Supply, demand and opportunity

May graduate supports new COB Learning Complex

by James Heffernan

David Vaughn - COB Learning Complex

SUMMARY: David Vaughn ('17) has a degree in finance and a job with a leading private equity firm in D.C. beginning in July. So why is he so adamant about supporting the new College of Business Learning Complex?

from the May 2017 digital issue of Madison

David Vaughn (’17) remembers the first time he set foot in Zane Showker Hall, in the spring of his sophomore year. “I went in to get a change-of-major form signed. I walked in the front door and I saw the stock ticker on the wall. There was marble everywhere and people were dressed in suits. The lobby was packed because it was between classes. … I was so overwhelmed that I walked right out the back door and came back the next day during nonpeak hours.”

Vaughn had grown accustomed to the university’s more modern, spacious facilities. The Lynchburg, Virginia, native entered JMU in Fall 2012 as a musical theatre major, and as a freshman he lived in the new Visual and Performing Arts Community in Wayland Hall and performed on stage at the distinguished Forbes Center for the Performing Arts.

After discovering that theater wasn’t really his scene, he switched majors to chemistry, with the goal of following in his father’s footsteps as a physician. But after a year of classes and labs in JMU’s state-of-the-art science buildings on East Campus, a career in medicine didn’t seem to be the right prescription either.

David Vaughn - COB

Vaughn would eventually find a home in JMU’s nationally ranked College of Business, where he recently completed a degree in finance with minors in business analytics and computer information systems. He credits his professors with taking an interest in him and his education and COB’s strong alumni network for opening doors, including a summer internship with Capital Automotive Real Estate Services. In July, he will join The Carlyle Group in Washington, D.C., in the firm’s junior fund analyst program.

“My experience in the College of Business has made me a competitive applicant and prepared me well for my career,” Vaughn says. Having met students from other top business schools around the country, he feels that COB graduates are on par in terms of their knowledge and technical expertise, and are ahead of the pack in “soft” skills such as communication, teamwork, creativity and critical thinking.


If there’s a chink in the college’s armor, Vaughn says, it’s Showker Hall, which is at more than twice its designed capacity of 2,400 students. To engage COB’s more than 5,000 students today, faculty members must find ways to make the building function by repurposing hallways as study spaces, transforming closets into sales practice studios and creating offices in lobby nooks. “We’ve simply outgrown the building,” Vaughn says. “You sometimes literally have to step over people in the hallways.”

COB majors routinely arrive at 7 a.m. on weekdays to reserve one of Showker’s seven study rooms or to access its labs, and group work — a hallmark of COB curricula — is hampered by a lack of collaborative space. “Most of the time we meet at a group member’s house or go to a room in Carrier or [Rose] Library, but we’re limited there,” Vaughn says. “We need to be able to use Showker equipment.”

As the hub of JMU’s business school — which ranks 18th in the country among public institutions, wins more Google Online Marketing Challenges than any other university in the world and boasts the highest pass rate on the CPA exam among accounting programs with more than 20 students — Showker Hall simply doesn’t match “the caliber of our classes and students,” Vaughn says.

David Vaughn - COB
Zane Showker Hall, which opened in 1991, is at more than twice its designed capacity of 2,400 students.

Paying it forward

Vaughn learned of plans for the new COB Learning Complex at a Dean’s Club event in Richmond. “It was the first time that I was able to see mock-ups of the new building. I got super excited about it. It’s a great opportunity. Even though I won’t be here to take advantage of it, it’s something that will make my degree more valuable and help us reach that next echelon of business schools.”

In a letter to COB alumni asking for support for the new Learning Complex, Vaughn states that what makes JMU a special place is its people. “We care about and help each other — past, present and future. That’s why there’s such an incredible bond among us all.”

Vaughn also spoke with prospective business majors this past spring at Choices, JMU’s open house for admitted students.

His Madison Experience included leadership positions outside the COB as well. He was executive treasurer of the Student Government Association in 2016-17 and vice president of his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha. He also was a tutor with Student-Athlete Services. Vaughn capped off his career at JMU last week as the student speaker during commencement.

As a new alumnus, Vaughn fully intends to give back to the College of Business and the university in meaningful ways. “I love JMU. Coming here was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

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Published: Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Last Updated: Monday, February 15, 2021

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