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JMU X-Labs Frequently Asked Questions

About JMU X-Labs

JMU X-Labs explores innovation across the entire campus. Our foundation is in collaborative research, course redesign, course sharing and degree completion. With success evergrowing, JMU X-Labs is now its own integral ecosystem within the campus culture. 

To ensure innovation never ceases, JMU X-Labs hosts a variety of interdisciplinary courses. These collaboration spaces bring together transdisciplinary teams, networks and initiatives to tackle pressing problems with unique solutions. Check out some examples of our opportunities below:

  • Makerspace
  • Collaborative Workspaces/Classrooms
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Research Experiences
  • Transdisciplinary Academic Courses
  • Sparks
  • Innovation Summit
  • Community Engagement/Partnerships
  • Esports Arena
  • Broadcasting/Shoutcasting

We are located in Lakeview Hall, across Newman Lake from Hartman Hall. 

Aside from JMU X-Labs, our building is home to JMU Esports, The Center for Assessment and Research Studies and The Office of Fellowships and Awards. 

Lakeview Hall 
298 Port Republic Rd. 
Harrisonburg, VA 22807

X-Labs+ Sparks

A JMU X-Labs Spark is designed to bring big ideas forward. More structured than a conversation but less so than a semester-long course, a Spark is an event that shapes itself around a central theme. The format and duration are flexible, adaptable, and customizable based on your needs. The goal is to create a community-wide opportunity to engage with emerging ideas from the wealth of expertise that lives on our campus. A Spark could be a single-day workshop, a weekly reading group, a ten-hour Hackathon, or any other event that explores one theme through creative approaches. 

A Spark can be many things - new ideas are always welcome. But whether a multi-day event involving faculty members from across campus or a succinct single workshop, all successfully-funded Sparks will:

  • Represent a given theme
  • Benefit any and all kinds of learning or research
  • Make a lasting impact that furthers the theme on campus and beyond

The theme for the upcoming year (2023) is sustainability. Learn more about themes. 

Any full-time or part-time faculty can apply for Spark funding. Applicants are encouraged to work with faculty across colleges and departments. 

Other interested community members such as students, JMU staff and industry partners can apply with a faculty sponsor. 

Examples of possible Spark teams:

  • CSM Originated Spark - Collaborators include CISE, CAL, CoE, community partner
  • CISE Originated Spark - Collaborators include CSM, CVPA, CoB, CHBS
  • CoE Originated Spark - Collaborators include CVPA, HBS, CoB, community partner


Spark participation is open to all JMU students, faculty, and staff.

RFS: Request for Sparks (proposals)

Spark Checklist

  • Faculty member or sponsor submits application
  • Idea relates to the given theme (2023: Sustainability)
  • Project involves collaboration with a department, person, program of study, etc. separate from the applicant’s
  • Spark fills a void on campus and provides participants an opportunity to experience something new
  • Plan includes strategy for attracting a broad audience

Evaluation Criteria

  • Adherence of proposal to Spark checklist listed above
  • Innovation in research and execution plan
  • Potential for strategic impact on the unit, college, university or Commonwealth
  • Alignment with institutional goals

For Fall 2023 Sparks, applications open at the end of January. All RFS (Request for Sparks) will be due at the end of February and Sparks will be selected after Spring Break. The exact dates will be announced soon.

Spark applications will be collected by JMU X-Labs and collated based on college. Deans of each college will receive the Spark applications and work with Academic Unit Heads to select a single Spark from each college per year.

There are opportunities for the applications of different Sparks to be merged or aggregated such that if your Spark was not selected for the college, it could still be offered in collaboration with a different college.

The selection of the college representative is at the Dean’s discretion 

 The team at JMU X-Labs will work with you from initial ideas to marketing efforts, every step along the way. After the event is finished, we’ll help you learn from it as you prepare for IgniteX. 

Content Framework: Our team works with you to bring your idea to life through a collaborative design process.

Marketing: We help promote your event across campus

Funding: Funds up to $5000 are provided to help make your event successful

Showcase: IgniteX allows you to disseminate your idea or results, join guest speakers and participate in mini-Sparks

More structured than a conversation but less so than a semester-long course, a Spark shapes itself around what’s needed to fully develop your big idea. It could be a single workshop, weekend event, or multi-day workshop leading to a showcase. 

A JMU X-Labs Spark event could be: 

  • A single workshop delivered by an expert on a specific technology that is important to your teaching or research  
  • A facilitated reading group that explores a particular text or body of literature that increases expertise on a topic for the purposes of developing a research proposal or JMU X-Labs course 
  • A curated public performance or exhibit designed to bring the community and university stakeholders together to form relationships about a particular topic. 

Sparks will be organized around an annual theme.  A new theme will be chosen each year. All Sparks submitted must align with that overall theme. Sparks will be held during the Fall semester and contribute to the IgniteX event.

In the Fall 2023 semester, we will have our first round of Sparks with the theme of Sustainability.


Fulfilling the needs of current generations without compromising the future. 

  • Economic + Political
  • Environmental
  • Social + Cultural


December 2023: IgniteX Sustainability

This campus-wide event will consist of mini-Sparks. These might be a repeat of a single workshop, a pitch competition from your Hackathon, a keynote speaker from your reading group or other creative events. IgniteX will be a final showcase of all the initiatives from the Fall semester and provide a space to present or further the learning and research started in the Sparks. 

Industry partners, community partners, Spark student participants, faculty and staff will be invited to participate in the event by running workshops, being guest speakers or even active participants.

The goal of IgniteX is to continue to push the envelope on collaborative innovation and to ignite the drive for engaged learning and research beyond the traditional classroom.

Academic Courses

Design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process used by teams to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test. It is most useful to tackle problems that are ill-defined or unknown, following five essential phases: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.


What is Design Thinking? (n.d.). The Interaction Design Foundation.

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