Apr 1, 2013

"Why Madison?" New York City

"Why Madison?"
President's Journal

New York City
March 28, 2013

JMU in the Big Apple
Today we traveled to downtown New York City, the heart of the Big Apple, for our 16th "Why Madison?" listening tour event. You could feel the excitement and energy coming together from all of the alumni and Madison supporters. We had a great crowd of people in both business and the arts, as well as other disciplines, and it was exciting to witness the strong presence JMU has here in the nation's largest city.

Alumni salute the value of teamwork
One of the major themes that alumni brought up this evening was the real-world importance of working in teams and how they were able to hone those skills at JMU. For example, we had a lot of alums from the College of Business at our event tonight. At JMU they took CoB 300, which is a College of Business course taught by teams of faculty. The class requires groups of students to collaborate and put together business plans. While students say that the course is very rigorous, they appreciated having to stretch themselves because the experience so appropriately applies to the group work they encounter in today's work force. In any professional setting, you have to listen to other people's perspectives and learn from others to get things done. So while CoB300 requires more resources and a lot of intentionality, that kind of group work experience is something that is a real hallmark not just of the business world, but other disciplines as well. In addition, many of our alumni who were in the audience tonight are in the performing arts field. They described that working in teams is essential to success in their careers as well. Whether it is in an orchestra, a chorus or a theatrical production, they emphasized that the group work they completed at JMU has taken them everywhere from Broadway to Carnegie Hall.

Having alumni connections in New York City is invaluable
We also spent a significant amount of time discussing the role that alumni can play in being mentors or role models to current students and recent graduates. These important intergenerational connections have become a consistent theme throughout our listening tour. Here in New York this rings especially true because it is a challenging place to break into. We are all familiar with the songs and stories about what it is like to come into New York City, particularly if you or your family are not from there. To have connections in a city like New York—and to know that there is an alumni network available to you—is so important and valuable.

Building on existing networks takes intentionality and alumni engagement
We do have those networks in a lot of areas. In fact, we know of alumni in the finance sector who have helped each other. We have seen different generations break into that field and become successful, in part because of alumni connections. But we can certainly do more of this and encourage it across the other sectors that are represented by JMU alums in New York City. It requires us to be organized and to think very intentionally, but it inspires alumni to stay engaged with our current students, recent graduates, and the university itself.

Together, there is nothing that we can't accomplish
As an institution, we know that we have to emphasize this type of outreach and to continue saying, "This is a way that you can help us; this is a way you can remain engaged in the JMU community." It was encouraging to hear some real examples of these types of relationships forming and resulting in alumni success. We know we can do it, especially because we already have successful models to follow. But we can be more intentional and more systematic about it to encourage more of this networking within the JMU community. Our alumni, our students and the university will benefit. If we work together, there is nothing that we can't accomplish!








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