The Beacon - February 2021 Edition

Spotlighting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at JMU


SUMMARY: The Beacon celebrates diversity, equity and inclusion at JMU by spotlighting upcoming engaging opportunities, highlighting campus initiatives, and featuring individuals at the forefront of creating an inclusive community at JMU.

327002-President-Alger-Portrait-1022-375x250.jpgListening to a Wide Variety of Voices

This fall I was pleased to create a large and diverse Task Force on Racial Equity to examine best practices, make recommendations, and advise me and the administration of James Madison University with regard to issues of racial equity. This is timely and important work, and the Task Force represents the most inclusive group ever assembled at JMU with over 180 members from across the university community (including students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, community members, and many others).

The Task Force has met in working groups during this academic year, and on December 17th I was able to join the full Task Force to describe my vision for their work. As you can imagine, convening a Task Force of this size is not easy, but the inclusion of a wide variety of voices is critical to moving forward with initiatives that will have a significant impact on the future of JMU. They will be focusing on short, medium, and long-term goals and have already begun sending recommendations my way.

As we begin 2021, I am hopeful that we will continue to make progress in making JMU more welcoming and inclusive for individuals from all backgrounds. This is an ongoing effort that is supported by individuals from across the university. I hope that everyone will take advantage of the creative and interactive programming that our campus partners are offering this month—you can find a listing here in The Beacon.

Please make special note of our virtual Madison Vision Series event (also listed here in The Beacon) on February 24th at 7:00 PM. This event will feature five of our most accomplished Black alumni, and will explore the ways in which their JMU education prepared them for their future careers and lives. The event will be moderated by Brent Lewis (our new Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Student Affairs) and will include time for audience questions. I hope to see many of you virtually at that event.

Jonathan Alger

President, James Madison University 

In this issue:

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Broadening Your Horizons: Upcoming Events

photos of three presentersBringing All Voices to the Table

A virtual discussion with Virginia State Leaders: Dr. Janice Underwood, Virginia’s Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer; Atif Qarni, Secretary of Education; and Alfonso Lopez, Member of the Virginia House of Delegates

Thursday, February 4th, 7:00 p.m.

Join event @

AAAD logo with rainbowAAAD Black History Month Programming

Join the African, African American, and Diaspora Studies Center and their partners for the annual observance of Black History Month (February), including the 11th Annual AAAD Interdisciplinary Conference and much, much more. All AAAD Studies Center events honor, recognize and celebrate Black peoples, histories, cultures, languages, economies, technologies, philosophies, ideas, and politics. Information on these events is available in the 2021 AAAD Black History Month Program.

Also participate in social media events and conversations on AAAD Social Media Platforms

Facebook: @JMUAAAD
Twitter: @aaadstudies
Instagram: @aaadstudiesjmu

List of upcoming readings with photos of poetsFurious Flower Facebook Live Reading Series

Furious Flower is pleased to present a spectacular lineup of poets as a part of our Furious Flower Facebook Live Reading Series, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Events will stream live on our Facebook page and will also be uploaded to our YouTube channel the following week.

Next reading: Cortney Charleston, Friday, February 12th, 2:00 p.m.

On Facebook @FuriousFlower

photo of Jack JenkinsAmerican Prophets: The Religious Roots of Progressive Politics and the Ongoing Fight for the Soul of the Country

Join us on Facebook Live for a discussion with Jack Jenkins, an award-winning journalist and national reporter for the Religion News Service. He covers religion. Also politics. Usually both. Post your questions for Jack in the event discussion or during the Facebook Live.

Thursday, February 11th , 1:00

Facebook Live Event link

symposium-186x300.pngTeaching and Learning the Politics of Racial Justice

Three part Virtual Symposium

The Symposium brings leading scholars of the politics of race and ethnicity together to present their research in political science, public policy and administration, and international affairs.

Part 1: The Politics and Policy of Racial Justice in the US: This panel will focus on the relationship between race, ethnicity, and intersectionality, and public policy processes such as social movements, state-building, agenda-setting, and policy feedback.

Friday Feb. 12th, 2:30 p.m., Facebook Live Event Link 

Part 2: Systemic Racism in US Political Institutions: This panel will look at race, ethnicity, and intersectionality in US political institutions, with an emphasis on problems of descriptive and substantive representation and feature.

