Mansu Kim Brings a Refreshing and Unique Approach to Student Trustee Leadership


Kim Mansu, also known as Shawn.

Lisa Martin, Staff member

Born and raised in South Korea, Mansu Kim completed his military duty as an instructor leading 1,800 cadets during six-week-long sessions of bootcamp. Now 23, Kim, a sophomore international student majoring in business with a minor in data science at Diablo Valley College, is applying his leadership skills to the Contra Costa Community College District, where he is the sole elected Student Trustee. 

Among the lessons he learned during his time in the South Korean military, said Kim, time management was one of the most crucial.  

“The military structure was really important,” Kim told The Inquirer. “You don’t want to leave over 200 cadets waiting for orders. So, you learn to be on time.” 

Kim, also known as Shawn, considered attending college in Santa Monica, but chose DVC due to its popularity across Asia. He said the school is known as an excellent institution for lower division education and activities like student government and clubs. The International Students Office provided him a nice landing point when he arrived, and he felt welcome there.

Kim became involved in student government, as a senator, during his second semester at the college. He was elected District Student Trustee this year. For Kim, the government can and should play a crucial role helping students.

“We are all students and we have a real responsibility to encourage one another to become educated, ”said Kim. “Gaining skills through governance and… providing a learning environment that is supportive and encourages students to continue are all important to become [good] leaders.”

Kim said his military experience helped him develop vital skills and shaped his approach to education, because it “pushed me and my boundaries, and drove me towards business.” Kim entered the DVC Business Leadership Program, which included a competition in which students present their plans to business faculty.

“It was an eye opening and challenging experience,” he said.

When COVID-19 shuttered classrooms and caused everyone to go online in March, Kim saw many students struggle to adapt. Like many, he found limitations with virtual learning and missed interacting with his peers. Feeling lost and lonely as he did classwork from home, Kim began using a group calendar app to keep himself on task and organized. 

He now uses a neatly arranged spreadsheet with all of his tasks and deadlines, which helps him follow regular routines, such as working out 30 minutes a day lifting weights to keep his mind and body healthy.

His organization skills have helped him arrange student and faculty open forums to encourage discussion as the district adapts to remote learning.

“Students get nervous when they have to talk to faculty,” Kim said.The solution to open and honest conversations about student and faculty struggles during the pandemic is to  “have small conversations and explain how important it is to get involved in [student governance].”

Kim said faculty and staff can play an important role nurturing student involvement at this challenging time, for example by being “more welcoming” to students’ needs.

“Give good vibes,” he said. “Maybe try to understand where students are coming from, seeing things from the student’s opinion.”

Getting over the age gap is a critical step, he added, saying that to understand the issues students are dealing with requires “really making an effort to see it where they are coming from.”

Kim understands that he has joined the Governing Board at a time of conflict, when three of the five trustee members have made decisions provoking no-confidence votes from Academic and Classified Senates across the district. “Struggle in conflicts are everywhere,” he said, “and I expect them with every governing board.”

What matters, he added, is how people get through them.

“The North Star is our students,” many of whom are juggling personal struggles in addition to their course loads. “We have to re-engage our system and follow the North Star. Leaders don’t care who is right – leaders care what is right, and that is what history will remember.”