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SGA president making her mark on Madison

Jewel Hurt

SUMMARY: Jewel Hurt, a double major in political science and public policy and administration, has made the most of her time at James Madison University. While she still has one year left, she can already sum up her Madison Experience in one word: transformative.

By Renée Rocco (’18)

First-generation college student, Hillcrest Scholar, honors student, public servant and student body president. And she’s only just entering her senior year.

Jewel Hurt, a double major in political science and public policy and administration on the pre-law track, has made the most of her time at James Madison University.

When Hurt, a Roanoke, Virginia, native, came to JMU, she had no idea there would be hundreds of clubs and organizations to choose from. “JMU is a community, a sense of belonging and having a group of people around you who are motivated and want to see you succeed,” she says.

Political science was an easy choice for Hurt given her student government experience from a young age. “I ran for president in fourth grade and I won, and that was my first little taste of politics,” she says. “Then I ran again in fifth grade. That’s when I started doing public speaking and I really loved serving the students, so I guess you could say I got started with politics really early on.”

In high school, a representative from JMU came to talk with students about applying to and attending the university. After talking with the representative about her goals and the scholarships she could apply for, Hurt sent in her application to JMU and JMU only. “I had been to some other colleges, but just stepping foot on campus, I knew this is where I wanted to be.”

In her first class at JMU, Hurt sat next to a senior who was the Academic Affairs chair of the Student Government Association, and he encouraged her to join the organization. “I ran for freshman class president and I lost,” she says. But from there, she became a senator, working on the legislative action committee. At the end of her freshman year, Hurt was awarded the SGA’s Rookie of the Year, was inducted as executive assistant and became chair of the diversity ad-hoc committee. “I fell in love with the organization and the work that they did,” she says.

Although it is not typical for a sophomore to run for SGA president, Hurt had a strong support system of upperclassmen within the organization who knew she would succeed in the role. They were right. She began her duties as president at the start of her junior year. After winning re-election this past March, Hurt is eager to continue her work with the SGA in 2018-19.

When asked what kind of mark she hopes to leave on Madison, Hurt responds quickly with collaboration. “Nobody can do it on his or her own,” she says. “We really need each other. … Building relationships has been so important to me, whether that’s with the administration or other organizations.”

Hurt also hopes to make students more aware that they have a voice at JMU. “SGA is the link between the students and the administrators. A lot of students perceive that the SGA doesn’t have as much power because of our rank as students, but in my opinion that almost gives us more power because the students are what make up this university and are why this university is running the way it is.”

Hurt believes her biggest accomplishment during her time with SGA was chairing the diversity ad-hoc committee her sophomore year. Mirroring an event put on by Harvard University, Hurt and a group of students from different clubs and organizations that were underrepresented in the SGA put on an event called “I, too, am JMU.” With a budget of $400, Hurt and the students set out to answer one question: “How are we going to bring awareness to diversity, inclusivity and access at JMU?”

The committee researched the best way to highlight the voices of minority groups. After creating a video featuring those students, an event was held to bring together students, educators and administrators to discuss the issue and celebrate diversity at JMU. The event was well received and helped spark an important change: an amendment to the SGA’s constitution making the diversity committee a standing committee. “It was such a powerful moment,” Hurt says. “I think everyone wanted to say, ‘How can we help these students feel more welcome at JMU?’”

Hurt also served on former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Millennial Task Force, in which she and students from other universities in the commonwealth met to discuss barriers to civic engagement. “JMU really served as an example to other schools,” says Hurt. “And while we got a lot of ideas, I think JMU was really a leader in that room, and we were able to say, ‘This is what we are doing, how can we help these other institutions get there.’”

JMU has provided Hurt with great mentors, friendships and experiences along the way. “I can’t even tell you the amount of support that I’ve received, not only from students and faculty, but from administrators. They genuinely believe in students, and it’s a place where I feel like my voice is being heard. I feel like people can’t say that about every institution. JMU is a special place full of opportunities to grow.”

Hurt has also applied her passion and drive to her Honors College experience, including drafting a proposal for the Hillcrest Scholarship to fund a summer internship. “I took the initiative to find a faculty member, Alyssa Reid, and we worked on what the project was going to look like, what the budget is going to be and how I was going to pitch it to [the scholarship committee] that this is something worth funding,” she says.

Her hard work and determination paid off when Hurt was named a Hillcrest Scholarship winner for the Class of 2019. She will be interning at Microsociety Inc., a nonprofit that funds school programs that engage children in real-world learning and encourage them to develop and pursue their passions early in life. Having benefited from the program herself as a child, Hurt hopes to help provide young children in the Philadelphia area with a similar experience this summer.

Hurt was also named a finalist for a Truman Scholarship, given annually to one student per state for their commitment to public service. Hurt was chosen from more than 750 applicants nationwide.

While she still has one year left at JMU, Hurt has already been able to sum up her Madison Experience in one word: transformative.

“It’s amazing to say, ‘Look how much I’ve changed since freshman year in a positive way, and look at the impact I’ve made on campus.’ JMU is a place you can transform your life and the lives of others.”

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Published: Friday, May 4, 2018

Last Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2020

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