Sandra López Burke grew up in Brownsville, Texas, but for the past couple of decades she has been steeped in Boston communities, education, and politics — emotionally and professionally. As GBH’s new managing director of community and government relations, López Burke will oversee programming at the GBH Boston Public Library Studio and will be responsible for government relations; manage GBH's Community Advisory Board, which provides valuable feedback to the organization on its programs and activities related to audiences and the community; and manage the Apsell/GBH STEM Scholarship for Boston Public Schools students.
She moved to Boston more than 20 years ago to work as vice president of Mayor Thomas Menino’s Boston 2000, Inc., millennial celebration committee. She’s never looked back.
“I've embraced and loved every part of being in Boston and I love contributing to the city and being part of it in as many ways as I can.”
Building community and connecting diverse communities — especially though education — has been her signature professional priority. After her time with the mayor, where she helped plan cultural, educational and neighborhood initiatives during the millennial celebrations, she joined City Year, Inc. There, she supported the national development office, helped launch their first international affiliate in Johannesburg, South Africa, and ultimately became executive director of City Year Boston, an education nonprofit that partners with schools in under-resourced communities.
She said she hopes to build on GBH’s community engagement efforts, deepening greater diversity among audiences, thought leaders and supporters, while managing strategic partnerships in Boston, the state and the region.
“I’m looking forward to listening and learning about what we have done at the BPL Studio and what we can be doing better. I want to develop a plan with the team, putting the best minds together to see how we can better engage with our partners in Boston and beyond,” she says.
"Sandra is uniquely suited for this role, bringing a depth of knowledge of the community, the education space and extensive relationships across the state,” said Jon Abbott, president and CEO of GBH.
López Burke and her family have long been followers and fans of GBH.
“I remember going to GBH in 2012 for a preview of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE’s Jesse Owens episode. Just seeing how GBH could bring an audience together to see that film and engage in dialogue was insightful and inspiring,” she recalled. “There's so much that people in our communities experience and GBH brings voice to it.”
She also participated in a GBH fundraising telethon with her City Year team and corporate partner.
“It was just such a great way to be part of public media and public education, which have meant so much to me as an individual, a mom and now as a grandmother.”
López Burke has four children and three grandchildren. Her mother still lives in her childhood home, which her father and grandfather built.
“A big part of my upbringing was about always putting God first, loving others, caring about people and being in service to others,” she says.
Her faith has carried her through life, and she has had numerous mentors to help her build skills to succeed and thrive at work. Starting with her first job in the office of San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, “someone was always alongside me to support me and help me learn. That gave me the confidence to see myself taking on new roles and opportunities.”
In 2018, López Burke was named one of Boston's Most Influential People of Color by GK100 Get Konnected! She is a Barr Foundation Fellow alumna and serves on the advisory board of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital – Needham and as a trustee of Dana Hall School.
Learn more about López Burke here.
Check out the GBH Studio at the Boston Public Library here.