Florida State University

Rachel Rossin's been working to make changes in the world. The Florida State senior's method of choice? Art.

Supported by an Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Award from the Office of National Fellows, Rossin traveled during the summer of 2008 to Uganda to launch the Greenhouse Project, the non-profit advocacy organization she created to benefit an orphanage located just outside the country's capital city.

The Greenhouse Orphanage is home to some 60 children, ages 15 months to 13 years old, whose lives have been ravaged by almost two decades of civil war, the AIDS pandemic and poverty. Rossin's ultimate goal with the Greenhouse Project is to help the orphanage become self-sustainable. Her work involves teaching art to the children as a means of expression, and their drawings, paintings, videos and photographs are used to raise awareness of their plight and garner donations to support the orphanage.

This extraordinary humanitarian effort would not have become reality without the grant from Florida State, says 21-year-old Rossin. "This award allowed me to pursue my project … and to incorporate photography and the filming of a small documentary in order to serve as a voice for the children that I worked with."

Rossin, a graphic design student with an art history minor, spent her childhood in West Palm Beach, where she graduated from The King's Academy. Her father earned a law degree from Florida State in 1983, and her mother majored in interior design and graduated from the university in 1978. Rossin, who also studied abroad through Florida State's course offerings in Italy, will complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in May.

"I initially chose FSU because of the diversity in programs and because of the incredible opportunities available here," she says. "I was most attracted to the Fine Arts Department because of the department's strong support of individual creativity. … It really is exciting to hear about the projects and accomplishments of my peers."

During her time on campus, Rossin has invested her talents and training in several student organizations. She serves as the graphic and Web designer for Union Productions/Club Downunder, treasurer for the Fine Arts Society, and during the past three years she's been a part of Alpha Phi Omega, Phi Eta Sigma, Art Students League and SGA.

However, the highlight of her Tallahassee tenure, Rossin says, is the personal studio space she was awarded in Railroad Square through the fine arts program.

"This program is very selective, and FSU is one of the only schools in the country that gives studios to undergraduates," says Rossin, who, as a result, has access to exhibit her work in the Phyllis Straus Gallery each month for First Friday events.

"I am honored and very grateful to be a part of a climate of rich, creative expression that happens there," she says. "I have absolutely treasured the feeling of solidarity in my studio and the language of creative exchange that happens there. I am going to miss that, more than anything else, when I leave FSU."

After graduation, Rossin says she plans to join AmeriCorps or Teach for America before going on to graduate school to study either art therapy or law. In addition, "I plan on continuing my work with The Greenhouse Project and being an advocate for human rights," she says. "I will always use art and design as a method to further social justice and to provide a better standard of living for individuals," asserts Rachel Alex Rossin.

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