Business-minded Burks joins Foundation Fund Board
March 4-10, 2019
By Cait Smith
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock welcomes alumnus George Burks to the Foundation Fund Board. With over 25 years of business management experience, he is more than qualified to be a part of this opportunity. “I’ll do whatever needs to be done – if that’s raising money or networking to help promote the UA Little Rock brand,” Burks said, as he’s excited to get back to his roots.
Burks, a native of Benton, Arkansas, always envisioned a business career for himself. Although he was raised in a rural household, he was determined to step outside of the box. He was the first of his family to go to college. While attending UA Little Rock, he played Division I baseball, but his attention was focused elsewhere. “UA Little Rock [baseball team] was Division I and Gary Hogan was the coach at the time, but the business classes … I was headed more towards that area,” he explained.
Burks ditched the bat and committed to school full-time. After graduating in the spring of ‘93 with his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in management, his career began at USAble Life. During this time in his life, Burks learned that he had a passion for sales and problem-solving. “I started with them as a benefits enroller. I would go out and meet with business people all over the state and try to sell them insurance products. I was meeting their needs, getting to know the people, and I was responsible for the relationship with the key decision maker of that group,” he said.
He quickly moved his way up the latter with USAble Life. In fact, his last job with them was regional vice president of sales for the western half of the United States. Burks was managing Arkansas as well as six to eight other states. After 20 years with the company, a job opportunity with Arkansas Blue Cross arose in 2014. “Their lead person of sales division was retiring and as a result, they asked me would I be interested in coming over. [...] Now I manage their group sales teams and the broker distribution channel,” Burks said.
Over the years, Burks has learned the ins and outs of the business world. He explained, “I think any time you come into a business environment that you’re not really prepared for you learn by success and you learn by failure.” But nonetheless, Burks has been able to accommodate to any situation. “The thing you always want to do is not repeat the same mistakes. I quickly found out I could go up and down the ladder and connect with anybody from the highest of positions to the lowest,” he said.
As the world advances, Burks explained the importance of keeping up with the changing environment in business. “We’re not just going to see competition from our traditional competitors, we’re going to see new and innovative competitors come into the market. That’s why I think we have to have young blood coming into the company with different ideas and ways of doing things to keep us relevant,” he said.
Despite the challenges of the business world, Burks enjoys what he does. “I love interacting with people and I love to help people solve problems. [...] to me the best part of working for this company is that we help others and we’re involved in the community,” he said.
Now Burks gets to be a part of another community, the UA Little Rock Foundation Fund Board. Senior Director of Development Kristi Smith extended the invitation to him a year ago. “I was definitely interested. I saw some of my friends and customers on the board,” Burks explained. Another reason he was inspired to accept is because of the great things UA Little Rock has to offer. “Looking at what they’re doing, raising money for the kids that might need a scholarship – I was one of those kids years ago and would have loved to have it,” he said.
UA Little Rock Foundation Fund Board members are ambassadors of goodwill to the school and community of Little Rock. They meet four times out of the year to oversee the activities of the foundation fund. They are expected to make an annual contribution, participate in an annual fundraising campaign, and be involved with matters related to public higher education.
Now with more free time on his hands, Burks is ready to take on another commitment. “[UA Little Rock] was a great experience for me and I’m glad I went there. So, to be back once more, this is an opportunity to give back a little,” he said.
Source: UA Little Rock Communications