New Sue Walk Burnett Journalism and Student Media Center Opens at Kimpel Hall

by | Oct 19, 2018 | Alumni, Alumni Awards & Achievements, Announcements, Dean's Corner, Featured Posts, Gifts |

One of the busiest classroom buildings on campus, Kimpel Hall, debuted a new look this fall when students returned to classes.

The campus hub – home to the U of A’s Student Media programs and its School of Journalism and Strategic Media – already had its first-floor renovated last year to create more classroom and office space. 

With all phases of construction now complete, this fall’s reopening of Kimpel Hall featured the unveiling of the newly completed Sue Walk Burnett Journalism and Student Media Center.

The center was made possible by the generosity of Houston-based alumna Susan Walk Burnett and her husband, Rusty Burnett. An official dedication for the center took place Friday, Oct. 12.

“We are so grateful to the Burnetts. Their incredible generosity has made what was once a dream now an amazing reality,” said Todd Shields, dean of Fulbright College. “This center is already providing hands-on, immediately relevant experience with technology our students will need throughout their careers. It’s an incredible investment in their futures and in the profession of journalism.”  

The new Sue Walk Burnett Journalism and Student Media Center features a state-of-the-art integrated newsroom where students from all journalism disciplines can converge, and a new UATV television studio with an open view of one of the busiest hot spots on campus.

“This may be the biggest thing to happen to journalism education at the U of A in our J-School’s 88-year history, and Sue Walk Burnett made it happen,” said Larry Foley, chair of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media, part of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. “We now have facilities equal or superior to anyone’s, and our students are the beneficiaries. The impact of the gift by Sue and Rusty Burnett will resonate for generations.”

The School of Journalism and Strategic Media is located in Kimpel Hall, which was opened in 1973 as the Communications Classroom Building. In 1983, the building was given its current name to honor the memory of Ben D. Kimpel, professor of English, who died that same year.

The addition to the building is located outside the front doors of Kimpel, facing McIlroy Avenue and Founders Hall, and cost approximately $2 million. Thanks to the Burnett’s $1 million gift, the project was fully funded.

The new center is also home to the university’s Student Media programs, a part of the Division of Student Affairs, which include the Arkansas Traveler newspaper, UATV, KXUA 88.3-FM/National Public Radio, the Razorback Yearbook, The Hill Magazine, and the Main Hill Media student-run advertising agency. 

Photos by Britt Graves, graduate student and assistant in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media

“We are a model for convergence – where our student newspaper and television station are working together daily to cover news,” said Robyn Starling Ledbetter, director of Student Media. “Thanks to Sue and Rusty Burnett, we now have a state-of-the-art space where student media outlets can work together to prepare our graduates to take on the world. We have hundreds of students pass through our space daily, and they are more inspired than ever to take advantage of all Student Media offers.” 

During the project’s groundbreaking, Burnett expressed how much this expansion means to her, saying, “My hope is that these new facilities will create an engaging environment for students who wish to pursue careers in these fields and allow them to gain valuable experience working in settings that mirror what they will find after graduation.”

Burnett grew up in El Dorado and has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Fulbright College. As a student, she was secretary of Chi Omega Sorority and co-editor of the Razorback yearbook in 1968.

Today, she is the president and founder of Burnett Specialists, a $70 million staffing and placement firm with 10 offices in Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso, and Choice Specialists in Dallas. Their company is the largest employee-owned staffing firm in Texas and second largest in the U.S. She and her company have won many awards in the past 42 years, including being named the No. 1 placement firm and No. 2 temporary staffing firm in Houston by the Houston Business Journal and the Pinnacle Award winner by the Better Business Bureau.

Burnett was named Texas Business Woman of the Year by the Texas Women’s Chamber of Commerce, National Enterprising Woman of the Year by the Enterprising Women Magazine and Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners, Inspire Women, Houston Technology Center and the Women Business Enterprise Alliance. She was also honored by Junior Achievement in their Hall of Achievement. The Burnetts were named Entrepreneurs of the Year in 1998 by Ernst and Young. 

Sue Burnett serves on the Board of Directors for Junior Achievement and the Better Business Bureau and is on the Board of Trustees for Goodwill.

At the University of Arkansas, Burnett has previously supported the School of Journalism and Strategic Media by creating scholarships for journalism students and funding the Reading Room in Kimpel Hall, which was named after her in 1999. She was honored as a Distinguished Alumna in 2007 and was inducted into the school’s Lemke Alumni Society’s Hall of Honor in 2016. Burnett is an A+ Life Member of the Arkansas Alumni Association.

About the School of Journalism and Strategic Media: The School of Journalism and Strategic Media in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas is dedicated to excellence in teaching, research and media discourse. Students in our journalism degree programs receive instruction, guidance and access to hands-on experience from our seasoned, award-winning faculty and staff. Areas of study include news editorial and reporting, broadcast, public relations, advertising and digital media. 

About the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences: The J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences is the largest and most academically diverse unit on campus with three schools, 16 departments and more than 43 academic programs and research centers. The college provides the core curriculum for all University of Arkansas students and is named for J. William Fulbright, former university president and longtime U.S. senator.

About the Division of Student Affairs: The Division of Student Affairs supports students in pursuing knowledge, earning a degree, finding meaningful careers, exploring diversity, and connecting with the global community. We provide students housing, dining, health care resources, and create innovative programs that educate and inspire. We enhance the University of Arkansas experience and help students succeed, one student at a time.

A version of this story also appeared in University of Arkansas’ Newswire publication.

Andra Parrish Liwag

Director of Communications, J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences 

479-575-4393 // liwag@uark.edu