Director of Diversity, EEO and Title IX, Sierra College
At a college system as big as the Sierra Joint Community College District (18,000 students and over 1,300 employees in four locations), you might think that there would be three separate directors of diversity, equal employment opportunity and Title IX compliance, but Latoya Jackson-Lainez fills all three roles.
Her friendly and approachable demeanor no doubt serves her well in approaching thorny issues such as implicit bias and protection from sex-based discrimination that falls under Title IX, which includes intimate partner violence and sexual misconduct. She attributes her background in communications with strengthening her ability to empathize and connect.
Each day she flows between meetings in which she might be guiding the hiring by “reviewing screening rubrics and analyzing the demographics of recruitment pools,” responding to a case in which a student has disclosed child sexual abuse in a writing assignment, or addressing the concerns of a student worried about a possible stalker. The EEO part comes into play if a student or employee has filed a discrimination report, after which Jackson-Lainez must determine if an investigation is needed.
A lifelong learner, she is currently pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership. She began her educational journey at the urging of her grandfather and key mentor, Fidencio Cabral, a migrant farmworker from Mexico who told her he came to the U.S. so that his family would have the opportunities he didn’t have. (Jackson-Lainez identifies as Afro-Latina, Black and Mexican.) In high school in Redding, some told her that she “wasn’t college material,” but she recalls one teacher of color who counteracted that message and urged her to apply to Sacramento State.
There, she joined a sorority and, in her own words, “started to blossom.” She attained a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis on intercultural and international communications. While pursuing her master’s degree at San Jose State, she applied for a graduate teaching program. This led her to discover her passion for education; she continues to teach public speaking as an adjunct assistant professor at American River College.
“I love for (students) to come into the space and see a woman of color, and I love to share my story with them. Being able to see students grow … it just really fulfills me.”Latoya Jackson-Lainez, Director of Diversity, EEO and Title IX, Sierra College
This parallel career allows her to serve as a role model. “I love for them to come into the space and see a woman of color, and I love to share my story with them,” she says. “Being able to see students grow … it just really fulfills me.”
Her time at graduate school was also a side-door introduction into the world of human relations. While working as a graduate assistant she was pushed into some HR work and took a job post-graduation as an equal opportunity and workforce planning analyst at San Jose State, a position which revolved around diversity and hiring.
Wanting to return to Sacramento, she took positions in HR at UC Davis and the City of Sacramento, at the latter gaining more experience in the field of labor relations. She laughingly compares HR work to a telenovela, a Mexican soap opera with “constant drama,” but her continuous climb shows her ability to master each challenge, including her latest at Sierra.
She originally applied for a different position at the Sierra district and got far into the interview process, but the job went to someone else. The panel urged her to apply for her current position.
“It was just all of this unique experience in different places that really prepared me for this super unique role,” she says. “I tell folks, career paths are definitely not linear. One door opens and it gives you all these skills, and then you take on the next position. … I’m a high believer that everything happens for a reason.”
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