The Beacon – 18th Edition – February 2022

Spotlighting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at JMU

The Beacon feature logo

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.

From the President's Desk:

photo of Jonathan AlgerI wanted to highlight a few examples of strategic diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) events and initiatives taking place during the 2021-22 academic year. Let me start by offering a word of heartfelt thanks to the Center for Multicultural Student Services (CMSS) for their leadership and coordination in creating another inspiring week of events celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The MLK week events have become an important tradition at JMU as we remember the past, focus on the present and envision the future.

DEI efforts are occurring at every level across the entire university, thanks to the commitment of many individuals, offices, groups and organizations. This work is embedded in the University’s Strategic Plan to ensure accountability. This past summer, for example, the Board of Visitors approved the addition of a strategic priority focused on DEI for this academic year. This priority of Embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion calls upon all divisions of the institution to participate actively as we “advance access and affordability for qualified students from all backgrounds, diligently removing obstacles to success.” Within the Strategic Plan, there are a number of core qualities and university goals associated with this priority, including:

At the leadership level, the entire President's Cabinet has been focused on DEI work throughout the year.  Before the holiday break, the cabinet had a special meeting facilitated by members of Duke University’s Truth and Racial Healing Team, led by Dr. Jayne Ifekwunigwe, to focus on team development around DEI themes and collaboration. We followed up on that meeting with another special engagement after the holiday break in which JMU alum Charles May, a member of the Task Force on Racial Equity who has worked with JMU in multiple capacities (including as a leader of the Ole School Alumni Group), led a strategic discussion based on elements of the TFRE’s work to date and tied it to the Strategic Plan. We focused on how DEI transformation is occurring in every division, as well as on university-wide efforts, and on how to ensure that the emphasis on this work will continue to be prioritized in the months and years ahead.

We are especially pleased to have launched a national search for the newly configured position of Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which will report directly to me.  There is also a search underway for an Associate Provost for DEI in Academic Affairs.  We hope that both of these positions will be filled by this summer, which will help us to build upon the momentum from the work of the Task Force on Racial Equity and to respond to needs identified in the campus climate study that was conducted in Fall 2021.

As you can see, DEI work is a key area of focus for the entire university community, and we are making progress on multiple fronts thanks to the devotion and dedication of many people. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and I hope and expect that we will continue to keep up the good work across the entire institution so as to create a more welcoming, just, equitable and inclusive environment for individuals of all backgrounds. That is what it means to be JMU, and to live up the promise and potential of “We the People” in the fullest sense of that foundational phrase. 

With support and warm regards,
Jonathan Alger, President 

In this issue:

Broadening Your Horizons: 
Upcoming Events
Resources and Recent Recordings

The Beloved Community
BJ Bryson
Department of Social Work and CHBS DEI Director

Just Plain and Simple Love and Civility
Kevin White
Associate Athletic Director for Sports Programs

Finding a Solution
Ginger Barbour
SGA Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Chair

At the Forefront
Initiatives Making a Difference

Now Accepting Nominations and Applications

Task Force on Racial Equity February Update

Back to Top

Broadening Your Horizons:

Upcoming Events

Museum of the Colony exhibit posterPablo Delano
The Museum of the Old Colony

Pablo Delano’s, The Museum of the Old Colony (MotOC), is an ongoing conceptual installation that addresses the complex history of the artist’s native Puerto Rico since the Spanish-American War of 1898. Appropriating archival photographs, film footage and popular artifacts, MotOC provocatively critiques entrenched misperceptions of Puerto Rico disseminated in mainstream media. Curated by Laura Katzman.

February 1 thru March 26
Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art - Duke Hall

book cover and photo of Jocelyn JohnsonReading & Fireside Chat with Jocelyn Johnson

The College of Arts and Letters, the JMU Black Student Alliance and the JMU Department of English welcome JMU alum and author, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, to share her debut book, My Monticello, with the JMU campus and local community. The Washington Post writes, "...'My Monticello' is, quite simply, an extraordinary debut from a gifted writer with an unflinching view of history and what may come of it."

Tuesday, February 15, 7:00 p.m. 
Book signing at 6:00 p.m. and after program
Wilson Hall Auditorium

Madison Vision Series event promoFuture of Leadership Challenges: 21st Century Mayors
Madison Vision Series

Join us for a virtual panel of Black female current and former mayors who will address the challenges of 21st century leadership.Topics will include crisis communication, the COVID-19 pandemic and strength during a time of social upheaval.

