By Natalie St. Denis
Dominique Burke, a senior criminal justice major and sociology minor, has been extremely involved at SUNY Plattsburgh since he set foot on campus his freshman year.
Burke sought after Plattsburgh because of his interest in criminal justice. After looking at the curriculum, he saw the diversity within the criminal justice department. Dominique was interested in learning about the thinking behind criminal justice as opposed to a technical approach. He also saw he could pair his degree with a sociology minor. This allowed him to broaden his education to more of a criminology aspect because that is what he really wanted to major in. Getting a broader perspective would allow him to achieve his goal of becoming a police officer.
“I want to see how far I can reach,” Burke said.
Sociology of women was Dominique’s favorite course he has taken at SUNY Plattsburgh. He said it truly opened his eyes to a different perspective because it not only talked about gender, but class and race too.
If he wasn’t focused on criminal justice and sociology, Burke says he would major in public administration. He would want to pursue an education that would help him work his way toward his goals. Dominique is always looking for ways to learn how to manage people better and be a leader.
The fact that SUNY Plattsburgh also offered many activities for students to get involved in stood out to Dominique. He describes himself as a very musically inclined individual who loves to sing. He grew up participating in gospel choir and concert choir. Once he saw that SUNY Plattsburgh had a gospel choir, he knew he would be able to continue his passion through college.
Following his passion is exactly what he has been doing since. Dominique joined gospel choir freshman year and was elected vice president. His sophomore year, he was elected president. He had to step down from the presidential position his junior year because he didn’t believe he could fulfill that role to the best of his ability due to his busy schedule. He still sings in gospel choir. Burke even participates in another subsection of gospel choir, called the Praise Team, which is a more selective choir.
Dexter Criss, the director of the gospel choir, made a lasting impression on Burke during his four years participating in the choir. Burke said Criss helped him feel inspired, accepted, and that he has a place on campus.
“I felt that my rock was gospel choir,” Burke said.
Burke was able to make lasting friendships through gospel choir as well. Performing with large groups of people was new to him, but made him feel connected to the other members.
“I feel that connection toward gospel choir. It’s helped me want to be more social, make better bonds with people, and break out my shell,” Burke said.
Criss has seen Burke’s passion and growth during gospel choir.
“Dominique’s consistent effort is exemplary to us all. He puts quality time in while in choir practice and delivers strong performances at concerts and events. His God given vocal talent has only improved over the past three years with the choir, ”Criss said.
Burke has expanded his horizons and involved himself in many other activities on campus. Last year he was the secretary of Club Caribbean and currently dances for their Spicy Island Tings dance team. In the past, he danced for African Unity and participated in the Minor Adjustments Acapella group for a semester.
Not only is Burke extremely involved in extracurricular activities, he has also been a community advocate for Macomb Hall since his junior year.
“I always wanted to be that person who students feel comfortable going to,” Burke said.
Burke believes it is important for a CA to make sure their residents have someone to go to if they have an issue or want to talk about something.
“If you are a CA, that’s probably the best thing you can do to be helpful,” Burke said.
Students have felt comfortable enough to reach out to him. But Burke also said that there have been some challenges that have come with being a CA. He said he has struggled sometimes to think outside the box and figure out what his residents want. Being a CA has also challenged him to be more social, allowing him to break out of his shell.
“I’m more comfortable now. I’m like a different person,” Burke said.
Community Director Rachel Gamache, who has overseen Burke since she began her position last fall said he is a good fit for the CA position.
“Dominique is a caring person, with a calming, yet energetic personality,” Gamache said. “Dom has been able to provide an inviting atmosphere for his residents, which is very impressive given the circumstances this year. I believe the overall quality Dominique has is his ability to make everyone feel like they belong and that he encourages everyone to use their own voice.”
Even though Burke mentioned he struggles with creativity as a CA, Gamache didn’t see this.
“Dom’s song/jingle writing skills are super impressive and this part of his creativity has come into play many times in his role as a CA,” Gamache said.
Burke said it can be difficult at times to manage his busy schedule, but as he has gotten older, he has become better at time management. Regardless of how many activities he fills his days with, Burke always prioritizes his academics. Because of this, he is able to say that one of his greatest accomplishments during college has been maintaining a place on the Dean’s List, along with keeping his GPA above a 3.4 at all times.
Burke has broken out of his shell a lot, but at heart he is still an independent person.
“For the most part, I kind of do my own thing because I know where I want to be,” Burke said.
But when he is in need of guidance, he turns to his advisers. Burke’s past sociology adviser, Professor Stanley Sabin inspired him to keep on doing what he needed to do to achieve his goals here in college. Burke believes it is important to utilize your advisers as a resource throughout your college journey.
Burke said that he has changed a lot since his freshman year.
“I definitely have become more of a leader,” Burke said.
He attributes this to all the activities he quickly became involved in and the leadership positions associated with them.
“It opens your eyes to see what you are capable of,” he added.
COVID-19 has brought a lot of change to Dominique’s last few years of college, but he remains as involved as he can. Gospel choir is normally made up of students and community members. Now, because of the pandemic, students practice on Fridays and community members on Sundays.
He has also found it difficult as a CA to connect with the residents because they can’t meet face to face. There are also stricter rules he is obligated to enforce. A more challenging one has been making sure any off-campus individuals aren’t in on-campus housing. Regardless, Burke has adjusted to the new changes.
Burke will graduate this semester with a degree in criminal justice and minor in sociology. Being so actively involved on campus has aided in preparing him for his future career.
“I know his career aspirations of being an officer is the perfect fit for him– and his experience and diligence towards his CA job will only help him succeed even further,” Gamache said.