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President's Update: June Board of Visitors Meeting

June Board of Visitors Meeting

by Jonathan R. Alger

06 Duke Dog Dukes Arms

 Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

The school year ended in a whirlwind but, as we know, JMU engagement does not end as the students leave for summer! At our June Board of Visitors meeting we recalled our memorable commencement, our academic achievements, our civic and global involvement, our historic seasons in athletics and our efforts to increase access and diversity. It was a great year!

Celebrating Class of 2016

Grad CapDespite the rain, we had great attendance at the University ceremony. I am grateful that so many of you braved the weather to join us in this most important event. Here is a recap if you weren’t able to make it:

JMU students are exceptional, and as we all know, often great achievement comes from great sacrifice. Several of our teams had competitions scheduled that made it impossible to attend commencement ceremonies. We don’t believe these hard-working students should sacrifice their well-earned recognition. I was honored to participate in special commencement ceremonies for Lacrosse, Track and Field and Softball team members.

Academic Roll-Call

  • With our breadth of exceptional faculty, we have four faculty Fulbright scholars and one student Fulbright scholar:Softball Super Regionals

    • Dr. Maureen Shanahan, Art History

    • Dr. Louise Temple, Integrated Science and Technology

    • Dr. Lincoln Gray, Communication Sciences and Disorders

    • Dr. Matt Lee, Psychology

    • Rachel Palkovitz (student), who graduated in 2016 with a degree in biological anthropology and will study environmental issues in Tanzania.

  • Dr. Kristen St. John is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and is the third JMU faculty member to receive this high academic honor. 

  • Junior biology major Anna Nordseth won the Udall Foundation scholarship, which honors sophomores and juniors for leadership, public service and commitment to issues related to American Indian nations or the environment.

BrakkeWe are pleased to honor the storied career of Dean David Brakke of the College of Science and Mathematics, as well as the almost 30 other committed faculty members who retired this academic year. We thank them for their leadership, scholarship and overall commitment to JMU. Check out our faculty farewells and their last piece of advice for students.

Our search for the next provost of the university is underway as we have named the search committee members. As you probably know, I have asked Dr. Mark Warner, senior vice president for student affairs and university planning, to chair the search committee for the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs position. Further information and the list of the search committee members is located here.

Extracurricular Honors

The Destination Imagination team swept the international competition, bringing home gold, silver and bronze medals. Read more about the cross disciplinary thinking of Destination Imagination 11-year legacy:

Engaged learning includes connecting with the community and working across disciplines.  One such team from JMU recently competed in a hack-a-thon, in which they spent 25.5 hours developing a technology to advance the health and improve the lives of family caregivers through the app “My Time.” Learn more about their plan for their winnings here.

Lastly, The Breeze was named Best All-Around Non-Daily Student Newspaper once again by the Society of Professional Journalists. Their writing continues to engage us with a professional student voice.

Civic and Global Engagement

The 14th annual JMU on the Hill reception, hosted by the Political Science department, the College of Arts and Letters, Research and Scholarship, and the JMU Politicos, will take place on June 14. The event provides an opportunity to engage and network with over 150 alumni and friends in the metro DC area. James Madison would be proud of our strong presence in the nation’s capital.

The Center for International Stabilization and Recovery is currently hosting the Global Senior Managers’ Course in Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) on campus through June 10.  CISR, working in close collaboration with the faculty of the College of Business, specializes in management training for leaders in humanitarian mine action around the world. 

Service Year Initiative Update

Service YearIn February, college presidents from across the Commonwealth signed the Virginia Compact for the Service Year. This is an initiative to further service opportunities for college-aged students to encourage commitment to citizenry.  We have hired three Engagement Fellows who will work with Valley Scholars, the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services (IIHHS), and the Montpelier Estate.

An Entrepreneurial Spirit: Madison Trust Presentations

The third round of Madison Trust presentations took place May 19 as 10 groups of JMU faculty and staff members pitched their ideas to local and alumni investors for the opportunity to receive funding. The initiative inspires innovation and entrepreneurial thinking across campus. The projects ranged from a brewing and distilling center, to a community music lab, to student opportunities to combat Salmonella. See more pitches here:  Donors have contributed over $350,000 to 24 separate projects so far. 

Gallup Alumni Survey

As a part of our ongoing commitment to understand the long-term impact we have on our students, JMU has joined with Gallup Inc. to conduct a study of approximately 12,000 alumni. Among the many outcomes addressed in this JMU-Gallup partnership are multiple measures of well-being—including areas of financial security, social relationships, life purpose, community connectedness and physical health.

Athletic Accomplishment 

We ended the year with historic seasons and many awards for our well-rounded student athletes:super regionals

  • At the end of the historic softball season, we welcomed ESPN back to campus for super regionals against LSU. We are extremely proud of our softball team and will be excited to see what they accomplish in the future.

  • Men’s golfer Ryan Cole finished second overall at the NCAA regional to become the first JMU golfer to qualify for the NCAA Championship in Oregon.

  • Track and field sent four student-athletes to NCAA competition with Kathleen Steward in the 10,000 meters, Carol Strock in the 1,500 meters, Olivia Viparina in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, and Amber Monroe in both discus and shot put.

  • Lacrosse earned an at-large bid to compete in the NCAA tournament, falling in a close matchup against Stanford in the tournament’s first game ever on the West Coast.

  • 18 student-athletes were named to the President’s List for the spring semester, including 10 with a 4.0 GPA. Another 66 achieved Dean’s list recognition.

  • In April, swimmer Claire Adkins joined me at a national meeting in Washington, D.C., hosted by the American Council on Education and focused on integrity and athletics.  Claire shared a student perspective on balancing academics and athletics at a high level.

Breaking records: More than 20,000 donors this year 

Our culture of philanthropy is taking off, as our donor total for the year as of early June has reached 20,186. This is the highest number of donors we have reached in a single year! We are proud that so many of our alumni, friends, parents and students believe in and support our mission. I am looking forward to the coming year and the excitement it will bring.

Access, Inclusion and Diversity

Valley Scholars
Our Valley Scholars program is an exciting new initiative that builds those bridges, and it was recently spotlighted by WHSV-TV.

The university is continuing its efforts with regard to access, diversity and inclusion on all fronts. Recently I was quoted extensively on faculty diversity efforts in the national publication, Insight into Diversity. The article included strategies to attract, retain and welcome faculty members from historically underrepresented groups. Read it here. One strategy for access includes long-term planning by introducing higher education to young students who might not otherwise think college is possible for them.


Members of the Board of Visitors approved the university budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.  The enacted budget provides resources for enrollment growth, strategic plan initiatives, scholarship and financial aid, and faculty and staff compensation.  

Wrapping up this fiscal year, I wish all of you a happy, productive and engaged summer. See you in August!

With best regards,

Jonathan R. Alger

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Published: Friday, June 3, 2016

Last Updated: Friday, February 12, 2021

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