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Bertie Burns

Bertie Burns ’99 ran into a group from St. Norbert on her way to Robbin Island, the South African island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Burns agreed to this video interview right on the spot. 

July 2011

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St. Norbert connection clicks for alumna diplomat

St. Norbert folk run into one another all around the world, and we hear of the most amazing coincidences. When Bertie Burns ’99, now living in Afghanistan, was visiting South Africa, she was amazed to find what, to her, was “the celebrity cast of St. Norbert,” among her fellow passengers.

Corday Goddard (Student Affairs), Mark Bockenhauer (Geography), the Rev. Jay Fostner, O.Praem., ’84, Jordan Mayer ’12 and Bob Pyne (Peace and Justice Center) were on their way to Robbin Island, where Nelson Mandela was held as a political prisoner. Pyne had the fortunate presence of mind to videotape their encounter with Burns.

Burns, a diplomat with the Department of State, has been living in Kabul, Afghanistan, where she works on the humanitarian de-mining program. Her next tour starts in September, when she becomes the Arctic affairs officer in the Bureau of Oceans and Environmental Science.

“Basically the foreign service will take anyone with a strong character and with a desire to do a lot of different jobs in his or her life,” Burns says.

“I often tell people, the best preparation for the foreign-service exam was residence life. I would have had a totally different undergraduate experience if I hadn’t gone to St. Norbert. Your undergraduate [education] should be about exploring the variety of lenses that we can look at the world through. It’s not just a strong scholastic program but it’s a program about integrity. That was ingrained in the classroom setting.”

The St. Norbert contingent was in Africa to visit Norbertines and other partners in South Africa who might be able to help students connect with that country’s recent history of reconciliation and peacebuilding in the post-apartheid era. They also visited Zambia Project connections and met up with Steph Lambert ’10, who is serving with the Peace Corps in Swaziland.

July 5, 2011

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