Ursula M. Burns, born on September 20th 1958 grew up in the projects of Manhattan where she was raised by her single mother and her two siblings. Her father, having no contact or help in her childhood growth, had no bearing on her success as she quickly made a name for herself in her childhood education. Although Ursula’s mother was raising three young children, she quickly made a living to send her daughter to a private school giving her the best education possible in the projects.
Ursula has always lived by the humble and strong quote that her mother drilled into her head as a young child, “Where you are is not who you are” (Burns, 2003. Para. 1). The quote obviously stuck by Ursula’s side as she pushed through her education. As a High School Graduate Burns was accepted into several Ivy League schools, but ultimately chose the lower profile Brooklyn Polytechnic University. “I came from a different place,” says Burns, “And that different place is positive, not negative. [It] gives me a different way to look at things, a different way to attack a problem” Says Burns (Women Working, 2003. Para. 3). Burns believes that although she came from a though neighborhood and poverty driven life-style, she drove through the issues and problems which eventually led her to the humbling parts of her college years. After being accepted into the Higher Education Opportunity Program, the program director Connie Costa asked Burns to lead a tutoring group, helping other college age students succeed such as she was. After receiving many humbling opportunities such as the HEOP program, Ursula began working on her Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University after receiving her Engineering Degree from the Polytechnic Institution. While working on her Masters program, Burns took an internship at the XEROX Corporation in the year 1980.
What is revealed as Ursula Burns most pin point skill is her ability to stand up for what is right and what is wrong. In her rookie year as an inter with the XEROX Corporation, Burns quickly made it clear that she was afraid of no one, even the Xerox Executives. While attending a meeting in 1980 Burns stood up to speak her mind after XEROX Executive Wayland Hicks made a comment on diversity in the company. [I] basically told him that he was wrong–that the response should have been more disciplinary than an educator response. We got into a little debate in front of the room” Says Burns (Women Working, 2003. Para. 5). Although most Executives would immediatly dismiss an intern for such behavior, Wicks felt that Ursula had spoke her mind confidently, and took in every minute of it.
After starting off with an open mind and confident head, Burns quickly sharpened her skills with the Corporation, starting her career that is still in tact as the present XEROX Corporation President. According to CEO Ann Mulcahy, “She is the ultimate straight-shooter” (Burns) (Power, 2006. Para. 3).