Meet the Pierce President

Rosalinda Pena / Roundup


There are many changes going on at Pierce College, and one of the biggest has been the addition of the newest president, Dr. Kathleen Burke-Kelly, on Aug. 1.

“I am deeply committed to the role community colleges play in providing access to quality higher education for diverse populations,” she said.

Burke-Kelly has 29 years of experience as a community college educator. She has worked in the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) since 2001, where she was the dean of East Los Angeles College for five years, then served as vice president of academic affairs at Los Angeles Mission College, Los Angeles City College and Los Angeles Trade Technical College.

Before working for the LACCD, she started her community college career at Glendale Community College, first as a professor teaching art history, then went on to become the division chair for visual and performing arts for 10 years. She then left that position to work at East Los Angeles College in 2001.

Dr. Burke-Kelly is a community college graduate herself, having completed her general education requirements at Glendale Community College.

“She was exceptionally well qualified,” said Mona Field, a trustee with the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees. “She has a really strong sense of all the details of running a college.”

Dr. Joy McCaslin, who served as interim president of Pierce last year, also had tips to give Burke-Kelly.

“My advice to her would be to get to know as many college employees and community members as possible. People genuinely want to see the college succeed, and they are ready to help,” McCaslin added.

President Burke-Kelly’s long term goals for Pierce College are, “to keep construction and the bond program on schedule and moving forward, making sure we meet all of our deadlines and stay within budget; ensuring that the college budget is solid given the restraints on it so that we maintain the strength of our educational program; and making sure that we are able to respond to the standards of accreditation appropriately.”

The bond program is not scheduled to be done until at least 2014 and the next accreditation visit is in 2013. Future construction projects include remodeling all the classrooms around the Botanical Garden; remodeling the Auto-Tech building, Horticulture area and the Performing Arts Building, a new green technology building and a new facility for maintenance and operations.

President Burke-Kelly feels that the biggest challenge facing Pierce now is the state budget crisis.

“As soon as the budget gets passed, everything is not okay. The budget still has got significant structural problems. There is already some speculation that the state can go back in and ask for additional reductions. It’s always difficult when they come back to us and the fiscal year is half over and they reduce the funding they promised us. But they are able to do that. So there may be additional classes cut in Spring semester.”

Dr. Burke-Kelly holds a Doctorate in education from Pepperdine University, is a master’s of arts at Cal State Northridge and a bachelors in studio art from UC Irvine.

Her annual salary as president of Pierce College is $163,292. Her contract is for three years.

New Pierce College president Kathleen Burke-Kelley took office Aug.1. (Amber-Rose Kelly / Roundup)

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