By Miranda Koewler
I met with third-year Zach Burton to discuss his experiences at Ohio State and his incredibly bright future. The Arkansas native has plenty to share with the world, and I think you’ll find his story as inspiring as I do.
Miranda: What are you studying and why?
Zach: Journalism and public affairs with a focus on nonprofit management. I was very shy and quiet until the sixth grade. My teacher pushed me into participating in a broadcasting competition, and I ended up winning!
This is when I started coming out of my shell to pursue journalism. I like public affairs for the business aspect. Also in the future I want to start a nonprofit, so I like the hands-on experiences in business that allow me to learn more about the nonprofit world.
I am also a music performance minor. I have played piano by ear since I was three, so I wanted to hold onto that. I play for my gospel choir and a church downtown.
Tell me about some things you’re involved in on campus and in the community.
Last year I joined Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. I have been incredibly influenced by the older brothers helping to guide me through college. They’re passionate about the community and always willing to do service. I love being able to share this honor with my dad, who is also a member.
In addition, I have the privilege of playing piano for the African American Voices Gospel Choir. This group allows me to celebrate my faith away from home, and the director has become a mentor in my life. I’m excited to say that I’ll be taking over as president in the fall.
Lastly, I was one of 25 participants in the Buckeye Leadership Fellows Program last year. This program gave me rigorous professional development training through real world situations. We were challenged to improve something within our corporate pairing. I was able to network with alumni, create a proposal for a real solution and learn so much along the way.
What are three words to describe you?
First, ambitious. I have a problem saying no, but with everything I do, I give 100 percent. I believe if you wanna go for it, then go for it. If it doesn’t work out, then you learned something. Next, level-headed. I’m very involved, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I use these times of stress to learn and connect with peers and mentors. It gives me a chance to grow. Thirdly, positive. I always have a smile on my face, and it takes a lot to bring me down. I try to be the bright influence that motivates others.
You mentioned sports being a big part of your life. What sports did you play growing up?
I’ve done almost everything through the years: football, baseball, basketball, running track. Sports gave me the opportunity to focus on bettering myself. My favorite sport to play is probably basketball because I’ve played since the eighth grade. I still play a game here or there, and I’m also on an intramural flag football team.
What is the most important thing you have taken away from playing sports?
How to overcome adversity. During college recruitment season, I suffered an injury and was unable to sign with anyone. I kept my “next play” mentality by looking to the future and focusing on the education I’d been working so hard towards. My family always encouraged me to do well in school, so I try to influence kids to prioritize their education too.
How do you see this influence in your work at Ohio State?
I keep that “next play” mentality with everything. I discovered that studying business wasn’t for me, but I wasn’t giving up. You have to move on if you believe something is not a good fit for you or if you feel uncomfortable. I signed up for everything that interested me at the Student Involvement Fair to find new opportunities. It’s important to find balance with what you do and what you love. I have been able to relate my major to sports and hone in on my passions.
Where do you see sports fitting into your future?
In a perfect world, I would be a sports anchor or reporter so that I could use my personality. I have been a sideline reporter for Scarlet and Gray Sports Radio and an ESPN intern when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the Championship. Currently, I’m a digital media intern with the Columbus Crew. All of these opportunities have taught me so much about the industry and have shown me that this is where I want to be some day.
You also mentioned creating a non-profit someday. Can you tell me more about this?
There are not many nonprofits where I’m from. I’ve seen various startups in Columbus that have been created for a specific mission. I moved from a lower class area to a suburb and was granted opportunities that many students didn’t have. I’ve researched the lack of opportunities at home, and I want to help my community receive the food and nutrition they need, have equal opportunities for education and discover how sports can benefit students. I won’t let them lose hope in academics. Very few teachers create personal connections, so I see the possibility of creating mentorship programs so that these students have a role model to help them through everything.
What brought you to Ohio State?
I am from a classic small town called Springdale, Arkansas. My Grandma lived right down the street, and everyone knew each other. Basically, the whole city is in your business. But Springdale was a better area in Arkansas. When my dad moved there, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It gave me so many more opportunities, including giving me more ambition and the ability to connect with the right people.
When I was visiting my aunt and uncle in Cincinnati, they brought me on a college visit here at Ohio State. I fell in love instantly. I had always felt like a city boy in a country state, so this huge school had everything I wanted. The Morrill Scholars Program gave me the exact opportunity I needed to get here.
What advice would you like to pass on to your fellow Buckeyes?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Ohio State offers plenty of new things, but make sure to keep track of who you are in the process. You only have a few years to explore, so find yourself, discover new interests and change your mind if you want to. Ohio State is its own world within a great city to explore and endless people to learn from. Live it up while you can.