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Keynote Speaker
April Armstrong

April Armstrong (’92)

“Creating a Life That Counts”

April Armstrong graduated from JMU in 1992 with a degree in French and Communication Studies. She was active then with JMU as a member of the Debate team and a leader in her sorority (Sigma Kappa). Today, she is CEO of AHA Insight, which provides coaching, training and expert facilitation support to corporate and government executives leading strategic high-stakes change.

After graduating from JMU, April joined the nation’s largest employee-owned research and development company where she led systems integration efforts for the move of our nation’s most sensitive Department of Defense Intelligence Information Systems to the Cloud.

After 9/11, April was asked to conduct the analysis that underpinned the nation’s first National Response Plan, and later the National Response Framework which describes how the Federal government organizes itself to respond to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other catastrophic events - and the importance of the whole community in assisting with response efforts.

She’s currently helping transportation executives lay groundwork to prepare future leaders in government and industry for the rise of connected communities and autonomous vehicles. She is also active in the national security community.

April is the author of The Day One Executive, a new book that prepares tomorrow’s leaders to stand out on Day One as an executive based on lessons gleaned first-hand from more than 20 years working with our nation’s top leaders at the Department of Defense, the White House and Fortune 500 companies. Twenty-five years later, April is still active at JMU as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at JMU and active on JMU’s Alumni Advisory Boards for the Center for Entrepreneurship and School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

Summit Speakers
JMU President Jonathan Alger

Jonathan R. Alger

Jonathan R. Alger is James Madison University’s sixth president. In addition to ensuring the development and provision of high quality academic and student life programs, his leadership involves developing and articulating a shared vision and mission for the university, anticipating trends and issues affecting higher education, providing strategic institutional leadership and planning, and ensuring sound fiscal management. A nationally recognized scholar and speaker on higher education policy and law, the president has given hundreds of presentations across the United States and abroad on a wide range of topics such as access and opportunity, diversity, student and faculty recruitment and retention, management of financial challenges, student organizations, shared governance, intellectual property, leadership, and academic freedom. He received a Bachelor of Arts with high honors and Phi Beta Kappa from Swarthmore College and his Doctor of Law with honors from Harvard Law School.

Mary Ann Alger

Mary Ann Alger

Mary Ann Alger, James Madison University’s first lady, is an active volunteer on campus and in the community. With more than 25 years of experience in finance, small business consulting, and entrepreneurship, she is adviser to the Center for Entrepreneurship, a frequent guest speaker in classrooms, a regular mentor to students, and a judge of business plan competitions in the College of Business. She co-founded the Madison Business Network and is a founding member of the Women for Madison Executive Council. Mary Ann is an honors graduate of Auburn University with degrees in international finance and Spanish. She received a Masters of Business Administration with high honors and a concentration in international finance from the University of Miami. She also completed a one-year international management course at Johns Hopkins University’s
School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.  

Elizabeth Bliss '84

Elizabeth Bliss (’84)

After graduating with a B.S. in biology, Beth began working at the Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company, now Pfizer, in sales and management for 12 years. She had a very successful career in the corporate world to later change jobs and raise three daughters with her husband, Jarl Bliss (’84)

Throughout her life, Beth has given her time her time, energy and leadership skills to further philanthropy, with a special commitment to women’s issues in her community. She has served on the Class of 1984 Reunion Fundraising Committee, who led the movement for reunion giving and raised $1 million in a three-year campaign.  Beth is a member of the President's Council, the Duke Club, and has an endowed scholarship for Undergraduate Research in Science and Mathematics. Currently, she is serving as Chair for the JMU Women for Madison Advisory Council, where she hopes she can continue to demonstrate the power of women in philanthropy.

Cannie Campbell

Cannie Campbell (’95)

Cannie Campbell is assistant vice president for constituent engagement at James Madison University and is an adjunct faculty member for the university, as well as for the Virginia Community College System. As a woman in higher education, she is passionate
about the advancement of all women in education and the creation of meaningful leadership roles in their field. Cannie has a bachelor’s degree in health sciences from JMU and a master’s of public health from the University of Oklahoma. Currently, she is working on a second master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. She is involved in a variety of community service organizations locally and internationally, serving as a local foster parent, sitting on several boards and advising student groups at JMU. She has two children, Caroline and Isaiah, and lives with her husband, Paul, in Harrisonburg. 

