By Evan Henerson
The confirmation of former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos inspired Dr. Kelsey Iino to take the next step in her leadership journey…but not in the way that you might think.
On April 13, the LACCD Board of Trustees appointed Iino to fill the vacancy created when Mike Fong left his District 7 seat after being elected to the California Assembly. And to hear Iino tell it, the nation’s shifting political landscape played a significant role in her choosing this path.
Back in 2016, Iino was already a tenured faculty member in the counseling department at El Camino College. She was an active member of AFT 1388, the El Camino College Federation of Teachers and a delegate to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. Busy as she already was, when the country elected new leadership that put former president Donald Trump in the White House and, subsequently, DeVos into the cabinet, Iino gave serious thought about how she could make an even greater impact.
“I thought, ‘What can I do,’” said Iino, who had anticipated figuring out how to be a trustee later in her career. “By the end of the day that she was appointed, she thought, ‘I know that my college trustees are the ones who make the decisions for us and a lot of the time, they’re not the real stakeholders. They know very little about what we do.’ So I said, “OK, I’m going to try to figure out how to be a college trustee.”
She has done just that, securing the endorsement from Fong himself and from Local 1521, among other organizations. As both a woman and an Asian American Pacific Islander, Iino checks several important boxes in bringing more diverse representation to the Board of Trustees. Long active in the Asian community, Iino has served on the Board of Directors for the Little Tokyo Service Center, has been the Secretary/Treasurer for the Astronaut Ellison Onizuka Memorial Committee, and is a longtime volunteer fundraiser for the Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress organization. In interviewing and endorsing her candidacy, members of the Guild’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) hailed Iino as “a badass woman of color.”
Now the work begins. Iino is getting acclimated, learning the structure of a nine-campus organization, as well as keeping up to date on such subjects like budgets and legislation, all of which Iino affirms are “in her wheelhouse.”
Iino is a product of the community college system, having attended El Camino College before transferring to UCLA, where she earned degrees in sociology and student affairs counseling. She has taught as an adjunct faculty member at Citrus College and Santa Monica College. In 2010, as she was contemplating her employment future, she applied both for the tenure track position at ECC and for graduate school at USC. She got both.
“Tenure was a beast,” she said. “At the time, I had a lot of terrible managers and there was a lot of inappropriate stuff going on. I should have been filing a bunch of grievances, but there was nobody there to protect me or to educate me about my rights. I made it through tenure and ended up graduating from college with my EDD. I had some free time, so I started getting more involved with my local.”
Iino acknowledges her gratitude to the Guild for its help and hopes Local 1521 will be in her corner again when she seeks reelection to finish out the remaining two years of Fong’s trustee term in November.
“The union did a lot of lobbying for me and called in a lot of favors,” said Iino. “I’m really grateful. When you consider how many people were helping me, it was totally a community effort. We did it! We totally did it!”