What I learned from Kendra Burkey

Kendra Burkey advises the Hesston College Horizon staff.

Kendra Burkey advises the Hesston College Horizon staff.

In recent years, the Hesston College Horizon student publication has recognized departing faculty members by inviting students and employees to reflect on the impact these professors have made on their lives. With the COVID-19 campus dispersal in March and the impending departure of Horizon faculty advisor and communications prof Kendra Burkey, the college’s Marketing and Communications team has the privilege of recognizing this year’s departing faculty: Burkey; Carla Lahey, theatre prof, Campus Activities director; and Gary Oyer director of Media and Instructional Technology and archivist.

Kendra Burkey

Kendra leaves Hesston College this spring after 17 years teaching Speech Communication and a variety of other communication courses and advising the Hesston College Horizon, the college’s student publication, leading it through the transition from print to online media. Kendra founded the Journal of Writing and Art which served as Hesston’s literary journal for a few years, and helped establish student internships with the Marketing and Communications department. She also was a founding member of the Campus Stewardship Council and was instrumental in CSC’s 10-Day Give, an effort that significantly reduced the amount of waste going to landfills each spring as students moved out of the dorms by redirecting unwanted items to other students and Newton Et Cetera Shop. Kendra leaves to devote more time to Salted Creamery, a growing, locally sourced ice cream company she founded in 2013.

Gaby Audrey
Gaby Audrey

Gaby Audrey, sophomore nursing major, Semarang, Indonesia

On my second year in Hesston College as a pre-nursing student, I decided to take a course which strays from my major, a course in communication. The class is led by Kendra Burkey, and at that time when I was registering for my classes, she was on sabbatical leave which left me clueless about who she is — but I knew that she is a good friend of my favorite professor, Karen Sheriff LeVan. That is enough to make me feel like I am in good hands.

At first, when I was in class with Kendra for newspaper, I felt so out-of-place because there was only one other international student there beside me and I had no background in anything related to newspaper. I still remember the first project I worked on. It was a piece for self-care in college. I felt like I was a baggage for the whole class and I was about to drop the course. However, I wanted to hang on for at least three weeks in Newspaper. I decided to talk to Kendra about my problem and how I felt like I did nothing in newspaper. She told me that being international student is not a bad thing, and that for my first piece, it was actually a good one. From that moment, I decided to try on this new journey and keep hanging around newspaper. This experience has taught me that you always discover yourselves in the places you do not expect.

From Kendra Burkey, I learned how to express myself. I have always been an introvert and I am not used to talk about what I think. I liked to observe and do not say anything. A lot of times I received comments from Kendra on my projects and sometimes it is scary to look at the marks she made, but all of that has made me better in my writing and how to express my thoughts and feelings concisely.

From Kendra Burkey, I learned how to be a powerful woman. She has always made me feel like she is my role model because she is so independent. From the way she teaches to the way she talks.

From Kendra Burkey, I learned how to stand tall after I fail. Newspaper is not something I would imagine myself to be interested in, but she has made my experience in something so foreign for me so pleasant and enjoyable. I discovered a little bit of myself because of her.

My projects in newspaper has given me the opportunity to connect with some people I now proudly call friends. Other times it has given me courage to talk to people and ask them if I can interview them. All of this happened just because I wanted to try something new and something out of my mundane routine. Kendra Burkey has given more than black and white grade points in my Hesston experience. She gave me a whole new perspective on myself and others and it has been vibrant with colors. I am grateful to her.

Emily Kauffman
Emily Kauffman

Emily Kauffman, former resident director

3 things I’ve learned from Kendra Burkey as a professor, an advisor and a mentor:

  1. How to write. During my time as a student at Hesston College, Speech Communication, Mass Communication, Interpersonal Communication and Writing for Media along with The Horizon were among the courses I took with Kendra. I remember the first time I received back an article for The Horizon from Kendra and feeling my stomach sink when I saw the number of words or phrases highlighted along with ample comments. I quickly clicked through accepting all of the edits to somehow escape the reality that my writing needed work. But then I really got to know Kendra by spending hours in her office talking through edits. She listened to me like very few have. Instead of writing as I think, she provided me with the space to think out loud identifying that central idea. From there, she helped me expand my thinking to entertain clarifying questions and visualize my argument in a way readers could grasp. These spaces felt sacred. Kendra played a significant role in helping me build my confidence and expand my creativity leading to numerous opportunities at Hesston College and beyond.
  2. How to seek opportunity. I graduated from Hesston College with the intention to transfer to Bluffton University in the fall of 2016. On July 3, 2016 I sent an email to Kendra titled “Possible change?” explaining my unsettledness with this decision. She replied back, “Wow! I really want to process this with you. Can we talk tomorrow or Tuesday?” I’d come to learn in the years following that a response like this from Kendra was not uncommon. We’d have multiple conversations like these via phone call, email or text still finding a way to create that sacred office space. On a sticky note I still have hanging in my living space, I wrote down what Kendra had shared with me following my decision to transfer to Goshen College instead. “Em, keep in mind that your path will change, opportunities will arise, and you’re going to change your mind, and that’s okay.” I have found so much liberation in these words as I’ve navigated many big life decisions. I’m incredibly grateful for the ways Kendra helped remind me of my strengths and encouraged me to dream.
  3. How to transition well. Kendra played a big role in my decision to return to Hesston College as a resident director. She helped me process this big decision by asking me questions as well, “Is it a part of your growth right now? Is it a part of your vision for who you want to become?” and offering me once again liberating words, this time: You will make your experience meaningful wherever you go. These words allowed me to live into whatever I was feeling drawn towards, resisting the idea that there is ever a right and wrong decision. Despite knowing how much she was hopeful for my return, she also welcomed my questions/apprehension by affirming them and committing to be part of my support system, expressing her confidence in me to deal with whatever the answers were. This support was immediately felt as she offered to pay for two sessions with Marva Weigelt, owner of Insight and someone she thought I’d have “SO MUCH in common with.” Sure enough, I’d find so much healing and depth in this new connection as I made the transition back to Kansas. And of course, the balm of Kendra’s Salted Creamery ice cream helped aid in the transition as well. If you haven’t tried it, please do yourself a favor and do.

If this article weren’t about Kendra herself, at this point, I’d be reading it over one final time before sending it to her for a round of edits. This will have to do, Kendra. Thank you for all you’ve taught me. I hope I made it clear these teachings have come from both word and action, both powerful forms of communication. I look forward to now supporting you as you make this transition.

Much love,