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Students Leading Engagement Initiatives

President Alger has entrusted funds to the Faculty Senate to further the university vision. As part of this effort, the Faculty Senate and Student Government Association (SGA) are partnering to offer the opportunity for students to apply for mini-grants (up to $5,000) to fund engagement projects.

  • Mini-grant funds may be used to support an existing engagement project or for new engagement initiatives.
  • All JMU students are eligible to apply.
  • Funds are awarded in December.
  • Engagement projects can be done any time but must be complete by April 2023.
  • Grant winners are invited (and expected) to present a poster of their project for university leaders and fellow students at the April symposium.

The application asks for the following:
1. A 500-word description of your engagement initiative and explanation of how it embodies James Madison
University’s vision statement.
2. Give a brief timeline for your project's implementation and completion. (Projects can begin prior to Spring semester, but grant funds will not be awarded until January. Projects should be completed by April 2023.)
3. Provide a budget overview/breakdown for your project. (In other words, show estimations of what you'll be spending the money on and how much.)

Mini-grant applications will be judged on the following criteria:
1. Extent to which the proposed initiative will promote high-quality engagement within one or more of the
three engagement types.
2. Clarity and feasibility of the project’s budget and timeline.



The vision statement for JMU is “To be the national model for the engaged university: engaged with ideas and the world.”

At JMU, engagement takes three forms:

  1. Engaged Learning —Developing deep, purposeful and reflective learning, through classroom, campus, and community experiences in the pursuit, creation, application and dissemination of knowledge.
  2. Civic Engagement —Advancing the legacy of James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, by preparing individuals to be active and responsible participants in a representative democracy dedicated to the common good.
  3. Community Engagement —Fostering mutually beneficial and reciprocal partnerships, ranging from local to global, that connect learning to practice, address critical societal problems, and improve quality of life.


JMU Student Engagement Mini-Grant Recipients for 2022-23

  • Matthew Lewis Caulfield
  • Nelson Girinshuti
  • Clemence Mukabalisa Mbabazi
  • Andy Po-Kim Luong
  • Xixëllonjë Izet Nebihu
  • Ashley Garvin Sharp
  • Angelina Elizabeth Clapp
  • Doruntina Maliqi
  • Grace Margaret Klein
  • Zachary Dongmin-Masato Shin

JMU Student Engagement Mini-Grant Recipients for 2021-2022

Emily Butters – Partnering with Open Doors Shelter

Mini-Grant recipient Emily Butters supported the operations of Open Doors, a low barrier night shelter in Harrisonburg. Open Doors is committed to providing homeless people in Harrisonburg with meals and a place to sleep. The funding helped Emily secure week-to-week needs for the shelter, such as silverware, paper towels, and hygienic needs. Emily was also able to use the Mini-Grant to fund a week’s activities for shelter guests. Additionally, she was able to provide a few nights of dinner. In her work with Open Doors, Emily was able to start conversations with community members about the issues facing Harrisonburg’s homeless community.

Tristan Kruse – Outdoor Kitchen at Jubilee Climate Farm

Mini-Grant recipient Tristan Kruse partnered with Jubilee Climate Farm to build an outdoor, solar-powered kitchen. The farm serves as a living test site for ecological and agricultural experiments for JMU faculty and other researchers. Workers, volunteers, and researchers are provided lunch every day as a bonding experience and as a reward for hard work. Currently, the employees utilize a single hot plate to cook food in a cramped shed. The creation of the kitchen will allow the workers to cook a meal outside using better appliances and tools. The kitchen's solar power also supports the mission of the farm to drive sustainability efforts in the Harrisonburg area.

Abby Maltese – Elementary School Parachute Activity

The JMU Rocketry team, with member and Mini-Grant Recipient Abby Maltese, taught over 360 3rd and 4th grade students in the Harrisonburg community about parachutes, air resistance, and gravity. As the first JMU NASA Student Launch team, the team aims to inspire the next generation of aerospace engineers. The group went to individual classes, taught a lesson, and ran the students through a design challenge. Students were thrilled to learn about rockets and creative parachute designs. Through the activity, they tested and modified their parachutes, demonstrating a new understanding of air resistance.

Zachary Shin – JMUVSA Annual Culture Show: Tam Cam

JMU’s Vietnamese Student Association, with member and Mini-Grant recipient Zachary Shin, presented its Fifteenth Annual Culture Show “Tam Cam” at Memorial Hall on March 26, 2022. Every year, JMU VSA holds its culture show to showcase aspects of Vietnamese culture and bring the multicultural community together. This event promotes diversity and inclusion, carrying out VSA’s goal of spreading awareness about Vietnamese culture. The show took audiences through the Vietnamese Cinderella folktale of Tam and Cam with culturally vibrant performances such as co-ed traditional dance, co-ed modern dance, fan dance, and parasol dance. While speaking to the JMU community, the event also unified the Vietnamese Student Associations in the Mid-Atlantic region, bringing them together for this special occasion.



