Even though Meghan Burke ’02 is a natural born planner, she never could have planned for her life to become the success it is. With the help of Grand Valley mentors, Burke has journeyed down a path to fight social injustice. She has had two books published, received the title of Associate Professor of Sociology at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, IL and earned several teaching awards including being named in a list of 40 Under 40: Professors Who Inspire.
Burke’s two books, Racial Ambivalence in Diverse Communities: Whiteness and the Power of Color-Blind Ideologies (Lexington Books, 2012) and Race, Gender, and Class in the Tea Party: What the Movement Reflects about Mainstream Ideologies (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015) unearth questions that most people choose to ignore. Her research dives deep into the issues and sheds a new light on previously black and white problems. Her books take her teaching talents beyond the classroom. Burke had always known she had the gift of teaching. Even in her activist clubs at Grand Valley she felt her talents were best used explaining the organizations’ causes to others.
She was two and a half years into a math major when her friends’ high praise of their sociology and psychology classes caught her interest. Just to feed her curiosity Burke enrolled in a few sociology classes and that was all it took to get her hooked.
“Becoming a sociology professor is a perfect blend of my passion for teaching and my interest in social justice,” said Burke.
With her love of Sociology came a love for the nation of China, where she travelled for a summer course in 2000. Studying Mandarin for a year, Burke went back to China after graduation to teach English. Upon returning, she wasted no time in starting her graduate program at Loyola University in Chicago.
Burke said that each passion and talent that she discovered and honed at Grand Valley she uses to her full advantage today. Her math minor aids in her research and helps her think abstractly about the problems and issues she tackles. Burke is currently brushing up on her Mandarin for an upcoming trip to China and she writes whenever she can. As for Sociology— it’s what keeps her motivated and inspires her teaching every day. She believes her students will one day have the power to change the world, and she wants them to be ready to make the right decisions.
“Teaching always energizes and inspires me; knowing that I’ve made a difference in students’ lives and helped them along in their careers is what makes it all worthwhile,” said Burke.
To Burke, GVSU is the thread that connects all her important work. Although she lives in Illinois, she still keeps in touch with her old professors and considers them friends as well as mentors.