Vanessa Evans-Grevious

Vanessa Evans-Grevious (’93, ’97M)

Vanessa Evans-Grevious is vice president of the Ron Brown Scholar Program, which is widely regarded as the most prestigious college scholarship program in the country for African-American college-bound high-school seniors. Before joining the program, Vanessa was the senior assistant dean of admissions at the College of William and Mary. Prior to that, she served as assistant director of admissions at James Madison University. Vanessa earned a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Education in College Student Personnel Administration from JMU. She was the inaugural chair of the JMU Women for Madison Advisory Council and is currently rector of the university’s board of visitors. She has also served three terms on the board of directors for the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA), the board of directors of the JMU Alumni Association, and president of the JMU Black Alumni Association. Vanessa and her husband, Richard L. Grevious (’92), live in Charlottesville. 

Elizabeth Martin

Elizabeth Keane Martin (’85)

Elizabeth Keane Martin, vice-chair of Women for Madison, graduated from James Madison University with a BBA in marketing.  As a student, she was active in the Madison Marketing Association, business manager of the Bluestone yearbook, a Dukette, and a sister in the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority.  She later earned her MBA from the University of Richmond and spent 25 years as a human resources leader, specializing in strategic compensation management and working for several Fortune 500 companies before shifting into a consulting role. She has remained active with JMU, as president of the Richmond Alumni chapter, a board member and president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, and a member of the Centennial Commission. In 2004, Elizabeth received the Inez Graybeal Roop Alumni Service Award. She also has contributed to her local community through Greater Richmond SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now), PTAs, and Philanthropic Educational Organization. She also has volunteered in local schools and led a Bible study. She and her husband and two step-daughters live in Richmond.

Chiquita King

Chiquita King (’09, ’11M)

Originally from Franklin, Virginia, Chiquita King is a Double Duke, who was involved in the Centennial Scholars program, the Office of Orientation, student government, and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority while she was a student. She received the 2007 Diversity Enhancement Award, three NCAAP Image Awards, and was named Graduate Student of the Year in 2010. She also has the distinction of being voted “Miss Madison” by her peers. Today, Chiquita works for Booz Allen Hamilton in Northern Virginia as an instructional systems designer, where she oversees, creates and maintains training materials and learning solutions for defense clients. Still strongly connected to Madison, she is on the President’s Council, Women for Madison Executive Advisory Council, a member of the Black Alumni Chapter, and is often seen at MetroDukes events. In 2017, she received the GOLD (Graduate of the Last Decade) Network Award from the Alumni Association. 

Panelists and Break-Out Session Leaders
Taleia Barksdale

Taleia Barksdale (’16)

Taleia Barksdale, originally from Danville, Virginia, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from James Madison University. While she was a student, Taleia served as a student assistant in the Office of Admissions, president of the JMU Student Alumni Association and student co-chair of the Madison Giving Campaign. She was also a member of the Spanish Club and the public affairs student organization. At present, Taleia is weighing whether to enter law school in the fall or to pursue a career in higher education. She hopes to some day work as an international human rights lawyer focused on serving and protecting women and children. Regardless of where life takes her, Taleia plans to stay involved with JMU.

Theresa B. Clarke

Theresa B. Clarke

Theresa Clarke is the Wampler-Longacre Eminent Professor of Marketing in the College of Business at James Madison University. She teaches undergraduate and MBA marketing courses and she specializes in experiential and interactive teaching methods where students work on client-based projects in order to gain practical marketing experience. Her research is in the intersection of marketing and technology, which she combines with her passion — motivating students to learn as much as possible and then daring them to perform beyond their expectations. She is a recipient of the prestigious State Council for Higher Education of Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award and the Kenneth Bartee Innovations in Teaching Award. In 2008 she was named a Madison Scholar, the highest research honor within JMU. As a highly successful mentor and coach, Theresa’s Madison students have won more awards in the internationally renowned Google Online Marketing Challenge than any other university in the world. 

