As part of the Southeastern Conference's celebration of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the conference will spotlight former student-athletes that have gone on to successful careers outside of athletics.
Kate Burson began playing tennis at an early age with thoughts of a professional tennis career. She attended Vanderbilt on a tennis scholarship from 1998-2002, where she graduated magna cum laude and was awarded All-America, Academic All-America and All-SEC honors for her achievements.
When asked how being a collegiate athlete impacted her life after graduation, she said, "I know what it's like to compete on the biggest stage and I know what it takes to get there and stay there. I expect my work to be at the same level, not in terms of my position or the compensation I receive, but in the impact that my work and time can have. Title IX gave me and continues to give countless other women the chance to keep growing in a meaningful way. Thanks to equal treatment and support for my continued athletic development and general growth as a person, I never felt "less than" a man. It was not until I entered the workforce that I first experienced discrimination for my gender. Thankfully, because of my experience on the court, the support of my university for my academics and athletics, and my family, I knew how to rise above it. We all, hopefully, learn how to do this in our own journeys, but I know that I owe mine to the support I received from my schools, family, community, and Title IX."
After graduation, she decided that professional tennis was no longer her path. Instead she decided she wanted to save the world.
Burson has worked at the intersection of business, policy and law to enable change. A lawyer by training, she started as a prosecutor for New York and then moved to advancing two of the nation's largest clean energy and infrastructure organizations -- the State of New York and Tesla.
She led energy policy for New York and co-developed the largest ($5 billion) public institution dedicated to clean energy in the nation. She then joined Tesla and launched their Northeastern energy and infrastructure business.
"Without Title IX there was little chance that I would have gotten to compete in the way that I did," said Burson. "We were funded and supported by our university at what seemed like an equal amount to the men's team. Without Title IX, I doubt women's tennis would have the scholarships to give to the players as more money would likely go to the men's sports that bring in money. That would have meant that many of my teammates and I would not have had the chance to attend Vanderbilt and compete in the toughest conference. We also wouldn't have had the chance to become the first team in our university's history to make it to the NCAA Finals. It was a moment I will never forget."
Kate moved to Italy for her family and is now leading Eldera product development and operations from Milan, Italy. Eldera is the first global intergenerational platform that pairs mentors 60 years and older with kids around the world.