After earning his bachelor’s degree from The George Washington University in 2008, Christopher Burke ’14 remained in D.C. to work at a nonprofit devoted to education policy. While he was passionate about the organization’s goals, Burke often felt frustrated by the frequent roadblocks that impeded progress.
“When you’re doing nonprofit work, a lot of the time you’re not able to do the things you want to do because you’re dependent on other people funding it,” Burke explains. “It’s important to recognize the ways in which people can create social change from different angles.”
One of his great inspirations was Professor Olatunde Johnson’s seminar on Anti-discrimination, Equality, and the Law. The class compelled students to think critically about problem solving for the long term, and to understand the wide range of roles lawyers can play in promoting social change.
Professor Johnson’s class inspired Burke to create, with another student, the first student-run reading group, which received full faculty approval for credit this past spring. The reading group invited various Columbia faculty to discuss urban development, law, and policy with students in an intimate seminar setting.
Such experiences have helped Burke think creatively about how best to use his law degree to make a difference.
After graduation, Burke will join Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he will hone his litigation skills and take on as many pro bono cases as he can.
“Working in business gives you a different set of tools to contribute to the greater good,” he says. “You have the resources and training to make a lot of difference.”