Presidential Candidates

Following a series of virtual interviews, the Rockland Community College Presidential Search Advisory Committee has identified four final candidates for consideration as the College’s new president. Please use the links below to learn more about the candidates.

Dr. Viviana M. Abreu-Hernández

Viviana Abreu-HernándezDr. Viviana M. Abreu-Hernández is the Vice President of External Affairs at Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is responsible for conceptualizing, developing, and executing major initiatives leading to the expansion of QCC’s presence in the community, and beyond. Her passion lies in advocating for the population the college serves, spearheading community engagement initiatives and fundraising activities. She has developed strong, strategic partnerships by engaging with governmental agencies, public corporations, community and faith-based organizations, grantors, and funders. She oversees the marketing and communications departments, as well as government relations at all levels. Also in her purview are grant development, advancement, the QCC Alumni Advisory Board, and the QCC Foundation. Under her leadership, funds raised for student supportive services have seen a 100% increase, and grants and grant funding for initiatives and programs have more than doubled.

Viviana is an active member of the Worcester community. She is on the Board of Directors of the Worcester Public Library Foundation and is Co-chair of the YWCA’s Tribute to Women Planning Committee. She is also an active member of the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts, the Latino Empowerment and Organizing Network (LEON), The Forum, and PEAS (Pursuit of Equity Accountability and Success, Latinx Students in Massachusetts Schools).

Before joining QCC, Dr. Abreu-Hernández was the Director of Research and Program Development for the 1199SEIU League Training and Upgrading Fund in New York City, the largest healthcare workforce development organization in the United States. For almost eight years, and in collaboration with higher education institutions, she developed training and educational programs that responded to the occupational shortages of the healthcare industry. She did this while addressing the education needs of underserved populations, particularly adult learners who were also full-time workers. Viviana also led advocacy efforts to improve career and academic readiness, and college access for nontraditional and underrepresented populations in the higher education system. At the Training Fund, she was in charge of the Bronx Healthcare Learning Collaborative, a borough-wide initiative to increase the number of Latinos in direct patient care occupations and professions. In 2014, Excelencia in Education recognized this project for its invaluable contributions to the community.

Prior to this position, Dr. Abreu-Hernández served as Puerto Rico’s Commissioner of Higher Education. Alongside the Puerto Rico Council of Higher Education (PRCHE) members, she developed and implemented the first comprehensive higher education public policy for the Commonwealth. This had an impact on private and public institutions that served over 245,000 students. In this role, she provided guidance to the legislative and executive branches. She promoted legislation and implemented regulations leading to the enhancement of the quality of the institutions and the programs they offered. Just before she held this position, Viviana was Director of Licensing and Accreditation at the PRCHE. At the end of her tenure, she was recognized by Banco Santander’s Universia for her work and significant contributions to improving Puerto Rico’s higher education system.

She has taught courses in Political Science, including Research Methods, Introduction to Political Science, International Relations, and International Political Economy at the University of Puerto Rico and Purdue University. At Purdue she was the proud recipient of two teaching awards. She has published articles on international relations, peace studies, higher education public policy, Latinos in higher education, Puerto Rico’s higher education system, and was a contributor to Politics and Elections in Puerto Rico, a college textbook. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Puerto Rico and earned a Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Political Science at Purdue University. Her most important job to date has been raising her son, Rodrigo.

Dr. David Potash

David Potash David Potash, PhD, is president of Wilbur Wright College, an independently accredited open access community college with two campuses in the City Colleges of Chicago system. Under his leadership the community college in northwest Chicago has substantially increased student success, with significant gains in retention and student completion. Wright has created new degrees and certificates, crafted and implemented equity plans, enrollment plans and strategic plans, heightened community service and civic engagement, grown career programs and apprenticeships, and taken major strides in serving the city’s growing Hispanic population. In 2021, Wright received the Seal of Excelencia for its commitment to serving Hispanic students. Wright’s Center of Excellence in Engineering and Computer Science has received national attention through its innovation and student accomplishments. Wright is a well-respected anchor college with deep ties to the community. In 2020 Wright received the Padron Award for institutional transformation.

Growing up in northern New Jersey, Potash traveled to Texas for a BA at Rice University. He returned to the NY/NJ metropolitan area to start his academic career at NYU, where he earned an MA in History while working full-time. He earned a PhD in history from Cambridge University before joining Baruch College, CUNY, where as Associate Provost he played a major role in the college’s transformation. A similar position at Hunter College, CUNY, followed, and then service outside of Boston as Curry College’s first Chief Academic Officer. Opportunity, access, equity and quality have been the consistent values driving his career.

President Potash is a frequent presenter at conferences and events. His current affiliations include board membership for Campus Compact, Community College Presidents for Democracy, Presidents for Latino Student Success, Rice University’s Teaching and Learning Center advisory board, GetSet advisory board, and the Portage Park Chamber of Commerce. He is active in the Chicago community. President Potash has taught US history classes and misses the classroom.

Married for more than twenty years, President Potash has an adult daughter and a college-age son. He’s an avid cook, an enthusiastic bicyclist, and an aspiring sketchbook artist.

