Gopal Burgher

Interview with Gopal Burgher
By Rachel Merriman, former EDP newsletter editor


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RM- Where are you from and you come to Fredonia?
GB- I was born in Jamaica and moved to Mt. Vermon, NY in 1984. 1 came to Fredonia in 1990.
RM- What was your major?
GB- Political science and philosophy.
RM- Was your transition from Fredonia to graduate school a smooth one? How did Fredonia figure into that transition?
GB- I guess it was pretty smooth. For better or for worse, I was confident that I could do it and I felt ready before I got there. Once I was there, there were moments of doubt. It is hard to say that Fredonia didn't contribute, I grew a lot there, due mostly to extra-curricular activities. Those were four important years of my life.
RM- What experiences did you have with the Educational Development Program that helped you in furthering your studies?
GB- The really great staff. You could always count on seeing a friendly face. They really kept me on my toes. When I started at Fredonia, I wasn't the most organized person and the staff played a role in picking up the slack. They would send a note, give a call to guide me and give me reminders. They[the staff] are very supportive and their role is indispensable.
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RM- What advice would you give to current EDP students?
GB- Most importantly, believe in yourself and your abilities. I used to tutor in EDP and in all instances I found that self-confidence, which is very important to success, was either not there or minimal. I can see why they [the students] don't have it because there are low expectations of them and they don't push themselves. Raymond Belliotti (philosophy professor) and Kathleen Bonds, EDP director were two people who clearly had the highest expectations of me. I couldn't settle for a B because they wouldn't settle for it. I didn't want to disappoint. My awareness of their belief in me made a difference. Because of my respect for them, I had to start believing in myself. Also, take your studies seriously. Grades are important. In an increasingly complex world, grades are the most reliable indicator of competence level. Don't wait until you are out to realize that you should have' buckled down.
RM- Was law school always what you wanted or did that develop over your time at Fredonia?
GB- When I started I had a notion of going to law school but I was not exactly certain of what to do. First semester, second year I consulted with Kathleen Bonds who was then an EDP counselor and declared a major. I realized that I needed some idea of what I was going to do in order to have effective planning. When I was forced to think about it, I decided to go to law school and from that point on, I was going to go
RM- As an EDP student did you ever feel that you were not going to make it and what got you through those moments?
GB- I never really thought that I wasn't going to make it, I was confident and had the drive to succeed. Not making it was never an option for me. I wanted to excel, not just graduate. I never questioned my abilities but had to make sacrifices with extra-curricular activities. I never felt like an EDP student in the sense where you are supposed to fit into a stereotype of a student that is disadvantaged and unconfident. I tried to work with students to overcome that and like to think that I helped them.
RM- What's next after graduation?
GB- I graduate on May 16 and hope to be practicing corporate law. I will be starting in the fall with the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom. I had a lot of fun in law school. It's a tough animal, but you can make it what you want.
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