The Beacon - Spring 2020 Edition

Spotlighting Inclusivity at JMU

The Beacon


In this issue:

Be Safe, Be Strong and Be Well

photo of Art DeanDear JMU Family,

This is an unprecedented time for all of us.  We recognize that what was familiar has changed for most of us. We also understand that what was planned has had to take a different path.  The stress of that alone, along with the concerns raised by this pandemic, has impacted each of us differently.

We say thank you for your commitment, service and initiatives that support and enhance diverse and inclusive efforts at JMU and our local community. You make the difference at JMU, and for each individual person within our campus footprint.

photo of David Owusu-AnsahHopefully the work, events and information highlighted in this edition of The Beacon will encourage you through this different, challenging and unique time.

Be Safe, Be Strong and Be Well,

Art and David

Art Dean, Executive Director for Access and Inclusion

David Owusu-Ansah, Associate Provost for Diversity

Broadening Horizons: upcoming events, lectures, and more

Editor’s Note: In the interest of being a good public citizen, the university has cancelled all events through the end of the semester. To acknowledge the good work of so many academic and administrative departments, student organizations and affinity groups in planning a wide range of inclusive opportunities for our community, we are spotlighting these cancelled events in The Beacon.

DAW-logo.pngKeep C.A.L.M. and use Universal Design

Disability Awareness Week 2020 – March 23rd – 27th

Come celebrate JMU’s 11th annual Disability Awareness Week with us! This year’s theme, “Keep C.A.L.M. and Use Universal Design”, focuses on Choosing Accessible Learning Materials and using Universal Design when creating documents. For more information, times and locations please go to the DAW webpage.


ODS Open House

Poetry Writing Workshop

X-Labs Pop Up: Design Thinking contextualized through Disability Awareness and Accessibility interactive workshop.


Writer’s Craft Course


Introduction to Video Captioning

Employment Accessibility in Action: Lunch and Learn

Sensory Yoga

Wheelchair Basketball and Goalball

Thursday: photo of a woman in wheelchair floating under water

Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement – Film Screening

Drum Circle on the Quad

Keep C.A.L.M. and Lead On: Proactively Creating a Culture of Accessibility


CAMMO Training

Suzannah-Nevison.jpgSusannah Nevison Poetry Reading & Craft Discussion

Disability Awareness Week keynote

Join visiting writer, Susannah Nevison, for a reading and discussion about the relationship between metaphor and disability in poetry, and the evolving role of disability within literary activism.

CALM-libraries.jpgKeep C.A.L.M. and use Universal Design Display

Closed end of March, Carrier Library

stack of books with TRANS 201 in frontTrans 201

This workshop will examine some lived experiences from the trans community and the challenges of gaining acceptance and support.

shades-of-sisterhood.jpgShades of Sisterhood

Shades of Sisterhood is an initiative created for faculty, staff, and students who identify as women or femmes of color to come together for conversation and community building. Our upcoming events include: Coffee Hour, Share a Book, Informal Discussion, Book Swap and Share.

photo of Matt GlowackiMatt Glowacki - Nurture Your Nature

Matt’s presentation is an inclusive identity event that welcomes everyone and helps them better understand who they are, why they are, and what they want to be. His revisionary approach to storytelling conceptualizes difference into common and familiar struggles while building empathy amongst different groups of people.

photo of woman looking at t-shirtsThe Clothesline Project

Clothesline Project is a display of t-shirts created by the JMU community to share stories and messages of hope for sexual assault awareness month.

DoR_333x200.jpgAntonio Serna: Documents of Resistance

Multiple Media

The Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art welcomes New York-based artist Antonio Serna and his exhibition Documents of Resistance, an art and educational project that explores the intersection of art and activism within black and brown communities in the United States.

