Barbara Burns (’88) Awarded Marilyn G.S. Watt Award

Barbara Burns (’88) is the 2018 recipient of the Marilyn G. Watt Award at Canisius College. Burns was presented the award at the Senior Spring Awards on Tuesday, April 24th by Dr. Barbara Irwin.

Burns is the Public Affairs Officer at the United States Attorneys Office, Western District of New York. She has led a successful career in broadcasting with positions at WBEN Radio, WEBR Radio, and TCI Cable. She graduated from Canisius College with a degree in Communication Studies in 1998.

The award, given annually since 1996, is granted to a graduate of the Canisius communication studies program, “For sharing a sense of community and values through communication.” Dr. Marilyn G. S. Watt chaired the department from 1982 until her passing in 1993.

Read her Q&A here:

How does it feel to receive this award?
I am beyond grateful to receive this award. So many gifted and talented professionals have graduated from the Communications Studies program over the years and have gone on to represent the program and the college in very successful careers. Having said that, I am sincerely honored to be singled out for this honor. It is humbling.

Do you think your CC Communication Studies degree has helped you in your career?
Without a doubt, 110% LOL! When I earned my degree, the program was still relatively new. But even in the late 1980’s, there were still so many great courses and opportunities that paved the way for me to break into the radio industry and carve out a successful 20 year career. In turn, that experience prepared me well to become a public information officer. At Canisius, the degree was so much more than just taking classes. There were opportunities to get involved on campus, experience internships and have the support of faculty that cared and guided us in the right directions. Plus, those faculty members were connected and we the students were the beneficiaries of those connections. What is so incredible is that the program has grown incredibly and when I get a call for a potential intern in my office, I can’t answer that call fast enough! The consistent quality of students in the program is amazing.

What is your favorite memory of Canisius?
Program wise, I really enjoyed and had a lot of fun being a member of the Women in Communications club, which I now understand is men and women! I spent time with a lot of great friends who were interested in all kinds of careers. We brought in speakers and went on field trips and really lifted each other up and supported one another. Some of us are still friends to this day!

College wise, I will never forget Mark Russell of PBS fame as the keynote speaker at my graduation. While Russell played his trademark piano, he and College President Fr. James Demske sang Pennies from Heaven. And it was in the old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium!

What advice do you have for graduating students?
First and foremost, do what makes you happy! My first job out of college was a great opportunity and experience, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing, so I kept searching and applying until the right opportunity came along. My 20 years in radio felt more like a passion that a job. I never woke up and didn’t want to go to work. And when it was time to move on, I knew, again, it had to be the right opportunity and it was!

The education and experience you received at Canisius has prepared you well for so many different opportunities, explore and find what’s right for you! Do not let anyone try to fit you in to a mold that you don’t fit in!

Connect, connect, connect! I have gone so many places and met so many people and it’s rare to go a week without running in to a fellow Canisius grad. Keep tabs on the alumni directory, if you spot someone you want to talk to, contact them. Canisius grads are a special bunch of people and want to help young people succeed and grow.

ALWAYS be open to learning and growing. As difficult as it might be, be open to thoughtful criticism. Learn from your missteps and tough experiences, they WILL make you better. Always be willing to try something different and think outside the box.
And personally, your job/career/profession is extremely important, but do not let it define you. Get involved in something bigger than you. Volunteer in the community, for a charity, or at a church. It will make you a better human being to be a part of something larger and you will be a better professional because of it!