Originally from Ringoes, New Jersey, Kathleen Burke, a lecturer in psychological science, has been at UNC Charlotte since 2016. Learn about her love for positive psychology and watching her students grow, as well as her advice for maintaining their mental health.
Can you describe your role at UNC Charlotte?
I teach four classes a semester in the Department of Psychological Science. My favorite classes to teach are positive psychology and any type of senior seminar. I am also the head of our department’s social justice committee. Our department is committed to making sure that students feel respected and seen, so I find this role to be quite significant.
Can you describe a memorable moment at UNC Charlotte?
The memorable moments for me occur when my students in senior seminar start to feel safe and respected by their peers. They have some of the most profound and deep discussions on psychology research I’ve ever been privy to. They discuss implications of the research on their lives and of those around them, and it’s truly an honor to witness the ideas they share.
What made you want to be in psychology?
In high school, I took introduction, honors and AP psychology classes offered and couldn’t get enough. I would read the textbook for fun on the way home from school and would ask my teacher for more to read. I loved learning about our brains, behaviors, personalities and motivation. Who knew humans were more alike than different in so many ways? I then inspired my dad to get into positive psychology as well, and we would go on to read positive psychology books together until he passed two years ago.
Positive psychology causes me to redefine what meaning looks and feels like every so often. What is true success? How can I find fulfillment and help others to do so as well? That’s what got me hooked: learning about how we can create positive well-being in ourselves and our communities. One can live a good life, there’s research to show it — how fascinating!
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I love meeting with my students and learning about their future careers, interest in the field and ideas of how to make the world a better place.
What do you like to do when you aren't working?
I adore being a mom to my almost 4-year-old daughter. We have a lot of fun together, most recently pumpkin picking and going on Halloween/fall scavenger hunts in our neighborhood. I also love to jazzercise, a workout that combines 30 minutes of dance aerobics with 20 or so minutes of strength training. I have such a wonderful community at my studio and it keeps me going throughout the week.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“The wound is the place where the light enters.” This line from one of Rumi’s poems reminds me that there needs to be rain for that rainbow to appear.
What’s your advice for students?
Take some time out to care for yourself! Sure your classes are important, but carving out the space for your needs is crucial for your mental health. You deserve time to yourself, and make sure to add something fun to your day, whether that’s dancing to a favorite song, which for me, would be anything by NSYNC. Bake some cookies, or meet up with a good friend. Do something that will boost your spirits.