Wednesday, February 16, 6:00 p.m.
Livestream: Facebook and YouTube

Photo of Khadijah QueenKhadijah Queen
Furious Flower Poetry Reading

Furious Flower is excited to welcome Khadijah Queen for their first in-person poetry reading since 2020! Ms. Queen is the author of Conduit, Black Peculiar and ANODYNE.

Wednesday, February 16, 5:00 p.m.
Taylor Hall, Room 405

Sisters in Session logoAYA: Black Women in Higher Education

Centering a Black feminist/womanist epistemological theoretical framework, this presentation focuses on the experience of Black women in higher education striving to flourish despite thorns of trauma designed to hinder or disrupt their professional achievement. Sponsored by JMU’s Sisters in Session Caucus.

Moderated by: Dr. Sofia Samatar, JMU English/AAAD Faculty
Panelists: Menah Pratt-Clarke, J.D., PhD, Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity, Virginia Tech University and Dr. Narketta M. Sparkman-Key, HS-BCP, Academic Affairs Director of Faculty Diversity and Retention, Old Dominion University

Tuesday, February 16, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Register in Advance on AAAD Conference website

photo of Dorothy RobertsVoices of Race, Modes of Advocacy
12th Annual AAAD Interdisciplinary Conference

The African, African American, and Diaspora (AAAD) Studies Center presents the 12th Annual AAAD Interdisciplinary Conference, “Voices of Race, Modes of Advocacy.” Virtual events include keynote speaker Dorothy Roberts, featured speaker Andrea Ritchie and plenary presentations by the College of Visual and Performing Arts, Sisters in Session and the Africana Studies Workshop. The Mary Awkard Fairfax exhibit will be held in-person at the Simms Center, Harrisonburg. For more information or to register for the conference, visit the conference website.

February 16-19, Virtual and in-person events
Register in Advance

photo of Aretha Franklin with performers insetA Tribute to Aretha Franklin – The Queen of Soul
with Damien Sneed and Valerie Simpson

With a legendary career spanning several generations, Aretha Franklin possessed powerful vocals that skyrocketed her to international stardom. Musician, vocalist and composer Damien Sneed pays homage to the “Queen of Soul” with fresh takes on her hits like “Respect,” “Knew You Were Waiting,” and “Think.” The show features six-time Grammy nominee Valerie Simpson backed by a stellar cast of jazz, soul and gospel musicians and vocalists.

Thursday, February 17, 8:00 p.m.
Forbes Center Concert Hall
Purchase tickets

JMU Giving Day logoJMU Giving Day – 2.22.22

JMU Giving Day will feature designated donation funds to support programs that strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion across campus. These programs include the AAAD Studies Center, Furious Flower Poetry Center, CMSS, SOGIE, Valley Scholars, Centennial Scholars, Black Alumni Chapter Scholarship and more. Sign up now to be an ambassador and spread the word about this opportunity to support these and other programs.

Ole School Alumni Group logoConversation with the Ole School Alumni Group
Recognizing Black History Month

Join members of the Ole School Alumni Group, students, faculty, staff, JMU leadership and sponsors in a panel discussion in recognition of Black History Month. There will be an in-depth Q&A regarding internship and employment opportunities as well as OSASG engagement capability at JMU.

Thursday, February 24, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Madison Union Ballroom

photo of the King's SingersThe King’s Singers

The King’s Singers has represented the gold standard in a cappella singing on the world’s greatest stages for over 50 years. This class act with a delightfully British wit is unmatched for its “sheer musicality and ability to entertain.” (Times, London)

Saturday, February 26, 8:00 p.m.
Forbes Center Concert Hall
Purchase tickets

logo for DEI career conferenceThe Future is Now!

