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From Marauder to mentor: Burk leads at Wabash

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Spencer Burk is a natural leader.

At Mt. Vernon High School, he was captain of the football team, a Marauder Mentor and president of the student council.

Now, the 22-year-old spends his time at Wabash College studying psychology and helping others as a resident assistant at Martindale Hall.

Spencer is the head RA at Wabash, and works to facilitate communication between administration and students and help with any social conflicts. He is also are available to help with classes and pretty much anything that an underclassmen might need.

“It’s sort of how much you put yourself out there,” Spencer said. “Just be willing to keep your door open. It’s surprising how many of those guys end up coming back to you.”

As head RA, Spencer leads the other 11 RAs and works closely with the school’s administration. That includes solving the issues between RAs. He also is involved in the WAR (Wabash Acts Responsibly) Council, a club that promotes safe and responsible drinking and social interaction.

“We definitely want to promote having a good time, but a good, safe time. We just raise awareness on the best way to have a good time,” Spencer said.

Spencer has been great at relating to all of his students as an RA, according to Richard Paige, associate director of communications and marketing at Wabash.

On one occasion, Spencer used an Xbox 360 to explain the game of football to an international student. That made enough of an impact that the student broke out of his shell and attended the school’s final home game.

“The interesting thing about Spencer is that everyone, his football teammates, regular students and faculty all recognize him as a leader and mentor. It’s a subtle but meaningful indication that he’s making an impact,” Paige said.

Like many other students, 22-year-old Spencer Burk started his college career not knowing exactly where it might take him.

The 2010 Mt. Vernon graduate eventually chose studying psychology leading into sports psychology. The early psychology classes spoke to him, and he eventually met Chris Carr, a sports and performance psychologist and Wabash graduate who works with athletes from the Big Ten, the Indiana Pacers and more.

Sports have always been a big part of Spencer’s life.

During his senior year of high school, Spencer injured his knee playing football for Mt. Vernon. Up to that point, he had been blessed with a healthy athletic career. When he was injured, it was especially devastating since it occurred right before a match-up with county rival New Palestine.

According to Spencer, it ended up being a relatively minor knee injury. But going through it weighed heavily on him. He had planned on playing football in college and loved the sport.

“I didn’t know what to do without it,” he said. “There are athletes out there who are going through much worse. There has to be somebody to walk them through that.”

The stress he felt in high school during the injury was something he certainly thought about before choosing his major. His next step will be to go to graduate school to obtain his master’s degree in sports psychology backed up by his liberal arts education. He is looking into potentially counseling athletes or finding work in personal training and exercise science, since he knows how helpful someone in that position can be.

He was lucky enough to recover and played football all four years at Wabash College.

Going to a smaller college like Wabash was a bit intimidating for Spencer, although not in the way one might expect.

“I only had four years to build up the reputation that I had 12 years to do in high school,” Spencer said. “By the time I got to my senior year, I had been in Mt. Vernon since age 3.”

He wanted to find a leadership role in college similar to his experiences he had at Mt. Vernon. That’s why he joined the RA program. He was a part of Marauder Mentors at the high school, a collaboration of students that primarily helped with freshman orientation.

Since his early high school days, Spencer has been willing to put himself out there to help others. He said it’s something he wants to continue after graduation and beyond.

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