Student Stories: Kelly Burlage

Kelly Burlage


Major: Business/Associate in Arts

Although Kelly Burlage was certain of what she didn’t want to do with her life, she was less clear about what she should do.

She also wasn’t in a financial position to go away to college right after high school, so she chose College of DuPage.

“I thought that getting a degree in business or a more general degree would give me better options as I tried to understand my strengths and where they could be best used,” she said. “I felt that it was in my best interest to get my general electives completed to avoid an even larger loan payment for attending a four-year school. I could take the same classes at COD while working full time and saving money.”

The experience proved to be invaluable. Burlage experimented with classes and spoke with other students to see what they were doing with the skills they acquired through general education courses.

“COD provided great value, clarity and a better appreciation for going away to school as well as the commitment needed to excel. It also gave me the appreciation for what a four-year degree meant and the options that it provided to give you greater choices in life,” she said.  

While enjoying her job at a bank, she had an experience that impacted her decision to transfer.

“I will never forget when a customer came in who was very angry about not being able to cash a check due to his account being overdrawn. He screamed at me,” she said. “I remember standing there thinking that I was somewhat stuck. I liked my job but was not aware of what other career options were available to me. The very next day, I went to COD and met with a counselor, and they helped me complete all of my admissions to four-year schools. I decided that at least with a four-year degree I would have more options to avoid feeling the way that I felt the day the customer screamed at me.”

After earning her Associate in Arts degree, Burlage transferred to Illinois State University and completed her bachelor’s degree. While there, she secured two internships and held a part-time job to help pay for tuition.

Burlage then spent nearly 10 years at The Advanced Group of Companies working in staffing and recruiting. The experience and training she gained set her up for success at ADP, where she worked for six years overseeing the recruiting and hiring for two large global pharmaceutical companies. She continued in HR with a focus on talent acquisition, design and workforce management, working in a variety of industries such as pharmaceuticals, health care and tech start-ups.

COD provided great value, clarity and a better appreciation for going away to school as well as the commitment needed to excel.

Kelly Burlage

Moving to Livingston International, she worked as senior director of Global Human Resources and Talent Acquisition and was promoted to vice president of Global Talent Acquisition and HR Operations before landing her current position as vice president of Global Talent Acquisition at Lineage Logistics. She previously ran a nonprofit called DisruptHR Chicago, which continues to create events that provide information exchanges designed to energize, inform and empower people in the HR field, and she works as a mentor for the STAR program, which provides mentorship within talent acquisition. Most recently, she became an advisory board member for Hire Wells, a tech start-up company the provides end to sourcing as a conversational platform that lives in Microsoft Teams and Slack.

“I love the talent acquisition space. It is ever-changing, fun and I see a lot of change with the insertion of new technology that will be, in some cases, game changers for how we go about finding great talent,” she said. “Ultimately, I would like to gain more depth in the overall human resources experience while continuing to fine-tune the talent acquisition experience I have gained throughout my career.

“I also have a desire to identify a solution for students who are searching for a career path. So many high school graduates go on to college with no true understanding of what type of jobs are out there and how those complement their skills. Identifying opportunities to bridge that gap for students is a true passion of mine.” 

Her advice to students considering COD is to research what the College has to offer and how to make the most of it.

“Get involved, talk to students and faculty about the benefits of attending COD, and make your decision based on what works for you in your life,” she said. “Graduating with two years of loans versus four years of loans was something that I sincerely appreciate to this day. College of DuPage is a fantastic school filled with rich opportunities that are there for you to explore. I recently had someone share this quote with me from Chris Grosse: ‘Opportunities don't happen, you create them.’ I am firm believer that having an education provides more choices, which allows you to be exposed to opportunities you may not have even known existed. It is then your choice what you do with them.”