Career Networking Month

A $12,000 Madison Trust grant was awarded in 2015 to staff participants Alicia Pettis, Assistant Director of Leadership Giving; Ashley PrivottDirector of Alumni Relations; and Amanda Leech, a prior staff member in Alumni Relations for their project, the Career Networking Month. This program was developed through partnership with the GOLD Network that targets young alumni to encourage giving.  

The networking event appeals to young alumni and has reached alumni from Philadelphia, the Washington D. C. area, Virginia Beach and Richmond. The project has become a collaborative effort between the Office of Annual Giving and the Office of Alumni Relations with extended partnerships across the division of University Advancement. 

“This experience has given us as departments the chance to really think about career networking and develop projects that would work for those events.” – Alicia Pettis 

The project has seen great success with a large turnout at the 2016 event, where nearly 200 JMU alumni attended. Looking toward the future, the project leaders plan to seek further funding in order to continue hosting the Career Networking Month event annually and ultimately help foster further connections among young alumni. 

“These are invaluable experiences for the young alumni to connect to opportunities they may not have otherwise.” – Alicia Pettis 


Concrete Spit

Dr. Patrice LudwigAssociate Professor of Biology, submitted a proposal to Madison Trust in 2014 for her Concrete Spit projectwhich awarded her a grant of $15,000. Ludwig’s main goals when she began her research were to test for a concrete formula that makes a difference for the oysters and to not put anything into the water that harms the organisms. Using a special concrete that contains limestone, Dr. Ludwig has been testing the oysters’ strike and growth. Dr. Ludwig’s findings have suggested that the special concrete initially buffered pH better than regular concrete, which could have long term success on oyster shell health. Dr. Ludwig and her student researchers are also working to mimic the shape of an oyster reef with the concrete that more faithfully reflects the biology of the organisms. Along with exploring concrete’s effects on oysters, Dr. Ludwig has also been learning about entrepreneurship so that she can eventually take the concrete product to market. 

 A unique part of this project is its links between business and traditional biology research, typically an unlikely pair. The funds from Madison Trust have been used towards raw materials and to support travel for students aiding in researching the project. Her advice to potential donor-investors is to keep an open mind about the potential of a process rather than just a product, as well as finding something they might be curious about. In the future, Dr. Ludwig hopes that the earnings from this  product will create an endowment which will be used to fund student research  projects that have a high fail rate. Of course, Dr. Ludwig would also love to ultimately save the bay.   

"One of the biggest successes we've had is the diversity of students across campus this project is starting to involve." – Dr. Patrice Ludwig 

Demystifying the Expert

A $10,000 grant was awarded to Dr. Anca Constantin and Dr. Klebert Feitosa in 2015. Both are professors in the department of Physics and Astronomy at JMU. Their program, Demystifying the Expert, seeks to present important scientific information on what they call a “comedy plate”. Through collaboration with JMU’s student improvisation troupe, New & Improv’dthe program features conversations between faculty within the College of Science and Mathematics and members of New & Improv’d to find out about their life outside the classroom and in the process highlight scientific knowledge and discoveries.  

The Madison Trust funding has helped with the advertising and marketing efforts on behalf of Demystifying the Expert to promote the program and attract a large student audience.  

“What’s unique about our project is it allows for members of our community to communicate science in an informal atmosphere, one that attracts people who would not normally come to hear a scientific discussion,” said Dr. Constantin.


Since 2012, Associate Professor Dr. Jennifer Coffman, Professor Dr. Michael Deaton and Research Analyst Jacob Mayiani have traveled to East Africa to play the culturally-anchored boardgame ERAMAT with pastoralists. The game deals with the hardships and challenges of life, along with teaching its players about sustainable living and the environment. The ERAMAT game was proposed to Madison Trust in 2014 and received a grant of $21,4000. The funds from have helped to develop and produce new versions of the game. There are currently 40-50 games that have reached over 700 people worldwide, as the game has been played with pastoralists (farmers of livestock) and non-pastoralists alike. In 2014, ERAMAT received the “Rising Star Award” from the North American Simulation and Gaming Association.  

