Mentoring matters: Gettysburg’s community of support motivates Donna Bourke ’92 to help people find purpose for their passions

Donna Bourke ’92
Donna Bourke ’92 is recognized at her induction into the Gettysburg College Hall of Athletic Honor during a fall 2023 ceremony on campus. With her is Jessica Cortese ’05 and Julika Blankenship Olliver ’04.

Families are at the heart of every community. For Donna Bourke ’92, finding her community at Gettysburg College as a political science major and member of Gettysburg’s women’s basketball team opened doors to self-confidence and self-discovery, encouraging and inspiring her to pursue her passions and use her talents to serve others.

Today, Bourke applies the lessons of Gettysburg’s consequential education—the breadth and depth of knowledge and enduring skills gained from experiences in the classroom and on the basketball court—to serve, support, and uplift lives through mentoring. Following in the footsteps of her Gettysburg mentors, including faculty and staff who were her role models, she seeks ways to pay it forward as an enterprise account director at SiriusXM, where she’s pursued her passion for live music.

“I want people to go out and do great things in the world. I want people to have a purposeful vision for their lives.”
Donna Bourke ’92

From 2016 to 2018, Bourke worked with Gettysburg’s Center for Career Engagement to host Gettysburg students for job shadowing experiences in New York City at Pandora (before its purchase by SiriusXM) with the assistance of fellow Gettysburg alumni, including Samantha Betterly Goldstein ’12 and Marielle Bianchi ’12. Fireside chats with senior leadership complemented cross-functional team presentations to give students a behind-the-scenes look at work in the media industry. Bourke also invited Pandora employees who were Gettysburg alumni to join her in talking about their transition from Gettysburg College into their current roles at the company.

At SiriusXM, Bourke remains actively involved with the DIRO (Diversity and Inclusion for the Revenue Organization) Advisory Board and leads the COpA (Career Opportunities and Advancement) committee that advocates for and provides career advancement and mentorship for Black Indigenous People of Color within SiriusXM. She also mentors SiriusXM’s client service members seeking careers in sales as well as the firm’s junior sales representatives.

For both her Gettysburg and SiriusXM families, she participates in these initiatives because she recognizes the importance of helping all individuals reach their full potential.

Donna and friends
Donna Bourke ’92 acknowledges the people in her life who supported her in her life’s journey to Gettysburg College and beyond. From left to right: Ramona Washington ’91 (Bourke’s best friend, assistant Maryland school principal), Adiesa Brown (vice president of sales for Katz Media Group), Lynne Bourke Johnson (Bourke’s sister, professor, retired assistant principal), Tyrese Watterson (family friend), Kayla Kieffer (Bourke’s daughter, customer engagement manager for Disney), Michael Bourke P’20 (Bourke’s brother, senior vice president of RBC Wealth Management), and Eric McMillian (Bourke’s significant, leader of store operations for Kroger Company).

Service to others starts with family

For Bourke, the value of giving back and paying it forward to people who helped her navigate her career is a value she traces back to her experiences with her biological family and her Gettysburg College family.

Growing up in the Bronx in New York City, Bourke, the youngest of 13 siblings, witnessed the sacrifices made by her parents for their children. This self-sacrifice inspired her to give her all in everything she did throughout her elementary, middle, and high school careers, balancing her dedication to academics with her passion for basketball.

As she considered continuing her education, Bourke connected with her high school guidance counselor, who told her about Gettysburg College and its experiential liberal arts and sciences education. Visiting campus allowed Bourke to explore Gettysburg firsthand. Coming from a diverse high school in the Bronx with a graduating class of 684 students, she appreciated the distinctiveness of Gettysburg’s close-knit community.

“I looked at it as an opportunity to really shine—to excel at a smaller place rather than a bigger university,” Bourke said. “The class sizes were small, which gave me the confidence in knowing I was going to have to speak up. If I’m going to be uncomfortable, I’m going to embrace it, and then I’m going to thrive from it. That’s the only way I’m going to be able to learn.”

After visiting with and meeting professors and staff who took time to speak with her about her aspirations and passions, she decided that Gettysburg was where she wanted to be to pursue her college education.

A circle of community at Gettysburg

At Gettysburg, Bourke joined the Black Student Union and worked for the Intercultural Resources Center (IRC), now the Office of Multicultural Engagement. Making connections through these on-campus opportunities introduced her to people such as Harry Matthews, Gettysburg’s first Black dean of Intercultural Advancement. Matthews — along with Dr. Sylvia Asante, who worked as Gettysburg’s associate dean of Intercultural Advancement and associate director of Career Services, and Jacquemar Fudge, assistant dean of intercultural education — served as role models for Bourke.

“I try to surround myself with people who are going to help me grow my sense of self, personally and professionally,” she said. “Dean Matthews was very much involved with genealogy and had resources available at the time on microfilm about Black history. [These discoveries] led me to minor in African American studies,” a decision that then connected her with African American Studies Chair Frank Chiteji.

Through these one-on-one mentorships and experiential opportunities, she gained real-world experience while honing her communication and leadership skills, including being a part of launching a program called MYEI (Minority Youth Educational Institute) through the IRC.

“The IRC opened my eyes,” she said. “We had an opportunity to work with the youth within the Gettysburg community. We would pair up with younger kids and give them an opportunity to see what college life is like. Gettysburg is such a college town, and we wanted to bridge the gap between the College and the community.”

Donna and friends
Donna Bourke ’92 sprints up the court against pressure from a Johns Hopkins defender during a Gettysburg women’s basketball game from the early 1990s. (Photo courtesy Gettysburg College Athletics Communications)

Bourke also built her circle of community with Gettysburg’s women’s basketball team, led by former head coach Mike Kirkpatrick. During her senior year, under Kirkpatrick’s mentorship, she became co-captain, which enabled her to develop and demonstrate leadership, communication, and teamwork.

“I had to lead by example,” said Bourke, who was inducted into Gettysburg College’s Hall of Athletic Honor in 2023. “I needed [my teammates] to feel comfortable coming to me for support, whether it was learning the drills or dealing with challenges, so that we could build cohesion among the team. I wanted to make sure that we were not only performing at our highest level but also having fun.”

Expressing gratitude for the mentors in Gettysburg’s community who helped her navigate her pathway through college, Bourke believes she has a professional and social responsibility to help others secure similar opportunities of their own, including current Gettysburg students and fellow colleagues looking for career advancement as they pursue a lifetime of career advancement and personal success.

“It takes a village to raise someone, and I believe in that mentality,” she said. “I want people to go out and do great things in the world. I want people to have a purposeful vision for their lives.”

Visit Gettysburg College and discover how Gettysburg students explore their academic and co-curricular interests within a community invested in their success.

By Michael Vyskocil
Photos courtesy Doug Huber ’06/ProArts Media
Posted: 02/06/24