Jackie Burgo '05

Jackie Burgo

Jackie Burgo '05

Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts
Major: Art History, with a minor in Government and Legal Studies

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
I remember my college guidance counselor gave me a list of schools that she thought would be good for me, and Bowdoin was on the list. I said, "Oh, I've never heard of Bowdoin, where is it?" And she said, "Oh, it's in Maine." And I said, "Maine! No way!" All the schools I was looking at were big city schools and that's what I really thought I wanted. But after assessing the importance of different things about schools such as class size and course curriculum, I just realized that Bowdoin would be a much better fit.

I also heard about Bowdoin through the Posse Program - I'm a Posse Scholar. Once you apply to the Posse Program, [the organization] gives you a selection of schools [to choose from] and Bowdoin was my top choice of the schools that were listed. After coming here [to visit] I realized that even if I didn't get the scholarship, I would apply regardless because I really liked the school and everything it had to offer.

The Posse program started about five years ago in New York City. It's a program to get leaders from different communities into colleges that are usually underrepresented by people from different communities - ethnic or religious or whatever group. Once you find out about the Posse Program, there's a whole nomination process and hundreds of people apply. It's this entire process and you're involved in it for five years. It's the four years you're in college and then the year before you actually start [college, too].

I'm part of the second Bowdoin College Posse. We train for eight months before we actually get to Bowdoin, so we develop into a tight-knit group, and there are ten people in each Posse. You come to campus with training and leadership in terms of community outreach and race relations and gender relations and all these different [issues] that are important to talk about on campus but that maybe people aren't as apt to talk about.

It's pretty intense, but it's a really good program. I have really good friends from it, and have been able to connect with Bowdoin on a lot of different levels because of it.

How did you decide on your major?
Well, I came into Bowdoin and I was completely set on majoring in government. I said, "Government is my thing, I want to go into political science, I want to be an ambassador!"

And then my sophomore year, first semester, I decided to take an art history course, just to kind of get a sense of what art was like, to have a general understanding of what was going on in the art world, so that one day, when I was at an embassy somewhere, I could look at a piece of work and say, "You know, that's De La Croix!"

So I took the class [with Professor Linda Docherty] and I absolutely loved it. It was Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30 in the morning, and I was always there on time and I always stayed after. I loved analyzing works of art and talking about their social and cultural contexts, and I loved doing independent research. I just realized that it was something I really enjoyed. So then I decided to be an art history minor. And then the next semester, I took another another art history course with Linda Docherty again, and the experiences just kept getting better and better. Finally I said, "Let me not fool myself, this is the path that I need to take."

The summer before junior year, I got the Mellon Fellowship and I did independent research in art history. I studied Henry Tanner's "The Banjo Lesson," and Linda Docherty was my faculty advisor, and I just really, really loved the experience. So junior year, I decided to declare an art history major and move government down to a minor. I realized how much I enjoyed the classes, how much Professor Docherty was such an influence on me really enjoying the field in general. She's just such a great professor.

The Mellon Fellowship works with the Carnegie Mellon Foundation. Every year they award five sophomores [at each college] fellowships to do independent research in whatever humanities or social sciences field that they're interested in. You work throughout the summer, on campus, with a faculty advisor [to] develop a project and a thesis, and you spend all summer researching it. Then, you put together a colloquium presentation at the end of the summer in front of an audience that includes President [Barry] Mills, different scholars and professors who are on campus, and friends and family that you invite. You're also given a stipend, so you're being paid for this great experience.

You're a Mellon Fellow throughout your entire life. Your junior year, you're encouraged to travel abroad for the summer, and [the Foundation] pays for you to go abroad and do original research. For example, I wanted to do research in Portugal and the Cape Verde Islands on colonial architecture and [the Foundation was] completely ready to fund that.

This year I've already gone to an African-American art conference at Harvard University and the Foundation supported that, and in February I'll be in Atlanta for the College Art Association Conference, and Mellon is going to pay for all of that, as well. It's just such a great experience to do something that you're really interested in and have it fully supported. It's a wonderful opportunity.

What has been your favorite class at Bowdoin?
I'd say my favorite class has been a senior seminar I took last semester. It was with Professor Linda Docherty, of course! It was called "Art, Religion, and American Culture," and we examined representations of religion, and the controversy that religion plays in American culture through so many different artists, whether it was Mark Rothko doing something as simple as gradations of color on a canvas or an African-American artist painting a scene in a Baptist church. The people in the class were great. I was one of two juniors in the class. We became a very tight-knit community and became really close as friends. We even went on a field trip to a Shaker Village in Maine and to talk to [the community] about Shaker culture and Shaker architecture and religion and how those all work together.