Friday Feb. 19th, 11:42 a.m., Facebook Live Event Link

Part 3: Global Perspectives on the Politics of Racial Justice: This panel will explore race, ethnicity, and intersectionality in the global context, including comparative perspectives, foreign policy, and international security.

Friday Feb. 26th, 2:30 p.m., Facebook Live Event Link

photo of the two books used by the bookclubWAKE UP – White Accomplices Knowing Experiences Underlining Privilege Book Club

WAKE UP is a book club is designed to support racial inclusion and justice efforts at JMU through the growth and development in understanding white identities and experiences in order to become better allies to People of Color. WAKE UP will meet twice a month, read books related to white identities and racial justice and discuss strategies for interrupting racism at JMU and our broader society. The books we will be reading are: me + white supremacy by Layla Saad and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. 

All faculty and staff are invited to join. While this group is aimed at white people who are committed to developing strategies for interrupting racism as they examine their own identity and privilege, People of Color are also welcome in this space, and their perspectives and thoughts will be honored. It is critical that participants commit to attending all 6 meetings. There will be virtual options for all groups. We will have books available for participants to use. If you are interested and committed to joining this group, please complete this RSVP form

Three groups offered this spring:

Tuesdays 3:30 - 4:30 p.m. starting February 16th
Wednesdays 2:30 - 3:30 p.m. starting February 17th
Thursdays 9:00 -10:00 a.m. starting February 25th

photo of Sharon BroomeThe Political, Social, and Creative Power of Black Women in Collectives

Sisters in Session - Black Women in the Academy Conference

This year’s conference focuses on the sustaining power of Black Women in collectives and in collective action as rooted in a long history of Black women movements, evidenced in their continual political organizing that has supported positive efforts for greater inclusion, and sustained by transformational self-care practices. The Keynote speaker is the Honorable Sharon Weston Broome, Mayor-President of Baton Rouge Louisiana.

February 17th, 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

For more information and to register please visit the Black Women Conference page

Registration deadline is February 12th

photo of artist Skeena ReeceHoney and Sweetgrass

The Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art welcomes multidisciplinary artist Skeena Reece for her exhibition Honey and Sweetgrass. Based in British Columbia, Reece is of Tsimshian/Gitksan and Cree descent, and her performances combine indigenous culture, myth and humor to address racial stereotypes and the effects of colonization. In Honey and Sweetgrass, Reece will exhibit a range of performance art, videos, photography and installation works.

Now through March 7th, Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art

Leading Change conference logo with paper airplanesLeading Change Virtual Conference

Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Leadership Studies

The School of Strategic Leadership Studies is hosting the Leading Change Virtual Conference (#LEADCC21) via Zoom on February 18 and 19. This online event will include Ask the Expert Q&A sessions, moderated Expert Panels, and paper presentations with representation from over 30 higher education and professional organizations. The paper presentation session will be dedicated to Diversity and Inclusivity in Organizations. JMU faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to attend. Registration is required ($15 for students, $30 for faculty/professionals).

To register please visit the Leading Change Conference page.

Registration deadline is February 5th

logo for the Madison Vision SeriesSharing Stories of Success and Triumph: Black Alumni through the Decades

Madison Vision Series Panel Event

In honor of Black History Month, we have invited Charles May ‘83, Dr. Darian Parker ‘01 ‘03M, Melvin Petty ‘84, Angela Reddix ‘90, and Faye Tate ‘78 to discuss their own journeys to success after their time at James Madison University.

Wednesday, February 24th, 7:00 p.m. - Live stream on JMU's Facebook and YouTube Pages

CC graphic for closed captionedClosed Captioning with TechSmith Knowmia

Online Workshop offered by JMU Libraries

Video accessibility ensures that all students can equally access recorded lectures and instructional videos. Whether you wish to incorporate Universal Design Learning (UDL) into your online teaching or provide your students with diverse viewing options to keep them engaged, this workshop walks you through the very first steps. No prior knowledge of UDL or video accessibility is needed.