JMU Student Engagement Mini-Grant Recipients for 2019-2020

Ethan Gardner and Aaliyah McLean- Complete Count 2020

College students are counted at their college residences but they are historically undercounted, resulting in billions of dollars lost in federal funding for college communities. Harrisonburg has other historically undercounted communities, including immigrants and racial minorities. This project broadly aims to improve Census engagement with forums focused on hard-to-count communities, including off-campus college students, communities of color, rural communities, and others.

Ethan Gardner- 2020 Presidential Town Halls

Virginia is part of a notable group of Super Tuesday states which will be voting on March 3rd. With this Mini-Grant, Ethan is seeking to take advantage of VA's early primary to bring the candidates to campus for a slate of Town Halls. Begin social media marketing campaign in January at the start of the semester announcing the schedule of candidates to generate interest in the election

Jason Starr- JMU on the Front of the Global Refugee Crisis

Jason originally planned to present an exhibition of photographs to engage the community on the issues of the refugee crisis in Europe. However, in light of the global pandemic, he focused on photographing and exploring the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities across the United States. He documented the effects on individuals, communities, and businesses ranging from small towns to major cities with an emphasis on indigenous communities. He is planning to present an exhibition of his photographic project, pending a gallery space. View a preview of his photography exhibition here.

From the Exhibit: Colliding Crises: Washington D.C.- The District of Columbia Protesters following social distancing guidelines speak out against the murder of black Americans by police officers outside the Whitehouse.


Katherine “Kasey” Clayton- Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Kasey will partner with organizations across the university to bring human trafficking awareness to JMU and the Harrisonburg area, to make change in the companies involved with human rights infractions by educating students and community members about fair trade items and ethical buying practices, and to create a continuous conversation about the issue of human trafficking on campus and in our community.

Matthew Hershberger- Free Dental Days at the Dental Clinic of the Northern Shenandoah Valley

"Free Dental Days" coordinates dental care for underserved patients in Winchester, Virginia to provide free cleanings, fillings, and extractions and aims to teach the importance of oral hygiene to medically-underserved residents. Matthew hopes to treat at least 70 patients in partnership with Dental Clinic of the Northern Shenandoah Valley to improve personal and community health. Free Dental Days volunteers demonstrate proper brushing, flossing, and rinsing techniques with every patient receiving a take-home bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and fluoride rinse.

Miryeng “Irene” Song- Dukes Academy: Accessible Online Resources, By Students for Students

This project is an extension of an ongoing project within the Science and Math Learning Center that has thus far been driven by a handful of ambitious students with the intention of creating practice tests and video explanations of worked problems for students in classes with high rates of D/F/W. Grant recipients will recruit ambitious students to expand our library of resources for General Chemistry courses by hiring and guiding individuals to create similar content in Canvas that will be reused each semester.

Pierre Mbala- Buendedi Business Built on Love

Pierre formed Buendedi Business Built on Love (BBBL), an organization empowering Congolese artisans in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by reselling their accessories in the United States, and aims to fund the tuition of Congolese teens. Utilizing his years of experience as a Valley Scholar, he has created a similar application process to find academically determined teens in Congolese school systems. The grant will allow BBBL to sponsor two teens for six years while still selling accessories to work towards sponsoring more teens. BBBL embodies excellence by providing opportunities for teens to reach a high level of academic performance and works to establish mutual respect with the artisans by continuing the relationship of buying their accessories.

August 2021 update from Pierre: Buendedi has finally been granted its tax-exempt status from the IRS, making us a 501(c)(3) non-profit! 

Sophie LeFew- Days for Girls

This initiative educates and enlightens students about the state of women and girls in other countries around the world in partnership with Days for Girls. This project helps to foster mutual respect for the hardships of others as well as respect for other cultures and socioeconomic situations. JMU students will make period kits for girls in third world countries that do not have access to feminine hygiene products by assembling to create period kits consisting of 8 absorbent tri-fold pads, 2 moisture barrier shields, a washcloth, 2 pairs of panties, a travel-sized soap, a care and use sheet, a chart to track periods, two Ziploc gallon-sized freezer bags, and a drawstring bag.

JMU Student Engagement Mini-Grant Recipients for 2018-2019:

Read an update from the 18-19 recipients in Spring '19 #EngagedJMU newsletter and The Breeze.

Matthew Ashley - Children of Milagros

Children of Milagros aims to create a non-profit organization to aid in sending young children of the Dominican Republic to an educational daycare while their parents go to work. The children in this target demographic are generally from low-income families and often from single-parent homes. Currently, parents pay a monthly fee, equivalent to approximately $90 USD, and are expected to send various supplies each day. Because of the varying financial situations of these parents, many simply pay when they can. Additionally, parents often cannot afford to provide enough supplies (diapers, food, or water) and send the children with nothing. The primary goal of this project is to fund a current location that exists in Gurabo, Santiago of the Dominican Republic. This daycare location is called Espacio Madison Infantil and is the motivation for the creation of this NPO.

