Dr. Pedraja is a passionate advocate for increasing access to higher education for all people, especially those who have been underserved historically by the American higher education system. Since 2017, Dr. Pedraja has served as president of Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) in Massachusetts. There, he leads the college community toward achieving QCC’s mission of providing accessible, affordable, high- quality programs that meet the diverse needs of the college’s students and region. Before leading QCC, Dr. Pedraja served as Interim Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs for the East Bay’s Peralta Community College District and as Provost for Antioch University Los Angeles.
As a child, Dr. Pedraja emigrated from Cuba and grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Miami. He became the first in his family to attend college, receiving his B.A. from Stetson University and earning a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Dr. Pedraja published several books and numerous articles exploring how understanding language and culture can promote intercultural dialogue and inclusion. Dr. Pedraja taught at the University of Puget Sound and Southern Methodist University (SMU).
Dr. Pedraja’s first leadership roles came at SMU in the 1990s, when he served as a division chair and faculty senator. Next, Dr. Pedraja served as Vice President of Academic Affairs at Memphis Theological Seminary. Beginning in 2004, Dr. Pedraja served as Vice President for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education where he developed higher education policy and strategic solutions to a range of challenges including financial, governance, and political crises. At Middle States, Dr. Pedraja advanced universal access to quality higher education by overseeing accreditation of community colleges and universities in the Mid-Atlantic region and Puerto Rico. He also led the first program to grant American accreditation to foreign universities. Dr. Pedraja has guided universities in South America, Asia, and Europe seeking to achieve American higher education standards.
As QCC’s president, Dr. Pedraja has provided mission-driven leadership both internally at the college and externally in the community. Internally, Dr. Pedraja has developed and implemented a collaborative and transparent strategic planning process, created community-based learning hubs, and launched several initiatives to bolster student success. His initiatives include partnering with the business community on a mentoring program for students, creating a student success center that provides wraparound support, and launching a comprehensive DEIA Initiative.
Externally, Dr. Pedraja has served regional and national institutions. In QCC’s region, he has been a trustee for the United Way, Chamber of Commerce, and a large urban hospital. Dr. Pedraja founded a network of Latiné leaders and led a mayoral commission that drove inclusive change in local schools and government. Dr. Pedraja served as a Governor appointee to the Commonwealth’s Healthcare Collaborative and the Economic Development Planning Council. Dr. Pedraja has chaired the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts, and he serves as a commissioner for the New England Commission on Higher Education. Nationally, Dr. Pedraja currently chairs the Association of Community College Trustees’ Advisory Committee of Presidents. He also serves on the College Readiness Commission for the American Association of Community Colleges and the Board of the Higher Education Research and Development Institute. Dr. Pedraja is an Aspen Institute Fellow. He has been named one of the most influential people in Central Massachusetts and innovative business leader of the year by a leading regional business journal.