Registration Required
Wednesday, February 24th, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., Registration link
Thursday, February 25th, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., Registration link

Recognizing Implicit Bias and Responding to Microaggressions

College of Business Diversity Council Speaker Series

Nkechi Ejimadu, Deloitte, Strategy and Operations Manager

Nitcelle Emanuels, Dell Technologies, Director, Global Diversity & Inclusion

Asumini Kamulegeya, Deloitte, SCM Operations Manager

Recognition of an existing problem is usually the first step towards producing a solution. Many of our existing problems regarding diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion stem from our implicit biases. Therefore, recognition of implicit biases towards others, who are not like us, is a first step but not the end of one’s journey towards equitable inclusion of others. Beyond recognition of implicit biases, we need to understand that none of us are immune from bias and we should be ready to respond (rather than stand by and watch) when biases give way to microaggressions.

Thursday, February 25th, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Live Panel Discussion (via Zoom, recorded for later viewing)

For more information and to register please visit the COB Diversity Council page

logo for 2021 Diversity Conference

Transforming Community through Social Justice, Diversity and Inclusion

2021 Diversity Conference 

The Office of the President is pleased to announce the annual Diversity Conference in a revised, flexible format. We are offering four days of opportunities with over 30 virtual sessions including lunchtime and late afternoon panel discussions. Dr. Janice Underwood, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first-ever Chief Diversity Officer, will provide the lunchtime keynote address on Wednesday, March 17th.

Offered Virtually via Zoom – March 15-18

Registration Opens Mid-February

Women in Politics: In Their Own Words

Virtual Book Display – JMU Libraries

What do women in American politics have to say about their lives, their work, and their other passions or areas of expertise? Find out in these works—memoirs, academic books, letters, essays, dissertations, and more. Link to virtual book display

photo of Mira WilliamsAsking and Answering Difficult Questions About the Impact of Racism in Early Childhood Education: A Panel Discussion

You are invited to attend a webinar featuring College of Education faculty member Dr. Mira Williams titled Asking and Answering Difficult Questions About the Impact of Racism in Early Childhood Education: A Panel Discussion. This panel will explore various aspects of racism in early childhood education. Early childhood educators will leave with tools and strategies to handle situations involving racism in their classrooms and programs with sensitivity and care.

Offered Virtually March 16th, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Registration link

I2S2 logoInclusive Innovation Story Series

Theme: Black Innovation Matters

The Inclusive Innovation Story Series (I2S2) seeks to celebrate barrier-breaking, cutting edge, and visionary stories from under-represented groups of JMU students, faculty, staff and alumni through Tedx Style presentations and events. Each year will highlight a different part of the JMU community that makes our campus a thriving and vibrant place to learn and work, while also allowing a space for honest conversations and common ground. This year’s event will highlight stories of how Black Innovation Matters to you.

Please submit story applications by February 7th; Live streamed gala event evening of March 16th.

To learn more and submit your story, please visit the I2S2 webpage or email

photo of Kim AcquavivaLGBTQ-Inclusive Hospice and Palliative Care

Kimberly Acquaviva, PhD, MSW, CWE

Borne out of her lived experience and research, Dr. Acquaviva is the author of LGBTQ-Inclusive Hospice and Palliative Care: A Practical Guide to Transforming Your Practice. Dr. Acquaviva is unique in being a social worker and nursing faculty. She is the Betty Norman Norris Endowed Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Virginia. Her presentation is part of Social Work Month, acknowledging the contributions and work of social workers.

Wednesday, March 24, 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.,

Live video presentation via Webex

logo for CIME eventDisability Studies and Music Education Symposium

The planning committee for Disability Studies and Music Education Symposium invites you to attend their second biennial event. Through the symposium theme, Intersectionality of Disabled Persons/Persons with Disabilities’ Experiences In, With, Through, and Around Music, presenters will share sessions that will examine disability through disability studies and adjacent frameworks. 

Thursday, April 15 – Saturday, April 17

Offered virtually. For more information please visit the Center for Inclusive Music Engagement events page.


Spotlighting Student Focused Events

photo of students talking with summit info overlayedStudent Diversity Summit

The Student Diversity Summit aims to give JMU students of all identities the opportunity to exchange ideas on issues of diversity and inclusion, a space and place to have honest conversations, and an opportunity to develop their awareness, knowledge, and skills related to all forms of diversity alongside peers. This year’s summit will be offered virtually with evening sessions.

Proposal deadline is Friday, February 5th.

