Burke Brings Political Perspective to BTI Board

by | Oct 15, 2015

April Burke

April L. Burke will join the BTI board in 2015.

April L. Burke, president and founder of Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, will soon become the newest member of the Boyce Thompson Institute Board of Directors.

With more than 25 years of experience lobbying for universities and research organizations in Washington, D.C., Burke brings a political perspective to the Board, which she hopes to use to increase BTI’s national impact. The November board meeting will mark her first official BTI event.

Burke has long intersected with BTI, both as a representative for the Association of Independent Research Institutes (AIRI) since 1989, and more recently through her company’s work with the American Society For Plant Biologists (ASPB). She met BTI President David Stern through these interactions.

Through her D.C.-based firm, Burke advises universities and institutions not only on how to be successful politically in Washington, but how to be successful in leveraging their merits to secure funding from a range of federal agencies. She said that while there is support for science in Washington D.C., other sectors, such as telecommunications, banking and transportation often take precedent.

“In the world that I live in, science advocacy is a very small part of the Washington environment,” said Burke. “My job is to elevate it and to bring some focus.”

Burke also has significant experience in Washington D.C. with positioning smaller organizations to have a big impact at the national level. She says that Stern’s work with ASPB on the Decadal Vision and his lobbying efforts at the Capitol put BTI in prime position to play a role in the national conversation on plant science and research funding.

“I am thrilled to have someone of April’s stature, experience and energy to advise BTI as we work with the plant community to address global issues in food, health and environment,” said Stern.

Burke said that serving on the board will give her an insider’s view into an organization that she has represented from the outside for years. She also raised a plant biologist: her son recently finished his doctorate in forest entomology and will soon begin his postdoctoral research at the University of British Columbia.

Additionally, Burke has insight into the ways that private philanthropy and federal grants intersect. These two funding sources often can have synergistic effects: Foundations can elevate important issues into the public eye, while federal funding can bring about developments that attract the attention of private donors.

“Plant science is a great topic because people are much more aware of the effects of climate change and the challenges of food and energy production right now,” said Burke. “I think BTI is in the right place to be integral to that.”

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