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Student Life

Professors at JMU make students their top priority. Our focus is on undergraduates, so faculty are here to welcome you in ways that are incredibly rare for many schools our size. Here is just one story of the student-professor connection that is common all across campus.


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Michael Friedman

Class of 2021

Major: Biotechnology 

Minor: Honors Interdisciplinary Studies

Hometown: Bristow, Virginia

High School: Patriot High

Highlights: Published researcher, a rarity for undergrads; Phi Sigma Pi national Honors fraternity; ran with the Harrisonburg Rescue Squad; headed to Harvard School of Dental Medicine next; going into the U.S. Navy afterward

”There have just been amazing opportunities that came my way here. I’m very thankful.”

Michael Friedman knew he loved science.

Then he met Dr. Ray Enke.

The results are mind-boggling.

There’s the published research as an undergraduate. And presentations all over the country. And the acceptance into Harvard School of Dental Medicine. And then a commission in the U.S. Navy afterward.

Friedman says that when he said yes to JMU, he had no expectation that his Madison Experience would be anywhere close to what it has been.

”Coming to JMU, I just had doors open for me,” he says. “I came in biology and pre-medicine. The truth is that my ‘Why’ wasn’t really developed. At first, my day-to-day just felt like whatever—and then I started meeting other JMU students and learning their ‘why’ and what they were doing with it. That included people who were in Dr. Enke’s lab who ended up being student mentors for me. Guys like Ryan Hilton and Kimber Mahilly. Ryan is now in med school and Kimber is now in optometry school. We’re still close, and we still stay in touch. ”

Enke says that Friedman has done a quality job of paying it forward, too, taking the time and interest in mentoring younger students. “That’s a key component to what we do here, the treadmill effect of having great students train other great students,” Enke says.

Friedman and Enke connected in Enke’s lab the fall of Friedman’s sophomore year, which Enke says “is great because that gave us three full years together to make a lot of progress.”

In those years, Friedman says he has learned many of the best lessons of his life.

“This was one of my first times being in a setting where I was consistently failing. No one likes to fail. No one wants to come in and expect failure,” he says, adding, “The message of research is, ‘You’re going to fail. Expect failure. Learn from it. How are you going to be better on the next experiment?’ ”

Eventually, the patience gleaned from failure helped lead Friedman to some pretty wild success.

“I brag on him to anyone who will listen,” Says Enke of his relationship with Friedman. “If there’s one message that I hope we can send out to potential JMU students, it’s that you can come to a school like JMU and still go off to Harvard dental school and become a Naval officer.”

Friedman gushes with gratitude about his time with Enke.

“I really owe it to him—the opportunity to be in the lab, to do all the fun research, to meet all the people that I’ve met, to have the mentorship,” Friedman says. “It’s been incredible experience. I talk to my friends who go to other schools and they’re like, ‘You did what now? You’re in California presenting where?’ They’re always like, ‘What is happening?’”

Just another JMU student rocking life after connecting with a JMU professor.

Attention when you need it. A safety net as you learn and grow.

A satisfied smile as you head off to take on the world.

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