President, Gallaudet University
Roberta J. Cordano became the 11th president of Gallaudet University on January 1, 2016. During the announcement of her selection as president, Cordano was recognized as a "transformational leader who is the right person at the right time for Gallaudet."
Cordano brings to the Office of the President experience and skills built in both traditional and non-traditional settings. Prior to Gallaudet, Cordano was the vice president of programs for the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In that role, she was responsible for direct community-based programs to nearly 9,500 people in the areas of early childhood, community mental health, family supportive housing, aging and caregiver services, school reform, and food access. Her accomplishments range from managing and sustaining programs in a highly volatile revenue environment, providing community leadership, fostering innovation, strengthening and supporting diversity within the workforce, and structuring services for optimal alignment and collaboration.
Prior to her position at the Wilder Foundation, Cordano held several leadership roles in the health care industry. She served as interim president for the Center of Heathcare Innovation at Allina Hospital Clinics (now known as Allina Health), and as president of the Park Nicollet Institute and vice president of Park Nicollet Health Services. In these roles, she led initiatives focusing on organizational change, innovation, community-based health initiatives, patient education, and research.
Prior to her work in health care, Cordano held the position of assistant dean for the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota where she also served as the director of disability services in the Office of Multicultural and Academic Affairs (now known as the Office of Equity and Diversity). In those roles, she supported system-wide collaboration; navigated university budgeting processes; fostered innovation to strengthen access to higher education for people with disabilities, as well as people from different cultural and ethnic communities; and worked with faculty to structure and support academic and administrative initiatives.
Cordano began her career as an assistant attorney general for the State of Minnesota, where she actively represented the people of Minnesota, as well as other states, through numerous multistate cases to prevent and cease consumer and charities fraud. She served as an expert on the Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability-related laws. She was a frequent presenter on these issues, and helped lead a statewide training effort for all state agencies. During this time, she also served on the Supreme Court Advisory Committee for Court Interpreters and was a key author of the statewide rule that assures access for all non-English language users in the courts.
Cordano is a founding member of Metro Deaf School, a pre-k through eighth grade, a bilingual-bicultural charter school for deaf and hard of hearing children in St. Paul, and a founding board member of Minnesota North Star Academy, a bilingual-bicultural charter high school for deaf and hard of hearing students. Her 16 years of service to these schools culminated in the merger of both schools into one entity, with a significant building expansion for Metro Deaf School.
In 2003, Ms. Cordano, along with Vice President Walter Mondale and former Minnesota Governor Elmer A. Anderson, was a recipient of the inaugural Public Leadership Award from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. In 2005, she received the Access Award from the Minnesota State Council on Disability.
Cordano, who is deaf, is fluent in American Sign Language and English. Her parents are both Gallaudet alumni. Three generations of family have attended or are attending Gallaudet.