Philip Frana

Philip Frana

Philip Frana is associate dean of the JMU Honors College and associate professor of interdisciplinary liberal studies at James Madison University. His primary teaching and research interests are science and technology studies, oral history, intellectual history, and technology in education, and his publications are mainly in the history of medicine and public health, the history of computing, the history of expertise and the professions, and Honors education. He is currently working on a book documenting the history of health informatics, Calculating Care: Evidence, Computers, and Medicine in the 20th Century. Philip is past director of undergraduate research in the Honors College at the University of Central Arkansas, and an NSF project director at the University of Minnesota’s Charles Babbage Institute. He earned bachelor's degrees in history and economics from Wartburg College in 1991, and completed master's and doctoral degrees in the history of technology and science at Iowa State University in 1999. 

Steve Grande

Steve Grande

Steve Grande is the director of Service-Learning at James Madison University. In this role, he oversees initiatives for the university to develop partnerships with communities and faculty members so that students can become meaningfully involved in addressing and reflecting on social issues, both locally and globally. He has a master’s degree from the University of Maryland in student affairs and a bachelor’s in urban studies from the University of Minnesota. He earned his doctorate in student affairs from the University of Maryland and has researched, published and presented regionally and nationally on a range of topics, including cross-cultural understanding, first-year students, Jewish college students, leadership, privilege, and Service-Learning. Grande has also taught graduate and undergraduate courses on leadership theory, multicultural perspectives of intervention, student learning, and civic engagement. He lives in Staunton with his wife, Renee Staton, and their two daughters.

Jason Good

Jason Good

As the director of Study Abroad at James Madison University, Jason Good leads, administers and coordinates all study, intern and service abroad opportunities at the university under the auspices of the Center for Global Engagement. He is the faculty program director for JMU’s Internship in Spain and Internship in Germany Study Abroad programs.  He has been a faculty leader for Study Abroad programs to Spain, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. He has also served as a faculty instructor of social research, cross-cultural learning and Spanish. He completed a master’s degree and a doctorate in Hispanic studies from the Universidad de Cádiz in Andalucía, Spain. His Spanish language dissertation researches the integration of immigrant students into educational systems, specifically analyzing how to welcome and retain underrepresented groups into educational communities. 

Donna Harper

Donna Harper (’77, ’81M, ’86Ed.S, ’08P, ’14P)

Donna Harper is vice president for access and enrollment management at James Madison University. She also co-coordinates the College Student Personnel Administration graduate program and teaches a graduate class in the program. Since 1977, she has served in various positions at the university, including assistant dean of students, director of health and recreation, associate vice president for student affairs and executive assistant to the president. A Triple Duke, Donna holds a bachelor’s degree in business, a master’s in counselor education/college student personnel administration, and an Ed.S. in counselor education from JMU. As an undergraduate she played field hockey and joined Alpha Sigma Alpha, which she now serves as sorority adviser. She and her husband, Randy, have two children, both Dukes, and two grandchildren who already know how to say “Go Dukes.” 

Heather Hedrick

Heather Easley Hedrick (’00)

Heather Hedrick is the current president of the James Madison University Alumni Association. She is a CPA and works as the director of accounting for CarMax Inc., the nation’s largest retailer of used vehicles. Before joining CarMax, Heather spent 11 years in public accounting where she served a variety of Fortune 500 clients through Ernst & Young (now EY) and Arthur Anderson. Since 2011, she has been on the board of directors of the Alumni Association and she is a regular volunteer for Duke events. Whenever she can, Heather enjoys cheering on the Dukes football team. She and her husband, Brandon (’00), live in Richmond, Virginia, with their two children. 

Marilou Johnson

Marilou M. Johnson (’80)

Marilou Johnson is vice provost for academic development at James Madison University, a position she assumed in 2015 after serving in a number of consequential positions throughout the university. She has been director of the School of Media Arts and Design and interim director of both the School of Music and the School of Art and Art History.  From 2004 to 2008, while serving as interim dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, she shepherded the construction of the 175,000 square feet Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, and was afterwards named associate dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.  A native of Abingdon, Virginia, Marilou has a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from JMU, a master’s from the University of Arkansas and a doctorate from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. 