To submit a proposal please visit the Student Diversity Summit page.

Offered virtually via Zoom
Tuesday, February 23, 7:00-8:00 p.m. and Thursday, February 25th, 7:00-8:00 p.m.
To register please visit the Student Diversity Summit page.

CMSS logoCenter for Multicultural Student Services Events

Black History Month Celebration

Celebrate the achievements of African Americans and take time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Black History Month grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson. Our celebration includes music, trivia, and fellowship!

Tuesday, February 9th, 7:00 p.m.

Register in advance for this Zoom event 

Leadership Speaker: Adventures with Tyhree Moore

Tyrhee will share leadership lessons from his adventures and host a Q&A with students. Students will also be able to try rock climbing on the UREC climbing wall with Tyrhee. 

Wednesday, February 16th, 6:30 p.m., In person at UREC Club Room

vintage photo of the Greensboro fourA Seat at the Table

This dynamic and interactive program will explore the legacy of the Greensboro Four! On February 1, 1960, David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. (Jibreel Khazan), and Joe McNeil, four African American students from North Carolina A&T State University, staged a sit-in in Greensboro at Woolworth, a popular retail store that was known for refusing to serve African Americans at its lunch counter. Not long after their protest, sit-ins began occurring across the South, including the North Carolina cities of Charlotte, Durham, and Winston-Salem. These young men came to be known as the Greensboro Four.

Joining us will be the son and granddaughter of Franklin McCain, Sr. to share the life and legacy of the Greensboro Four as well as the impact it has on us now!"

Tuesday, February 23rd, 7:00 p.m.
Register in advance for this Zoom event

Latina Leadership Panel – Women of the Latinx Diaspora

Join CMSS, Honors College and the Madison Hispanic Caucus to bring together a women's leadership panel to celebrate Women's History Month. 

Tuesday, March 2nd, 7:00 p.m.
Register in advance for this Zoom event


HERstory of Resilience – Women’s History Month Panel

This event will explore the journeys of resilience of women through hearing their HERstory as a celebration of the vital role of women in American history. 

Tuesday, March 16, 7:00 p.m.
Register in advance for this Zoom event

photo of Isra ChakerIsra Chaker – Cultural Series Speaker

CMSS D.E.E.P. Impact welcomes Syrian-American activist, motivational speaker, and Senior Campaign Lead at Oxfam, Isra Chaker as our Cultural Series Speaker. 

Tuesday, March 23rd,  7:00 p.m.
Register in advance for this Zoom event

JMU Tiny Desk Concert

This event will be to highlight the talents of our JMU community in a social distanced live concert!

Friday, April 16th, 7:00 p.m.
In-person event outside. Location TBD

DEEP logoD.E.E.P. Impact Dialogue Series

Join CMSS D.E.E.P. Impact Diversity Educators for student-lead dialogues.

February 10th, 7:00 p.m. Black History Month – Registration link
March 3rd, 7:00 p.m. Women’s History Month – Registration link
April 7th, 7:00 p.m.  Open Topic – Registration link

photo of graduation stolesDonning of the Kente

The Donning of the Kente celebration recognizes the accomplishments of graduating students who have engaged in CMSS umbrella organizations, programs, and services while at JMU.

Tuesday, April 27th, 7:00 p.m.
This event will be virtual

photo of Engagment Hub in Carrier LibraryDiversity, Equity and Inclusion Events in the Engagement Hubs

The Engagement Hubs are interactive touch screens and webpages loaded with current events, service needs, and opportunities organized by the amount of time you are able to spend on the task (One Time and Ongoing) and by the category (Civic engagement, Community Action, On-Campus Involvement, Diversity Efforts, and Professional Development). For students who are looking to stay engaged with DEI focused programming on campus, the Diversity Efforts hub has upcoming events focused on access & inclusion, multicultural student events/services, and equity awareness. Visit the Carrier Library Lobby or the Second floor of Rose Library to check them out, or visit the Diversity Hub page.

In Focus

photo of Brent LewisOwning Your Legacy & Learning from Your Identity

Brent Lewis
Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

My name is Dr. Brent Lewis, and I serve as the Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at James Madison University.  I chose to work at JMU because I felt the position was a great fit for me based on my background in student affairs, passion for DEI efforts, and my previous experience in similar positions.  As I learned about the university during my interview I felt it would be a great opportunity for me and I also felt I had the knowledge and collaborative attitude to partner with our campus community to create positive change.  Something people may not know about me is that my other passion is music, I am a singer and have had a microphone in my hand since the age of three.

