During each semester, many students participate in workshops that are put on all over campus.  They may spend a day focusing on specific issues, such as diversity with the Building Multicultural Competencies or focus on poverty, with a Poverty Simulation.  In the “Life in the State of Poverty” Simulation, health and human services students are randomly placed in one of the 26 “families” and have to provide housing and food for their family for one month.  During each of the 15 minute weeks, students meet with volunteers portraying community services, such as Social Services, grocery stores, police, and housing services to understand the frustration and despair that someone facing poverty might go through.  What the students don’t see is all of the work and effort put in by Emily Akerson, an Associate Director for JMU’s Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services. 

Ms. Akerson studied humanities at Calvin College in Michigan, then pursued nursing and earned a Bachelors of Science from Cornell University in New York. She then continued to earn a Masters of Nursing from the University of Washington in Seattle.  Just to show that she believes in life-long learning and her unending interest in education, Ms. Akerson is currently working on her Doctorate in Nursing Practice from the University of Virginia.  Her prestigious educational background certainly provides a strong foundation for creating opportunities for learning.  Ms. Akerson arrived at JMU in 2000 and has been a considerable asset to the community since she started.

Multi-group collaboration is one of Ms. Akerson’s specialties, especially when it will provide students, faculty and community members learning opportunities and a place to share knowledge across disciplines.  Through Ms. Akerson’s coordination, the course Ethical Decision Making in Health Care allows students from different health and human services majors and pre-professional health programs to work together on the complex ethical health issues being faced today.  With the expertise from each group, students are able to work, exemplifying Ms. Akerson’s desire to build a better community working together towards the common good.  Not only are the student’s coordinated, so too are the six faculty who teach the class together.  Ms. Akerson’s ability to facilitate cooperation and coordination to bring the six schedules, multiple spaces and syllabi together into one cohesive and functioning group is for the benefit of the hundred or so students that take the class each semester.  

The effects of Ms. Akerson’s hard work have been felt beyond the JMU Campus in numerous places in the community.  Working together with other professors to create a program to assist new parents with resources, education and encouragement in Page County called Healthy Families Page County, Ms. Akerson has worked tirelessly to create partnerships that cross the JMU boundary.  Ever attentive to situations and the people she meets, Ms. Akerson is always ready to take the interests of many people and knit them together to fill needs and fulfill the university’s mission.  By bringing people together across multiple disciplines, problems that would have been left unsolved or partially unsolved are given full attention by people with the abilities to help, and at the same time students are given fantastic, real-world learning opportunities.  

The All Together One spirit is recognized as a feeling of caring, a commitment to working together, and a dedication to learning that exists on the JMU campus.  Through her numerous involvements on and off campus, her ability to create multi-discipline groups to solve problems, and her everlasting desire to spread knowledge and the love of learning, Ms. Akerson embodies the true nature of All Together One.  It is my honor to present Ms. Emily Akerson with the All Together One award.

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