The leadership organizations of both undergraduate and graduate students at The Fu Foundation School of Engineering at Columbia University are pleased to announce today that alumnae Ursula M. Burns, chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation, will be the keynote speaker for Columbia Engineering’s Class Day ceremony, which will be held on May 14, 2012. The Engineering Senior Class Council, representing undergraduates, and the Engineering Graduate Student Council, representing MS, PhD, and professional degree students, jointly selected Ms. Burns as their graduation speaker for 2012.
Burns, who earned her M.S. in mechanical engineering in 1982 from Columbia Engineering, was named chief executive officer of Xerox in 2009 and, shortly after, made the largest acquisition in Xerox history—the $6.4 billion purchase of Affiliated Computer Services, catapulting the company’s presence in the $500 billion business services market and extending its reach into diverse areas of business process and IT outsourcing. In 2010, she became chairman of the company, which has 140,000 people serving clients in more than 160 countries.
“As a Columbia alumna, I’m honored to be part of this important milestone for graduates,” said Burns. “It’s an opportunity for me to reflect on the value my Columbia education has provided to me, and to encourage our graduates to put their hard-earned degrees to good use— becoming agents of change in advancing our society.”
“Ursula Burns is the epitome of the engineer for the 21st
century,” said Feniosky Peña-Mora
, Dean of Columbia’s Fu Foundation School for Engineering and Applied Science. “As the leader of the world’s preeminent company in business process and document management, Ursula has had an extraordinary impact on transforming the industry through technology development and product innovation. She is a great role model for our students and will, I am sure, inspire them to go out and make a difference in the field of their choosing, in a world they will transform.”
When Burns joined Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern, the company was the leader in the global photocopying market. As she later assumed roles in product development and planning, the company was securing its leadership position in digital document technologies. From 1992 through 2000, Burns, at a pivotal point in the company’s history, led several business teams including the company’s color business and office network printing business.
In 2000, Burns was named senior vice president, Corporate Strategic Services, heading up manufacturing and supply chain operations. Alongside then-CEO Anne Mulcahy, Burns worked to restructure Xerox through its turnaround to emerge as a leader in color technology and document services. A key factor in the company’s turnaround was its research and development of new products and technologies, and at the time Burns was responsible for leading Xerox's global research as well as product development, marketing, and delivery. In April 2007, Burns was named president of Xerox, expanding her leadership to also include the company's IT organization, corporate strategy, human resources, corporate marketing and global accounts. At that time, she was also elected a member of the company’s Board of Directors.
In addition to her degree from Columbia, Burns earned her B.S degree in mechanical engineering from Polytechnic Institute of NYU. She serves on the boards of both Xerox and the American Express Corporation. She also provides leadership counsel to community, educational, and non-profit organizations including FIRST(For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), National Academy Foundation, MIT, and the U.S. Olympic Committee, among others. She is a founding board director of Change the Equation, which focuses on improving the U.S.’s education system in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In March 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Burns vice chair of the President’s Export Council.