A career development conference for diverse students with workshops, alumni, speakers and exhibitors from community and campus. Students from first years to seniors who identify as members of racial, ethnic, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, international communities and those with varying ability status or first-generation students are encouraged to participate. Sponsored by the College of Health and Behavioral Studies, JMU DEI Athletics and JMU X-Labs

Tuesday, March 1, 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Atlantic Union Bank Center 

Los Hermanos film posterLos Hermanos - The Brothers
Film Screening

Virtuoso Afro-Cuban born brothers, violinist Ilmar and pianist Aldo, live on opposite sides of a geopolitical chasm a half-century wide. Tracking their parallel lives in New York and Havana, their poignant reunion and their momentous first performances together, Los Hermanos offers a nuanced, often startling view of estranged nations through the lens of music and family. Sponsored by the JMU Graduate School and the Latinx Student Alliance.

Friday, March 4, 7:30 p.m.
Wilson Hall Auditorium

photo of the Calefax Reed QuintetCalefax Reed Quintet

Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Amsterdam-based Calefax Reed Quintet is acclaimed for its contemporary yet timeless interpretations of classical music. The Times of London has called the group “five extremely gifted Dutch gents who almost made the reed quintet seem (like) the best musical format on the planet.”

Thursday, March 10, 8:00 p.m.
Forbes Center Concert Hall
Purchase tickets

photo of Aidan Dooley in characterDiscovering Antarctica: The Heroic Tales of Shackleton, Crean and Scott
Starring Aidan Dooley

Tom Crean (1877­–1938), an intrepid Antarctic explorer and one of Ireland’s unsung heroes, is brought to life in this critically-acclaimed solo performance by Aidan Dooley. Crean’s story is a testament of human fortitude against the elements of Antarctica, and Dooley’s “words create adventure that’s just as vivid as the special effects in a Hollywood bonanza” (Variety)

Tuesday, March 22, 8:00 p.m.
Forbes Center Mainstage Theatre
Purchase tickets

Diversity Conference logo

Diversity Conference
The Journey Towards Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Office of the President is pleased to announce JMU's annual Diversity Conference. This year’s theme is The Journey Towards Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This popular conference celebrates diversity by providing learning opportunities for our faculty, staff and local community through a multitude of sessions, an engaging keynote speaker and award recognitions.

Wednesday, March 23, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Festival Conference and Student Center
Registration Opens Mid-February

Photo of Charlotte AlstomFiddlin’ with Stories
Charlotte Blake Alston, Master Storyteller
Diane Monroe, Jazz Violinist

Learn how ancient and modern stringed instruments have played an integral role in the African and African American communities through folktales, stories and songs by Charlotte Blake Alston. Renowned jazz violinist, composer and arranger Diane Monroe will illuminate Alston’s stories with her instrumental ingenuity. A Forbes Family Fun event. 

Tuesday, April 19, 6:30 p.m.
Forbes Center Concert Hall
Purchase tickets

photo of Small Island Big Song performingSmall Island Big Song

Small Island Big Song is a multimedia musical spectacle reuniting the ancient seafaring cultures of the Pacific and Indian Oceans through song. Performing Oceanic grooves to soulful island ballads on traditional instruments and in native languages, artists from 10 nations come together for a live concert that combines music, spoken word and panoramic cinema to make a powerful statement about a region at the frontline of the climate crisis. 

Friday, April 22, 8:00 p.m.
Forbes Center Concert Hall
Purchase tickets

photo of Delores HuertaCollaborations Across the Commonwealth
Somos JMU Latinx Conference

Submissions for papers, presentations or panels for the Somos JMU Latinx Conference are now being accepted and may be submitted online. We are excited to welcome our presenters and keynote speaker Dolores Huerta to JMU. For more information visit the conference site. Sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters and Madison Hispanic Caucus.

Proposal submission deadline: June 3
Conference date: October 28, 2022

Resources and Recent Recordings

photo of Nikki GiovanniMartin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Week Keynote: Nikki Giovanni

MLK Celebration Week welcomed renowned poet, Nikki Giovanni, for the keynote address. Dr. Giovanni is one of this country’s most widely read poets and one of America’s most renowned poets world-wide. Her poem, "Knoxville, Tennessee," is arguably the single literary work most often associated with that city. Dr. Giovanni has received numerous awards including seven Image Awards from the N.A.A.C.P., more than two-dozen honorary degrees, the first Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, the Langston Hughes Medal for Poetry and the Carl Sandburg Literary Award. In 2005 she was recognized by Oprah Winfrey as one of twenty-five "Living Legends." She continues to teach, write and publish books, the most recent of which is A Good Cry. Her newest collection, Make Me Rain, was released in October of 2020. Watch Dr. Giovanni’s recorded keynote.

