Dean interested in chestnuts, jelly and travel

Carmen Burkhalter

When she is not busy leading 19 departments, Carmen Burkhalter, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, is involved in chestnut-related politics and making jelly.

 Here are four interesting facts about Carmen Burkhalter.

1. She spends her summers making homemade jellies.

Burkhalter enjoys making different jellies, including strawberry, blackberry and plum.

However, instead of buying fruit at the supermarket, she looks for orchards that allow local picking.

Burkhalter said freshly picked fruit tastes sweeter than those bought in stores.

She said she prefers to pick fruit on rainy days.

“If it’s raining, (the fruit) is generally soaking up a lot of the water, and it’s a lot plumper,” Burkhalter said. “I’ve been known to be (outside) in a raincoat and a rainhat, just picking fruit.”

She said she makes fruit picking a family activity by bringing her husband and son with her to orchards

“It’s a nice process to get in touch with nature and have a real understanding of where the fruit comes from,” she said.

2. She is politically involved with the American Chestnut Foundation.

Burkhalter said the foundation is striving to bring back the American chestnut trees lost in the 20th century.

“Over about a 50-year period, America lost 4 billion of these trees,” she said. “These trees (were) about 60 percent of the canopy of the Appalachian mountain range.”

       Burkhalter has served as president of Alabama’s chapter for one year.

She said some considered the trees the redwoods of the east coast for their size, and their resistance to water made them suitable for building.

“We need to resurrect the American chestnut tree because not only is it good wood, (but) it’s a great food source for wildlife, (and) it has protein, all vitamins and minerals and fiber in it,” she said.

3. Her two favorite types of music are beach and old country.

Burkhalter said she is unsure why she enjoys these types of music the most, but they put her in a happy mood when she listens to them.

“Most of my friends in my age group are like ’What? Why are you listening to that?’” she said. “It (just) makes me happy.”

She said beach music supposedly originated with African-American artists performing on beaches during times of segregation. It is often associated with early R&B.

“Beach music is never depressing,” she said.

Her favorite beach music artists include Chairmen of the Board, The Drifters and The O’Jays.

As for old country, she said this refers to music around the time of Hank Williams, Sr. and older, with some of her favorites in the genre being Tom T. Hall, Verne Gosdin and Bill Anderson.

4. She is a frequent traveller.

Burkhalter said she has visited over 10 countries, including Switzerland, Italy, Amsterdam, China and Japan, and over 40 U.S. states.

She also lived in Germany for two years while working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Exceptional Family Member program.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot of what I’ve wanted to see in my life,” she said. “There’s not a whole lot that’s on my bucket list anymore.”

Burkhalter said two countries she is interested in visiting in the future are Peru and Moscow.

She said vacationing is not the only fun part of her trips.

“I get as much out of planning a trip for my family as I do out of going on the trip because I love learning everything I possibly can about the culture, location and the activities that are available, and to actually be able to do (all of it) makes it come full circle in the experience,” she said.