Ben Blankenship

Dr. Ben Blankenship is an assistant professor in The Department of Psychology at JMU. His research investigates social and personality predictors of social/political engagement, including outcomes like voting, activism, and political interest. He is also very interested in psychological factors that contribute to trust in social intuitions, like the government, education, and the media. In his teaching he focuses on cultural psychology, as well as research methods. He enjoys incorporating technology and social media as part of his pedagogy. Finally, in addition to being active on departmental and college diversity, equity, and inclusion committees, Dr. Blankenship is part of the chapter leadership for the emergent Virginia chapter of the Scholars Strategy Network, a national network of scholars committed to using scholarship to promote science-based policy and public decision-making. He believes that civic engagement should be at the core of higher education’s mission, and he often tries to incorporate civically-engaged topics in his research and teaching, as well as part of his service commitments to the university and beyond.  

Taimi Castle

Dr. Taimi Castle is Professor of Justice Studies and Director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence. She is a Critical Criminologist and teaches courses on comparative justice, crime and media, mass murder, and research methods. Dr. Castle formerly served as the Chair of the university’s Institutional Review Board, but now holds the position of Director of Gandhi Center, a nonviolence-oriented organization classified under the Department of Justice Studies. The Gandhi Center mission is to promote justice and nonviolence through education, scholarship, and engagement.

Stephania Cervantes

Stephania Cervantes is a recruiter for the Shenandoah Valley Migrant Education program at the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services. Prior to moving to Harrisonburg, she taught Elementary Studio Art at a Montessori School in Arlington, Virginia. She trained at the Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola University in Columbia, Maryland. Being Mexican informs her work both as an educator and visual artist. In her studio, she deconstructs concepts of identity and belonging. The series of land portraits present a non-figurative exploration of her immigrant experience in the United States. Her works are privately collected and have been featured in shows in Brooklyn, Baltimore and Washington, DC. As an educator, community organizing, advocacy, and culturally conscious learning have become a career focus. Stephania believes civic engagement plays an instrumental role in the pursuit of cultural equity. She is motivated to serve as a representative voice to outstretch educational resources to minoritized populations, specifically, migrant families.

Melody Eaton

Dr. Melody Eaton received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from James Madison University; her Master of Business Administration degree from The George Washington University; and her Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing degree from George Mason University. She holds a strong clinical, nursing administration, health policy, and educational leadership background. Dr. Eaton serves as the Commissioner on Education for the Virginia Nurses Association. She enjoys a role of Associate Director and Professor of Nursing with James Madison University School of Nursing where she teaches graduate level health policy. She has studied the effectiveness of home health care, and is published on this related topic in The Journal of Nursing Administration, and Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice. Dr. Eaton served in the role of Chair for the Legislative Coalition of Virginia Nurses for two terms, focusing on grassroots lobbying for nursing education funding and her advocacy work is also published in Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice. Dr. Eaton is a founding member of the James Madison University Health Policy Collaborative. She, along with colleagues, have studied Team Based Learning (TBL) to increase interprofessional student policy advocacy knowledge, skills, and engagement, and this work is published in Nurse Educator.

Michael Gubser

Michael Gubser is Professor of History at James Madison University, specializing in modern European history, intellectual history, Central and Eastern Europe, and the history of international development.  His most recent books are The Far Reaches: Phenomenology, Ethics, and Social Renewal in Central Europe (Stanford, 2014) and The Practice of International Development (Routledge, 2017), co-edited with Jerrold Keilson.  He is currently working on a book on the history of ahistoricism in international development.  Dr. Gubser coordinates JMU's "Democracy in Peril?" speaker series, and his musical Into the Sun was recently performed at the Kennedy Center.

Laura Hunt Trull

Laura Hunt Trull received her BSW in Social Work from James Madison University in 2001 and her MSW in Social Work with concentration in Community Organizing and Advocacy and as a Title IV-E Child Welfare Scholar in 2009 from the University of Minnesota.  In 2015 she received a PhD in Strategic Leadership Studies with concentration in Nonprofit and Community Leadership from James Madison University.  Dr. Trull has practiced Social Work at primarily the Macro level in administration and management and in policy development and implementation with the federal Head Start program.  Her research has focused largely on community based participatory research methods, interprofessional education, social work education and health policy.  She has been a member of the JMU Health Policy Collaborative since 2013 and most recently chaired the planning of the 2017 Health Policy Summit.  She is currently Assistant Professor of Social Work at James Madison University and teaches Social Policy and in the Nonprofit Studies Minor, among other core undergraduate Social Work courses.

Amy Lewis

Dr. Amy Lewis is an assistant professor of music education and Director of the Center for Inclusive Music Engagement at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. Her research is focused on critical race theory, antiracism education, and activism in music education. Previously she studied her doctoral work at Michigan State University in music education. Her work is published in Action, Criticism, and Theory in Music Education, and Michigan Music Educator Journal.

Gwyneth Mellinger

Dr. Gwyneth Mellinger is director of JMU's School of Media Arts & Design. A former journalist, her research interests focus on institutional racism and other identity-based inequities in news organizations and their impact on the democratic mission of the press. Her book, Chasing Newsroom Diversity: From Jim Crow to Affirmative Action (Illinois, 2013) received the Kappa Tau Alpha Frank Luther Mott Award for a research-based book on mass communication. She holds a doctorate in American Studies from the University of Kansas.

Dena Pastor

Dr. Dena A. Pastor has a dual appointment at James Madison University as a professor in the Department of Graduate Psychology and as the Associate Director of Assessment Operations in the Center for Assessment and Research Studies (CARS). She teaches graduate courses in statistics and data management and advises students in the Assessment & Measurement Ph.D. program and the Psychological Sciences – Quantitative Psychology M.A. program. In CARS she oversees the coordination of JMU’s biannual institution-wide Assessment Days and provides guidance on JMU’s civic engagement assessment endeavors.


Kristen Shuyler

Kristen Shuyler is Assistant Professor and the Director of Communications and Outreach at James Madison University Libraries. Her current research focuses on civic engagement content in library outreach & programming, student-led outreach for academic libraries, and other creative ways to approach academic library outreach.

Emma Thacker

Dr. Emma Thacker is an associate professor in the department of Early, Elementary, and Reading Education, currently teaching courses in elementary social studies education. She comes to JMU from Wake Forest University where she was a Teacher-Scholar Postdoctoral Fellow in the department of education for two years. Dr. Thacker taught high school social studies in central Kentucky before pursuing her Ph.D. and enjoys working with and learning from teachers and students.


Jordan Todd

Jordan is the Assistant Director of the Center for Multicultural Student Serrvices at JMU. Prior to this posiiton he was the Coordinator for Student Learning Initiatives in the Office of Residence Life. He has a Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Sociology from The Pennsylvania State University and a Master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration from JMU. Much of his passion for civic engagement comes from his time as a debater in high school and college. His experiences have served as a catalyst for his professional and scholarly interests ever since. Though his primary role on campus is supporting residential education efforts, he has a deep interest in social justice and student leadership learning and development. He serves on the Student Affairs Diversity Council and Presidential Leadership Academy Planning Team as well as co-facilitates an honors inclusive leadership course. His work challenges conventional ways of knowing and learning and strives to center marginalized voices in conversations, program development, and decision-making. He is excited to explore the connections between civic engagement and student development during his time on the Civic Engagement Team.

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