RCC the “first choice” for students of all ages. Read more about Dr. Rápalo’s appointment.

With over two decades of experience in higher education, Dr. Rápalo believes in the transformative power of education. He brings his passion for and commitment to creating affordable educational opportunities for all to Rockland Community College and the larger community.

Dr. Rápalo’s experience has focused on bringing together multiple stakeholders to provide and make quality education accessible 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 RCC, 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 recently joined the Forbes Councils, a collective of professional networking communities for vetted senior executives and business owners in various industries, as a Business Council member. He is a National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC) fellow and board member. Dr. Rápalo is the author of several textbooks and has made multiple appearances in media outlets including Telemundo, ABC Channel 7, and Azteca TV (México). Born in Honduras, Dr. Rápalo speaks Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

Forbes Business Council

Dr. Rápalo Forbes Business Council Official Member

Dr. Rápalo has joined the prestigious Forbes Business Council — a select community of global business leaders chosen to share their expert insights in original articles and contribute to published Expert Panels alongside other experts on Discover Dr. Rápalo’s insights and contributions on

How Community Colleges Can Support the Mental Health of Students

Highlighting the vital role of community colleges, and championing student mental health. “Community colleges can actively work to dismantle stigmas by leading mental health awareness initiatives and fostering an environment where open discussions about mental health are encouraged.” Read the latest opinion article by President Rapalo on

Media Coverage

Messages from Dr. Rápalo

Dear Rockland Community,

Like many of you, I have been following the news about Hamas’s attack on Israel and the escalating violence in Israel and Gaza. The loss of civilian life is especially horrifying. I want to acknowledge that our community has deep ties to the affected region. Many of our students and colleagues are suffering as they worry about loved ones caught in the conflict and mourn those who have been lost. Please accept my concern and sympathy during this very troubling time.

Rockland Community College has taken steps to ensure that no members of our Institution are currently in these regions for academic or institutional purposes. However, it’s important to acknowledge that these events might be affecting many within our Rockland family, especially those who have personal ties or familial connections to the impacted regions.

RCC is committed to ensuring that support is available, and we are actively reaching out to international students who might be feeling the effects of these situations. Students seeking additional support are encouraged to reach out to our Counseling Center and Connection Center, and employees can turn to our Employee Assistance Program.

In the wake of such global incidents, spirited discussions and debates are natural, even expected, within our diverse Rockland community. While these conversations are crucial for understanding and growth, let’s ensure they’re anchored in empathy and mutual respect.

As we navigate these times, let’s lean on our shared commitment to making a positive difference in our global community and continue to uphold the values of compassion and respect.

President Lester Sandres Rápalo, EdD, MBA, MA

Dear RCC,

I am honored to welcome all of our talented students, esteemed faculty, and dedicated staff members–new and experienced–to Rockland Community College for the start of our first Academic Year together.

First and foremost, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the community for the incredible support since the start of my tenure as the eighth president. Your commitment to our shared mission of providing accessible education has been inspiring. I am truly thankful to work at an institution where the students are at the heart of our mission and their success remains our primary focus.

As the new semester gets underway, I am eager to continue my “Leading Through Listening Tour” and engage with you further. Your insights are invaluable as we chart the course for the future of RCC. During my initial visits, I had the privilege of witnessing your passion and enthusiasm for education. Together, we will continue to create an inclusive and welcoming campus that encourages diversity and embraces all backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives.

I am filled with anticipation as we embark on this new academic journey. The fall semester holds the promise of new relationships and boundless opportunities for growth and learning.

Thank you for your ongoing contributions to RCC. I look forward to working side by side with you as we shape the future of RCC and work toward making a positive impact in our community and the world.

Wishing you all a successful Fall 2023 Semester!

President Lester Sandres Rápalo, EdD, MBA, MA

Dear Rockland Community College Community,

I am deeply saddened by the devastating flooding that has occurred in our community. My thoughts and well wishes are with the individuals, their families and our friends who have been affected. I was in Mexico collaborating with international colleges on the amazing work we do when I heard about what was happening in Rockland and Orange County.

I know that some of you may have been directly impacted and this is a difficult time for our community. But I also know that we are strong and resilient.

I am particularly concerned about our students who have been affected by the flooding and are worried about their classes and academic progress. I want to assure you that we will do everything we can to help them stay on track.

In the meantime, please stay safe and follow the instructions of local officials.

I know that this is a challenging time, but I am confident that we will get through it together. We will take care of each other.

President Lester Sandres Rápalo, EdD, MBA, MA

Dear Colleagues,

As the President of Rockland Community College, I would like to address the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on affirmative action and student-loan forgiveness. I recognize that these rulings present both challenges and opportunities for our Institution.

Our dedication to policies devoted to creating an inclusive and affordable educational environment remains unwavering. By uplifting and celebrating every individual’s unique contributions, we are also actively contributing to the creation of a more equitable society. Additionally, we firmly believe that pursuing a degree should not burden our students with years or decades of student loan repayment.

It is heartening to know that our students represent the diverse fabric of our society, and we stand united in our dedication to their success. I am proud to share that nearly two-thirds of graduates from SUNY community colleges emerge without any student loan debt. By offering an array of flexible programs, both on-campus and online, we provide accessible pathways to in-demand careers or seamless transfer to prestigious bachelor degree programs at other SUNY institutions.

While the Supreme Court decisions may influence the fate of national debt-relief programs and affirmative action, I want to assure you that we will remain steadfast advocates for our students. We are committed to providing resources, guidance, and opportunities to alleviate the burden of student loans, enabling our students to focus on their educational journeys and future aspirations.

Thank you for your ongoing support, passion, and dedication to RCC. I look forward to working closely with each of you as we chart a course toward excellence and empower our students to soar to new heights.

Wishing you all a fulfilling and inspiring academic year.


Dr. Lester Sandres Rápalo
President, Rockland Community College

Greetings to all Faculty, Students, Staff, Alumni, and the Rockland Community,

I am delighted and deeply honored to begin my tenure as the eighth president of Rockland Community College. During my initial visits to the campus in March, I had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the transformative power of RCC. It is a truly remarkable Institution that opens the doors of education to all, equipping individuals with the tools and inspiration to shape their futures. Whether pursuing degrees or earning certificates in high-demand fields, our students are at the heart of our mission. I firmly believe that education is a catalyst not only for their personal growth but also for the progress of our community.

During my early visits, I also had the honor of engaging with many of you, but I have much more to learn. As one of my top priorities, I am embarking on a “Leading Through Listening Tour” during the first 100 days of my tenure. This tour will consist of dedicated sessions and meetings with various stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, employers, and community partners. I am eager to hear about your experiences, insights, concerns, and aspirations for RCC. Your valuable input will play a critical role in shaping our plans for the future. Let’s create a safe space for curiosity, experimentation, and growth. Together, we will nurture a culture of innovation that inspires both our students and our faculty.

As the President of RCC, I am wholeheartedly committed to a student-centered approach that places their needs at the forefront of our efforts. I look forward to the journey ahead, knowing that our collective efforts will shape the future of RCC and positively impact the lives of our students and the broader community. Thank you for your dedication and for joining me in this shared commitment to excellence.

Warmest regards,
Dr. Lester Sandres Rápalo