Dr. Lester Edgardo Sandres Rápalo

Lester Sandres Rápalo, Dr. Lester Edgardo Sandres Rápalo, Ed.D., MBA, MA, has over 25 years of experience bringing together multiple stakeholders for a common goal to provide and make accessible quality education to all members of the community. As a college administrator, Dr. Rápalo has gained experience in, inter alia, student affairs, academic affairs, enrollment management, strategic and change management, policy formulation, fiscal planning and resource allocation, fundraising, business partnerships and coalition building, program development, study abroad, media and technology competency, faculty and student conflict resolution, and teaching and internationalization of curriculum. In addition, Dr. Rápalo has demonstrated a strong commitment to celebrating diversity and fostering an inclusive environment conducive to faculty, student and staff success.

Dr. Rápalo is currently the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Bronx Community College, City University of New York (CUNY). In his current role, Dr. Rápalo is responsible for the total College budget, approximately $140,000,000, and supervises 5 deans, 20 academic departments, 150 faculty and 443 adjuncts. Dr. Rápalo also oversees 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 helps lead the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) and works closely with Admissions to increase the automation of the enrollment process for CUNY Start and Math Start programs. He is 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 attain Hispanic students. Dr. Rápalo has also worked to strengthen the Workforce Development initiatives at Bronx Community College, partnering with organizations such as JPMorgan Chase and Ernst and Young to offer paid internships to Bronx Community College students.. In response to the changing nature of educational modalities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Rápalo transitioned 90% of the curricula to an online format and signed a Statement of Shared Interest between Universidad Iberoamerica (UNIBE) and Bronx Community College to establish a virtual international exchange with a focus on science and medicine.

While serving as Provost at Union County College in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Dr. Rápalo was awarded a Resolution by the Union County Freeholders for promoting education, diversity, and inclusion for hosting the First International Concert for Peace in Elizabeth, New Jersey. During his tenure at Union County College, Dr. Rápalo was named “Ambassador of Education and Culture” by the Desfile Salvadoreño and was recognized by the United Nations Association of El Salvador for the “V Education Forum” held in Elizabeth, New Jersey in collaboration with the Desfile Salvadoreño to host a forum focused on educational opportunities for underserved communities throughout New Jersey.

Dr. Rápalo has been awarded several awards for his community outreach efforts, including The World Civility Award and IChange Nations and the Human Excellence Gold Medal Award awarded by the United Nations University for Global Peace. Dr. Rápalo has received six honorary degrees, a Doctor in Humanities from the United Graduate College and Seminary International, a Doctors of Letters from the Academy of Universal Global Peace for his humanitarian efforts to bring educational opportunities to underprivileged communities, and Doctor of Leadership and Governance.

Honoris Causa, Doctor of Human Engineering
Instituto de Estudios Superiores SIATI, Estados Unidos Méxicanos
Honoris Causa, Doctor of Humanities
Academy of Universal Global Peace USA
Honoris Causa, Doctor of Business Management & Fine Arts
Academy of Universal Global Peace USA
Honoris Causa, Doctor of Leadership and Governance
Academy of Universal Global Peace USA
Honoris Causa, Doctor in Humanities
United Graduate College and Seminary International
Honoris Causa, Doctor of Letters
Academy of Universal Global Peace USA

Dr. Rápalo is a National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC) fellow. He is the author of several textbooks and articles and has had several media 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.

Dr. Matthew Reed

Matthew ReedDr. Matthew Reed is a seasoned college administrator, a longtime champion of equity and fairness, and a national figure in the conversations around public higher education.

He received his Ph.D. in political science from Rutgers University, and has taught at Rutgers, DeVry, Kean, and the County College of Morris. He has served as a dean at DeVry and CCM, and as an academic vice president at Holyoke Community College and Brookdale Community College. This academic year, he is serving as Senior Executive Officer in Residence at the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, leading the Council’s efforts on state and federal policy as well as course and program approval. He is also the author of the “Confessions of a Community College Dean” blog at Inside Higher Ed, and of the book “Confessions of a Community College Administrator” (Wiley, 2013), which has been taught in graduate programs in higher education leadership.

Dr. Reed has improved student success rates and graduation rates through sustained attention to campus climate and processes. He has championed Universal Design for Learning, Open Educational Resources, and support for student basic needs, all in the service of reducing barriers to student success. He has amended campus hiring processes in successful efforts to improve both the quality and the diversity of faculty and administration. He has supported reform efforts around remedial education, including the implementation of directed self-placement in English at Brookdale. When COVID hit and campus communication suffered in the summer of 2020, he established a well-attended weekly virtual town meeting – “Mondays with Matt” – to ensure that everyone had access to the same information at the same time.

Dr. Reed has maintained a public presence in both the profession and the community. He has spoken to graduate classes at NJCU, Ball State, Memphis State, the University of Maryland Global Campus, and Harvard. He has appeared on numerous podcasts, as well as in the documentary Fail State, about for-profit higher education. He serves on the Boards of the Monmouth Museum and the National Humanities Alliance, and has worked with groups as various as the First Lego League, the Jersey Shore Debate League, and the Agawam Techno Trot. He and his wife, Carolyn, live in a newly-empty nest in Freehold, New Jersey, while their son attends the University of Virginia and their daughter attends the University of Maryland.