Homecoming at JMU brings back alumni who are excited to see what has changed at the university since they graduated. For the past three years, alumnus Ron Burke (’85), Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia sports broadcaster, does just that. Last Friday, Burke didn’t only visit JMU for homecoming, but he also spoke to SCOM and sport communication minor students. I had the chance to meet him with 12 other students.
“I studied communication arts with a concentration in radio television film,” said Burke, “I worked at the campus television station and hosted JMU Today. There, I gained valuable knowledge that I would use regularly in my future careers.” He also did a practicum at WMRA radio station and was a sports broadcaster his senior year.
“JMU was an open community that allowed students to find their way,” added Burke. He emphasized that working at WSHV TV-3 in Harrisonburg allowed him to learn how to work under pressure. Being one of two sports broadcasters for the channel, he became proficient in juggling his responsibilities in a timely manner.
The connections he made in Harrisonburg led him to work in Richmond, where he unexpectedly lost his job later. However, he looks at this experience as a blessing in disguise as it forced him to work for a different company, which ultimately led him to the job in Philadelphia where he resides and works today. “You don’t get to choose what you go through, but you do get to choose how you handle it,” said Burke.
Looking back on his post-college work experiences, he noted how much it benefited him to not get discouraged in times of hardship. He was thankful for a supervisor who continually pushed him and made him work to the best of his ability, even when the company was not doing well. In the long run, however, he was thankful for this as it improved his work ethic.
“You can never overstate yourself in the workplace. The people who don’t try are the people who get fired,” stated Burke when asked to give advice to current students, “Sometimes, the steps you don’t want to take will lead you to where you want to go; your starting point is not necessarily your ending point.”
Ironically, something he is most thankful for in his journey to becoming a sports broadcaster is that nothing came easy. Every step of the way, he was forced to work hard to achieve his goal. “You have to work your way through to appreciate the good and bad and what it leads you to. It’s so important to understand the values of the experiences you go through.”
Having the opportunity to hear Burke speak opened my eyes to the importance of making connections in the professional world. He made it clear to students that if they get a recommendation from someone else, their reputation is on the line and they are a reflection of them. This piece of advice stuck out to me. I feel very fortunate to have alumni such as Burke who come back to the university to help the student body.