photo of Oren StierHolocaust Remembrance Week

Against a global context of rising antisemitism and increasing levels of disinformation and hate speech, Holocaust education and remembrance are more urgent than ever. An accurate accounting of what happened before, during and after the Holocaust is integral to the process of healing and reconstituting individuals, community and systems of justice. JMU hosted an inaugural Holocaust Remembrance Week in January featuring a keynote address by Dr. Oren Stier, Director of the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Program and Professor of Religious Studies in the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs at Florida International University.

remembrance candles Holocaust and Society Book Display

International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorated each year on January 27, remembers the victims of the Nazi regime and fosters international understanding of the Holocaust with the hope of preventing future genocidal violence. Humanities Librarian Malia Willey and History Professor Dr. Maura Hametz have created a new book display, In Memory: The Holocaust and Society, available online and in Carrier Library. Visit the virtual book display.

open bookWhy is Open Access a Justice Issue?

Open access (OA) refers to information that is digital, online, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Journal articles, books, databases and more can be OA. Because open access materials can be shared freely instead of limiting information to those who can pay for expensive subscriptions and memberships, OA has the potential to create more equitable and inclusive societies. In addition, open course materials make education more affordable for students. JMU faculty can help by making their own classes more accessible and advocating for change at JMU and beyond. Learn more in this article from JMU Libraries: 5 Ways JMU Instructors Can Engage with Open Access.  

infographicAn Infographic to Help Students Find Affordable Textbooks

JMU Libraries offers several options to help students find affordable textbooks and has created an infographic that includes the ways the Libraries can help and additional ideas to try. JMU Libraries is trying to lower the barriers to education for students by working with faculty to find cost-free, open course materials for their classes when possible and to reserve materials in the library for specific courses through their Course Reserves program. Please consider sharing this infographic with students: Help! I can’t afford my textbooks!

Grant Funding for Switching to Open Course Materials

Are you concerned about the high cost of textbooks for your students? Grant funding of $2,000-$30,000 is available to support a course redesign that makes your course materials more affordable and accessible to students by switching to open, no-cost or library resources. Apply by February 23.

profiles of persons various colorsNeurodiversity at Work: A New Virtual Book Display

Business Librarian Elizabeth Price and Humanities Librarian Malia Willey have created a new virtual book display, Neurodiversity at Work. According to Psychology Today, neurodiversity refers to the idea that neurological differences, such as those seen in autism or ADHD, reflect normal variations in brain development. As described in the Harvard Business Review in 2017, some companies are reforming their HR processes to better support neurodiverse employees and better access their talents. Learn more about neurodiversity in these twelve books or find more materials on this topic by searching neurodiversity or neurodivergent in Library Search. Visit the virtual book display.

graphic of computer screen Search JMU Libraries Collections in 20 Languages 

Did you know you can select from 20 languages when searching for articles, books and more in JMU Libraries? The search interface will display in your preferred language! You can also search by using voice-to-text in a variety of languages or by entering characters from languages such as Arabic, Japanese or Hebrew. Learn more.

covers of 4 recommended booksHonoring National Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month may be over, but we want to celebrate, honor and learn from Indigenous communities all year long. Check out four recommended books by Indigenous women, information about land acknowledgements and local Indigenous communities, a streaming Native American film collection and more in this article from JMU Libraries. Read the full story.


In Focus:

The Beloved Communityphoto of BJ Bryson
BJ Bryson
Department of Social Work and CHBS DEI Director

As a Black Appalachian woman from the mountains of North Carolina I hold several roles at JMU: social work educator, the College of Health and Behavioral Studies DEI Director, one of three Black Faculty Associate Advisors for the Provost and convener for the Sisters in Session Caucus (the women of African descent on campus). I was recruited by Dr. Ford and delivered here through divine providence.

Through a cultural lens, success is viewed as a collective experience with a deep appreciation for whose shoulders I stand on and the acknowledgement of how others poured into me and lifted me. I embody the hopes, dreams and expectations of cultural roots, identity groups and ancestral communities. I have obligations to succeed, to lift others and to maintain my authentic self.

