Since taking the position of Vice President last June, Paul Burgett has been involved in the university community in a greatly changed capacity. Despite the change in his official role, he maintains his trademark enthusiasm.

“My principle mission is building a community,” Burgett said. “Everything is about relationship building. It makes the work better ? quality of relationships drives everything I do.”

Formerly the Dean of Students, Burgett’s new position gives him what he describes as an expanded role and a larger audience. Among a wide variety of new duties, Burgett manages the affairs of the Board of Trustees and maintains relations with alumni and the external community of Rochester.

“We’re all fundraisers,” adds Burgett. “It’s all about making friends and binding people passionately to the university.”

Although his new role at UR is more external than that of his old job, his experience as Dean of Students aids him in his new position.

“Paul’s many years as Dean of Students means that he has a large group of alumni who know him and, indeed, are prompted to come to alumni events precisely because of him,” President Thomas Jackson said.

“I’ll always be a Dean of Students, and I define things in that way,” said Burgett. “I have one foot in the external world and another foot in student life,” he says of the dichotomy his new role allows him.

As far as his external role, Burgett said he is heavily involved in community activities. At the same time he noted, “I cherish my opportunities to continue to be invited to participate in student life.”

Admitting that students are some of his favorite people, Burgett said, “Students are a marvelous assembly of promise ? novice adults with evolving intelligence and boundless energy.” He attributes some of his trademark enthusiasm to the energy of the students and to the opportunity to participate in the environment of the university.

“There are times when I’m not enthusiastic,” said Burgett, contradicting popular belief. “But a professional always comes to the plate.”

“He is a breath of fresh air,” Jackson said. “Wise, insightful ? to be sure ? but upbeat and positive in spirit are also an important part of what makes him so valuable to the institution.”

In addition to his new duties as Vice President, Burgett continues his work as a professor, teaching two music courses at the River Campus. He alternates between teaching Music of Black Americans and Musical Adventures, the course he is teaching this semester, which includes performing music as well as learning about it.

“I’m a musician and a teacher, then I translate that to suit the new circumstance,” Burgett said about his dual position of teacher and administrator. “It doesn’t limit me ? I can do a lot of things.”

Music has always been an important aspect of Dean Burgett’s life, influencing both his view of life and his work.

“I’m always looking for beauty. Music is a reference point for discovering beautiful things,” he said.

His love of the beauty of music led him to the Eastman School of Music, where he earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. “My own personal academic work is very important to me,” Burgett said. “My continuing education as a professional is second.”

To this end, Burgett is continuing to define the goals of his new position. Since his job was created to fit his specific skills, Burgett said, “I have to think about the next steps every day.”

Regardless, future goals include supporting the President and the Board of Trustees and continuing to build relationships with the community and alumni.

As an added side project, Burgett has plans to write a book about the stories of students and the principles they have taught him. “Students are among my most important teachers,” said Burgett. “This book is for the students.”

Burgett’s strong feelings for the students are largely reciprocated. “He was definitely one of the better deans we had,” senior Ross Camara said. “It’s kind of sad,” he said of Burgett’s new position. “There will be no more ‘fiery furnace’ speech.”

“He seems like he genuinely cares for students and is sincerely interested in our concerns,” senior Ashley Edwards said. “He’s less visible now but he still makes an effort to come to activities.”

“He’s a life on this campus that you don’t see too often in upper administration,” sophomore Neil Pawlowski said. “He just brings positive energy.”

Incorporating music, teaching, relationships, and administration with enthusiasm, Burgett said, “This isn’t a job, it’s a way of life. Everyone should be so lucky.”

Murray can be reached at

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