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OCTOBER 2010        RSSPrint PrintEller College on Facebook FacebookPrint Twitter     

Alumni Spotlight
Breaking Down Barriers

Christine Burke with Luis Alberto Urrea
Christine Burke, MBA '80, in her Clues
Unlimited bookstore with acclaimed writer
Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil's

Christine Burke
MBA '80
Owner, Clues Unlimited

By Liz Warren-Pederson

Christine Burke was born in New York and grew up in Florida, but her family relocated to Tucson when she was in high school, and she entered the UA to study philosophy as an undergraduate.

“I then earned my MA in English and started my Ph.D., but universities were really scaling back at that time and the job prospects in academia were not good.” She stepped back and reassessed. “I started looking at the MBA program,” she said. “I was thinking about becoming a stockbroker.”

Her father, a rocket scientist, actively followed the markets when she was growing up, and Burke soaked it in. “I was always good at math,” she said. “And I love logic, which is where my original degree in philosophy came in.”

When she graduated in 1980 with her MBA, there weren’t many women brokers. “Wall Street hasn’t changed much in 30 years, and it’s still a male-dominated industry,” she said. “When I started working on my MBA, we were finally starting to see some women executives. One of my professors actually said that women weren’t good in this field, but women do very well in stocks; we are really good at listening and understanding a client’s goals and meeting them.”

But operating in an old boys’ club had its setbacks. “Once, in a meeting of stockbrokers, I was one of two women,” she said. “One man lost a button on his suit and said, ‘Do one of you lady stockbrokers have a needle and thread?’” Burke responded.I said, ‘Well, that’s really offensive,’ and then I got this reputation as a ‘real ball-busting feminist’.”

Clues Unlimited: A Myster Bookstore, store front
Christine Burke's Clues Unlimited bookstore carries
the full range of mysteries, including mysteries for
children, British imports, and evening culinary
mysteries.Click the image above to visit the Clues
Unlimited website.

Over her career, the world of trading changed considerably. “Stock brokering was impacted substantially by the internet,” she said. “People are discovering that the value added by a stockbroker isn’t enough to make up for the savings in trading online yourself.”

In 1996, she purchased the independent mystery bookstore Clues Unlimited with two other women, imagining a semi-retirement. “I thought it would be a lot of fun,” she said, “and I started working full-time in 1998.”

The publishing industry has changed significantly since then. “I realized at the time that the one way to have an independent bookstore is to have a specialty,” she explained. “We were going head to head with Border’s and Barnes and Noble, so we offered value-added customer service in this specific genre. Now Border’s and Barnes and Noble are not our competitors, it’s Costco and e-books. Costco is able to sell new books directly to customers at the same discount I’m getting from the publishers. And with e-books, there’s no risk involved for the consumer; if you’re only going to pay $2.99 for a download, you’re willing to take a chance on a book.”

Acevedo-Medina noted that three independent bookstores in Tucson — Mostly Books, Antigone Books, and Clues Unlimited — are owned by women.

“Women in the workplace are still not making as much as men,” she said. “Before I looked at the MBA, I considered veterinary medicine, and that’s a profession where as more women went into it, the value of the profession dropped. We’ve got a long way to go.”

The Eller College of Management offers four dynamic MBA options: Full-Time (including Dual Degree option), Evening, Executive, and Accelerated.

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