I was “manish” (a cultural word used for a female child who doesn’t keep her place and butts into adult business) advocating for justice from elementary school with poorer classmates, interracial and gay couples in the 7th grade, and racial or women’s groups throughout high school and college. All of these were stigmatized outgroups not afforded positive inclusion within larger community. Racialized school integration came to my neighborhood in the seventh grade. I have always known what it meant to be “the other” sensitized to my intersectionality early as Black and female, and with the tension of simultaneously having a privileged upwardly mobile Black family identity. Justice and inclusion have driven my entire life because it is right. At least, that is what I got from all those endless days of church attendance growing up. This is how I was blessed, and challenged, to be in this life.

What are my hopes for the university, our country and the world? I deeply believe in building the beloved community where all society’s members are afforded dignity and worth, the material and emotional needs/supports for a healthy life, an ability to love fully and be loved by whomever one chooses without fear of reprisal. In the beloved community there would be an abolition of behaviors, processes and policies that give privilege to a few while the many are stigmatized, marginalized or discriminated against; and an end to global militarization replacing it with better listening, accountability, humility and reconciliatory actions. None of these are easy and nobody gets all they want, but how can we improve life for the betterment of all? It comes with hard work, crossing self-imposed boundaries to learn about someone by having tea with them, or giving more freely to others with your time, energy, skills or positive energy. It is not always the big actions that make a difference. Kindness to others and being gracious of spirit are tasks everyone can do. If we want to be the national model for engagement, let’s start there.

Just Plain and Simple Love and Civilityphoto of Kevin White
Kevin White
Associate Athletic Director for Sports Programs

My name is Kevin Jerome White and I serve as the Associate Athletic Director for Sports Programs at JMU. I’m an internal guy in that my interactions are almost exclusively with our coaches, staff and student-athletes. I am very involved with Diversity and Inclusion within the Athletics department and university as a whole, working with constituents within athletics as well as throughout campus. I have direct oversight of several intercollegiate, varsity teams: Men’s Soccer, Women’s Soccer, Cross Country, Football, Lacrosse, Baseball, Softball, and Track & Field.

In my position, my approach is driven by guiding principles that I was raised on: 1) treat people the way you want to be treated, with respect and dignity and 2) if you are going to compete, be the best at it and don’t apologize for wanting to be great. Behaving in a way that is dictated by our guiding principles enables us, as leaders and coaches, to establish strong and positive cultures within the sport programs at JMU and in our work with the student-athletes. When strong guiding principles meet strong culture, great things can and are accomplished in many of our sport programs.

I was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in Prince George’s County which is in the state of Maryland, bordering the eastern portion of Washington, D.C. I grew up with two parents and four siblings. Neither of my parents attended college. My father had an eighth-grade education and was a laborer in the metro system and a roofer. My mother worked for the government and was tough and resilient. The focus was church, school and sports during my youth years.

My parents, particularly my mom, had to be tough because of the drug epidemic that was happening in the 80s. At that time, Washington D.C. had the country’s highest homicide rates and was often referred to as “the Nations Murder Capital.” My parents stressed the importance of earning an education and made sure that my three siblings and myself attended parochial school. I attended an all-boys Jesuit high school called Gonzaga College Preparatory High School located in Washington D.C. There, education, service and being “a man for others” were the schools guiding principles and school motto.

I’ve always been aware of the barriers to access higher education and how socioeconomics can impact your journey. My parents found a way to make sure we had great teachers and mentors in school and sports. There was a foundation that was built on education, respect, trust and character. In our house, your name mattered, you were special.

 “What’s Your Name?” was the statement that was uttered when you got in trouble at school or in the neighborhood, establishing a foundation of accountability at a very early age that became a cornerstone for me and my siblings as I navigated life. We were taught to own your actions, the good and the bad. We were reminded every time we left the house that we represent ourselves and something bigger than ourselves, our family name. I was reminded that this is the only thing you will take with you when God calls you home — your name and reputation, so protect it with your life.

James Madison University is home for me. I’m a double Duke who graduated in 1991 and 1995, with a bachelor’s and master’s degree respectively. JMU was a university that I selected and fell in love with back in 1986. A beautiful university nestled in the Shenandoah Valley. A home away from home that I felt was encouraging, challenging and supporting for me to become the best version of myself. Working for JMU has been a great opportunity to work at an institution that helped shape me into the person, spouse, father of four sons and professional that I have become. When God guides your steps, a mistake is never made.

