EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is featured in the Spring 2024 edition of The Tartan magazine. Read more from The Tartan at alma.edu/tartan.
The new provost and vice president of academic affairs at Alma College says he has found one common element among every Scot he has met: the ability — and the desire — to be greater than the sum of our parts.
Sean Burke started at Alma this past summer, following 15 years of service at Luther College, in Decorah, Iowa, most recently as associate provost. In his new role, Burke serves as the senior academic administrator, with oversight of more than 50 undergraduate and three graduate programs of study.
Given Burke’s extensive track record in higher education, he is well-familiar with the news headlines that tell of its challenges. One of the reasons he came to Alma, he says, is the spirit of the campus community to work through those challenges.
“Alma has long held a commitment to producing students who are critical thinkers, good communicators, career-ready and engaged with their communities,” Burke said. “What I’ve seen since I came on board is how deep that commitment runs — from faculty, staff, students and alumni. That is not the case at every institution, and it’s going to help guide us as the world continues to change quickly.”
Among the changes coming to Alma College that Burke is working to implement are more graduate degree programs. A Master of Arts in Special Education with Learning Disabilities Endorsement degree program launched this past summer. Burke says more like it are on the way, in order to respond to marketplace demand.
Another change is a program that connects alumni with faculty in the pre-law and business programs, to give students studying those fields opportunities to get real-world experience before they graduate from college.
“The alumni mentor program is a perfect example of something that shows the mentality of this community, to my mind,” Burke said. “Alumni love this place, like every one of us do, and they want to continue to be engaged. We’re going to tap into that, and say, ‘This is the best way for you to help our students.’ It’s such a natural fit for Alma College.”