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Bridging diverse interests

Jessica Lewis ('08) balances graduate studies and helping Centennial Scholars
By Sara Riddle ('10)

Joanne Gabbin and Jessica Lewis

Joanne Gabbin and Jessica Lewis

After getting a head start with the JMU/Clark County High School partnership program, Jessica Lewis ('08) came to JMU in 2006 having already earned an associate degree. She spent half her days in high school classes and the other half at Lord Fairfax Community College. JMU has a transfer student agreement with Lord Fairfax, and Clark County High School students who participate in the JMU partnership program get to visit campus for a week, meeting professors, eating in the dining hall and experiencing college life in the "Bridge Program" summer camp.

"Flexibility is not a known element of public schools, but at the time, college credits were your ticket to a strong university," says Lewis. Two years after high school, Lewis graduated from JMU with an English major and two minors in art and creative writing. Now, she is among the youngest in JMU's graduate program in writing, rhetoric and technical communication.

Lewis' writing and art background drove her to study document design and graphic design. "WRTC promised to help find employment opportunities, which is tough for writers right now," she says. Currently, Lewis puts her writing skills to use as editor of Prima Lux, the JMU newsletter for diversity programs. Each semester, she contacts administrators in charge of programs supporting campus diversity and comes up with original stories. She also edits and designs the newsletter.

Several JMU professors helped strengthen Lewis' writing. She is thankful to several English professors — Joanne Gabbin for teaching her "poetry's voice," Dabney Bankert for showing her "how to make her way in the world," and Inman Majors for helping her improve her fiction writing.

Lewis also stays busy as a graduate assistant in the JMU Centennial Scholar program. She keeps track of 10 students, mentoring and helping them throughout the year in studying, socializing and adjusting to the college experience. "I get to work with students who are so unique and diverse, and I just love that," she explains. "It is a mecca of culture."