Jim Burbank, long time English lecturer and director of the internship program for English, is set to retire at the end of this semester.
“There is a lot I’ve taken away from this place, primarily the joy of working with students. As a writer, often times you’re alone. When you teach, you get a chance to contribute your knowledge, experience to younger folks who are just starting out. That’s a joy. Life should be about joy,” Burbank said.
Burbank is proud that, because of his experience in journalism and non-fiction book authorship, he has brought a wider focus to the program, he said.
“The program has expanded greatly during my time. We have gone from internship seminars of 12 students to seminars with 20 or more students,” Burbank said. “Hundreds of students have benefitted.”
Burbank became internship director in 2010, but had worked with the program’s founder, Scott Sanders, teaching the internship seminar for about eight years, he said.
“The internship helps students prepare for the professional world by allowing them to get professional writing experience and to network in the professional circumstances in which interns serve,” he said. “New Mexico really needs experienced professional writers.”
About a third of the internships turn into permanent positions, he said. Students also prepare professional resumes and portfolios and develop interviewing skills, so they will be thoroughly prepared for professional life after school, said Burbank.
Although he has always been passionate about his work, he is excited to pursue other avenues of life. He wants to focus on his writing, return to photography and do volunteer work, he said.
“I’ve been here for so long. I love this place. I’ve always loved it. It’s quirky it’s weird; it’s different from any university, but it’s the students that make it really great,” Burbank said.
Burbank, who started lecturing at UNM in the ‘80s, went back to grad school in the ‘90s to earn his MA in Literature and chase his dream of teaching at UNM. He has been teaching here ever since, he said.
It has been his mission in life to help younger people get into the outside world and succeed, he said.
“I wanted to be with, communicate with and help students succeed in the outside world with the talents they have,” he said. “We have such fascinating conversations; I get to learn from them as much as I hope they learn from me.”
Michelle Kells, a professor in the Department of English Rhetoric and Writing, has worked with Burbank for 10 years and said she was surprised to hear about his retirement plans. Burbank is still very engaged with his students and his work, Kells said.
“I think he has chosen to live life on his own terms. To live very soulfully and that translates into the way he teaches. I think that’s the spark that students really appreciate,” Kells said.
Isaac Padilla, a junior English and liberal arts major, is enrolled in Burbank’s Traditional Grammar course and said he has enjoyed every moment of it.
“He reminds me of my grandpa; very knowledgeable with what he does. Every question I have he answers it in a way that I can learn,” Padilla said.
Burbank said he hopes to come back and teach, but at his own pace.