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MacArthur Foundation 'Genius' Tapped To Lead City Colleges

By Heather Cherone | March 17, 2017 9:40am | Updated on March 17, 2017 2:14pm
 Juan Salgado, who is now a member of the Chicago Park District board, will replace Cheryl Hyman as the chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago.
Juan Salgado, who is now a member of the Chicago Park District board, will replace Cheryl Hyman as the chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago.
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MacArthur Foundation

CHICAGO — The new leader of the City Colleges of Chicago is a certified genius.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Friday tapped Juan Salgado, who won a MacArthur Genius award in 2015, to lead the seven community colleges in Chicago. He will earn $250,000, officials said.

Salgado, 48, the CEO of Instituto del Progreso Latino, will replace Cheryl Hyman who is stepping down after six years.

Salgado said he was "humbled" by his appointment, and would work to make sure students at the City Colleges could "dream in any direction they want to dream."

A graduate of a community college in the south suburbs, Salgado was tapped by the MacArthur Foundation as a genius — which came with $625,000 no-strings attached grant — for helping immigrants learn English and get the training they need to find good-paying jobs.

Salgado is active in Democratic politics, serving as the co-chairman of Sen. Dick Durbin’s campaign and a member of Emanuel’s 2015 transition team.

Emanuel has been under pressure to tap more Latinos for positions of authority, and has been outspoken in his objections to President Donald Trump's immigration policy.

Emanuel said he would press Salgado to build on Hyman's "significant improvement" in making sure "students are prepared to compete for and win the jobs of tomorrow."

Emanuel praised Hyman for presiding over an era when the City Colleges' graduation rate rose from 7 percent to 17 percent.

Emanuel said he would hold Salgado accountable for raising it further, to 24 percent, the national average.

However, Emanuel said it would also be important to track how many students find jobs in the field they studied or move on to four-year colleges.

Hyman said she was proud of her work to align the courses offered by the City Colleges with the demands of the job market.

"Today is an extremely happy day for me as I pass the torch," said Hyman, referring to herself as a "little black girl who grew up on the West Side of Chicago not always knowing where she was going to sleep."

Hyman announced her resignation nearly a year ago, several months after the City Colleges faculty took a vote of no confidence in her, with many instructors saying they were alienated by Hyman's dictatorial management style.

Many also objected to Emanuel's effort to reinvent programs City Colleges to emphasize training in growth industries, including technology training. Emanuel said he had been surprised for the demand for spots in the City Colleges' cyber security training program, with 300 people applying for 50 spots in a matter of hours.

Some faculty members objected to those changes, as well as a tuition increase that hit part-time students hard.