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Student Life

Getting involved extends beyond the classroom, and offers you chances to put what you have learned into action and also to help make JMU better. Here is a look at one Duke who has put herself out there and has constantly rewritten her expectations along the way.


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Samantha Magladeno

Class of 2021

Major: Social Work

Minor: Family Studies

Hometown: Kailua, Hawaii

High School: Quantico School

Highlights: First Year Orientation Guide; Orientation Peer Adviser; Young Life; Safe Rides; community projects with her social work major; hopes to pursue a career in family law

“It is easy to get involved in things here and still have time for school. I’ve learned so much.”

To hear Samantha Magdaleno tell it, JMU helped her find her niche.

The wealth of organizations Magdaleno has had a hand in is impressive—especially when you consider that she has managed to balance all of it with a rigorous academic run during her days at JMU.

Young Life, JMU Orientation, Safe Rides and Latino Student Alliance have gotten much of her clubs and organization attention, Magdaleno says, adding, “I have noticed that JMU really does try its best to make the school as diverse as possible and for everyone to find their niche.”

Magdaleno found her need to get involved a bit of a surprise at first, she says. With her parents 4,000 miles away in Hawaii and a real bout of homesickness settling in, Magdaleno leaned on her friends and JMU Residence Life staff to help her feel connected.

“And then sophomore year, I just really fell in love with JMU and I came to find that, you know, there's probably other students who felt the same way as I did my first year and who want JMU to be their home, too—so that's when I decided to get involved with Orientation,” she says.

Magdaleno started as a First Year Orientation Guide, which she says “was so much fun getting because of getting to work with students and help them integrate into their first few weeks at JMU.”

The following year, she was selected as an Orientation Peer Adviser, a rung higher on the Orientation organizational ladder and, she says, a role that fit her particularly well.

“Growing up a military kid, I really love families and wanted to work with students before they even get to JMU—just their whole application journey. I got to help talking to parents this summer leading up to going to college because I know it’s hard for parents to send their babies to school. So that was really big for me, working with families new to JMU.”

Getting involved was not on Magdaleno’s radar when she arrived at JMU, she says.

“I played sports in high school. And that's all I did. Coming into college, I knew I was not going to play on one of the varsity sports teams, so I thought my only job was going to be to go to class and come home and study.

But it has been really nice to find extracurriculars that were very fun and worked with my schedule. Everything here is extremely flexible,” she says. “And JMU puts students first before anything—like, no matter what activity I have been involved in, it’s always been made clear to me that I’m a student first. So that has been nice—being able to be a part of organizations that really allow me to excel in my academics.”

Magdaleno remembers wanting a school with school spirit and a friendly vibe.

“From the start, I could tell it had the big-school feeling but the intimacy of a small school where I get to go to class and really get to know people both in my classes and outside them, too,” she says. “It was easy to fall in love with JMU.”

And to find her niche, too.

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