By Sarah Satterwhite
The Burwell Center for Career Achievement opened its doors to students in September, ushering in a new era for DU students and alumni. Within the new building, the most recent of the Denver Advantage campus transformation, undergraduate and graduate students can access career counseling and resources, with additional services available once COVID-19 restrictions are reduced.
Following a formal grand opening celebration slated for Alumni Weekend in May 2021, the Burwell Center will also provide a welcoming and connection space for alumni returning to campus as well as facilities for employers recruiting DU students.
Sitting on the site of the former Leo Block Alumni Center, the Burwell Center is named in honor of Barbara Burwell, the late Rod Burwell, and their sons, Peter (BSBA ’11), Blake (BSME, MBA ’15), and Michael (BA ’16, MBA ’17), whose transformational $5 million gift made the Burwell Center a reality. At the June 2019 groundbreaking, Mrs. Burwell said the programs of the new Burwell Center would be its most important feature. “That is the heart of what’s going to happen in the building that will transform the lives of students and our alumni. We are hopeful it will be an over-the-top resource for industry that will build the workforce of tomorrow.” With the opening of the building that bears her family’s name, students are beginning to experience the impact of her vision.
Mrs. Burwell’s vision is now becoming a reality. Within the Burwell Center, career resources for students include networking, resume assistance, interview preparation and a “Career Closet” that offers professional clothing at no cost to students for interviews. The Burwell Center also features multiple areas to enjoy the ambience of campus, such as the cozy fireplace lounge, the relaxing T.J. Polite Respite Room, the bright and airy Shopneck Family Pavilion, and the Daniel and Janet Mordecai Executive Lounge where visiting employers can connect with students.
The Burwell Center honors alumni tradition through its thoughtful design. All the brick and granite tiles etched with names from the old alumni center now grace the entrance to the Burwell Center. The granite pillars that held the hitching posts originally in front of University Hall, when horses were the main transportation mode to campus, have been refurbished into bike racks to serve today’s students’ transportation needs. The limestone piece that was engraved as an alumni gift, formerly in the old gym, is now part of the Burwell Center’s structure.
The aesthetics of the new building also speak to its heritage and connection to Colorado. The front desk area features mountain ranges that are cut into multiple layers of wood, with a single dark stained piece of wood in each range. One of them mimics the geographic elevation of Echo Mountain, which is owned by the Burwell family and represents the legacy of the Burwells at DU.
The Burwell Center aspires to reach LEED Platinum status, a tribute to its innovative design and environmental efficiency. When one enters the building, exposed wood gives a glimpse of the Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) construction technique used in the building. CLT provides not only a warm aesthetic, but also superior fire, seismic, acoustic, environmental, and thermal performance – supporting sustainability while providing a space that is uniquely Colorado. The many windows of the Burwell Center showcase Colorado’s plentiful sunshine. All the building’s systems are designed to use minimal resources, and its roof is covered with solar panels.
The Burwell Center’s location is a nexus point for campus, welcoming the public to campus and encouraging alumni to engage with their alma mater. Every layer of the building provides functionality for both students and alumni. The first floor is a campus living room, with space for students to connect, alumni to mentor them, and the community to socialize near the Ritchie Center before hockey and basketball games. The building’s second floor will offer space for career courses and coaching appointments during the day as well as networking receptions and Alumni Council meetings in the evening. The third floor reveals a view of the mountains – an iconic Colorado memory for so many of our alumni – and space for career fairs, as well as for employers to conduct interviews with our students. Having a dedicated space for employers allows them to connect with talented students from all colleges throughout the University.