I believe I’ve always had a sense of self, I knew very early in my life many of the identities I now hold.  Growing up in a Black home with both parents, I was very aware that I was Black, I knew I was male, and middle classed, but I also knew there was something different about me.  As I got older I began to make meaning of my identities based on my lived experiences.  As a college student I began to process and own my lived experiences and craft my own narrative.   Self-acceptance and affirmation can happen at different times for everyone, but I truly felt liberated in all of me as I was finishing my undergraduate years in college.  Not only has representing and owning my identities helped me personally, I believe it has helped me to professionally create a sense of self and appreciate the intersections of my identities and others.

In this moment I see a lot of division in our nation.  I believe we have come to a place of challenge and a space where disrespect based on difference has been constant.  My hope for our country is that we can appreciate the differences that make us who we are, create equity minded approaches to our interactions and relationships both in our personal lives and careers, and that we will use an inclusive approach to healing as a country.  Additionally, my hope for the university is that we lead the way.  The challenges of our country will always impact the campus community; however, we can take an intentional approach to action-oriented behavior and strategic leadership in areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion that creates discussion for positive change in our nation and beyond.

I encourage others to take time to reflect on your journey.  What do you want your legacy to be and what story will be told about how you treated others? I highly encourage everyone to sit and process their own lived experiences, make a list of your identities and ways they intersect and overlap, and also create a list of identities you do not hold.  How have you perceived identities that are different from yours and how has that impacted your behaviors?  Think critically about how we can unite more and be more thoughtful in our approach to engagement with each other and ways we can be more understanding and affirming to everyone along our journey.  I believe our stories will continue to be rewritten, revised, and fluid as we move along this journey we call life.

photo of Diana MezaHope for the Future

Diana Meza

Graduate Program Director, Spanish Language & Culture for Educators and Co-Chair, Madison Hispanic Caucus

I am originally from Cali, Colombia, and I am an instructor in the College of Education (CoE) in the Learning, Technology, and Leadership Education department. After a 1-year exchange program at Goochland high school in Virginia, I was recruited to play golf at JMU. I did my undergraduate in Business Management with a concentration in Spanish. After graduating, I worked for a year in the banking industry but decided to return to JMU to pursue my master’s in Education. I have been teaching at JMU for 11 years and I am currently working on my Ph.D. from George Mason University in Multicultural/Multilingual Education.

As an international student and now a member of the JMU and Harrisonburg community, I am constantly exploring my racial, ethnic, and national identities that shape my identity as a Latina. While pursuing my master's in Education, I learned about the diverse student population in our local schools. However, I also learned that teachers often are not prepared to teach and support immigrant students and families. As a Latina who is pursuing a teaching career, I decided to do research on multicultural/multilingual education with an emphasis on Latinx immigrant family engagement. My hope is to better prepare our pre-service students for the classroom of the future. 

Based on what is happening in the country right now, I have an enormous amount of hope that we will be an even more diverse and inclusive nation. I can also say that I am very proud to see a person of color and a female as the Vice President of the United States! This only means that we can change the system and give voice to those we usually silenced. In addition, I’m happy to see that JMU is making changes to make the university more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. I understand changes take time, but the institution is taking the necessary actions and is already implementing different strategies to make JMU a more welcoming place.

Lastly, I would encourage everyone to be patient, caring, and understanding, especially during this difficult time. Each person has their own journey with different obstacles. However, everyone brings different perspectives that are valuable and help to make the world better. My family and I love JMU and Harrisonburg. We love the diversity the community brings and are grateful for the opportunities that JMU and the Valley have offered us.

photo of Semaj SorhaindoMake it Happen JMU

Semaj Sorhaindo, Class of 2021
President of Student Coalition Against Racial injustice

My name is Semaj Sorhaindo, I’m a senior Health Sciences major in Pre PA. I’m the current president of the Non-Profit organization called SCAR which stands for Student Coalition Against Racial injustice. My hometown is Fredericksburg, VA but I grew up mostly in Fayetteville, NC. My name is James backward, named after my Grandfather whose life wasn’t lived the best so my Father wanted me to turn a new leaf for the men in my family to do better than the previous generations; hence, why I am named Semaj.

