As a community, James Madison University strives to recognize those who are dedicated to the mission and vision statement, but even more importantly, those who are dedicated to the people of JMU. Carson Yandira Lonett is the perfect example of this. A triple Duke, Carson graduated from JMU with both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree and her first position at JMU was being the Leadership Program Specialist, responsible for supervising some Dux Leadership Center students. She now is Coordinator for the First Year Involvement Center in the Office of Residence Life. When I say Carson has done it all, she really has done it all. She volunteers in various clubs and boards around campus. She also is not afraid to learn, as she constantly attends trainings and webinars in order to keep up with the latest “practices” of Leadership, to be inclusive of the entire JMU community.

I want to share with all of you some excerpts, just a few of the many nominations that were submitted for Carson by her fellow coworkers. I believe this example shows the complete embodiment of not only the JMU spirit, but who Carson is as a person. This first excerpt was written by a former cohort member of Carson’s in her Master’s program:

“I met Carson in our Master’s program, during which she was always the one to rally everyone together, whether it’d be for a dinner, class project, or just to remind us all that we’re going through one common experience and need to support each other.  I remember one instance in which our cohort was hard on another cohort member who was having a tough week. It was easier for most of us to be annoyed with our cohort member than to understand where she was coming from. However, Carson was the one who spoke up and said ‘She’s having a hard week. Maybe we should all think about what we’re like when we have hard weeks.’ Such a simple statement was enough to turn our cohort around and remind us that we’re all people who are fighting our own battles, and that we should be forgiving and have grace with others when their battles arise.”

Some additional excerpts from her nominators, speak volumes about Carson:

  1. One of the things that impresses me most about Carson is her constant desire and practice of continuing to learn.  Carson is one of the best models of engaged learning I have seen…the role model we want for our students.”
  2. Carson is a phenomenal woman and is always changing the lives of those who she comes into contact with.
  3. She inspired me to maintain a positive attitude and an upbeat personality despite the ups and downs of everyday life.  She aims for success and builds up those around her. She inspires change and innovation.
  4. Carson has the uncanny ability to find a lesson in every situation and “look on the bright side” to find ways to move forward, even when most people would give up.

These short excerpts, while they emulate such a simple idea, speak so much to Carson’s character and why she is the embodiment of this All Together One Award. In times when it’s easy to write people off or to ignore them, Carson steps up and reminds others that people should be treated with respect and we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. At JMU, we pride ourselves on our empathy, or our ability to put ourselves into another person’s shoes. Carson’s simple gesture is a great reminder to us as a JMU body to think of others and to treat others the way we want to be treated.

In the Office of Residence Life, in her coordinator role for the First Year Involvement Center, Carson is in charge of monitoring things like programming and the Community Activities Board. She is extremely welcoming and she always has a smile on her face. I can personally attest to her incredible optimism and love for JMU, which is why she is one of the perfect people to receive this award.

All Together One sometimes recognizes the little things. Whether it is a gesture, a smile, or holding the door open for someone, JMU strives for a better community as well as a happier place and we need that. One of my favorite quotes from Mother Theresa is,  

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

I think this speaks true for Carson. We don’t need grand gestures to create a community. All it takes is a simple hello or holding a door for someone who might be a bit farther away. Carson epitomizes all these qualities and strives every day to make JMU a welcoming community. Her sheer enthusiasm and her dedication to Office of Residence Life makes the First Year Involvement Center an extremely welcoming environment. Carson adds a personal touch to everything she does so it’s easy to remember her whether it’s with a smile or a simple hello.  It is my personal honor and privilege to present this 2017 All Together One Award to Carson Yandira Lonett.

Written by: Angela Flanagan

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