Between his high school graduation in 1999 and his graduation from UALR in 2011, Stephen Burks has been a Pulaski County sheriff’s deputy, a gymnastics coach, and the assistant director of a preschool academy. Then he discovered his calling at UALR.
He found his career in management information systems, a team-oriented course of study that melds business management and information systems to solve problems. Today, he works at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and has tackled MIS projects at Acxiom and UAMS.
“The MIS is an excellent program,” he said. “Of course, they care if you succeed in class, but they really care that you succeed in the real world. They have an advisory board that meets regularly with MIS professors that help shape the program to what our future employers are looking for.”
As an undergraduate, Burks worked on a six-member team. He also worked on UALR’s Walmart Azure Project, a six-person team that researched and evaluated the fit of Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform, as an enterprise-level cloud solution for Walmart. His student team presented their findings and recommendations to an audience of 50 that included Walmart and Microsoft senior executives.
He was twice a member of a UALR team competing for the international Microsoft Imagine Cup, where teams of problem solvers come up with tools using Microsoft tools that address a world problem.
“The first year, we made it to the finals. This year, we won third,” said Burks, who sees a long-term career path evolving for him in central Arkansas.
“With the businesses around Little Rock telling the professors what they need for students to learn, and with UALR’s MIS professors tailoring their program to what employers are looking for, it’s almost getting pre-training for the type of job the student is going to get,” he said.
Q&A with Stephen
What led you to UALR? I first wanted to go out of state to a college, but quickly changed my mind. I had some friends who were going to UALR and I had my all-star cheer coach who had decided to coach UALR’s first co-ed squad. I decided to stay because I didn’t want to be that far away from my family and be a part of the first co-ed cheer squad.
What was your favorite class? Before I decided on a major, I liked anything that involved science or math. When I started my core classes for MIS, I really enjoyed the database management class and both my programming classes (Object Oriented and COBOL)
What is your favorite UALR memory? My favorite one was walking down the aisle at graduation. It had been such a long and difficult journey that I almost never completed. I had gone on and off to college for quite some time and at one point had sworn it off. I am glad that I finally decided to go back and get my degree. The time and effort spent in getting the degree has paid off exponentially.
If you could talk to anyone, alive or dead, who would it be? I guess I would have to choose George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. I want to know how they really are and not how history paints them. I also would want to know what they thought of our country as it is today.
What one word would you use to describe yourself? Driven