I aspire to open up clinics in low poverty areas to handle the upstream health disparities with low-income communities in the future. This aspiration sparked in me at a young age because I never lived in a house until my sophomore year of high school. My mother had to work two jobs to keep things going for us and I even witnessed her go through health discrimination when she was sickly with a brain tumor.

The hold of systemic oppression, and the constant anxiety of having to claw your way to get everything, taught my siblings and me at a young age that we are Black in a country that was not created for us. So when the marches and the protests were happening in the summer around the time George Floyd and Breonna Taylor lost their lives, the chronic stress and years of oppression drove the passion out of me to speak out for Black and brown lives.

Being a part of SCAR has taught me that when we can come to a common ground and have the “tough” conversations it can help, but they truly do nothing if the gradualism behind their actions is still present. They influence me to know that the system was never made for, nor did it ever really change for Black people to become more assimilated into society, it just changes its face ever so often throughout the centuries: three-fifths slave compromise, 13th Amendment, Jim Crow laws, 1994 Crime Bills.

This nation never fully let us live in peace, and they want the Black community to pull us up by our own bootstraps when they never even sold the boots to us, and even if they did our ancestors could never afford them or it would not matter because their skin being black would’ve made their efforts invalid in this nation. SCAR was created to bring equity for Black students, make it happen JMU.

Task Force on Racial Equity

logo for the Task Force on Racial Equity


In the fall the Task Force on Racial Equity was created to advise the president and administration on issues of racial equity, receive and provide feedback on information related to current and planned initiatives, and generate additional recommendations for the short, medium, and long term. In order to provide focus for its work, this task force will concentrate primarily on issues related to racial equity. Membership will include representation from various constituencies including the student body, faculty, staff, alumni, and community.

Task Force Leadership and Structure 

The task force is divided into tiers to ensure the work is done at multiple levels. This structure includes an administrative team, a leadership council and eleven working groups.

Administrative Team

The four co-chairs of the Task Force on Racial Equity are:

Cynthia Bauerle, Interim Vice Provost for Faculty and Curriculum
Arthur Dean, Executive Director, Campus & Community Programs for Access and Inclusion
Rudy Molina, Vice Provost, Student Academic Success and Enrollment Management
Deborah Tompkins Johnson, Vice Rector, Board of Visitors

Additional support has been added for the overall success of the task force to include a national advisor, JMU consultant and administrative personnel to provide communications support.

photo of Tia McNairNational Advisor

The Task Force is honored to welcome alumnus Dr. Tia Brown McNair as its national advisor. Dr. McNair is an influential and recognized professional in diversity and equity. She was recently named by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education as one of thirty-five outstanding women who has tackled some of higher education’s toughest challenges and made a positive difference in their communities. To learn more about Dr. McNair’s work in diversity, please visit her AAC&U profile page. In her role as national advisor, Dr. McNair will work mainly with the Task Force co-chairs. 

JMU Consultant

 Dr. Jennifer PeeksMease will act as a consultant to the task force, meeting with the co-chairs individually and as a group. Jenn joins us as an Associate Professor in Organizational Communication in the School of Communication Studies here at JMU.  She brings expertise in understanding how social bias is built into organizational structures, and how individuals and groups cope with, challenge, and change those structures.

Leadership Council

The organizational structure of the TFRE includes fourteen members of a Leadership Council (LC). Each council member is embedded in one of the working groups and together the Council supports TFRE efforts by serving as consultants and connectors across working group conversations. Council members contribute diverse knowledge, skills and perspective to the effort as faculty experts, administrative and community leaders, JMU alumni and students. One of their primary functions is to encourage collaboration across the TFRE initiative. They also work closely with TFRE co-chairs to prepare submission of working group recommendations to President Alger.

Working Groups—The Heart of JMU’s Task Force on Racial Equity

As President Alger has stated, JMU’s Task Force on Racial Equity is intentionally large in order to have maximum opportunity for diversity in thought. After an exhaustive review of nominations that included direct input from President Alger, Senior Leadership and Task Force Co-Chairs, the eleven Working Groups were populated with 182 members and have begun their work. 