ERAMAT is both a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary, as it brings together ISAT, anthropology and sociology, while having the versatility to be played in communities around the world. Coffman, Deaton and Mayiani have found one of their greatest challenges to be making this game more accessible, and hope to create a more shareable version in the future.  Coffman, Deaton and Mayiani would also like to thank Madison Trust for the funds that have helped to build the game boards and develop ERAMAT further.  

"We hope that this can be a tool that helps people gain a deeper understanding of problems in communities worldwide, as well as a learning tool for American students that creates global understanding." – Michael Deaton  

Innovation-Collaboration Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

A $5,000 grant awarded in 2014 to Mary Lou Bourne, the Director of Technology Innovation and Executive Director of James Madison Innovations, Inc. The Entrepreneurship Ecosystem seeks to engage the Ice House Champions with the community. This is achieved through a partnership with the city council that ties together the Harrisonburg community with JMU’s student and faculty participants.  

The Madison Trust funding has benefitted the program immensely. The program has allowed student entrepreneurs to tailor and practice their pitches and receive constructive feedback from credited investors. 

The goal of the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem is the benefit the Shenandoah Valley and their Angel Investors, Harrisonburg and JMU communities and improve access to capital for budding entrepreneurs. 

“We’re making the work of entrepreneurship relevant and visible to the community.” – Mary Lou Bourne 

JMU Connection Theater

Professor Dr. Paul Warne submitted a proposal to Madison Trust in 2014 and received a grant of $3,000 for the JMU Connection Theater project. Student actors would integrate math, science, and humor on stage with the goal of helping college students see how math is relevant in their lives. Since the proposal was submitted there have been two productions, with another upcoming show in the Spring of 2017. In one of their productions, the student actors dressed as famous mathematicians competing against each other on a cooking show, where pie was even flung with a trebuchet. This project contains many cross-disciplinary elements as it uses math, science, theater, and maybe in the future music performance and lighting design.  

Dr. Warne said that it has been very rewarding building bridges all across campus and seeing how creative the students that have helped produce the shows are. While sometimes the experiments don’t go exactly as planned, Dr. Warne said that it has given him an even greater appreciation for his science colleagues. Dr. Warne would like to thank the Madison Trust, as this grant has helped to fund the 5 students that have been working on this project. Dr. Warne hopes that this project will help to positively change the attitude students have about math for generations to come.   

"The goal is to connect all these creative groups on campus and bring them together to help promote mathematical literacy. We want people to have a positive feeling about what mathematics is." – Paul Warne

JMU to World

A $10,700 Madison Trust grant awarded in 2014 to Dr. Giovanna Scarela leader in the field of physics whose innovative research has built the foundation for a competitive discovery surrounding infrared light. 

The Madison Trust Funding helped develop a workshop for both students and faculty that brought in physicists to discuss the topic of infrared power generation. It has also helped fund student research, giving JMU to World the opportunity to further working toward the cutting-edge discovery they’re on the brink of revealing. 

The student participants in JMU to World have had the opportunity to broaden their talents as physicists through this nontraditional project and have their work published. The faculty participants have the opportunity to further their passion for physics through involvement in the project as well as build valuable connections through faculty-student collaboration. 

“The difference between JMU and a research one level university is that we have different requirements for research, and through these requirements a little bit more freedom. Investor-Judges should keep an eye on our departments, as this freedom can truly help lead to innovation.” – Dr. Giovanna Scarel  


A $12,000 Madison Trust grant awarded in 2014 to the former Center for Entrepreneurship’s director Carol Hamilton. Carol helped begin what has become MadInc, a program designed to grow JMU’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. MadInc gives innovative students access to the necessary mentors, seed funding and other resources necessary to develop sustainable and high-impact businesses. 

The Madison Trust funding has allowed for passionate student entrepreneurs to build teams designed to develop, produce, market, and eventually sell their products to the masses 

Through the growth of MadInc, project leaders have had the opportunity to extend their influence outside the Center for Entrepreneurship and allow cross-disciplinary collaboration by encompassing students in various departments including the psychology and industrial design fields.  

