Kansas State University


Department of Communications and Agricultural Education

ACJ Alumna Returns as Faculty

Story by Mikhayla DeMott, (ACJ)

Katie Burke, previously Katie Starzec, is one of the many additions to the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education at Kansas State University. Burke will serve as an instructor for the agricultural communications and journalism program and will begin Monday, September 11.

Burke is native to northeast Pennsylvania but has called northeast Kansas home for the last 12 years. She currently resides in Wamego with her husband, David, and their four legged friend, Cobber. Burke’s husband, Wamego native, graduated from K-State, paving a different path, with a degree in fine art with an emphasis in graphic design.

Pennsylvania is a jaunt from the Midwest but that didn’t stop Burke from traveling 20 plus hours to Manhattan for college.

“I really wanted to go out of state for school and be adventurous,” Burke says. “I looked at several places, and Kansas was my top choice. I knew I could find a great program at K-State.”

Burke did just that, chose K-State and graduated magna cum laude in December 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communication and journalism with the environmental option. As an alumna, Burke is thrilled to have been selected for this position to teach and advise in the program and department from which she graduated.

“I love the connection between agriculture, natural resources, and communication; I really see a need for more communication and outreach,” Burke says. “I’m most excited about being able to combine those three things in this new position.”

Something that sets Burke apart from other program alumni is her focus on environment and natural resources. In addition to completing the environmental option, she also received a secondary major in natural resources and environmental science. This interest was the leading factor into her decision to pursue graduate school.

Upon the conclusion of her undergraduate degree, she earned her doctorate in environmental design and planning through the College of Architecture, Design, and Planning from K-State in 2015. Her major focuses were river science, landscape ecology, and urban agriculture while her dissertation was titled, Understanding Gully Process in Two Kansas Landscapes.

Post-graduation and prior to her new position here, she was the riparian and wetland program manager for the Division of Conservation at the Kansas Department of Agriculture. She worked there for two years studying rivers, riparian areas, and wetlands, and the interaction with what producers are doing to conserve those natural resources.

Burke has a clear passion and appreciation for the environment and enjoys being out among nature. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her husband and dog, kayaking, and also appreciates continuing her learning through a good read. Her free time may look slightly different once her job begins but she has big goals for her future here.

“My aspirations in the department are to become an effective teacher, continue learning about communications, be a resource for students, and to continue to better the agriculture and natural-resource world,” Burke says.

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