Trans Day of Visibility with ALOK

Join SOGIE Programming in celebration of Trans Day of Visibility for a political workshop and performance with ALOK.

photo of ebony nicoleEbony Nicole

Ebony is a singer-songwriter residing in Harrisonburg. She was born in Tacoma, WA and has lived in NJ, NYC, Seattle, and spent a summer studying worship music in Australia. All of those many places have influenced her musical taste and sonic vibe.

photo of women performing on stage in a circle with flower hoopsFilipino Americans at Madison Culture Show

Featuring performances of cultural dances and a play.



Black Studies and Black Spaces

Black Studies and Black Spaces: Black Critical Frameworks and Communities at JMU and Beyond, 1968 to the Present is a course developed through a Provost’s Faculty Curriculum Diversity Grant. This exhibit features the work of the course students who sought to locate JMU within this national history, while creating an archive for JMU Special Collections. 

photo of Farah PandithFarah Pandith

Madison Vision Series

Farah Pandith, former U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities and author of a bestselling book on how to fight terrorism and extremism through entrepreneurship 

Parasite film poster

Perceptions of Inequality through Asian Film

Film screening of Parasite with a panel discussion. Panel: Chalida Uabumrungjit - Film Archive Thailand; Michael Seth - History/Asian Studies; Mace Bentley - Geographic Science; Manita Khemthong - Moderator


Take Back the Night

Take Back the Night is an annual event held as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month aimed at raising awareness about sexual violence, witnessing the harm done, and building community with those who have been impacted.

Celebracion Latina

The Latino Student Alliance will hold its 21st annual Celebracion Latina.

photo of Kei MillerFurious Flower Poetry Prize 2020 Reading

This event will feature readings by visiting poet Kei Miller (this year’s judge) and the two emerging poets who have been awarded this year's Poetry Prize. Miller, an award-winning poet originally from Jamaica, is also a novelist, essayist, short story writer, broadcaster, author of many volumes of poetry, and a professor of English at the University of Exeter in England. Books by Miller and the winner(s) will be available for sale and autographing after the reading.

change-the-subject.jpgChange The Subject: Film Screening and Discussion

Change the Subject tells the story of a group of students at Dartmouth College, who from their first days at Dartmouth, were committed to advancing and promoting the rights and dignity of undocumented peoples. In partnership with staff at Dartmouth College, these students - now alumni - produced a film to capture their singular effort at confronting an instance of anti-immigrant sentiment in their library catalog. Their advocacy took them all the way from Baker-Berry Library to the halls of Congress, showing how an instance of campus activism entered the national spotlight, and how a cataloging term became a flashpoint in the immigration debate on Capitol Hill. Conversation via Skype will film contributors to follows screening.

14th Annual Lavender Graduation and SOGIE Programming Awards

A celebration to honor our JMU LGBTQ+ graduates.

If you know someone who has actively promoting change and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community both here at JMU and in the community, nominate them for one of the SOGIE Programming awards. Submit an award nomination or RSVP now.

cover of book with Rachel Carson looking over a valleyRachel Carson and Climate Justice for Today’s Virginia

For the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, Dr. Robert K. Musil, national environmental leader advocate and author of Rachel Carson and Her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America s Environment will discuss the contemporary relevance of Rachel Carson's environmental ethic that combines imagination, awe, wonder, and empathy for the natural world and all species, including humanity, with rigorous scientific observation and research.  

photo of David SheffView Points on Health: David Sheff

Journalist and best-selling author, David Sheff, will share about his family's experience with addiction. He will also report on the findings from the years he spent investigating the disease of addiction and America's drug problem, which he views as the greatest public health challenge of our time.

the_hungry_woman-333x200.jpgThe Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea

In the apocalyptic play The Hungry Woman, feminist author and Chicano playwright Cherríe Moraga uses mythology and intimate realism to describe the embattled position of Chicanos and Chicanas, not only in the United States but in relation to one another.

chavez-333x200.jpgGina Chavez

A multi-ethnic Latin pop songstress, Gina Chavez takes audiences on a journey through the Americas, blending the sounds and rhythms of the region with tension and grace.

