Queens College alumnus Dr. Christopher Rosa, who is president and CEO of the Viscardi Center and a former CUNY interim vice chancellor for student affairs, received the Queens College President’s Medal at the college’s Baccalaureate Convocation on May 31.
Queens College President Frank Wu recognized Rosa with the President’s Medal, which is the college’s highest administrative honor.
“The ceremony and my ability to be honored with the President’s Medal is humbling beyond words. Queens College has given me the most meaningful dimensions of my life,” Rosa told QNS. “My most cherished personal friendships, a world-class education and it put me on a career pathway to impact the lives of students underrepresented in higher education, so the notion that I would be honored by an institution that changed my life means more to me than I can express.”
Prior to the Baccalaureate Convocation, the college launched the Chris Rosa Scholarship for student athletes with a disability on May 25.
With his family, Rosa contributed $25,000 to the scholarship fund, to be disbursed in $5,000 increments over each of the next five years.
According to Rosa, the scholarship fund is meaningful to him because it promotes the inclusion of students with disabilities in all aspects of college life, including co-curricular life, which he says is often underappreciated.
“I’m really proud of Queens College and CUNY’s efforts to launch a highly competitive intercollegiate basketball program for men and women, and the notion that my scholarship would promote student participation in that program to me is a meaningful validation of my core values of access, equity and inclusion,” Rosa told QNS.
According to Rosa, he first learned to cherish equity, diversity and inclusion at Queens College and through its motto, “We learn, so that we may serve.”
“I think all those years later, it affirmed and validated that I’ve made progress in trying to embody those values, and that was extraordinarily gratifying to me,” Rosa said.
Rosa earned his B.A. in sociology and philosophy from Queens College in 1989 and his Ph.D. in sociology from the CUNY Graduate Center in 2001, with a dissertation entitled “Disability Rites: Constructing American Disability Culture.”
A lifelong Queens native, Rosa is deeply engaged in his community, having served as a youth basketball coach in the CYO program at St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church in Flushing.
Rosa, who is a staunch advocate for economic justice for people with disabilities, left CUNY in January to become president and CEO of the Viscardi Center, a network of nonprofit organizations providing a lifespan of services that educate, employ and empower children and adults with disabilities
Rosa has been a member of the Henry Viscardi School board of trustees since 2017, as well as an active member of The Viscardi Center’s Public Affairs Committee.
He has served as the assistant vice chancellor for student inclusion initiatives at CUNY since 2019. In this role, he designed and led programs that promote access, equity and inclusion for students who have historically under-participated in higher education, including CUNY’s more than 11,000 students with disabilities, 3,200 student veterans, 17,000 LGBTQI students and over 6,000 undocumented students, according to the Viscardi Center.
Rosa’s higher education governance includes serving as CUNY’s interim vice chancellor for student affairs and the university’s assistant dean for student affairs.
He joined the CUNY Office of Student Affairs in July 2004 after 11 years of student affairs experience at Queens College. While at Queens College, Rosa served as its director of services for students with disabilities, as director of its Student Support Services Program, as its 504/ADA compliance officer, as its affirmative action officer and as a student disciplinary officer.
At Queens College, he collaborated with the New York City Department of Education’s District 75 to create its Inclusive Higher Education Program.
A published disability studies scholar, Rosa was a faculty member for CUNY’s master’s program in disability studies as well as the co-executive officer of the Society for Disability Studies, the international professional association for disability studies scholars.