I've also taken Italian classes with Professor Anna Rein in the [Romance languages] department, and I just love her classes. I did an independent study with her, and we read Italian literature and poems.

What extracurrculars do you participate in?
Well, I feel like I've done a lot because I feel like I'm always busy! I'm the co-founder and have also been the events coordinator of the Bowdoin Caribbean Students Alliance - that started my sophomore year here. My roommate and best friend, Andria Ramkissoon ['05], and I were talking about starting this club - she really wanted to have a club on campus that represented her culture. There's a large representation of people from the Caribbean at Bowdoin, so she wanted them to have a source of reaching out to the Bowdoin community on a cultural level. So I tried to help her plan that out as much as possible in terms of funding and writing out the charter to make it a club. There were a number of other people involved as well. I'm not from the Caribbean at all, so I was starting a club that was completely different from where I'm originally from. But it was fun nonetheless because it was a culture that was represented at Bowdoin, but maybe underrepresented, and I got to help bring it to the forefront of the Bowdoin community.

Last year I became involved with the Oral Communications Project, a new project that started with the academic affairs office. This year we're working with first-year seminars to prepare students with the skills of effective public speaking and oral communications. That's something that Bowdoin used to have - a rhetoric program. Everyone had to know how to argue and present in public, and that's something that we've lost over time. [We want] to make it a mandatory component of classes to have an in-class presentation. It's an important skill to have. It's as important as having a good writing ability. You're more bound to speak in public than you are to write a paper for something.

This year I'm also a senior interviewer, working with the admissions office and interviewing prospective students. That's been great. I meet different people every day. It's never the same situation, never the same dynamic, never the same person. It's really kept me on my toes in terms of setting the tone for each interview, trying to get as much information as I can out of the [students being interviewed], making it as comfortable as possible, and getting to know them as a student and a person, not just how they are on paper.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
One of my best Bowdoin memories was coming here as a senior in high school during the Invitational Weekend in April. I was really excited about coming to a college campus, and it was also my birthday that weekend! My Posse group [went to] the Asian Students Association fashion show, which was on the day of my birthday, and they told the MC for the fashion show that it was my birthday, and she was a Posse person, too - she was a year above us. So she announced it to the audience, and they put the spotlight on me! And the entire audience sang "Happy Birthday" to me and they brought out a cake! I was so surprised - I was awestruck. That was my 18th birthday, so it was memorable.

What are your plans after graduation?
I'd really like to pursue something in art history, obviously. I'm looking at museum and gallery jobs in Boston, preferably in education departments, to work with implementing different programs catered to children and adult audiences, or with galleries, getting a first-hand experience of arts administration, selling art and acquiring art and, I guess, the business of art, which would be completely different from the experience I've had so far, because all I've done in college is research.

I'm also looking at working at my middle school, because they have an after-school program. They love it when alums come back and teach some of the programs, so maybe [I'd] teach an art history course to give them an appreciation for [the subject] - something that I didn't have in middle school but would have appreciated.

And then eventually, [I'd like to] go on to graduate school, maybe a few years off. I just want to get a lot of real-world experience and then go back to school when I can appreciate it a lot more. I just need a break for a while, and then when I go back I'll love it even more, I'm sure.

Is there anything else about Bowdoin or your experiences here that you'd like prospective students to know?
Just make the most out of your Bowdoin experience, because if you don't really experience what else is out there, then you'll never realize what your passion is. When I came to Bowdoin, I was strictly a government person, and just by expanding a little bit and taking an art history course, I realized that there was so much out there in art history that I really enjoyed. Just by getting involved in different programs like the Mellon Fellowship and the Posse Program, I realized that there's just so much that you can be involved in and so many different people you can meet by expanding your horizons a little bit.

If you hear about a lecture or a speaker that sounds interesting, go to it! You never know what'll happen. Hear what they have to say. If you hear about a party that's maybe somewhere you wouldn't [typically] go, just go to it and meet some new people. There are so many opportunities to figure out who you are as a person, to expand and grow as an individual and as a scholar, so I say just try everything you can.

Story posted on November 29, 2004

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