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Connections: Learning by Mentoring

Dr. Patrick Burtch ’ explains how mentoring fuels his professional work and furthers his mentees’ studies.

Excerpted from Walden University Site http://www.waldenu.edu/about/newsroom/publications/articles/2013/01-connections.html 2013

Patrick Burtch
Dr. Patrick Burtch.

When Dr. Patrick Burtch ’ mentors students at Walden, everyone involved grows and learns. Passionate about teaching, he believes in sharing the insights he’s gained through 25 years of experience in city management and by earning his PhD in Public Policy and Administration.

Mentoring also gives him an opportunity to expand his own knowledge. “I want to learn on a regular basis; I’m constantly reading journal articles. Mentoring contributes to that process,” he explains.

Burtch, who is an adjunct professor at the University of Phoenix and has also been a guest lecturer at the University of Michigan and the University of Toledo, works full time as the city manager for Jackson, Michigan. He is also conducting a research study, using data from the city (Jackson) and the skills he developed at Walden, to determine whether eliminating dilapidated housing in his community can raise property values.

No matter what he tackles professionally, he continues to make time to mentor students who are working on their dissertations, an experience he recalls vividly. “Mentoring is imperative at this stage,” Burtch says. “I try to be a tough editor without discouraging them. Many students struggle—as I did—with the feeling that they’ll be unable to complete their PhD I tell them that I worked a full-time job and did this, too, so I know it’s possible.”

Burtch relies on email, phone calls, texting, and LinkedIn to communicate with his mentees. He’s become a close friend with one in particular, a police officer named Richard Jackson based in Nashville, whom he met in their first residency. “It’s a long-standing relationship,” he says. “We’ve become best of friends. There’s a lot of that kind of connection. It’s just part of what you do.”

Burtch encourages other alumni to stay in touch with their faculty members and ask them about assisting students. Recently, he became a Walden Alumni Ambassador, which will allow him to share his professional and educational experiences more widely.

So in Pat's own words, he appears to be using Jackson as a test bed for his theory that demolishing abandoned and blighted structures will increase property values. This may be true in Detroit where islands of "normalcy" occupy vast areas of burned, abandoned and collapsed homes where it is near impossible to deliver necessary city services. Taking down a property that no one will buy for $1 is not the same as concocting a program to make rehabilitation beyond the reach of the average working class Jackson resident through inaccurate and inflated rehabilitation cost estimates. As is easy to see, the "increasing property values" charade is not working and the real reason is obvious. Drive out low and moderate income residents by eliminating affordable housing thus enhancing the prospects for development of the downtown core. Those low to moderate income residents occupied rental properties whose upkeep and maintenance kept local businesses afloat as did the commerce resulting from that population.

JACKSON, MI September 9, 2012 - Jackson County Treasurer Karen Coffman was preparing to sell two tax-foreclosed houses on W. Morrell Street to try to recoup unpaid taxes. Then the city of Jackson demolished the decaying houses in the last week of August as part of a city program to stabilize neighborhoods by removing blight.

Coffman is unhappy with the city, saying the demolitions make it difficult for her to sell what is now vacant property.

Burtch and Coffman agree the city needs to demolish the scores of vacant and decaying houses in Jackson to revitalize surrounding neighborhoods. But they differ on whether houses due for tax sales should be removed. "I'm absolutely very supportive of removing blighted structures, and ... we have an overabundance of (housing) inventory," Coffman said. "And the longer these houses sit vacant without bodies or people in them, it contributes to the degradation of not only our property values, but they become targets for arson, for drug activity, for criminal activity. Where I come in conflict is when it's impacting the dollars I'm trying to get back for the delinquent tax revolving fund."

The county has incurred $4,500 in costs associated with the property at 301 W. Morrell St., including the amount of the unpaid taxes, interest and other costs, and $4,100 associated with the one at 303 W. Morrell St., Coffman said. No one bought the properties at an earlier auction. The now-vacant Morrell Street properties are still available at the upcoming auction. The minimum bid on each property is $100.

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