10 Questions for our alumni

Mary Lamson-Burke, BFA, Ceramics, 1997

Mary Lamson-Burke, BFA, Ceramics, 1997

Why did you choose to attend Grand Valley?

It actually chose me. I started off my college experience at Southwestern Michigan College (SMC). I played volleyball and earned an associates degree. After graduation from SMC, for a time I wanted to continue to play volleyball but was not finding the right fit for me in a college/university. It was late July before the 1994-95 school year that my mom, dad, and I drove up to GVSU to just "check it out." That day visit resulted in me being accepted into the university, enrolled in classes, and looking for a place to live for the upcoming school year. When I stepped on campus, I instantly knew that it was where I needed to be.


How or why did you choose your major or main emphasis area?

I originally was thinking of majoring in psychology in college until I met my ceramics professor Patty Bunner at my community college. Ceramics had always been an interest since I was in middle school. She helped me understand how art and design was a viable career choice.


What advice do you have for future students thinking about colleges?

Make sure that the college/university you choose is the right fit for you on many levels: personally, artistically, academically. You will be investing a lot over the next few years in college and you want to make sure it is the best fit for you.


What advice do you have for current students thinking about careers?

Talk to professionals in the field. Read current articles about how art and design are being utilized in many career paths. Talk to your teachers.


What did you do after graduating?

After graduating, I worked for several non profit organizations in the greater Grand Rapids area for about 10 years. I was basically teaching in my roles in these jobs but did not have a valid Michigan teaching certificate. Eventually I came to the decision to go back to school to work on a masters degree in education at Aquinas College and become certified to teach visual art Kindergarten- 12th grade.


What are you doing now?

I am one of two visual art teachers at Coopersville High School.


How have you used the skills you developed in your field of study in your life and/or career after GVSU?

I use them all the time in ways that are beyond the obvious of technical artistic skills with my students. I truly believe my education from GVSU trained me to be a critical thinker and creative problem solver. The rigor of my courses developed in me a discipline to not give up when the task might be challenging and push me out of my comfort zone as an artist/person.


What is the best advice you got from an instructor at Grand Valley?

How to pinpoint the best advise? When I reflect on my professors, I can think of so many times they were available and willing to assist me in my growth as a student and artist. I never felt alone in my journey and than speaks volumes to the quality of educators I had at GVSU. I am truly grateful for their guidance.


What is your favorite memory of being a student at Grand Valley?

My favorite memory of being an art student at Grand Valley would have to be the annual "Turkey Day" celebration. At the time I was a student at Grand Valley the art department was small enough that all the art students and professors could gather together to share a traditional thanksgiving meal. The professors cooked the turkey and the individual departments would contribute the side dishes. I will never forget the great sense of community I felt.


Image credit by Mary Lamson-Burke. You can follow Mary on Instagram at instagram.com/luckyshoearts

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Page last modified November 21, 2018