JMU creating alumni chapter in London
JMU alumnus José Gonzalez (center), along with university officials and guests, enjoy good conversation during a dinner for London area alumni in the city last summer.
The James Madison University Alumni Association, in conjunction with the Office of International Programs, is establishing an alumni chapter in London, where Madison’s nationally recognized study-abroad programs were born.
JMU President Jonathan Alger’s visit to London as part of his summer tour of JMU semester study-abroad destinations served as the unofficial kickoff for the chapter. In October, the group hosted a watch party for the JMU-William & Mary football game at one of the city’s best-known sports pubs, Famous Three Kings.
Both events were well received by alumni and current students alike, said José Gonzalez, a 2003 JMU graduate who now lives in London and is helping organize the new chapter.
There are approximately 60 JMU alumni currently living in and around London. Although the city’s population is fairly transient, “we’ve managed to keep a pretty good group of alumni here active,” Gonzalez said. “We’re always welcoming and try to get as many people involved as possible, including those living in other parts of the U.K.”
The JMU Alumni Association has made international alumni outreach a priority, according to executive director Ashley Privott. “It is important to have connections with our international alumni because it helps to expand our network. Every year, new graduates are interested in moving abroad, and this active network of alumni could help them find jobs, get acclimated to life abroad and offer other assistance.”
The London alumni chapter is an extension of JMU’s robust study-abroad programs. The university currently offers more than 80 of these programs, ranging from semester and yearlong opportunities for academic and cultural enrichment to service-oriented trips during the summer months. Last year, about 1,300 JMU students studied abroad.
As JMU’s first semester study-abroad program in 1979, the London program will celebrate its 35th anniversary in 2014-15, with reunion events being planned in both London and Harrisonburg. “When we did our 30th anniversary five years ago, we had about 140 people come,” said Dr. Lee Sternberger, associate provost and executive director of international programs at JMU. “We’re hoping to repeat that and maybe include a ‘relive your London days’ event with the founding program director [Ralph Alan Cohen].”
The London chapter is also scheduled to participate in The Big Event, Madison’s annual day of service in April. The event, which originated as a community cleanup effort in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, went international last year, with JMU alumni chapters in 13 cities worldwide contributing more than 525 volunteer hours in their communities. This year JMU students and alumni living in Florence, Italy; Salamanca, Spain; and Antwerp, Belgium, will be invited to participate.
“It’s exciting,” Sternberger said. “We love to integrate students with alumni, so this certainly is something we’re looking forward to doing.”
Jan. 16, 2014