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Spotlight! Marina Burka (Leadership Institute Edition)

Name: Marina Burka

Preferred Pronouns: she/her

Job title: Program Manager, Immigrant Justice Partnerships

Organization: The Resurrection Project (TRP)

Time in current role: It will be 2 years in June!

College/School: Penn State University for undergrad; University of Glasgow, Scotland for graduate school

Area of study/expertise: I studied Human Geography for both my undergraduate and master’s degrees, which is a lesser known but very exciting field of study that allowed me to explore big questions about human socio-cultural systems and relationships at local, regional and global scales. I focused my graduate studies on global migration with an emphasis on immigration enforcement systems, and have since been working in the immigrant and refugee rights space. In my work, I’ve specialized in US immigration law, particularly focusing on asylum, human trafficking, and humanitarian protection systems.

What do you like most about working in the nonprofit sector?

As the daughter of an immigrant, I derive a lot of meaning and purpose from working in the immigrant and refugee rights space. Working in the nonprofit sector more broadly, I love that so much of what you do is bigger than yourself. Some of the best moments are when you witness the impact of your work on people’s daily lives, either through direct service or systemic change. What I love most about working in this space is that I get to put my values into action every day.

What drew you to the Leadership Institute?

After more than seven years of working in the immigrant and refugee rights space, I wanted to dedicate the time to reflecting on the various experiences I’ve had so far and carve out the space to think more intentionally about the directions I hope to pursue moving forward. The Leadership Institute emphasizes self-reflection, and I was drawn to learning and growing in community with other people at a similar inflection point in their careers.

What are your hopes for our industry?

My biggest hope for the nonprofit sector is that we remain grounded in the pursuit of systemic change, committed to improving the conditions which lead to so many of the issues that our organizations focus on, rather than slipping into practices that reinforce and uphold systemic inequalities. In terms of the immigrant and refugee rights space, I hope for policy and cultural shifts that center the dignity and human rights of those forced to flee their homes in search of safety or economic survival for themselves and their families.

What advice would you give to people joining the nonprofit sector?

Find your why. It will help you get through the tough days and keep you going for the long haul. At the same time, invest in things outside of work that bring you joy – something creative, something where you get to move your body, anything! We show up better when we take care of our whole selves.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m currently a few weeks away from finishing a 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training program. I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation since college, and have always wanted to teach and share its benefits with others. One of my hopes upon finishing this program is to follow in the footsteps of others who are making yoga more accessible and inclusive by offering classes and workshops in community-based organizations and other spaces outside of your traditional yoga studio.

You’re happiest when...

I’m spending time outside in nature. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and even though my mom had to work multiple jobs when my siblings and I were kids, she made a point of taking us on hikes to one of the many nearby trails nearly every week. Connecting with natural spaces helps me feel grounded, whole, and inspired, and there are so many places in Chicago where we can do this, too – some of my favorites are Garfield Park Conservatory, the Montrose Beach Bird Sanctuary, and the River Park.

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