Head of the McWhorter School of Building Science
College of Architecture, Design and Construction
Richard Burt grew up in the small town of Princes Risborough located 40 miles northwest of London, United Kingdom. Growing up in a working class area, he left school at 16, went to work and achieved all his undergraduate qualifications by part-time study. After qualifying as a chartered building surveyor in England, he started teaching at a local college. In 1992, the opportunity came for him to pursue a graduate degree in construction management at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. During his first semester at Texas A&M he met his wife Coleena in the College of Architecture's computer lab. They have been married 19 years and have six-year-old twin girls, Cordelia and Elizabeth. After a short period in England, Burt returned to Texas A&M to complete his Ph.D. He was subsequently hired as an assistant professor in 2000 and became assistant department head in 2007. In 2008, Burt joined Auburn's College of Architecture, Design and Construction as the head of the McWhorter School of Building Science and recently served on the ePortfolio Development Committee. Last year, he had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take his family to the London Olympics in his home city. Burt admits that he has to maintain a high level of fitness to keep up with his girls, so he runs and cycles regularly. Like all Englishman he is a keen follower of English football (soccer) and claims to be the only West Ham United fan in the state. He also is a huge music fan, and his vinyl record collection has accompanied him on his travels.
1. What brought you to Auburn?
I got a call from the university to apply for the school head position in 2008 and soon after I brought my family to The Plains. I accepted the position based on the strong national reputation of Auburn and the excellent faculty.
2. What are some of your particular specialties and interests?
My training as a building surveyor in England gave me a unique grounding and interest in historic preservation. Much of my research at Texas A&M was focused on the preservation of military structures, specifically Fort Davis National Historic Site in West Texas and Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, France. The Pointe du Hoc site in Normandy is a German coastal battery that the U.S. Rangers captured on D-Day and our team carried out an extensive historical survey of the site over a four-year period. This interest in construction activities during the second World War has evolved into research and several published papers on how the U.K. authorities repaired bombed houses during the blitz.
3. How did you become interested in the ePortfolio project?
Building science students have not traditionally been the strongest writers. When Auburn introduced the writing initiative, we knew we needed help. Margaret Marshall (director of University Writing) gave us a tremendous amount of assistance in developing our writing plan. When she explained the ePortfolio project, I immediately saw how its application would be beneficial to building science students. Our students obtain a lot of different skills and abilities during their academic careers, both inside and outside the classroom. I don't think they fully appreciate what they have learned when they graduate. Producing an ePortfolio will give them the opportunity to reflect on what they have learned and showcase those skills to their future employers.
4. What was it like to serve on the ePortfolio Development Committee?
It was a great experience. Everyone on the committee was very focused on putting together a plan that would work and would support both students and faculty. We were a great team, and I am proud to have served on it.
5. What's your favorite Auburn tradition?
That's easy. Aubie! The Burt family loves him. The girls have been lucky enough to meet him on several occasions and just adore him. We are so blessed to have the best mascot in sports.