Lehman Professor Receives Top Brazilian Press Award

Photo of Mila Burns, Assistant Professor in the Department of Latin American and Latino Studies at Lehman College

Notable accomplishments outside of the classroom are part of the norm for many Lehman College faculty members. Being recognized with a major award for those endeavors is an entirely different type of triumph.

Mila Burns, who is a veteran broadcast journalist as well as an assistant professor in Lehman’s Department of Latin American and Latino Studies, can attest to this fact, being the first individual ever to receive the Golden Press Award from ABI Inter/Brazilian International Press Association and Focus Brasil Foundation.

Mila Burns received the Golden Press Award on June 11 at the annual Brazilian Press Awards ceremony held in Boston. In the prior 22 years, the award has been given only to media outlets with more than two decades of activity in the U.S.

"I have received a number of honors and awards over the years, but this one is different because it was in recognition of my 20 years as a journalist," said Burns. "The last few years have felt like a lifetime because I have been so busy, but I am very grateful to have been doing this work for so long."

When she joined the Lehman faculty two years ago, she was in the midst of an active career as a news journalist. Before reporting on the 2009 U.S. presidential inauguration for Brazilian network TV Globo International, Burns had spent 10 years covering Brazil’s turbulent political scene and immigration for the network. The following year she embarked on a year-long journey in a recreational vehicle across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada interviewing Brazilian immigrants about their experiences.

The popular appeal of her televised reports on immigrant life led to the creation of "Globo Notícias Américas," a Brazilian news show that includes news, interviews, and features on events and services of interest to the Latino community in the U.S.

Burns still hosts the show every Saturday night from a television studio in TriBeCa. Soon after returning from the awards ceremony, in fact, Burns was filming a segment for the program at the Botanical Garden, where an exhibition is dedicated to the work of Brazilian landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx.

"The recognition of Mila Burns with the Golden Press Award is a natural consequence of her hard work, commitment and dedication," said Carlos Borges, founder and CEO of the Focus Brasil Foundation. "Mila’s professional and personal attitude towards the Brazilian community in the U.S. is a shining example that we can get our job done at the highest level, without ever forgetting the human and social aspects of the immigrant’s life. She is a true hero for the Brazilian community in the U.S."

Burns first worked at TV Globo Brasil as an intern while studying for her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, where she later received a master’s in social anthropology. Once in the U.S., Burns earned a master’s in Latin American Studies at Columbia University before receiving a doctorate in history from The Graduate Center, CUNY in 2017.

Along with her work as a broadcast journalist, Burns has written articles for a number of Brazilian magazines. In December, her book-length study of samba singer Dona Ivone Lara’s album “Sorriso Negro (Black Smile)” will be published.

At Lehman, Burns teaches history classes on Latin America, as well as courses on Latinas and the Latino media.

"Teaching at Lehman College is a dream job for me," said Burns. "I am an advocate for public education, and with so many Latinos and Brazilians on campus, it feels like home. There are deep connections between my work as an educator and my journalism. The time I spend in office hours with my students is totally energizing."