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Elizabeth Keene entered JMU in 2007 as a double major in music education and writing, rhetoric and technical communication (WRTC). After graduating in the spring of 2012, Keene is getting ready to graduate again, this time with a master’s degree in WRTC—and a bucket-list full of experiences to last a lifetime.
Keene’s path to JMU began in Southwest Virginia in the small town of Lebanon. In fifth grade, she started playing the trumpet, where she excelled. Two years into it, Keene was asked to play with the high school marching band—quite an honor for a seventh grader. Keene would embrace this opportunity and spend the remainder of her middle and high school years marching with the band.
When it came time to think about college, Keene knew she “wanted to do something with music.” She had never heard of JMU, but after talking with her parents, guidance counselor, and band director—and doing some research on her own, Keene decided “JMU was the place to go for music.”
Music was just one piece of the puzzle, however. Keene says her parents encouraged her to do something else as well. That “something else” would present itself when Keene visited an open house, and stumbled upon a table dedicated to Technical and Scientific Communication (TSC and now WRTC). Keene learned that TSC included writing, but also design and communications. After talking with a faculty advisor for TSC, Keene was convinced she could study music and technical and scientific communication, but that it would take her five years to graduate.
During those five years, Keene played the trumpet for the Marching Royal Dukes, where she had the opportunity to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City in 2008. Keene calls the experience “new and exciting.” “It was the first time I’d ever been to the parade, and seeing all the behind-the-scenes things—like the rehearsal at 2 a.m. and the balloons being staged—was very cool,” reveals Keene.
Little did Keene know that she would get the chance to march in the Macy’s Parade again as a graduate student.
Keene admits that she loves music education and could be content teaching somewhere, but that she would miss the writing, creative and design side of technical communication. This realization led her to pursue a graduate degree in WRTC immediately following her undergraduate graduation.
In addition to her graduate studies, Keene is teaching a freshman writing class for her assistantship and working in the Band Office, where she is involved with rehearsals and marketing efforts for the Marching Royal Dukes. Keene attended the Macy’s Parade with the band in 2013.
“It was very different attending the parade the second time,” shares Keene. “As a performer, you’re concentrating on the rehearsal aspect and the performance aspect—memorizing your music, learning the routine, and practicing marching in a parade block. As a staff member, we put in a lot of time beforehand planning for the parade—preparing bus lists, signs and promotional materials. It was in the students’ hands now to perform, and we could walk along and just enjoy the crowd.”
Keene acknowledges a huge JMU presence at both parades, and confesses that the people at JMU make it hard for her to leave. “JMU is home. The people are down-to-earth, and it makes me want to stay here.”
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