Brook Burkavage, Manager of School Partnerships, Mid-Atlantic

Three-time winner of Catalyst’s annual Tom Cruise lookalike contest, Brook hails from Honesdale, Pennsylvania, a small town that enjoyed a few years of fame, in the first decades of the nineteenth century, for being “the birthplace of the American Railroad.” (Cornelius Vanderbilt was a big fan.) After earning top grades in high school, not to mention starring on the track team and serving as Student Council President, Brook decided to venture a little closer to the city for college, enrolling at West Chester University, a public university about 45 minutes from Philadelphia. (School motto: Ad nos vox odor – “The smell barely reaches us.”) Not one to shy away from public speaking (his classmates voted him “friendliest” and “most talkative” in high school), Brook participated in argument and debate during his four years at West Chester and majored in Communication Studies. (His thesis on the use of emoticons in instant messages is still the stuff of lore in the university’s Communications department.) After earning his degree, Brook plunged right into a career in sales, landing a coveted position with BMW, where he sold luxury vehicles, traveled to Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Austin for training, and whispered “Wait’ll the chicks see it” to wealthy men with receding hairlines. While he occasionally misses his days at BMW (test-driving 400 horsepower convertibles was a nice perk), Brook relishes his position as Catalyst’s Manager of School Partnerships in Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. He works closely with Managing Director Joe Dyer to ensure that families know about the advantages of Catalyst’s on-campus and private tutoring options, and serves as an expert test prep resource for students and college counselors alike. When he’s not discussing admissions strategies or explaining the differences between the SAT and ACT, Brook enjoys spending time with his family, including his three nephews, all of whom are under the age of five and seemingly jet-fueled. To build up stamina for his family visits, Brook competes in half-marathons, does Bikram and power yoga, and explores new neighborhoods and restaurants, though he’s quick to point out he’s by no means “a foodie” (his blog on sea urchin bruschetta with saffron and truffle aioli notwithstanding).

Why He Works for Catalyst

Brook is the first member of his immediate family to graduate college, and he finds it incredibly gratifying to help students (some of them also the first in their families to pursue higher education) gain admission to the school of their choice. He also “really enjoys traveling throughout New Jersey” – and, yes, we made sure he wasn’t being sarcastic before including this line in his bio.

How the Universe Has Punished Him for Being a Freakishly Good Test-Taker

Though he acknowledges there are far worse fates in life, Brook considers his “utter lack of musical ability” to be his greatest frustration. He’d love to be able to sing, play the guitar, start a band in his parents’ garage, anything, but alas, his tone deafness has always kept him from expressing his musical urges. (Sadly, the same cannot be said of Phil in accounting, who just has to serenade us with “Total Eclipse of the Heart” every time our team goes karaoke-ing.)

Favorite 80s Movie / Favorite 80s Nobel Laureate

Planes, Trains & Automobiles / Maurice Allais (Nobel Prize in Economics, 1988)