Alumni Spotlight: Cathy Jo Burks

Cathy Jo Burks, '08 grad in RTF pictured with muppet, Ed Said.Graduation Year: 2008

Degree/Major: B.A. in Radio and Television Production (now called media production)

Current Employer: Mississippi Public Broadcasting

Current Title: TV Producer/Director

Current Home: Jackson, MS

What are some of your career highlights/accomplishments/achievements?  I am the creator/producer/song writer for Ed Said. Ed Said is an internet project I developed at Mississippi Public Broadcasting based around a curriculum for K-2nd graders about eating healthy. You can learn more about the Ed Said internet project at http://www.edsaid.org/.

What other jobs did you hold before your current position? I love working with animals and worked in the veterinary world doing every job possible from an office manager to veterinary technician to put myself through school.

Why did you choose Southern Miss? I was attending school and living in New Orleans, LA when Hurricane Katrina hit forcing me to evacuate to Hattiesburg.  After the hurricane, I had to wait 2 months before I was allowed back in my neighborhood to even know what I had left. So, I decided to make the most of my time and stay to finish school.

What was your favorite/most useful class while at USM? There are many mass communication classes that I enjoyed, but it was the opportunity to work on Southern Miss Magazine (now Hub City TV), our television news magazine with Dennis Webster that put me ahead in the job market.  I can honestly say it’s because of that class I gained confidence and experience in television that helped me get my job at MPB.

Did you complete an internship/practicum while at Southern Miss? If so, tell us about your experience. The first semester of my senior year is when Southern Miss Magazine, a television news magazine got started. That semester I was a tape operator during our live tapings, and I would assist Pat Fries, the director at the time, with editing and step in any other roles vacant during pre and post production.  Dennis Webster noticed my drive and dedication to the show and that next semester he offered me the director’s position after Pat had graduated.

What advice do you have for students going into your field? Get experience! My work on the television show at USM is what made me stand out when applying for my current position. Out of around 60 applicants, I was one of only two that had directing experience.

Who are your role models? I'm inspired by a lot of people, but the amazing filmmaker John Hughes, stands out the most.

Tell us about your family. My family lives in Arkansas.  My niece, Savannah is 8, and my nephew, Samuel is 5.  Samuel is the biggest Ed Said fan alive!  It was so awesome and rewarding to see him really take to Ed and sing-a-long to all the songs.

Other thoughts/comments/advice high points in your life you’d like to include? I'm a huge music fan so a high point for me in the development of Ed Said was writing songs for the program. I had never written a song before, but I worked with my music partner Taiwo Gaynor and what we came up with went beyond my every expectation! That experience was, by far, my favorite part of working on the project.