Pierce College Puyallup’s interim president Colette Burnette is looking forward to pursuing of her lifelong dream after she leaves the college next month.
Burnette plans to earn her doctorate degree in higher education at the University of Pennsylvania. At the heart of her decision is a fire burning brightly for the success of the nation.
“It’s a mission,” Burnette says.
Higher education isn’t just a job for her. It’s about helping people get to where they want to be. The community college mission is to move toward student success, which is vital to the strength of the nation, Burnette says.
Burnette explained the more educated people become, the more powerful they become and conflict decreases when they realize they’re all more alike than they’re different.
Burnette’s had a lifelong passion for higher education, reflected in her connections to the people at Pierce. She explains that her co-workers aren’t just staff members, but they’re people with unique stories to tell. Each individual makes a contribution to the college community, Burnette says.
Every person has fear, love and a story, Burnette says. It’s important to realize that people all want the same thing, and they’re all working toward the same goal. Each person has a unique perspective, although people all see the same metaphorical tree.
“It’s important to tell your story,” Burnette says.
Burnette describes different perspectives as viewing seasons of the same tree. She compares the single tree to the unified goal of staff, faculty and students. One person may view that tree in winter and another in spring. Differences exist in every season, just as people all have different ways of nourishing a tree based their observations. People are working toward success and growth, though each may take a different approach.
Pierce is full of opportunities if students are willing to engage in activities and develop relationships, Burnette says. She describes the college as a fantastic place with great energy and encourages students to take advantage of the opportunities.
People are in other’s lives for a purpose, Burnette says, and she explains that there are three different types of people: those who are there for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Reason people may come and go quickly, but they have a lesson to teach us. Season people are in our lives longer, to grow us into who we will become. Lifetime people are there forever. It’s important to take advantage of the moments available with all of these people, so we can grow through life and experience all of the benefits of each type of relationship.
“We have to drink it in,” Burnette says.
She says so many activities exist at the college that no one has an excuse not to be involved. If it seems as if the collegiate experience is dry, it’s because students haven’t taken advantage of these resources.
Burnette explained in a recent interview what she calls a “sister circle,” a group of friends or colleagues surrounding and supporting you. Some people are there to be confidantes, and some are there to laugh with. Others give you good advice, and some will be candid with you. Burnette’s advice is to surround yourself with people who grow you as a person and lead you to the place you want to grow.
“Everything you do should lead you into the direction you want to go. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Happily ever after starts right now,” Burnette says.
In 1998, Burnette left the corporate world to follow her passion and teach classes at Pierce College. Although she left the college for a time, she’s maintained a special connection with Pierce College through the seasons.
Before she left the first time, students and faculty gave her an oversized card full of their best wishes for her.
She kept those wishes for years and brought the card with her when she returned to the campus last year. It sits as a testimony of her connections to the people at Pierce, which are likely to continue as she moves into a new season of positive growth.
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