Martha Burris carries a sense of history with every step she takes on Purdue's campus. Time, location and circumstance prevented all four of her grandparents from going to school beyond the sixth grade. "Their stories and trials shaped who I am," she says. "I look at their struggles and then realize I have the opportunity to get the education denied to them. That's what drives me."
As she prepares to make her own way in the world, Martie, the senior with dual majors in selling and sales management and organizational leadership and supervision, wants to make sure that everyone on campus has equal opportunities. She's the director of diversity and inclusion for Purdue Student Government (PSG), responding to anything that affects the social climate of diverse students on campus. And she's raising her voice to ensure that others are heard.
- First generation
Like many of their generation, Martie's grandparents were part of a black migration from the south that sought better lives in northern states. Though they found work in the steel mills of Wisconsin, equality was not easily achieved. Her parents also worked hard, but did not attend college. As the third oldest of seven children, Martie is one of four in college with college-bound siblings behind her. Several of her cousins are also attending college.
- Inclusion over exclusivity
Martie's role with the PSG forces her to tackle serious campus issues head-on. She's voiced her opinion in The Exponent and worked with groups on diversity initiatives. But it's not without its fun. In fact, she incorporates this extracurricular work into her social life. She's currently developing a University-wide Global Inclusion Week that will celebrate all cultures through food, music and more.
As for the "equality maker" moniker, Martie accepts the role graciously. "An equality maker is someone who admires diversity and is passionate about helping people," she says. "He or she views diversity not as a black and white issue but as an inclusive concept, which includes anyone who doesn't fit the norm."
- Cubicle-free career
On the professional front, Martie hopes to find a job in account management that will allow her to travel extensively. With her personality and knack for building bridges between people, Martie admits she's not cut out for too much office space.
Summer internships and campus jobs have prepared her for a career and she believes her dual degrees complement each other. "No matter how the world changes, it will always require leaders and people with vision," Martie says. "The sales management degree gives me the technical expertise to be a great leader."
- It's simple: change the world
Though she's not sure exactly how, Martie wants to make the world a better place. "I would like to do something so significant that Purdue students years from now will know that I was here. Maybe get my picture on the wall at Harry's Chocolate Shop someday," she says with a laugh.
Whether she makes Harry's wall of fame or not, Martie is sure to keep inspiring her colleagues while paying respect to everyone who helped pave the way for her.