Allison Brandmark - Stone Spring Garden Project

To promote community engagement and engaged learning for the students in the Autism Program at Stone Spring Elementary School (SSES), a local Harrisonburg City Public School (HCPS), this project will build and grow a community garden at their school. The Autism Program consists of 30 students who have been identified as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder and who receive special education services. In order to increase their engagement in learning and provide them with hands-on, life-skills opportunities, Stone Spring Garden Project will cultivate a garden to produce vegetables to use in their cooking activities and will work with the teachers to align science standards of learning (SOL) objectives from each grade level to the garden project to take advantage of the opportunity for hands-on learning, to support general education pacing guidelines, and to boost overall student success. Additionally, two, local Girl Scout troops will build the community garden to earn a badge.

Sarah Brock - Real Women in STEM

According to the Department of Commerce, women make up slightly over half of the college-educated workforce, but only 25 percent of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) workforce. Studies indicate that girls begin losing interest in STEM beginning in middle school. The largest factor that deters girls from being interested in STEM is not their ability to perform at the same level as boys, but negative stereotypes of women in STEM. This project aims to shift this perception of girls in STEM by providing real-life role models of social, happy girls with broad interests and hobbies outside of their enriching academic life. This shift provides diverse representation for future generations of young females in STEM by creating a website and posters with their portraits and biographies for use in middle schools and high schools in the Harrisonburg area. These interviews highlight how and when these girls realized their interests in STEM; what other hobbies they have; and what it means to them to be a girl in STEM.

Shane Chambers (with Michael Pamonag and Jeremy Asher Bravo Narula) - Improving the standard of living at the Salvation Army Shelter in Harrisonburg

In response to identified needs to improve the standard of living for Salvation Army occupants. These improvements include working toward securing new beds, pressure washing the tile floor of the showering area, and professionally spraying the living quarters for pest control. In addition, food was purchased for these individuals on a weekly basis for one year as budgeted and was served by the younger volunteers. This project facilitated the development of long-standing relationships between the residents and the community.

Austin Evans - Quest for Questioners

Quest for Questioners is an outreach program with the Ethical Reasoning in Action organization to introduce the 8 Key questions and ethical considerations to middle and high school students in the Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County areas by incorporating them into real-world scenarios that can be tied to Virginia Standards of Learning and presented in the classroom setting. The hope is to get students thinking in a critical manner and give them the tool kit of the 8 Key Questions so that that they can be better educated citizens, more engaged in their learning, and better thinkers and decision-makers in their day-to-day life. In addition to the classroom facilitation, this project plans to develop a long-term project with Turner Ashby's Leadership Class. In this project, the students will get an in-depth understanding of ethical reasoning through the 8 Key Questions and then they will be asked to identify local or regional ethical dilemmas. They will then choose a problem and develop a project over the course of the spring semester to help inform the public about and/or help to alleviate the conflicts affecting the community by using ethical reasoning to guide them through the decision-making process. In order to make all of this happen, an interactive program site called Quest for Questioners! has been developed.

Emma Laney - JMU at Education and Hope

Education and Hope, is located in Xela, Guatemala and is an after-school tutoring program that also provides tuition to children from the poorest communities around Xela. It also provides the children with clothing, backpacks, shoes, toothbrushes, hot meals, and showers. The goal of this project is to send six representatives to Xela to would act as tutors in: English, Spanish, Math, and Science, as well as to help the staff cook the daily meals and to help buy food from the market each morning. Project members will also assist as Zumba instructors once each week to provide the children with exercise.

Carlie Louine Madsen - LSVT Loud Project

Each year 50,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and half a million people are living with the condition. Treatment of Parkinson's disease requires a team approach, and Speech-Language Pathologists can be an important part of that team. Addressing the disparity between access/awareness of help for speech and voice problems in people living with Parkinson's disease is the focus of this project. THE SLP cohort at JMU received an online training that allowed them to administer the gold standard voice treatment for Parkinson's patients called LSVT Loud. Then during the month of May, as part of Better Speech and Hearing Month (ASHA, n.d.), the cohort engaged in a social media campaign to raise awareness in our diverse communities about speech problems with Parkinson's disease. Finally, they also each engaged civically by writing their state and national representatives about reforms that benefit patients with Parkinson's Disease.

