Women often pick up and leave pieces of their identity as they walk through life. They define themselves by careers, children, spouses, friends and family. However, there are some women who always leave their mark in every space they occupy. They are the ones breaking glass ceilings, flipping the status quo and carving out a path for others. They give all they have to their family, their work and their communities. Priya Burkett is one of those women.
Loving mother and wife. Devoted philanthropist. Dedicated professional. Burkett’s identity is multifaceted. Her influence has rippled throughout the companies she’s represented. Her kindness is felt in the community she lives in. Her generosity has lifted up those in need. Burkett dedicates her whole self to every endeavor she takes on. Not in the sense that she doesn’t have a work-life balance, because she most certainly does. In fact she prides herself on only committing to projects close to her heart, “I have to be uber-passionate about whatever it is that I’m asking someone’s money or time for. Kids, education and diversity are my top three,” Burkett explains.
Experiencing the world at a young age, a global perspective nurtured Burkett’s appreciation for a diverse workplace and schoolhouse. She has lived in Washington DC, Hyderabad India, New York City, and now Denver. Early in her career, she worked for a few multinational consulting companies and traveled the world. Recognizing the importance of diversity in the workplace, Burkett knows exposure must begin at an early age. “The culture of a company is shaped by their leaders. And if you don’t have experiences with various economic or ethnic cultures as a kid, you can tell this gap exists in others once you hit adulthood.”
When she became a mother, she knew she wanted her kids to experience the diversity she did in Washington DC. “I send my kids to school not only to learn but to socialize and understand other cultures. I want them to have diversity in thought and experience,” Burkett explains.
Sending her kids to Denver Public School’s Dora Moore, which boasts a rainbow of cultures, Burkett took an interest in tutoring students who were behind academically, “Public schools serve all kids, including kids who have parents working two jobs, raised by their grandparents or who may be in the foster system or homeless. Many kids need help catching up not because their parents don’t want to help them, but because they can’t.”
Working with Reading Partners, a nonprofit that mobilizes communities to provide students with individualized reading support, Burkett started tutoring every Friday. The results were immediate. This experience spurred her to take further action. Burkett wanted to replicate successful programs like Reading Partners across the district. So she became a board member on the Denver Public Schools Foundation.
In addition, she joined the Denver Public Library Friends Foundation board and co-chaired the Booklovers Ball. Burkett didn’t stop there; She’s on the board of the Colorado Diversity Council and co-chaired galas for the Denver Nature & Science Museum and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. She helped raise over $275,000 for Invest In Kids, an organization that improves the health and well-being of vulnerable Colorado children and families via programs like the Nurse-Family Partnership and The Incredible Years. These events are more than just glamorous parties; they are vital fundraisers for nonprofits. Organizations wouldn’t make a dent in their mission without the help of devoted partners like Burkett. Generating resources and building relationships to create system-wide impact is actually her area of expertise.
In her current role as the director of business development with American Express, Burkett partners with companies to help them strategically grow and expand their business. “Our goal is to offset costs turning the accounting department, which is known as a cost center, into a profit center through American Express rewards,” Burkett explains. Prior to working with American Express, Burkett spent 15 years with Xcel Energy in various executive roles. It can be especially tough for female managers to reach the upper rungs of the company. However, Burkett was appointed to multiple leadership roles leveraging her to the next point in her career. She credits her professional ascent to the numerous sponsors she had at Xcel and advocates sponsors for women in the workplace.
A fierce female role model for her two daughters, Saijel and Brielle, as well as her son Holland, Burkett leans in to all she does. Burkett credits her supportive husband Matthew Burkett for her ability to tackle it all. She is a community gardener cultivating compassion and sowing seeds of empathy in others, “Whether your kids go to public or private school, we have a responsibility to contribute and be involved in our neighborhood and public schools. What kind of community do you want to live in? Everyone wants to live in a thriving community and you need to have a hand in molding that yourself.”
Director of Business Development, American Express
Invest In Kids: iik.org
Denver Public Library Friends Foundation: dplfriends.org
Denver Public Schools Foundation: dpsfoundation.org
Reading Partners: readingpartners.org
Jamie McAfee is a frequent contributor to the New West family of magazines and other local publications. Having spent over a decade as a public school teacher, she adores children’s literature. Jamie lives in Englewood with her husband and infant daughter.
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