By Cristal Gomez
After teaching on campus for 20 years, native Irishman James Kenny plans on raising transfer rates and creating a safe environment for all students as the new Dean of Language Arts.
Before James Kenny became a dean, he was a student at East Los Angeles College where he obtained his Associates Degree in English graduating as Summa Cum Laude.
During his time at ELAC, he conducted social work with mentally ill on Skid Row for nine years and observed how poverty affects everyone in the community.
After obtaining his Associates degree, he went to California State University Dominguez Hills to obtain his bachelor’s and master’s degree in Rhetoric and Composition.
Kenny also went to UCLA to obtain his degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages.
At the age of 26, Kenny came to America from his native country Ireland.
He lived in New York, Texas and Boston before coming to California and was undocumented for six years.
After obtaining his green card, he started attending school.
“When I got to Los Angeles, I felt at home. The Irish and Mexican culture are so alike. We love our families. (Traditions like) singing and dancing are very Catholic.”
Once at ELAC, he joined a group called Program for Adult College Education.
The program is designed to meet the transfer requirements for adults who are working jobs while getting an education.
After joining the PACE program, he was able to get his Associates Degree in five semesters.
“Coming back to ELAC was the most natural thing. I just felt that the institution and the community had given me a great opportunity,” Kenny said.
He later began teaching English at the South Gate campus for six years and was later elected to be English Department Chair.
ELAC Professor Dolores Carlos has known Kenny since they were students and has seen the journey that he has taken to be where he is now.
“He is completely devoted to this college. This college has given him so much,” Carlos said.
From her time knowing Kenny, she says that he is a man of integrity and that when he was English Department Chair, he diversified the department.
They both began to work at ELAC during the same period in time.
When Kenny became English Department Chair, she was hired as a full-time professor.
Carlos said that when they began to work together, they both noticed their friendship get stronger.
They have both traveled with one another to see how their hometowns have changed.
“There are so many roadblocks for our dreamers. We should go the extra mile in order for them to become successful. I fear for the political situation and not knowing what is going to happen,” Kenny said.
Kenny said that making the campus safe for the students is a top priority for him and having an open door policy for his students gives him pride.
He also said that looking for help from a dean is not easy and that he is happy to help those who need it.
He likes to use his personal experiences he has learned as a student and faculty member for his new position as dean.
He said that part of his agenda is to assist the next generations of Latin American students’ needs.
He wants to work with teachers so they can integrate the process of transferring to universities into the classroom, allowing students to prepare themselves for when it comes for the application process.
Some of these aspects include the financial aid process, personal statements and deadlines.