Amazing Students

Alexander Burke

Alexander Burke, a graduate student from Connecticut, plans to build a career somewhere between municipal city planning, land management and design. (Photo by Chad Osburn/UGA)

“Keep your eye on the prize,” said Alexander Burke, a graduate student in the College of Environment and Design who balances classwork with two part-time jobs. Burke studies land use planning and urban land conservation. “I’m committed to creating more equitable cities by using data and design solutions to address issues like environmental justice.”

Hometown: Ridgefield, CT

Expected graduation:
Spring 2021

Degree objective:
Master of Urban Planning and Design

Other degrees:
B.A. in geography, University of Denver

Current employment:
CED: Graduate research assistant

My assistantship is focused on geospatial methods in participatory planning; in other words, I’m looking at the emerging tools that allow public stakeholders to participate in the mapping component of the planning process.

Family ties to UGA:
I’m the first of my family to attend UGA. However, my mentor at my first job out of undergrad, Mark Tuttle, is an alumnus of UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Top university highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
• 2020 Rado Family Scholarship recipient (CED scholarship)

• Summer 2020 NASA DEVELOP participant and Science Systems and Applications Inc. scholarship recipient:
NASA DEVELOP is a 10-week capacity building program currently operating out of 11 research nodes across the nation. Since 2013, UGA has hosted a DEVELOP node that has produced a wide range of research revolving around NASA Earth Observations in addition to other remote sensing data.

The project I worked on in the summer of 2020 combined remote sensing data and various environmental data to define areas of potential conflict between utility scale solar energy installations and sensitive wildlife habitats across the state of Georgia. The solar energy market in Georgia is one of the fastest growing in the country and our partners at The Nature Conservancy and Georgia Department of Natural Resources needed a web application to disseminate the results of our analysis and promote low-impact solar development.

I chose to attend UGA because:
I was drawn to UGA due the prestige of the College of Environment and Design. I found myself personally interested in the unique program of study offered in the Urban Planning and Design program: a blend of studio-based design work and more traditional planning history, policy and practice courses.

What’s a lesson you’ve learned in graduate school?
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in pursuit of my graduate degree is just how important it is to “keep your eye on the prize.” As a full-time student balancing two part-time jobs, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed at times. Focusing on the bigger picture, practicing productive time management, and still finding ways to take time for yourself and your loved ones is critical to success.

My favorite place to study is:
The Founders Memorial Garden. Tucked away right along Lumpkin Street in the North Campus, the Founders garden brings me peace and tranquility every time I stroll through its winding paths or sit down to dig into a good book.

My favorite professor is:
If I had to pick just one, Jack Crowley. His brilliant talent for hand-drawn graphics and his ability to teach graphical representation to students without former design training is truly amazing. His positive attitude and open mind made every class special.

My favorite things to do on campus:
With CED conveniently situated at the edge of downtown Athens, I enjoy working late into the night at the Tanner Building and then walking to one of the many historic live music venues and catching a show.

When I have free time:
Because I’m relatively new to the South, I enjoy exploring the region’s state and national parks on weekends. Whether I’m biking, hiking, camping or all of the above, it’s a great privilege to experience the natural beauty of a new part of the nation.

Alexander Burke worked at the National Park Service at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Submitted photo)

The craziest thing I’ve done:
I’ve assisted on multiple search and rescue missions during my time working at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Getting a call in the middle of the night, meeting up with the back-country rangers at the trailhead, and heading into the mountains to save lost and injured hikers was one of the most exhilarating, demanding and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.

If money was not a consideration:
I would love to travel the world. I have had the privilege of doing some international travel with my family when I was a younger. One highlight from this period of my life was a family trip we took to Iceland. I will never forget the beauty of its landscape and the kindness of the locals in towns like Reykjavik. I also had the opportunity to study abroad in Glasgow, Scotland, for one semester during my undergraduate degree. If money was not a consideration, I’d continue to travel at every opportunity. Eventually I’d like to visit every continent.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
I’m passionate about land use planning and urban land conservation. I’m committed to creating more equitable cities by using data and design solutions to address issues like environmental justice.

After graduation:
I plan to build a career somewhere between municipal city planning, land management and design. My dream job would allow me to travel, work outdoors, meet new people and design solutions that increase the quality of life of others.

The one UGA experience I will always remember is:
My first game day in Athens. GO DAWGS!