Caroline Whitlow - The Teal Meal

Students Against Sexual Violence will use this grant funding to partner with Athletics to bring #SetTheExpectation to JMU. #SetTheExpectation is a national program designed to empower student-athletes and coaches as voices against sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Education, awareness, commitment through signing a pledge are three of the program's main objectives. Grant funding will be used to bring Brenda Tracy to speak to student-athletes and encourage them to sign the pledge. Following her speech and focus groups with the athletes in attendance, we hope to dedicate one football game of the 2019 season as an awareness game. Football players would wear helmet stickers or patches with the teal and purple ribbon, and an announcement would be made before or during the game of what the awareness effort is for. 

JMU Student Engagement Mini-Grant Recipients for 2017-2018:

Kathia Bonilla - Art Therapy Initiative

This semester Kathia is completing 150 hours at Western State Hospital for her field placement capstone in the psychology department. When patients leave Western State they need skills to function in the community. Mental health receives less funding than other state departments; therefore, staff at Western State are limited in the tools they can use in therapy. She will train staff to use painting as a primary therapeutic tool. She will also consult with a certified Art Therapist to ensure the validity of her procedures. Through Art Therapy, she will explore topics that patients in the facility struggle with such as body image. Through hands-on engagement, she expects patients to be more open about their feelings and to reflect on their self-perception. The American Art Therapy Association (2004) states that art therapy can help in “reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness, developing social skills, managing behavior, solving problems and reducing anxiety” among other benefits. She plans to implement Art Therapy with a focus on painting to explore different topics that will lead to insight and reflection in patients.

Livvy Call - A Fully Conscious Meal 

Livvy developed the idea and led the effort to host Cultivating Community: A Local, Conscious Meal at the Harrisonburg Turner Pavilion on April 6, 2018. The meal was provided free to attendees and featured only ingredients from local farmers/producers, local speakers and a band. Over 120 people attended from all over Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley, and included many community members. Overall, the event was a smashing success that received praise and publicity in the local community!

Laura Goldstein - Women and Gender Studies Camp

Laura designed programming and directed an all-day camp for local middle school girls to learn more about women’s and gender studies, empowerment, combatting interpersonal violence and toxic masculinity. The camp included guest speakers and educational activities to help re-channel the harsh influence media and society have on young children.

Stephanie Pasewaldt - Uganda and Sanitation

The fundamental rights concerning water, sanitation, and hygiene education (WASH) are not afforded to millions of children around the world. Schools have the power to promote health and hygiene, yet fewer than 50% of the world’s primary schools are actually able to do so due to a lack of resources. The promotion of handwashing with soap is a simple intervention that can be implemented to advance children’s lives. For her Honors project, Stephanie spent five weeks in Uganda implementing a handwashing promotion initiative, “Healthy Hygiene Spirit Week”, at an organization called Raising Up Hope for Uganda (RUHU). The initiative involved the implementation of a group handwashing station and a hand hygiene curriculum (pictures available upon request). However, Stephanie knew she needed to travel back to Uganda to also construct adequate toilets for RUHU with flushing systems to replace the squat toilets the schools were using. The project engages RUHU and its surrounding community using local contractors for the construction while working with students to review handwashing knowledge.

Danika Pfeiffer - Preschool Reading Program

JMU graduate speech-language pathology and occupational therapy students implemented emergent writing activities in two local preschools. The small-group interventions took place twice a week, with each group of preschoolers participating in 10 days of 30-minute activities.  Based on pre- and post-assessments, all preschoolers demonstrated improvement in at least one of the following areas: writing letters, writing their name, writing words.  In addition, data from focus groups and interviews conducted with the graduate students over the course of the study show that those working in interprofessional pairs gained a greater understanding of interprofessional collaboration.

Caitlyn Robertson - Public Event on Immigration, Refugees, and Diversity in Harrisonburg

The Friendly City Culture Collective is a public education event that lasts one month per language group while featuring a different language group that resides in Harrisonburg. This program showcases a language group's food, local businesses, religious participation, and other cultural aspects as citizens of Harrisonburg.

Caleigh Strother - Music Program at the CCCA

In order to reap the benefits of music-making, Caleigh implemented a music program at the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents where JMU School of Music students developed and carried out three different education groups monthly.

Autumn Waish - Community Criminal Justice Days Conference Seminars

The Valley Justice Coalition is a local community organization that animates the Harrisonburg and Rockingham communities to engage in reducing incarceration and recidivism through public education, policy advocacy, coalition building, and grassroots organizing. The Valley Justice Coalition and the Institute for Reform and Solutions hosted a series of shorter seminars based on the model of our established Community Criminal Justice Days. While some Valley Justice Coalition events were held at JMU, other events were held in a variety of locations to maximize the participation of local officials and diverse local residents. These events featured speeches by thought leaders in criminal justice reform and panel discussions of invited experts, local officials, and leaders of innovative initiatives from across the state. Each event concluded with opportunities for these speakers to engage with members of the diverse Harrisonburg community through facilitated dialogue.

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