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Op-Ed | At CUNY, 2022 was a year for looking back, moving ahead

2022_Year_In_Review PHOTO – 12-23-2022

For the first time ever, the Empire State Building lit up the city sky in CUNY blue and gold this year. The dazzling display in May was to mark the University’s 175 years as New York’s iconic gateway to educational opportunity and the nation’s premier driver of economic and social mobility. It was a fitting tribute to CUNY’s legacy as a great equalizer for generations of New Yorkers from all backgrounds, going all the way back to the opening of The Free Academy in 1847. 

But 2022 wasn’t just a year to appreciate CUNY’s past. It was also one that set the stage for the future — the beginning of a new era that reimagines how we carry out CUNY’s historical mission and what it means to be a truly student-centered urban public university for the 21st century.

It was a year when we announced ambitious initiatives — propelled by innovative public and private partnerships — that will create pipelines to well-paying careers for many more CUNY graduates. It was also a year when the University rolled out new ways of engaging more students and meeting them where they are. And 2022 was a year of historic public investment in CUNY and public higher education — a $1.2 billion increase in the state budget allowing us to hire 595 new faculty, extend tuition assistance to thousands of part-time students, expand an array of student programs and services and make long-needed improvements to campus facilities. 

To me, a defining theme of 2022 was the expansion of our commitment to connecting our students with successful careers — in good part with the help of partnerships that better connect the city to CUNY. We launched a range of new initiatives, from a program to train students for jobs in the green workforce to a major partnership with Amazon that will cover tuition for thousands of the tech giant’s hourly employees to take courses at eight CUNY colleges. We began a new phase of our successful CUNY Upskilling program, a nearly $2 million public-private investment in training New Yorkers who want to earn credentials to begin or advance careers in high-demand fields. These are the kinds of collaborations that I cite as models when I call on the private sector to partner with us to mentor, train and hire CUNY students. 

We also launched a number of exciting new programs with our city and state partners that will offer opportunities for our students to ascend the socioeconomic ladder while shaping the future of New York City. 

In September, Mayor Adams and I announced the CUNY Inclusive Economy Initiative, a $16-million program that aims to connect 80% of graduates to careers by the end of the decade. And a few weeks later, I joined Mayor Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul in announcing plans to transform Hunter College’s Brookdale Campus into the Science Park and Research Campus Kips Bay (SPARC), a state-of-the-art public health and education hub that will make New York a global leader in creating and attracting accessible jobs in life sciences, health care and public health.

Our efforts this year weren’t only focused on the paths our students take after graduation. We also created new ways of drawing more New Yorkers to college — including the many who started years or even decades ago but left before earning a degree — spearheaded by a program called CUNY Reconnect. It’s an initiative championed by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and kick-started with $4.4 million from the city. 

In this 175th anniversary year, the CUNY community — now 25 campuses strong — has looked back with immense pride at our shared legacy and how tightly bound it is with the lifeblood of New York. That legacy inspires us to keep building on our mission, our ambitions and our expectations. As much as at any time in our storied history, that means making CUNY’s future all about preparing our students for their futures. With the support and commitment of our state, our city and our partners in the private sector throughout New York, we’ve made 2022 a turning point in that quest.

To see our multimedia recap of the many highlights of a year in which CUNY looked back and continued moving ahead, please visit here – https://www1.cuny.edu/mu/forum/2022/12/19/cuny-2022-looking-back-and-moving-forward/

Matos Rodríguez is the chancellor of The City University of New York (CUNY), the largest urban public university system in the United States.

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