photo fo CMSS stoles on tableDonning of the Kente

A celebration to honor our multi-cultural graduates.



photo of becky martinezbecky martinez 

Center for Faculty Innovation: May Symposium

martinez, co-author of Straddling Class in the Academy, will discuss how social class identity and class carry a complexity of obscure definitions, fluidity, and a sense of taboo that impact most any area of campus. Her plenary will forward an understanding of concepts and lived experiences related to class, recognize exclusionary practices, procedures, and written and unwritten norms and explore ways to engage class in more equitable ways. May Symposium compiles more than 30 faculty-led workshops, discussions, and roundtables on innovative topics brought forward by your JMU colleagues.

Spotlighting Student Events

Editor’s Note: In the interest of being a good public citizen, the university has cancelled all events through the end of the semester. To acknowledge the good work of so many academic and administrative departments, student organizations and affinity groups in planning a wide range of inclusive opportunities for our community, we are spotlighting these cancelled events in The Beacon.


Empowerment through Professional Development - Hart School Women’s Leadership Conference

The Hart School Women’s Leadership Conference will feature fourteen influential speakers and leaders who are passionate about the advancement of women through professionalism.

Surviving R. Kelly Discussion

DEEP logoDEEP Impact Dialogues

With the Counseling Center

Drugs Trivia

Come and test your drug IQ! Join us for a trivia style event that has categories focused on a variety of drugs, including cannabis, hallucinogens, cocaine and prescription drugs. You will work as a part of a team to answer questions - no team is needed in advance, teams are designated by tables (up to 6 members per team). Arrive early, this event is capped at 60 participants. 

SOGIE logoSOGIE Events

Queers and Coffee: Enjoy free coffee and conversation with the SOGIE Programming volunteers. 

Puppy Pride:  Connect with JMU Counseling Center, meet one of the therapy dogs, and explore the Lavender Lounge.

In Focus

photo of Linda Plitt DonaldsonExcited to Help

Linda Plitt Donaldson, Associate Dean for the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the Director of the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services

I was attracted to this dual-role position at JMU because it brings together my professional passions for and experience in community engagement and higher education. Prior to moving into a full-time career in academia in 2004, I was a social worker in Washington, D.C. for ten years, working in and developing community-based programs with and for people who are homeless. After I got my PhD, I pursued a social work faculty position to socialize social work students to the importance of working for social and economic justice, and to help students discern and move toward a career that resonated with their passion. Over the years, I tried to maintain my connection to the community through community-based participatory research projects and numerous other community initiatives.

One of the most profound and transformative experiences of my life has been working as a social worker with people in low-income communities. My approach has always been to journey with people, to join them in fighting for policies and programs that respect them, support them, and help them to achieve their self-identified goals. Close proximity to people who suffer from poverty, racism, discrimination, stigma, and disinvestment is transformative if you open your eyes to see and listen with ears that hear. This experience also cultivated in me an even greater sensitivity to the impact of institutional racism and individual biases more generally on all people of color and others who are marginalized and stigmatized for their difference.

I am excited to join JMU in the College of Health and Behavioral Studies. I am excited to help JMU work toward its goals of being a more diverse and inclusive place for students, faculty, and staff to thrive. I am excited to help CHBS build on its many interprofessional and interdisciplinary experiences to prepare students for careers that tackle complex problems. I am excited to help JMU to continue to move toward its vision of being the national model for an engaged university. The Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services is a JMU gem that advances a lot of community engagement activities that give students meaningful learning opportunities, and faculty opportunities for community-engaged scholarship. I look forward to continuing and expanding the great work of the Institute with its wonderful staff, faculty, and community partners and contributing to the overall vision and mission of CHBS and JMU.

photo of Ashley HarrisStarting the Discussion

Ashley Harris, Peer Access Advocate

My name is Ashley Harris, and I’m a 4th-year student studying History, Secondary Education, and Spanish. I’m also president of the Debate team and Future Teachers of Color. My time at JMU has made me realize something: it’s what you’re passionate about and what you do with that passion that determines if you’re involved, not how many majors or organizations you can list. I’m passionate about diversity, access, inclusion, and education. By letting those passions guide me, I’ve learned a lot about myself and had several experiences I’m proud of.

