Kathy Burns is a Renaissance woman. Since graduating from Western with an MBA in 1993, she's started a restaurant, founded a management consulting firm and taught at Brescia University College. And she's still adding to the list: Burns is the University Students' Council's new chief operational officer, a role that's replacing the USC's former general manager position.
Burns is replacing Cathy Clarke who was the USC's general manager since 2008. The change comes as part of an initiative to give the USC's annual team of student executives more autonomy to set the organization's direction.
"The COO role shifts the organization to be more student centric, and gives the USC presidents increasing leadership to better fulfill their responsibilities to the student body," says USC president Eddy Avila.
"This change provided an opportunity to assess the organizational structure of the USC to better align it with its mission."
While the GM was previously charged with "managing the day-to-day corporate affairs of the students’ council," the COO will focus on managing the USC's operations and will work collaboratively with the president to oversee other areas. Burns is also hired on a three-year contract to encourage the regular review of the USC's top, non-student staff.
For Burns, it's a job that combines her two passions — leadership and students. Over the last four years, Burns taught an undergraduate leadership course at Brescia and has no plans to give it up as she settles in at the students' council.
"I love teaching, and there's a connection," Burns says. "The USC is here to serve and enhance the lives of students, and the core reason that students are here is to be in the classroom. So to be connected to that is great."
Burns will also be tasked with the development of the USC's next long-term, three-year strategic plan that will outline the organization's values, its vision for the future and its plan to get there. It's no easy task, though, when each year's student executive team may have different ideas about the USC's priorities.
"The bones of the plan that will live for three years needs to broad enough in its objectives that one would hope that everyone coming after this executive will buy in," Burns says.
"This must be a collaborative process, and it will be incumbent upon myself ... and those people that helped create the plan to explain why it should continue."
With Burns' business background, she'll also be paying attention to the USC's financial side of the house. She says she's committed to ensuring student fees are managed responsibly, and she'll look for savings opportunities, so "students are getting the best bang for their buck."
"I am truly thrilled; I feel privileged to be in this role, and I look very much forward to working with everyone over the next three years," Burns says.
"I have been a student at Western, I've worked at Western and I've taught at Western, so I think that's pretty much the full gamut, right?"
With files from Hamza Tariq