The Working Groups will discuss achieving steps towards racial equity in several aspects of university responsibilities, university life and community collaboration. Even beyond the 180+ members assigned to working groups, the task force wants and will research and seek other additional information and input.

Additionally, input will be sought from the broad JMU community via invitations to Working Group meetings or larger task force meetings. And the Task Force on Racial Equity plans outreach to students, employees, campus and community organizations.


Over 180 people have joined the Task Force.  The membership includes faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members. 

Timeline:  Laying a Foundation, Setting the Pace

The work of the Task Force on Racial Equity is organized into three phases; Phase One: Laying Foundations for Success, Phase Two: Designing Racial Equity and Phase Three: Tracking our Impact. We are closing out Phase One, which focused on establishing the structure, membership, and processes that will guide our work. We are now entering Phase Two, which we anticipate lasting until January 2022.

During Phase Two the eleven working groups will focus on identifying problems and proposing solutions. Proposals will be presented to President Alger and appropriate senior administration members regularly to be considered for implementation. Finally, Phase Three overlaps with Phase Two, and focuses on the transparency and execution of approved initiatives. Phase Three will begin in May 2021 and last through May 2022.

Recommendation Work Flow

President Alger called for the task force to be action-oriented with recommendations that have short, medium and long-term implementation plans.  Working Groups have begun submitting recommendations which will go through a multi-stage development and endorsement phase before being presented to President Alger.

Stage 1: Identify problem and propose solutions
Stage 2: Feedback and endorse
Stage 3: Review and approve
Stage 4: Alignment and accountability


Communication from the Task Force will be provided through multiple platforms.

  • Website: This will be the front facing information about the task force.
  • The Beacon: Each edition of The Beacon will include a section highlighting the work of the Task Force.
  • Emails: Each month messages including information or participation will be sent the JMU and local communities.
  • Social media: The first social media account to be created will be Facebook. LinkedIn accounts will also be created.

While these communication avenues are being developed, you can reach the Task Force on Racial Equity at

Task Force Meetings

Full Task Force Meetings: Since the bulk of the work to develop recommendations will occur in the working groups, the full task force, currently 182-strong, will convene one to two times a semester. The next full task force meeting is planned for Mid-May.

photo of task force Zoom meetingThe first meeting of the full group was held December 17th with President Alger and the Task Force’s National Advisor Dr. Tia Brown McNair as speakers. They both spoke briefly and then President Alger answered questions from members. The recording of the December 17th task force meeting is available for viewing here.

The Administrative Team meets weekly on Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m.

The Leadership Council meets monthly.

Working Group co-chairs and the Leadership Council meet monthly.

Working Groups will meet a minimum of once a month and more frequently if needed.


To learn more about the task force and a complete listing of the working groups and membership, please visit the Task Force on Racial Equity page.

At the Forefront: Initiatives Making a Difference

diversity toolbox logo with tools in the backgroundDiversity Toolbox

In response to a recent survey, the College of Health and Behavioral Studies Diversity Council has created a Diversity Toolbox that includes an online collection of resources. To access the toolbox resources, please visit the Diversity Toolbox page.

Preventing Harassment and Discrimination Training

Beginning in fall 2020, all employees are now required to complete Preventing Harassment & Discrimination, an online learning course. All faculty and staff have received an email with a training link. To date over 49% of employees have completed the training. All employees are encouraged to complete this valuable training as soon as possible with a university wide required deadline of Sunday, February 28th.  For more information and FAQs please visit the Title IX: Online Training page.

rainbox flag with Jimmy statue in the backgroundLavender Chapter for Alumni

The JMU Alumni Association has a new affinity chapter, the Lavender Chapter. This chapter serves as a network for members of the LGBTQ+ community and promotes a close relationship between alumni and LGBTQ+ JMU students. All are welcome to join this chapter. Alumni, faculty/staff or students interested in this chapter should complete this form to be added to the mailing list.

Other alumni affinity chapters include the Black Alumni Chapter and the Latino Alumni Network.

The Pantry logoThe Pantry – A resource for Students

The Pantry, located in Taylor Down Under, is a food+ pantry offering shelf-stable foods, basic hygiene products, and limited school supplies to students facing basic needs insecurity. The Pantry has partnered with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to ensure a consistent supply of quality options.

