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Natalie Burke: CSD Student, Lacrosse Star, and Singer-Songwriter

Posted by Sherry on April 19, 2017 4:27 PM

Each day, in my role as public relations coordinator for Marywood University, I have the privilege of learning and writing about our students, faculty, and alumni who are making their mark in the world. I am in awe of their accomplishments. After meeting, interviewing, and writing about so many talented and inspiring people, I’m starting this blog to share my personal insights about the stories and people behind the formal profiles I’ve written.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet with an extraordinary college student—Natalie Burke, a five-year Communications, Sciences, and Disorders (CSD) major and a member of the Marywood Lacrosse team. The official purpose of the interview was to create a news report on the upcoming Lacrosse season, highlighting how student-athletes juggle the demands of maintaining high academic standing while participating in the equally demanding arena of Division III sports. I discovered that, in Natalie’s case, there’s a little bit more to the story. Actually, there’s a lot more.

If you search for Natalie Burke on the University’s website, you’ll find multiple cross listings about academics, sports, and service. Natalie loves the sport and her team, and she sees Lacrosse as very closely connected to what she is learning in the classroom. She spends much of her remaining time helping other people. All of this is pretty amazing for a 20 year old.

“For me, athletics enhance my academics and vise versa,” Natalie said. “When someone is on a team sport, they must learn to budget time efficiently among practice, work, and studying, but the sacrifices are worth it. When it comes to academics, it’s easy to get engrossed in yourself; but, when you also participate in a sport, you may see your teammates struggling in certain areas, and it’s an opportunity to build them up, to think outside of yourself, and to help others.”

A dedicated and accomplished student, Natalie accelerated her undergraduate studies so that she is now a semester ahead of schedule in the graduate phase of the five-year CSD program. “I enjoy working with children, but I also really enjoy working with adults—those with aphasia or other communication disorders,” Natalie said. Although she finds the speech pathology (CSD) program challenging, she also finds excitement in meeting those challenges.

All of that sounds relatively standard in terms of an accomplished student-athlete. But here’s where Natalie’s story moves into a unique dimension: Natalie is also a singer and a songwriter. Recently, Natalie had a pleasant surprise at the end of an otherwise unpleasant day. She was having a stressful day—one of those days that we can all relate to—where you just hope to go home and wake up the next morning to find a better day. “I got in my car and turned on the radio to our Marywood student-run radio station, 91.7 VMFM,” Natalie said. “The first thing I heard was my own voice, my own song playing on the radio! My mood changed instantly. I was so excited that my song was on the radio.” Natalie’s song, City Lights, can be found on iTunes.

Most often, as a part of my interview process, I’ll take a “headshot” of the interviewee. For Natalie’s photo, I suggested that we go to an outside setting, to take the photo in the beautiful, new Morgan Memorial Garden. It was a blustery, cold day, and I thought that perhaps I’d made a mistake. But Natalie was as comfortable posing in the freezing cold as she might be in mid-summer.

I found during the interview and the photo session that my own mood had shifted from one of standard work mode to one of light and ease, similar to the feeling one gets while talking with a friend. Never one to be very happy with the cold, I also found that Natalie’s willingness and comfort level with taking a photo on a freezing day made me forget how much I dreaded the idea of having to go outside to take the photo.

After the photo session, we returned to my office so Natalie could collect her belongings, and we said our goodbyes. But a few minutes later, I saw Natalie quickly pass by my office doorway. I found her on the floor of our office conference room, searching for something on her hands and knees. She said she lost her ring, a silver ring she got in London. In the next moment, she stood up, and she reached into the bulky scarf around her neck. There it was, snagged on the loose cotton cloth. The visible relief that showed on Natalie’s face upon finding her ring made me curious as to why it was such an important treasure to her.

“When did you go to London?” I asked.

“I studied abroad in the fall of 2015, during my junior year.” she said. And, just like that, the interview was back on. 

Natalie told me how the ring was a treasured item from London, one that brought her wonderful memories of the time she spent there studying and playing soccer.

In London, Natalie studied at King’s College. “I played soccer there. We had to take two tubes (subways), two busses, and two taxis to get to and from the games. All of this, keep in mind, was done while carrying all of our equipment,” she said. In addition to the inconveniences of big city transportation, Natalie said she learned to appreciate how much more time you have in campus life—the convenience of easily accessing meals, laundry, and other chores we all take for granted. In a big city, she learned, basic necessities are chores in and of themselves.

At King’s College, Natalie met, studied with, and worked with students from many nations and cultures. “Thanks to my study abroad experience, I was able to learn a lot about myself, the world, and the cultures of other people,” Natalie said. 

“There’s a common misperception that if you play a college sport, you can’t study abroad. That’s absolutely not true, and I encourage anyone with the opportunity to study abroad to do so.”

The lacrosse season that Natalie was anticipating began with the first scheduled game on February 25, 2017. Since then, Natalie has set Marywood University’s record for career assists in the Pacers’ 14-2 CSAC win over Notre Dame of Maryland University. Natalie had two goals and three assists to reach 58 assists in her career, surpassing the record for the most in school history. 

As for me, I’ve been holding onto this information in an effort to bring Natalie’s most current accomplishments to you. What I’ve found is that I need to publish it now, as Natalie accomplishes something new on a weekly basis. This article will never get published if I continue to wait for a nice way to wrap it up. Plus, I’m sure I will be writing about Natalie again in the near future, most likely when she is a successful alumna.

Marywood University's accelerated communication sciences and disorders program enables you to earn both a bachelor's and master's degree in speech-language pathology in just 5 years.

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Topics: Athletics Service Excellence

Posted by Sherry Frable

Sherry is the Public Relations Coordinator at Marywood University.

Read more from Sherry Frable