This is my second year as a Peer Access Advocate (PAA) for the Office of Disability Services. When I first took on this role, I recognized it was in line with my values, but I didn’t realize how much it would grow to mean to me. I love how it allows me to combine my passions along with skills I’ve been honing in different areas on campus in meaningful ways, which give me hope for JMU’s future.

One of my favorite things to do in my role is hosting educational events related to awareness, access, and inclusion. Most recently, I partnered with SGA to host an event on countering stigmas of invisible disabilities. I believe awareness, compassion, and respect are valuable community norms established here at JMU, but sometimes we lack the education to truly embody those characteristics. It’s when I see students and faculty recognizing they have work to do to educate themselves and filling events like these on their own time to learn, that I see JMU’s true spirit come out.

From my involvement in debate, I’ve learned a lot related to research, critical thinking, public speaking, and persuasion. What I value most about debate is the tools it has given me to be a strong advocate. It has taught me to listen to understand and be comfortable defending my stances on critical issues related to diversity and inclusion even when I’m the only one speaking.

Being a PAA allows me to do something meaningful with those skills by being a true advocate for accessibility and inclusion. Being a resource for students who are also registered with ODS is my core responsibility. While doing so, I hold space for students to voice their concerns to me and do my best to raise awareness and push for changes on campus. Sometimes all I can do is start a discussion. But, one of the most important things I’ve learned as a PAA is you don’t always need to have a solution; sometimes, just starting the discussion is the best first step you can take. For example, I started discussing the need to prioritize inclusivity with some departments. We haven’t figured out the solutions yet but starting the discussion got a group of people paying attention, and now we’re beginning to work towards change.

I’m excited to continue this work, and I hope it will lead others to recognize the difference between accessibility and inclusivity and take similar steps. Often, inclusivity requires removing often “invisible” barriers, and to be able to do that requires an authentic appreciation and understanding of diversity. That’s not easy work, but it’s essential to ensure each student feels welcomed and can succeed.

At the Forefront: Making a Difference

photo of students presenting JMU Students Hold First-ever Diversity Summit 

JMU’s first-ever Student Diversity Summit took place on Saturday, February 22nd. Hundreds of students participated and a wide variety of JMU students presented. The Summit began with President Alger and SGA President Aaliyah Mclean introducing us to the purpose of the event, why JMU prioritizes diversity and the importance of self-reflection. Both speakers inspired the audience to turn what they learn throughout the summit and transform it into action—not only in the JMU community but in the entire world.  

The Summit consisted of panels and presentations ranging from students with disabilities and their experiences to learning about different gender identities and sexualities. Two break-out sessions contained an ample amount of personal insight and wisdom. The sessions lasted between 45 to 90 minutes where top-tier students presented their refined proposals approved by the Student Diversity Summit Planning Committee months before.  

photo of students discussingA vast amount of knowledge was shared throughout the day and the event was commemorated with a beautiful speaker and professor at JMU, Ruthie Bosch. Our goal was for students and the JMU community to share their unique experiences and skills with one another, creating a more educated and compassionate world. 

Vic Tedrow ('21), Student Diversity Summit Planning Committee Member 

One Virginia logoGovernor Announces Community Forums, including Harrisonburg, to Inform Statewide Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Governor Ralph Northam announced that his administration will host community forums where Virginians can provide input on Virginia’s first-ever “Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence.” The forum scheduled for Harrisonburg on March 18th has been postponed to a later date. 