Diana Kiser

Diana Kiser 

Diana Kiser is a development officer in the Office of Strategic Gifts at James Madison University. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and later earned her MBA in executive leadership from JMU. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After a diverse career spanning corporate America, small start-ups, and even a home based-business, Diana formed a leading real estate team to accommodate the needs of raising her three children. With the youngest off to college, Diana was inspired to make a career shift and has found a new home in JMU. Discovering the consistent theme of her work was centered around relationship building, development was a perfect fit. Seeing opportunities for growth and learning, she was accepted into the Executive Leadership MBA program with the plan to officially become a Duke by degree in 2018.

Towana Moore

Towana Hickman Moore

Towana Moore is associate vice president for business services at James Madison University, a position she has held since 2002. Her long list of responsibilities include: food service, the JMU bookstore, facilities management, facilities planning and construction, parking, postal services, card services, copy centers, procurement, real estate, space management and the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum. She came to the university in 1999 as assistant vice president for business services. Prior to JMU, she was director of auxiliary services at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and earlier served a similar position at Radford University. She holds a bachelor’s and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Towana and her husband, Mack, have eight cats and two horses. 

Margaret Mulrooney

Margaret Mulrooney

Margaret “Meg” Mulrooney is associate vice provost for University Programs and associate professor of history at James Madison University. Her expertise is in 19th and early 20th century U.S. social and cultural history, especially race and ethnicity, public history and collective memory, which all spur his research interests in the history and culture of the Shenandoah Valley, JMU, higher education and civic engagement. She has served the university in numerous roles, including chairing the General Education Diversity Board and the Madison Caucus for Gender Equality and serving on the Carnegie Community Engagement Steering Committee. Meg is past president of the Association for General and Liberal Studies and was a key advocate of The Madison Collaborative: Ethical Reasoning in Action. She earned her doctorate from the College of William and Mary in American studies.

Jenn Phillips

Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer “Jenn” Phillips is associate athletics director for compliance and senior woman athletics administrator for James Madison University. In her role, she oversees the NCAA compliance program, coordinates the eligibility and financial aid process for student athletes and coordinates the athletics division’s rules education program regarding compliance issues. Recently, she also assumed oversight of student-athlete services. Prior to coming to JMU in 2008, Jenn filled similar roles at the University of Colorado and West Virginia University, and she served as assistant athletics director for NCAA compliance at Gardner-Webb University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management and a master’s in sports management degree from West Virginia University. 

Kathy Thomas

Kathy Thomas (’78, ’07P, ’10P, ’15P)

Kathy Thomas earned her bachelor’s in marketing with a minor in data processing and economics from JMU’s College of Business. While a student, she worked as a resident hall adviser and later became a head resident. She met her husband, Mike, at JMU. After graduating, she worked as a programmer for Freddie Mac in Washington, D.C., where she and Mike settled. When the first of their four daughters was born, Kathy stayed home and began a second career as a childbirth educator, doula and preschool teacher. Through the Duke Club and the College of Business, she and Mike continued to stay connected to JMU, a relationship that expanded to many other roles as three of their four daughters graduated from Madison. Today Kathy serves on the advisory board for Women for Madison, and hopes her four grandchildren will continue the family’s strong Dukes connection. 

Anthony Tongen

Anthony Tongen

Anthony Tongen is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at James Madison University, a position he has held since 2005.  In this role, he has received more than $1.2 million in funding for undergraduate research and has advised or co-advised more than 65 undergraduate students. Recently, the Council of Undergraduate Research Mathematics and Computer Science Division recognized his mentoring work when they awarded him the national Faculty Mentor Award. During the 2012-2013 academic year, Anthony was a Fulbright-Garcia Robles Scholar at the Universidad de Colima where he expanded both his teaching and research interests while enabling a JMU undergraduate to perform her summer research project in Mexico. He also spent two years as an assistant director of Project NExT, the premier faculty development program for new faculty in mathematics and statistics, sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America. 

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