The Pantry also welcomes donations of certain food items and hygiene products. This project is generously funded by donations from alumni and community friends. To learn more about the pantry, please visit the Pop-Up Pantry page.

The pantry is available to any JMU student, no questions asked. To get an idea of what the experience is like for students, check out this video.

Climate Study Update

The Climate Study Working Group (CSWG) began their work in December 2020. The CSWG is assisting in the creation of the survey instrument that undergirds the assessment and the development of wide participation among our broader community. All faculty, staff and students will be able to participate in the survey, and its results will enable JMU to develop programs and policies that increase inclusivity in areas which are shown to be problematic as well as enhance and replicate programs and policies in areas that successfully meeting the needs of the community.

The committee is being led by an Executive Committee comprised of Provost and Senior Vice President Heather Coltman, Vice President Tim Miller, and Professor of Art History, Dr. Aderonke Adesanya. For more information and a complete listing of the committee’s membership, please visit the Climate Study Working Group committee page.

logo for the Compass awardCompass Awards

The Compass Award recognizes an individual or groups’ demonstrated outstanding contributions to diversity and inclusion at JMU. The award may be given to any member of the JMU community. Students, faculty, staff, or groups may be nominated for changing the course of diversity and inclusion at JMU in any of these four award categories:

Visionary – forward thinking, innovative, creates new programming or progressive initiatives
Leader – mentoring, guiding, facilitating, influencing
Advocate – providing a voice for an underrepresented person or group – site examples        
Catalyst – causing transformative activity or understanding between 2 or more persons, precipitating change

Nomination Deadline: Monday, February 22nd
Compass Award Nomination Form

logo for the Woman of Distinction awardWoman of Distinction Awards

Who is a woman of distinction? She is a woman who inspires us through her dedication and innovation; her exemplary leadership and mentoring; her commitment to enhancing gender equity and inclusion. A woman who possesses passion for the people and places making up her everyday life, who breathes life and energy into our community – this is a Woman of Distinction.  Is there a woman like this in your life?  Then nominate her today for the 2021 Woman of Distinction Award!

Nomination Deadline: Monday, February 22nd
Woman of Distinction Nomination Form

photos of the three faculty membersPreparing Future Faculty Program

The Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program welcomes three visiting scholars from Morgan State University this year:

Benita Dix, History
Marcus Wolfe, Math
Taylor Geyton, Social Work

logo for CFICFI creates Indigenous Land and Enslaved Peoples Acknowledgment

The Center for Faculty Innovation (CFI) Leadership Team, in collaboration with faculty members who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, has drafted an Indigenous Land and Enslaved Peoples Acknowledgment. The statement, as well as background information about its drafting and historical foundation, can be found on the CFI website.

The CFI hopes that the statement will support a process of interrogating the past of the place where James Madison University is located, generating dialogue about the people who lived and still live here, and catalyzing action to dismantle structural inequities. To start the dialogue, CFI faculty and collaborators have offered a series of roundtable conversations throughout the 2020-21 academic year. An updated list of ongoing CFI programs can be found on the CFI web page

THRIVE logoTHRIVE Awards AIM Developmental Grants

THRIVE, in collaboration with the Graduate School, awarded four AIM Developmental Grants for the 2020-21 academic year. AIM (Advancing Intelligent Minds) grants provide funding to assist underrepresented graduate students gain practical experiences or conduct scholarship that is relevant to the student’s field of study. Congratulations to the following recipients:

Mathias Aboba, Communication and Advocacy
Miracle Ogbor, DMA
Anisha Patel, Psychological Sciences
Aniko Safran, Studio Art

MLK week program logo2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Week

This year’s theme for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Week was Living by the words of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. All events were virtual and included keynote speaker Michelle Montgomery, MLK Continuing the Legacy Panel and a student hosted dialogue on the impact and legacy of Dr. King.

President’s Statement on Violence at the U.S. Capitol

On Friday, January 8th President Alger released a statement on the violence that occurred two days prior at the U.S. Capitol. To read the full statement, please visit the Statement about violence at the Capitol news article.  

The Beacon has been created by the Office of Access & Inclusion to share the good work of academic and administrative departments, students, affinity groups and more in supporting diversity, equity and inclusion at JMU.
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