Introducing Amber Burke, the Arboretum’s New Director of Development

February 27, 2018

The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and Botanic Garden welcomes Amber Burke as the new Director of Development. While earning a B. S. degree in Hospitality and Event Management at San Jose State University, Burke explored eco-sustainability in tourism, and, within that research, rediscovered the uniqueness and history of the Santa Cruz and Monterey areas. After earning a certification in grant writing in 2016, she started her career at UC as a Proposal Analyst at the Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP), which oversees contracts and grants for UCSC. Continually pursuing knowledge and new experiences, Burke is currently working on becoming a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and is a member of several professional organizations, such as the Association of Fund Raising Professionals (AFP).

While at OSP, she was often drawn to the Arboretum and recalls one day being impressed by the words of a visitor she met in the Australian garden; he much prefers these gardens over a “regular” park because here he sees the symbiotic relationship of humans and plants in creating a place of beauty and serenity. What directly encouraged Burke to apply for the Arboretum position was assisting Executive Director Martin Quigley and a California Naturalist Program (CNP) student find funding for a project designed to engage children with nature. She enjoyed the collaborative spirit, and the idea brought to mind her own childhood passion for focusing on and identifying plants during hikes and camping trips while growing up near Seattle, Washington.

In her new job, Burke sees opportunities to work on “a little bit of everything,” and she values the high level of collaboration and abundant creativity the Arboretum embodies—“ideas are floating everywhere.” The Director of Development position has three general responsibilities: develop community and donor relationships; manage the membership program and processes; and manage communications, which includes oversight of the Arboretum website, email, social media platforms, and the Bulletin newsletter. Burke describes her leadership style as attentive to new ideas, collaborative, and providing opportunities for others to shine. During her first year, she plans to focus on four priorities:

1) Setting a strategic foundation and development direction with specific goals, including increasing donations by 15 percent;

2) Publishing and broadcasting cases for support highlighting the unique and culturally distinctive ways the Arboretum and Botanic Garden makes a difference in the local and scientific community;

3) Reviewing and reshaping information technology systems related to our visitors’ engagement and experience;

4) Enhancing the membership experience through exclusive events and special opportunities.

Amber Burke can be reached at or (831) 502-2303. Her office is located in Administrative Offices Building II.