In all of my educational experiences it was sports that brought me to the school, but it was the people who got me through with LOVE. They listened to me, they had an open mind towards me, they valued me and they engaged me in my learning. This is what has been lost in our country as we deal with the unrest, and injustices- just plain and simple LOVE and civility. These are the very things that each one of my educational institutions gave me. We must learn to love our neighbor and have some sense of civility and respect. We must remove selfish, self-absorbed and impatient behavior that none of the educators that impacted my life demonstrated during my journey.

COVID-19 forced our country to slow down and spend time with our family again through meals, conversation, walks and games. The very simple pleasures of life I was raised on. It also brought about casualties of friends, coworkers, neighbors and loved ones. A reminder that life is a gift to value. The very thing that should have brought us closer together created a divide. We have to do the work to become better people, all of us! We have to get out of our own way and create a better tomorrow through education that occurs between the walls of higher education and in our daily walks and paths of life.

Wise men never stop learning but it has to be renewed daily. It starts at every institution of learning, and we have to continue to plan for tomorrow, we have to continue to prepare for obstacles. We have to continue to push our future students, but also to listen to them. We have to be persistent with equality and social justice, we have to continue to pay attention to the details of injustices on our campus because we all matter. We have to get back to the very foundation that was laid out for me, to advocate with passion for others — others who don’t look or perhaps think like you. We are the change and the choice — we are either maintaining the status quo or changing it.

Finding a Solutionphoto of Ginger Barbour
Ginger Barbour
SGA Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Chair

I’m a senior Theatre and Health Sciences double major, hailing from Richmond, VA. Upon graduation, I will be taking a gap year to gain experience on a campaign or a national advocacy group in preparation for law school the following year. As a JMU student, I’ve been able to work at the University Health Center in the pharmacy and in the School of Theatre and Dance costume shop. 

Since starting my undergraduate career at JMU, I have always found solace in knowing I have the support of the Center for Multicultural Student Services and their organizations when being the only black student in my class becomes debilitating. Instead of transferring, my escape became finding a solution for underrepresented identities. After joining the Student Government Association my sophomore year, I was determined to use my unique experience to better campus life for other students who struggle to make JMU their home. Many black students don’t return after their freshman year due to a lack of belonging and failure to find the support I was able to get from CMSS.

Being amongst black student leaders to hold office, promote mandatory DEI curriculum and training, build a yard for our multicultural Greek organizations, march for justice and execute the rededication of three buildings highlighting the legacies we’re upholding shows that we refuse to be silenced or minimized. SGA has given me the platform to amplify the voices of minorities on campus and work directly with administrators responsible for the quality of our experience. 

While I may not have direct influence on efficient budget allocation, inclusive dining options or recognizing and accommodating all religious practices and holidays, I will continue to advocate and share my platform every opportunity I have. Students have worked hard at developing educational resources for DEI awareness, such as D.E.E.P. Impact Dialogues, which have made me a better leader by staying knowledgeable about current social, professional and political affairs and how they impact our academic environment.

I hope the university will promptly support the implementation of Critical Race Theory in all curriculum, provide their educators with the support and protection needed to continue having uncomfortable conversations around change, and that the faculty and administration will work to prioritize the public health of the university as it relates to COVID-19, mental health and sexual health. I knew coming to JMU would present different challenges than attending an HBCU, but hopefully stepping out of my comfort zone will inspire others to take the road less traveled in every aspect of their lives.

At the Forefront: Initiatives Making a Difference

photo of Ailton ColemanAilton Coleman Selected as an Emerging Scholar for Diverse Magazine

The Emerging Scholars for Diverse magazine is an annual recognition of 15 interdisciplinary scholars from across the country who are 40 years old and younger. The competitive process includes an external nomination and review of the nominee’s scholarly endeavors. Diverse selects its candidates based on a variety of criteria, including leadership and scholarly works however, a key factor is the scholar’s contribution to improving humanity.

