Professional navigator? Academic concierge?

For accomplished global traveler and higher education administrator Gabby Rosario, her work life as director of the ACE Program at CUNY’s City College is a way of helping others do what she loves best: figuring out where to go and what it takes to get there.

Ever since she was 19 and took her first plane trip during Spring Break from her Sociology program at Hunter to fly to California and New Mexico and visit Guttman friends she graduated with, Gabby has been hungry to see the world. “Egypt, Australia, Spain, Portugal, France, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic… Okay, my motivation for work is travel!” she laughed.

And motivated she is. Gabby pushed herself through her associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in six years, completing her studies in higher education administration at Baruch College in 2018. During those years, she initially thought she’d pursue the liberal arts, then nursing, then the social sciences, then finally switched her focus to higher ed. The through line was that she always found herself working full- and part-time jobs and internships in support of students. Whether at a CUNY school, a private Catholic college, an Ivy League university or a community-based youth organization, Gabby was always interested in how first-generation college students could move through the seemingly intractable obstacles that slow, and too many times stop, their progress in getting a degree.

“I think of my relative, who started in a community college, and she couldn’t finish. And when your family doesn’t have that experience, you know, you’re just kind of ‘out there’ and the systems aren’t easy to understand. You hit a barrier and you get bounced around, trying to figure it out,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I hadn’t come to Guttman. Without all the support, the personal touch, the ‘if you don’t do this, you can’t be that’ advice, college would have been too intimidating.”

The 29-year-old director acknowledges that starting out with a Guttman education likely has given her an edge in her career as a higher education professional. She talks about her experience at Guttman in her job interviews and details the components of the model that worked for her. “I’ve always been interested in CUNY’s ASAP (Accelerated Study in Associate Programs) and its baccalaureate counterpart ACE (Accelerate, Complete, and Engage) and sought opportunities to get hired to work with them.” A year ago July, Gabby was offered the challenge of leading the pilot ACE program at City College, and she took it. She and her team support 149 students in the college’s first cohort.

“I think travel has allowed me to see and connect with people better. When I travel, I meet people with all different values and life experiences, and it pushes me to learn more, to understand and respect people more. Plus, no matter how much you plan, things don’t always turn out the way you expect, and you have to look at other ways. I’ve had to learn to let go of one idea and lean into new options. I bring that awareness to my work with students,” she explains.

“There’s so much that students need to do to make progress toward a degree. But there’s so much higher education can do to help students navigate toward their goals. We have to really know where — and who — our students are and build from there. If we say that on-time completion means they have to carry 15 credits a semester, we need to allow them to spread some of that through summer sessions and make the courses they need to graduate available to them. If we say ‘mandatory advising,’ and we have students working full-time and parents whose schedules don’t match our hours, we need to expand our accessibility,” said Gabby.

This October, Gabby and a group of friends are heading to Japan for 20 days. She says they love the planning as much as the travel. “We really get into it!” she exclaimed. “One of my friends researches videos to look for the ‘wow factor,’ another scans social media for reviews and we use ChatGPT to come up with a draft the itinerary. I’m so excited!”

Gabby Rosario? Trusted guide.