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.
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 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 including Telemundo, ABC Channel 7, and Azteca TV (México). Dr. Rápalo was born in Honduras and speaks Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.
Dr. Daniel DoBell comes to SUNY Rockland from Cayuga Community College in Auburn, NY where he spent the last four years serving as the CCC Vice President for Administration and Treasurer. Prior to his appointment to CCC, Dr. DoBell served as the CFO for the Elmira City School District, the largest school district in New York’s Southern Tier. He has also served as Vice President of Finance for Texarkana College in Texarkana, TX and Mansfield University in Mansfield, PA. Prior to working in education finance, Dr. DoBell supported the economic development mission at the University of Illinois and Iowa State University where he served as the Executive Director of the U of I Research Park and Business Director for the Iowa State University Office Intellectual Property. Dr. DoBell is a CPA and holds a PhD in Higher Education Organization and Leadership from the University of Illinois under the direction of Dr. Stanley O. Ikenberry, President emeritus of the University of Illinois. He also holds an MBA and BBA from Iowa State University.
Susan is the VP of Institutional Advancement at RCC. In this role she manages Strategic Marketing, the RCC Foundation, and Grants. Before she joined RCC in 2018, she spent 11 years working in several roles at LaGuardia Community College in Queens. Susan is passionate about community colleges and considers this her life’s work. She feels that elevating students and giving them opportunities is world-changing work. Before LaGuardia Community College, Susan worked in various roles in the non-profit sector in NYC and abroad including teaching in Belfast, Northern Ireland and Kobe, Japan. She also opened a school in Jakarta, Indonesia where she lived for 4 years. Susan lives in Milford, PA with her adorable little dog Margo.
Dr. Katherine “Katie” Lynch is the Officer in Charge at Rockland Community College (SUNY) where she was previously a faculty member in the English department. Dr. Lynch received her B.A. in English and History from Dartmouth College and her Ph.D. in Literary Studies (with an emphasis on medieval English literature) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At RCC, she served as the Coordinator of the Reading and Writing Center, the Chair of English, and the Chair of Honors before transitioning into her current role.
Since 2017, Dr. Lynch has been active in the SUNY-wide Open Educational Resources (OERs) movement, designed to increase the accessibility and reduce the cost of course learning materials. She has presented at several OER-related conferences across SUNY. In 2019, she was invited to deliver keynote addresses about OERs and open pedagogy to the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system. She also spearheaded RCC’s efforts to design and implement a new, mandatory college success course that empowers students to start their college journey strong, identify their goals, and pursue their dreams with confidence.
Dr. Lynch was awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2020. She is the author of the novel Confucius Jane, published by Forge Books in 2016.
Dr. Virginia Meléndez is RCC’s Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives. In this role, she chairs a campus Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) working group that focuses on what it means for RCC to be an HSI. Statewide, Dr. Meléndez represents RCC at SUNY-wide initiatives to support HSIs to coordinate and amplify HSI efforts across the university. At the national level, Dr. Meléndez serves as the campus liaison to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and Excelencia in Education, and actively explore opportunities to partner and collaborate. She also leads organizational development and planning efforts, while amplifying RCCs message.
Prior to joining RCC, Dr. Meléndez served in various roles in the public and private sectors in Higher Education. She has over twenty years of experience in Higher Education Administration and as a Board Professional. Her worked included Diversity Taskforce, Student Success Initiatives, and Middle States accreditation. Dr. Meléndez is also active in her local community serving on the Board of Directors of her Condominium Association.
Dr. Meléndez holds an Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration from Saint Peter’s University. Most recently, Dr. Meléndez was selected to participate in the second cohort of HACU’s Leadership Academy, La Academia de Liderazgo, and served as part of the inaugural class of the Emerging Leaders Program of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).
Melissa L. Roy, JD is the inaugural Chief Diversity Officer at SUNY Rockland Community College in Suffern, New York. In that capacity, she works to ensure that the College’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is reflected in all its policies, work, and practices. She previously served in various roles at the College where she was the Equal Employment Opportunity officer, the Title IX coordinator, and the Middle States accreditation liaison officer.
Prior to joining Rockland Community College, Ms. Roy practiced corporate and securities law at the law firms of Hogan Lovells (previously Hogan & Hartson LLP) in both its Washington, DC and New York offices; Eversheds Sutherland (previously Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan) in its Washington, DC office; and Goodwin (previously Goodwin, Procter & Hoar LLP) in its Boston, Massachusetts office.
Ms. Roy is active in the local community. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the Valley Cottage Library and the Mount Moor Cemetery Association. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Westchester Alumnae Chapter, and the American Association of University Women, Rockland Chapter, and a Lifetime Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Nyack Branch. She previously served on the Board of Directors of the African American Historical Society of Rockland (2009-2018), the Board of Directors of the Rockland Negro Scholarship Fund, Inc. (2001-2014), and the Board of Directors of the American Heart Association, Founders Affiliate ~ Tri-County NY Region (2010-2013).
Ms. Roy earned a Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law and Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University. She holds a certification in Collective Bargaining from Cornell University’s ILR School. She was selected as a member of the Leadership Rockland Class of 2007 and Rockland County’s Forty under 40 in 2005.
Before joining Rockland Community College as its first Vice President of Economic Mobility and Workforce Innovation, Kevin was the Senior Director for Impact, Evaluation, and Thought Leadership at the Education Design Lab where he oversaw the Community College Growth Engine Fund, a national initiative to design and implement a new class of credentials called Micro-pathways. In addition to driving a robust thought leadership and impact strategy, he was also responsible for oversight of the Lab’s Designers in Residence program working with a diverse set of higher education leaders to imagine a new paradigm for the role colleges can play as regional ecosystem catalysts.
Kevin served as the Senior Vice President for JobsFirstNYC where he led the organization’s strategic inquiry and rebranding process. During his time at JobsFirstNYC, Kevin co-led the launch of the Invest In Skills NY campaign, which was successful at securing an unprecedented $175 million investment dedicated to workforce development. Kevin was also charged with launching JobsFirstNYC’s Transfer 2 Career Collaborative, an innovative pilot aiming to build partnerships between 12 transfer high schools and a set of workforce development training providers and community colleges to improve career readiness and increase postsecondary and employment outcomes.
Kevin served as the founding northeast director for Young Invincibles (YI), where he launched their New York office and ran a successful campaign to establish the Empire State Apprenticeship Program, an effort sparked by a report he authored on New York’s statewide youth unemployment crisis. At YI, he also co-launched DegreesNYC, a collective action project to achieve equity in postsecondary access and completion. Kevin has policy, research, and advocacy experience from his tenure at both the Roosevelt Institute as well as at the New York Public Interest Research Group where he launched and chaired the Coalition to Reform New York’s Tuition Assistance Program. He has appeared in a variety of media outlets and has authored, commissioned, and overseen a number of research projects. In 2017, Kevin was honored as one of New York’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in City & State magazine. He holds a bachelor’s degree in community organization and advocacy from SUNY Plattsburgh and master’s degree in public administration from Marist College.