RIT student selected for Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence fellowship

Student Spotlight
Janine Burge, fourth-year student in the School of Individualized Study

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Janine Burge

Janine Burge, a fourth-year student in the School of Individualized Study, was recently selected as a 2016-17 Gandhi Institute Service Fellow for the Rochester area. In her spare time, Burge, from Hilton, N.Y., enjoys gardening, caring for cats, and going on adventures with her family.

The Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence is a nonprofit organization that works to collaborate with local organizations, academic institutions, students and committed peacemakers in the following areas: nonviolence education, sustainability and environmental conservation and the promotion of racial justice.

Question: What brought you to RIT?
Answer: I didn’t attend college immediately following high school. I went to school in New Jersey in 1985, and I had a difficult time learning in the traditional ways that high schools were teaching at the time. I went on many adventures in the time in between then and now, and I had both good and bad experiences along the way. I later met my future husband, who works here at RIT, and we had two daughters together. They grew up watching both of us go to work at RIT, but I would go as a student. I do my own homework while they do theirs, and here I am earning my college degree the nontraditional way.

Q: What led to your decision to pursue a degree from the School of Individualized Study?
A: My coach and very good friend, Maggie Everhart-Wegman, has provided a great deal of support for me in every decision that I’ve made while here at RIT. Through a lot of discussion, we both agreed that the nontraditional opportunity to weave a degree program together from several areas of interest would be the perfect fit for me.

Q: What is the Gandhi Institute, and how did you learn about it?
A: We just recently had our welcome dinner, so I am very new to the institute. It was my first time to the house where it’s located out of. The Gandhi Institute is a nonprofit organization that gives students the opportunity to pursue individual projects related to promoting peace. The building that it is in was converted from an old abandoned house into something beautiful. Everything from the things hanging on the walls to the colors in the building were very sensual.

Q: What led to your decision to apply to be a Gandhi Institute Service Fellow?
A: As I’m preparing for graduation, I really want to gain more experience outside of the classroom and get practice working in alternative environments. College has become very habitual for me. It’s a good habit, but habitual nonetheless, so this experience will help to shake things up.

Q: What project will you be taking on over the course of the fellowship?
A: I’m not entirely sure of my project yet, but I have been cooking up some ideas that I am excited about. I am interested in exploring literacy proficiency and its role in reducing violence for children as well as adults. I am also interested in looking into how to better support parents who are interested in learning nonviolence practices, especially if their children are receiving nonviolence training in school. This could help strengthen the family by fostering a connection and fostering a common goal.

Q: In what ways can this experience be applied to your future plans, following your time at RIT?
A: For me, this project is a catalyst to future ones. I hope that this experience will lead to others like it that I can learn from along the way. I am always working to establish better self-caring and self-supporting habitudes that have been etched out from my attendance at RIT.

Lauren Peace compiles “Student Spotlight” for University News. Contact her at lmp1579@g.rit.edu with suggestions.