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Written by Kate Peppiatt, ('23)

Although many students dread the “fun fact” icebreaker, Xaiver Williams always has something interesting to share. “My father spelled his own middle name wrong on the birth certificate,” Xaiver laughs, “ultimately, that’s why my name is spelled X-a-i-v-e-r.” 

The junior Music Education major from Hampton, VA originally came to JMU because of his experience participating in the summer band camps. A self-proclaimed band nerd, Xaiver emphasizes that witnessing this program helped him “see the school come to life.” He argues that anyone interested in JMU should visit the school during the school year or summer programs so they can observe the community atmosphere firsthand. 

While Xaiver and his family instantly fell in love with JMU, he was originally hesitant to join the Honors College. Wanting to dedicate his time to other extracurricular activities, he was wary about the perceived workload that comes with the Honors name. However, after meeting Dr. Davis at a Madison Vision Series event, he decided to give Honors a try. Applying as a Track II student, Xaiver has now become an integral part of the Honors community. 

Working to fit Honors curriculum into his busy schedule, Xaiver has opted to create Honors options within many of his music courses. The Honors option allows students to turn a regular academic class into Honors credit by adding an additional element⎯whether it be a traditional paper or creative project⎯to explore the content by having the student do a deeper dive into something they are interested in. For Xaiver, this has provided him the perfect opportunity to use Honors as a means to develop his personal and professional goals. 

Xaiver is also using his Honors Capstone Project to explore one of his academic interests. He began working on his Capstone in one of his education classes. He researched the role of educators in the success of African American students. Using the information he learned from his project, he began to formulate a plan to continue his research. This idea manifested into Xaiver’s Capstone Project, “The Role of Black Male Educators in the Lives of Black Male Students: Decreasing the School to Prison Pipeline in the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Electing to pursue the creative Capstone option, Xaiver plans to create a 15-20 episode podcast. On each episode, he will interview different individuals in the state to learn about their perception or experience with this topic. Currently applying for the prestigious Hillcrest Scholarship, Xaiver is working hard to turn his proposal into a physical project; he already has the wheels in motion. He is excited to announce that Rodney Robinson, the 2019 National Teacher of the Year, as agreed to be a guest on his podcast.

In addition to his academic endeavors, Xaiver is also an active participant in a variety of activities across campus. He contributes to the JMU Task Force for Racial Equity: Awareness and Communication Committee, and he is a member of the Black Leadership Coalition. He serves as an intern in the Office of the President and as an ambassador for the College of Visual and Performing Arts. 

If that is not impressive enough, Xaiver also has the “honor to serve” as the Student Representative to the Board of Visitors. Xaiver describes his role using the metaphor of a bridge: he forms the connection between the 22,000 students of JMU and the individuals serving on the Board of Visitors. He explains that the Board of Visitors is a 15-member committee appointed by the governor of Virginia to oversee JMU. As the “visionary leader of the university,” the board evaluates JMU where it is and pushes the university to where it needs to go. 

Xaiver is adamant that he is “called to leadership.” He naturally wants to step into leadership positions to ensure that every individual is heard. Xaiver became interested in the Student Representative position because he believes “there are students on campus who have a voice who are not necessarily being represented.” After being elected as the Student Representative, he leads with the goals of transparency and meeting students where they are. Every quarter, he presents information to the board about what JMU students are thinking and feeling. He then works alongside the board to create tangible solutions; he wants students to be able to see the change. Xaiver emphasizes, “students need to be able to see themselves in our vision.” 

For example, after discussing the impact of COVID-19 with several acapella organizations across campus, who primarily make their money from ticket sales, Xaiver worked alongside school administrators to create the first annual cornhole tournament during Homecoming week. All the money raised from the tournament will be filtered back into student organizations. Different clubs will have the chance to apply for this funding because of Xaiver’s hard work to show the students of JMU that they have a voice. 

Looking to the future, Xaiver aspires to work in education. Throughout his life, he has considered pursuing a career as a preacher, politician, or teacher. In whatever career path he ends up pursuing, Xaiver will continue to strive to leave a positive impact, just as he has been doing at JMU. His name is one to remember. 

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