“To our donors, thank you for believing in us. Thank you for investing in the future.” – Carol Hamilton. 

MadInc has a new director for the 2017 year; Mr. Patrick McQuown

Madison Connect Hub

A $50,000 Madison Trust grant was awarded in 2014 to Dr. Elise Barrella and Dr. Olga Pierrakosmembers of the JMU Engineering faculty to develop the Madison Connect HUB. The HUB is a web-based platform that will enable JMU students, faculty and staff, alumni, and local/regional external partners to design a more interconnected and innovative community that propels new ideas, new projects, and innovations for social good through cross-disciplinary and meaningful partnerships. 

After completing early stages filled with research and discovery, we discovered no one had tried to fill this need in the collegiate community.” – Dr. Elise Barrella 

The development team was particularly focused on how universities could help advance innovations, partnerships and projects through a unique medium. The HUB was born from this initial discovery. 

While the initial focus was to reach engineering students, the collaborative nature of the HUB has allowed for interaction between students from various other departments including psychology as well as between alumni and faculty.  The current short-term goal of the project is to release the HUB to the JMU community this spring. Their long term goal is to release version 2 and eventually version 3 of the HUB as it becomes a self-sustaining site.   

"What's unique about this project is that the it was able to connect cross-disciplinary teams to meet real world needs and engaged community partners, undergraduate students and faculty/staff to work together to do so." - Dr. Elise Barrella 


Professor Dr. Lincoln Gray received a grant in 2014 for $13,730 from Madison Trust. Dr. Gray’s project focuses on studying traumatic brain injury in United States Military veterans. Due to the compliance and approvals needed in order to get this project underway, Dr. Gray only recently began research. At this time, there is heightened confidentiality that prevents project details from being released.  

"Thank you to Madison Trust for your donation. This project wouldn't be possible with you." – Dr. Lincoln Gray 

Novel Platform to Study Cartilage Tissue Regeneration

An $8,000 Madison Trust grant was awarded in 2015 to Kris Kubrow and Dr. Marta Bechtel to support their efforts to study cartilage tissue regeneration in an environment they find conducive to cartilage cell behavior.  

The Madison Trust funding has been utilized thus far to develop the stamp used to print the cell blocks, or wells. Student researchers have contributed alongside Kris and Marta and benefitted from hands-on experience with the cartilage tissue cells and new platforms for studying them. There has been the opportunity for cross-disciplinary approach between the biology research and professors in the physics department along with physics students. 

The Madison Trust funding will continue to contribute to research as the project anticipates securing funding from other outlets in order to expand. 

“As far as I know, this is a unique approach to studying cartilage…there have been people who have done something like it before, but ours is unique. We’re truly trying to find a home for the cells.” – Kris Kubrow 

Winning with Money

In 2014, Senior Associate Director of Financial Aid, Brad Barnett, pitched the idea of the “Winning with Money” project to Madison Trust, where he received a grant of $18,500. On April 1, 2015 the “Winning with Money” project took place at Court Square Theater. During the “Winning with Money” presentation, faculty and alumni spoke about four different financial areas – budgeting, debt repayment, credit and retirement. These four topics were identified by students in a survey as areas that needed the most clarification and instruction. Following the talk, there was a meet and greet that allowed attendees to continue to discuss the topics covered. Along with the event in April, there was also a live-streaming of the talk. A recorded version of “Winning with Money” is available now online ( 

Barnett said one of the biggest successes of the project was meshing the four different financial topics together to form an event that had a great audience and online viewer turnout. Student organizations such as the Student Government Association, along with faculty and staff from the College of Business, the Alumni Association and Financial Aid also helped to make this event possible. Barnett hopes that this project will act as a lasting resource available online to anyone in the JMU community or beyond seeking guidance on the topics covered in the talk.   

"Thank you so much Madison Trust for supporting this dream. The success of the Winning with Money project would not have been possible without you." – Brad Barnett 


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