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Walden Magazine // Jan 01, 2013

Connections: Learning by Mentoring

Dr. Patrick Burtch ’11 explains how mentoring fuels his professional work and furthers his mentees’ studies.

Patrick Burtch

Dr. Patrick Burtch. Photo credit: Karen Muse Photography.

When Dr. Patrick Burtch ’11 mentors students at Walden, everyone involved grows and learns. Passionate about teaching, he believes in sharing the insights he’s gained through 25 years of experience in city management and by earning his PhD in Public Policy and Administration.

Mentoring also gives him an opportunity to expand his own knowledge. “I want to learn on a regular basis; I’m constantly reading journal articles. Mentoring contributes to that process,” he explains.

Burtch, who is an adjunct professor at the University of Phoenix and has also been a guest lecturer at the University of Michigan and the University of Toledo, works full time as the city manager for Jackson, Mich. He’s also conducting a research study, using data from the city and the skills he developed at Walden, to determine whether eliminating dilapidated housing in his community can raise property values.

No matter what he tackles professionally, he continues to make time to mentor students who are working on their dissertations, an experience he recalls vividly. “Mentoring is imperative at this stage,” Burtch says. “I try to be a tough editor without discouraging them. Many students struggle—as I did—with the feeling that they’ll be unable to complete their PhD. I tell them that I worked a full-time job and did this, too, so I know it’s possible.”

Burtch relies on email, phone calls, texting, and LinkedIn to communicate with his mentees. He’s become a close friend with one in particular, a police officer named Richard Jackson based in Nashville, whom he met in their first residency. “It’s a long-standing relationship,” he says. “We’ve become best of friends. There’s a lot of that kind of connection. It’s just part of what you do.”

Burtch encourages other alumni to stay in touch with their faculty members and ask them about assisting students. Recently, he became a Walden Alumni Ambassador, which will allow him to share his professional and educational experiences more widely.

“I believe in what Walden is doing. I was drawn to the scholar-practitioner model because I wanted to learn from people who worked in the public sector and bring an academic, research-based approach to public administration,” Burtch says. “If I had 30 people call me for mentoring today, I would answer. I believe in it that much.”

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