Virginia’s Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Janice Underwood, will lead the forums and present a draft template of the plan intended to advance visible diversity, equity, and inclusion for state government agencies. The forums will also offer ways that other sectors can participate, including non-profit organizations, local municipalities, businesses, and K-12 school districts.

mellon.jpegThe Flowerings Project: a Library in Transformation

A generous $150,000 planning grant to James Madison University from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will allow the University’s College of Arts and Letters and the JMU Libraries to learn, grow and deepen their partnership. Read more about the grant and this special partnership.

photo of Paul Jennings exhibitAccess to the Paul Jennings Hall Historical Exhibit

In an effort to make the historical exhibit in the lobby of Paul Jennings Hall accessible to the entirety of the JMU community, the lobby will be open from 10am – 3pm, Monday through Friday through the end of the spring semester. Please enter through lobby doors.

alleyne-honeyfish-talk-lead.jpgLauren K. Alleyne Nominated for National Award

Lauren K. Alleyne, associate professor of English, has been nominated for the NAACP Image Awards for her book of poetry, “Honeyfish.” Published in 2018, “Honeyfish” is Alleyne’s second collection and the winner of the Green Rose Prize. Read more about Lauren

2020 Diversity Award Recipients

purple and gold compass logoCompass Awards

The Compass Award recognizes demonstrated outstanding contributions to diversity and inclusion at JMU. This year's recipients are:

Ole School Scholarship Group – Overall Achievement

Faculty & Staff:

Joi Merritt – Advocate

John Burgess – Leader

Linette Watkins – Leader

Cathy McKay – Visionary

UREC Adventure & Team Programs led by Guy DeBrun and Sasha Griffith – Catalyst


Brittany Williams – Catalyst

Jordan Carey and Kadedra Vaughan – Leader

Woman of Distinction logoWoman of Distinction Award Recipents

Teresa Tesh Harris: Instructional Faculty

Kristin Gibson: AP Faculty

Chiara Martinelli: Classified Staff

Miranda Tonkins: Students

IDEA Grant Recipients

Immigrant Story Crafting: Building an Engaged and Empowered Story-Sharing Workshop - Carlos Aleman, Melissa Aleman, Carah Ong Whaley , Campus and Community Partners

Predictors of Organizational Commitment Among Non-Tenure Track Faculty: Mixed Methods Dissertation Research - Melissa Altman

College for Kids - Melissa Heatwole

A Transformative Approach: Equipping Healthcare Professionals to Provide Inclusive Care - Amy Graham, Whitney Simmons, Ashley Skelly, Sarah Stowell

Beyond the Valley: Creating global engagement opportunities for Centennial and Valley Scholars - Katie Sensabaugh, Taryn Roberts, Shaun Mooney, Diane Strawbridge, Felix Wang, Mike Miriello, Dietrich Maune

Accessibility for All: Sharing an Online Tool for Inclusivity Across Campus - Christina Wulf, Valerie Schoolcraft, Cheri Duncan, Carolyn Schubert, Eric Stauffer

Provost Diversity Curriculum Grant Recipients 2020

Carlos Aleman, SCOM, for Immigrant Advocacy: Developing and Engaged Understanding of Access, Inclusion, and Intersectionality as Locally Lived Experiences

Jennifer PeeksMease, SCOM, for Graduate and Undergraduate Courses in Organizational Diversity

Kayla Yurco, Geographic Science, for Challenging Assumptions: We Can All Be Feminist Geographers

Katey Castellano, English, for Literature and Resilience

Eva Strawbridge & Travis Olson, Math & Stats, for Revise an Existing Course to Increase Access, Retention, Diversity, and Inclusion in College Algebra

William White, Education Foundations, for Educational Ethnographies

Ashley Jaffee Taylor, Education, for Learning How to Teach Hard History at Montpelier

... and engaging views since the last revolution of The Beacon

 photo collage of various events on campus

Above: Walls Talkback; MVS and The Future of Work; MLK Celebration Week with Ray Suarez, student performances and march; Student Diversity Summit


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