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Aileen Burke

Aileen Burke ‘20, a political science major with a minor in journalism, took full advantage of student life at Saint Rose. While studying here, she joined several clubs and organizations, held leadership roles, participated in student theater performances, and was inducted into more than one honor society. So, it is no surprise that Burke was able to secure a job with the New York State Assembly after receiving her degree. What is surprising, though, is that Burke returned to Saint Rose this past fall to receive a master’s degree in social work. 

Burke was diagnosed with cancer in 2019. Now, she wants to act as a resource to other community members who are going through what she experienced as a cancer patient. And she felt there was no better place to receive the knowledge and tools to do so than at Saint Rose. We recently caught up with Burke to find out more about her Saint Rose experience and future plans. Here’s what she had to say:

Why did you come back to Saint Rose for your MSSW?
The College’s mission really speaks to social work values: helping the dear neighbor, which in the original French translation of the phrase means, “The next person to come along.” I knew I really wanted to learn about the profession through a lens like that. 

Please list any clubs/organizations you joined while at Saint Rose:
Oh, brace yourself. During my time at the College for undergrad, I was a commuter assistant, an orientation leader, news and executive editor of the Chronicle, active for eight shows in the theatre, president of the National Society for Leadership and Success, on the board of Tau Sigma Transfer Honor Society, president of the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society, and a member of Saint Rose Television and Saint Rose Political Awareness Council.

These responsibilities all ebbed and flowed, but that is the master list. 

What is your favorite memory of Saint Rose?
I have so many great memories, but a particular favorite was always participating in the Colleges Against Cancer Relay for Life in the Spring. That was a wonderful way to cap off my year and participate in a great philanthropic event with my friends. 

What have you learned through the pandemic?
I have learned how much I really value face-to-face communication! I always have known that I am a people person, but not having places to go and people to see has made me really value every Zoom call or text that I get out of the blue. 

What is the best class you took at Saint Rose, and why?
I absolutely loved taking Social Movements with Dr. Angela Ledford. That class truly challenged me and changed my perspective on the modern political scene. I see a lot of what I learned there play out in my line of work now. 

What are your future plans?
I hope to graduate and achieve social work licensure in New York or Pennsylvania. I would love to be able to work in oncology, young adult, or otherwise, so I can connect with people who went through experiences like mine. I could also see myself as a school social worker. 

Do you have any career or grad school prospects?
No prospects yet! (Haha!) But, I do love the meaningful career that my Saint Rose education led me to now. 

What did Saint Rose teach you?
Saint Rose taught me how to give in to my curiosities and to really be resourceful. There is always another option when presented with challenges. There is also always someone to lean on when things become challenging. That was super apparent in the support I received after my cancer diagnosis in 2019.  

Who was your best professor, and why?
My absolute favorite professor no longer works for the College, but besides Cailin Brown, I would say Dr. Ben Clansy. I took six classes with him in my major, but he took the time to get to know me and what I was interested in. That being said, Dr. Clansy attended every single one of the shows that I was in at the theatre. After a while, he actually started sitting with my family for matinees. His being there always meant the absolute world to me. 

What is your advice for incoming students:
Jump right in with both feet! When I first transferred to Saint Rose, I was terrified of what people might think about me, but then I realized the people around me were probably having the same fears. When I let go of those concerns, I started to become the person that I am today. 

Read more stories about our Class of 2021 & Class of 2020  graduates in our upcoming Saint Rose Magazine. 

By Caroline Murray

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