This year Assistant Professor of Health Sciences Ailton Coleman was nominated by Associate Provost for Diversity David Owusu-Ansah, for his commitment to improving men’s health and diversity efforts from the undergraduate to the doctoral level. Ailton said, “It is a humbling honor to be nominated by Dr. Owusu-Ansah to represent James Madison University at the national level and to be acknowledged as an Emerging Leader by Diverse magazine. As a junior faculty member I am excited to continue my work with the JMU community and hope this is one of many steps to showcase how work in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a value to the academy as a whole.” Read more about Ailton’s journey and recognition in Diverse magazine’s profile entitled Always up for a Challenge.

photo of Furious Flower presentationA Digital Future for Black Poetry at JMU, Thanks to New $2 Million Grant

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded James Madison University $2 million over four and a half years to secure the digital future of the Furious Flower Poetry Center, the nation’s first academic center devoted to Black poetry. This generous grant will support the center’s internationally recognized leadership and provide for archival description, digital preservation and global access to an extensive archive of Furious Flower poetry and spoken word performance videos held by JMU Libraries Special Collections. Read the full story.

photo of students tutoringSpecial Education Teacher Candidates Provide Literacy Support to Local Middle School Students

Not surprisingly in the wake of the pandemic, K-12 students everywhere are experiencing the effects of significant loss of instruction since March of 2020. Thomas Harrison Middle School (THMS) students are no different, but starting in February, 22 students who have been identified as significantly below grade level in literacy skills will be receiving support every Monday from teacher education students in JMU's Special Education program. Laura Desportes, JMU Professor-in-Residence, will supervise 22 teacher candidates in providing assessment and targeted remediation to THMS students from the dual language program, a population that struggles more than others. Desportes has supervised this placement since it began in 2007, but this is the first time it will run at THMS. She has worked with THMS AVID students for several years and this year the focus has been on providing literacy support — a wonderful fit between the needs of the school and the resources she can provide in the PIR role.  

Black Alumni Chapter logoBlack Alumni Chapter New Leadership Team

The Black Alumni Chapter is proud to introduce their new 2022 leadership team! The chapter extends their heartfelt appreciation for the fantastic leadership of outgoing President Paula Bowens and her leadership team. We are excited to see what this new team creates in their efforts to create inclusive and uplifting programming for the black alumni community of JMU. For more information or to reach out to the leadership team, please email:

President: John Mitchell ('93)
Vice President: Cynthia Ruff ('20M)
Philanthropy Chair: Simeon Deskins ('90)
Mentorship/DEI Chair: Marquia Jones ('14)
Events Chair: Lattiesha Dark ('18)

photo of seed pick-up areasPick Up or Donate Seeds to the JMU Community Seed Library

The Community Seed Library promotes food justice in Harrisonburg by providing free seeds to anyone through self-service stations in Carrier Lobby and in downtown Harrisonburg at the Massanutten Regional Library. You can donate or choose seeds to take home any time the buildings are open. Learn more.

Task Force on Racial Equity Update

logo for the Task Force on Racial Equity

Learn more about the Task Force on Racial Equity in the February 2022 Update. The update includes task force:

  • Recommendations
  • Accountability
  • The Narrative on Race Project
  • Recurring task force meetings
  • Connecting the task force to the JMU Climate Study

For a complete list of the working groups and membership, visit the Task Force on Racial Equity page.

To submit an idea for a recommendation, email:

Now Accepting Nominations and Applications

Compass Award logoCompass Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for the Compass Awards. The Compass Award recognizes an individual or groups who demonstrate outstanding contributions to diversity, equity 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 two or more persons, precipitating change

Nominate Today
Deadline is Monday, February 21

grant logo with light bulbsIDEA Grants Call for Proposals

The Innovative Efforts Award (IDEA) grant provides funding to students, faculty and staff members who want to test original ideas and/or develop sustainable activities and projects for the enrichment of diversity, equity and inclusion at James Madison University. Individuals, departments, units or groups may submit proposals for activities designed to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in the broadest terms to include socioeconomic status and background, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender and disability, age, veteran/military service status or any combination thereof. 

Apply Today
Deadline is Monday, February 28th

furious flower logoFurious Flower Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers 2022 

Poets with no more than one published book are invited to submit up to three poems (no more than a total of six pages) for consideration. The winner and honorable mention will be invited to read as part of the Furious Flower Reading Series in April. The winner, honorable mention and select finalists will be published in the journal Obsidian

Submit Today
Deadline is Tuesday, February 15

We can—and must—be a beacon for our society and the world in which we model what it means to be a community that values civil discourse and debate based on facts, reason, evidence and education.

President Alger
January 8, 2021

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.

Submit an event for upcoming editions.