CVPA Scholarship Series: Kacey Riel

College of Visual and Performing Arts Stories
Kacey Riel Lead

Hometown: Roanoke, Virginia

Major(s)/Minor(s): Studio art major concentrating in fibers, Spanish minor 

2019–2020 Madison Award for Academic Excellence, Lisanby Scholarship, Art Scholarship, Visual and Performing Arts Scholarship
2020–2021 Madison Award for Academic Excellence, CVPA Student Scholarship
2021–2022 Madison Award for Academic Excellence

What does it mean to you to have received scholarships to study the arts at JMU?

It means the absolute world because these funds helped me to attend JMU and create a better life for myself by learning more about what I am passionate about. I have had the experience of taking classes that challenge me and have found new mediums and ways to create art.

For example, I took a black-and-white film photo class my sophomore year that I absolutely fell in love with and now I am in an advanced experimental class, where I am still creating photos and prints in the darkroom and learning about new processes. I once wondered if taking classes and going to school would happen. Now when I am in class I think, “Wow. I am here, and I am doing it.” It is amazing. Scholarships really do help students and make a difference.

How did the late CVPA Dean George Sparks impact your college career?

Dean George Sparks helped me during the summer before my freshman year. Because of his kindness and generosity, I was able to start my college career at JMU in the fall of 2019. I remember that we spoke on the phone, and he asked me what I was looking for… I told him I wasn’t sure but wanted to pursue a higher education to create a better life for myself. He didn’t know me at all… I hadn’t met him yet, but he made the decision to help me get into JMU. I am so grateful that he took a chance to support me in my college career.

I was looking back at emails between us back in 2019 and my favorite was when I saw I had written, “You just changed my life.” That is the best way I can describe Dean Sparks’ impact on me. I had been doing everything possible to get into college, and I needed someone to believe in me and help me. Dean Sparks had a heart for students and student scholarship, and he is the reason I can be here today and in my junior year of college. I graduate next spring, which I think is absolutely incredible. Sometimes students just need someone who can tell them that something is possible. Dean Sparks did that for me, and I will always be grateful.

Photo of Kacey Riel courtesy of Kacey Riel.

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Published: Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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