When you think of a campus celeb, Michelle Burgher is an easy choice for this week’s issue. With two Olympic medals and a title no other staff member holds at IUP, she is a decorated celebrity indeed.
“I am fortunate to say that I have been blessed with a lot of great opportunities. The key is, I have always been prepared and ready to turn those opportunities into what I can say are my accomplishments,” Burgher states.
As a decorated two-time Olympian (and two-time World Championship medalist!), many couldn’t imagine what exactly comes along with this prestigious honor. Burgher shared that she knows exactly what it means to make sacrifices and work for what she wants.
Among all the accomplishments as an athlete, Burgher made it clear that she has a favorite: “I would say my bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, is my biggest accomplishment (athletically).”
This took four years of preparation—demanding self-discipline, dedication and determination—to run the race of her life and walk away with a bronze medal. She had sustained an injury to her foot in a freak accident and had to overcome some nerve damage prior to the event, which made the moment even more significant to her.
When asked how it feels to be the first female Head Coach of a men’s sport at IUP, Burgher goes on to say that “some may say it’s a big deal … but I view it as an opportunity to show that women can coach just as well as men.”
She expressed that she has never seen her gender as an excuse not to strive for what might seem unattainable. It’s not very common to have a woman in the driver’s seat directing a male sport, but she is very proud to be at the wheel.
Not only is she a strong, gifted athlete-turned-coach, but she is also a woman who stands for family. Aside from her status here at IUP, Burgher is a mother to a growing two year old, McKenley- Reign, a wife, sister, aunt and daughter. She juggles everything on a day-to-day basis, but she does it with grace and a smile on her face.
Burgher is very humble and full of faith, working hard to be a good example for those in her life. “During my day-to-day routine, I really don’t think about my role in a male dominated sport. I just see my students as my athletes, and it is my job to prepare them and make them the best at what they do.”
While she is a great role model for women trying to succeed in a man’s area, it is her nonchalance about that role that is, perhaps, the most respect worthy attribute. She does not openly complain about her situation.
She does not make excuses. She is simply a strong woman that happens to work and succeed in a ‘man’s’ sport.