Jamie Burke '14G has spent the last seven years at UNH working toward her Ph.D. in education. She’s hit a few bumps along the way, like when her research didn’t cooperate, and when she had a setback in her data collection. But Burke is nothing if not determined.
Sounds like one of those trite things people always say about someone faced with an arduous task, right? Well, consider this: Three times now Burke’s studies have been interrupted for months while she trained to compete with the U.S. women’s rugby team. If you’ve ever seen a match, you know the kind of grit, strength and resilience the game requires. It’s a tough sport. Burke is a prop, one of the players at the front of the pack that locks heads while trying to get the ball.
In August, Burke was in Paris with the team, playing in her third World Cup tournament. Her first was in Edmonton, Alberta, in 2006, just when she was due to start at UNH. Next came London, 2010, where she was one of the team captains.
The 33-year-old Burke first started playing rugby in 1998 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., earning All-American honors in 2000 through 2003. In 2003, she won the prestigious Woodley Award, given to the top collegiate player in the country. She joined the USA national team in 2004, and in 2010 won the Thomas V. Moser, M.D. Memorial Scholarship, bestowed on outstanding rugby players who are pursuing educational goals.
The August tournament marked yet another career highlight: Burke earned her 50th cap—given to mark international competition—becoming the first female rugby player in the United States to do so. She was already the most capped woman in the history of U.S. rugby, having passed the previous record holder in summer 2013.
In December, she will reach another milestone when she receives her doctorate. Her focus then will be off nearly half a lifetime spent playing rugby and on to furthering her career.
“At this point in my life, I have played rugby for as long as I haven't—17 years. So I could never just cut it out, but my body has taken a beating and I am ready to hang up the cleats, so to speak,” Burke says.
Originally published by:
UNH Magazine, Fall 2014 Issue
Photo by KLC Fotos