New professor brings life wisdom to business program

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LaToya Burrell joins developing business team adding law experience to the college

Latoya Burrell
Photo provided by Marketing.

“Who would have thought I’d end up here?” laughed Professor LaToya Burrell as she leaned an elbow on her well-organized desk. On a shelf along the wall, multiple frames are filled with the face of a smiling child, Burrell’s son, Grayson. “He’s an absolute joy,” she said with a smile.

Burrell, who is in her thirties, is the new lead professor for business administration, the longest running program within the school of business.

Burrell graduated from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana with an undergraduate degree in business administration. She earned her law degree from Southern University Law Center, a law school located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. With her law degree, Burrell is licensed in both Louisiana and Minnesota.

Burrell has been involved in numerous academic organizations. While in college, she participated in Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) and was involved in the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society, and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. In law school, she was involved in multiple organizations including the Moot Court Board, The Journal of Race, Gender, and Poverty, and the American Inns of Court as a Pupil. Burrell believes her experiences within these organizations shaped her law skills dramatically and have prepared her for the teaching experience she has enjoyed for the last eight years.

Her discovery of North Central is a story Burrell often finds herself telling. She has even given it a headline, entitling it “the wrong turn, turn right.”

After moving to Minneapolis two years ago because of a job opportunity for her husband, Gregory, the Burrell family found an apartment in downtown Minneapolis, strategically locating themselves to avoid long commutes. One day on the way home from Roseville, Burrell’s husband made a wrong turn; meaning to take 11th Street, Burrell’s husband accidentally took 11th Avenue.

“We passed in front of North Central, and I turned to my husband and said, ‘Did you know there’s a university right here?’” Burrell said. He had never heard of it, and they continued navigating their way home. That night, she went to her computer, looked up North Central, and saw not only a posting for a business professor, but more specifically for a business law professor.

“Very few times in my life have I made a big leap without praying about it,” Burrell said, “but I didn’t. I just applied. I really felt that it wasn’t by chance that I drove right past the school.”

Living within walking distance of the school, Burrell had even played tennis on the old tennis courts, but hadn’t noticed North Central. Regardless, she embraces the timing of events, as it is a very exciting time for the school of business. “There is already great leadership established,” Burrell said. “I feel that a solid business administration program is already here.”   

While finding identity in a new community can often times be difficult, Burrell describes her introduction to North Central as more of a homecoming. “Here, there is such a sense of family, a sense of sincerity. This is the first time in my life I’ve had a job where I know it’s okay to pray for my students. I don’t have to figure out how to approach them with my faith so I don’t offend them,” Burrell stated.

Having practiced law for the last six years, Burrell brings a unique new perspective to the business faculty. She hopes to not only strengthen the business administration program, but also bolster the pre-law program and establish a network for students interested in law.

Burrell is still affiliated with her previous law firm, Neblett, Beard & Arsenault, located in Louisiana, as she believes it is important to stay fresh with issues within her field. “I plan to keep my licenses active and continue to learn about my profession. My job is to teach students to think. I want to stay fresh so my students know I’m constantly learning,” Burrell said.

Burrell also takes delight in coaching and mentoring others. “I find it is beneficial to give of myself and not to be all about myself. It’s important to be a light to others in whatever capacity that may be,” Burrell said. She also considers it important to allow others to speak into her life in mentorship capacities. She hopes to use her new position of influence at North Central to speak into the lives of potential-filled students.

“If someone has a desire to spend time with me and do life together, I’m more than willing to do that. We can talk about all aspects of life. I’m thankful for people who have taken time to do that for me,” Burrell said.

Coming from a traditional Southern Baptist background, Burrell now embraces non-traditional ways of doing church. Along with her husband and son, Grayson, the Burrell family attends Corner Church, located in Minneapolis where services are centered on dialogue and community.

Above all, Burrell is grateful for the opportunities God has continually placed in her life. “I started writing all my favorite quotes and verses down and put them on my wall,” Burrell said. One prominent verse that has been significant in her life is Psalm 46:10, which says, “Be still and know I am God.” Burrell applies this verse to everything from her work to her parenting. “It reminds to take time to be still before the Lord,” Burrell said. “It’s a reminder we all need.”