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Making a difference in students’ lives

Allison Burdette’s high energy and thought-provoking coursework in business law inspire fond memories from alumni.  

On a Wednesday evening in mid-August, Emory BBA students and alumni packed PS450, a chic restaurant-lounge in New York’s Murray Hill section. The event, sponsored by the Office of Alumni Relations and the BBA Career Management Office, promised casual networking, but that wasn’t the big draw. Instead they came to see Allison Burdette, an assistant professor in the practice of business law, who’s got a following that some rock bands would envy.

“She’s a high energy person who delivers a lot more than a standard class,” says Gordon McKemie 07BBA, president of Goizueta’s BBA Council. Like many others who sat for her business law courses, McKemie says Burdette makes issues come alive. “I’ve never seen anyone else like her. She makes you want to think more, and ask how you can achieve more out of school and out of life.”

Joanna Weiss 04BBA, a junior analyst with the private equity fund WL Ross & Co., has fond memories of the time she spent with Burdette.

“Allison is animated, and she brings a spectacular amount of energy to everything she does,” observes Weiss. “In her business law classes we covered topics ranging from workplace issues to moral decision-making imperatives. Nothing was ever dry or canned with her; you always looked forward to her classes.”

Before she joined Goizueta in 1998, Burdette practiced environmental law for two years in Washington, D.C., and went on to teach business law at Georgia State University. Today she teaches courses on the legal environment and law and business in the undergraduate program.

“The material that I teach in business law is very relevant to my students’ professional and personal lives,” says Burdette. “Again and again my former students tell me how they have applied what they learned in b-law to their jobs.”

Because the material is so relevant, she works hard to ensure the learning will stick. “To make the material memorable, I tell a lot of stories in my teaching,” relates Burdette. “The stories put the material in real-life context and force my students to apply abstract concepts to real scenarios. Personally, I would much rather spend class time telling stories than defining terms and concepts. My students rely on the text book for such information.”

“Students remember what comes out of Prof. Burdette's mouth,” says Ellen Gabler 03BBA , a former reporter with the Stillwater Gazette , a Minnesota newspaper [she's currently enrolled in the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism]. “At my first job as a reporter in Minnesota, one of my first big stories involved eminent domain. I immediately recalled Burdette's eminent domain lecture; her classes were never dull.”

Gabler says she e-mailed Burdette to clarify some facts, “but mostly because I was just so excited that something I had learned in school actually existed in the real world.”

Burdette’s “tests were hard but her teaching was great,” recalls Jon Kramer 06BBA, an analyst with Financial Security Assurance Inc. (FSA), a company that provides financial guaranty insurance for asset-backed securities, municipal bonds and other structured obligations in the global markets. “At work, the knowledge she transferred to us makes it easier for me to comprehend legal concepts. Things make more sense because of Allison Burdette.”

“I work to present material in a way that encourages students to think critically,” says Burdette. “If they do that, not only are they able to retain the material much better, but they also develop critical thinking skills that are essential to future success.”

Marty Daks


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