Becoming familiar with THRIVE

THRIVE picture

SUMMARY: “The THRIVE program is here to help ALL students find the support they need to feel included, happy, and successful in graduate school.”

By Laureta Ramaj, Graduate Student, M.A. in Communication & Advocacy

The feelings of isolation and rejection are fairly common, especially among first year students. Realizing that you might be the only Asian-American, African-American, Hispanic-American, international, LGBTQ+, bi-racial/multiracial student in your cohort or one of the very few in your university can be tough and challenging. It can make you feel very isolated and alone, it can also impact the way you perform in academia. THRIVE provides a safe tangible space for students to connect with other students and get a sense of belonging. It aims to make students feel like they matter, their opinions, struggles, challanges and wins matter, and that they are a part of a bigger community.

We are happy to introduce to you Briana Gaines, Coordinator for THRIVE, a first year student in the Counseling and Supervision doctoral program and Brittany A. Williams, THRIVE Development Coordinator, a third year student in the Counseling and Supervision doctoral program.

1. What is the purpose of THRIVE?

It is a cultural support program for graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds. It was born out of this need for graduate students that were feeling isolated and as if there wasn’t a space for them within their cohort or within the larger JMU community.

2. Who are the founders of THRIVE?

This was an idea that the interim dean John Burgess came up with, and he was really intentional about making THRIVE a student-run organization as something that services the needs of the graduate students. And he brought the two of us on board, and we are all in this together as a team.

3. When was it created? Who is involved? 

The unveiling was August 15, 2019. The Graduate School has been very supportive of this initiative and we’ve had a lot of support across campus. But the core contributors would be the three of us.

4. What are the benefits of THRIVE?

The benefits of THRIVE are that it provides students with a safe space where they can let their guard down. In addition, the program is designed to help students find mentors, and participate in professional development. THRIVE helps students feel comfortable, grow and develop by providing safe spaces where they can be themselves. In these safe spaces student can bravely explore who they are.

5. What is mentorship and who can become a mentor?

Mentorship is one of the key initiatives that we’d like to have as a part of THRIVE. We seek to create peer to peer, as well as faculty or staff to student mentorship. We serve as “case managers” who facilitate authentic mentorship relationships. We want that to be a really genuine process for both parties, so once we create pairs, we allow for the mentor and mentee to create a relationship.

We meet with each person that wants to be a mentor, we get a sense of who they are, and what they bring to the table, and we have to make sure they’re a good fit for mentorship. We introduce potential mentor-mentee pairs and let individuals choose one another. Once they form that connection we step back, and allow the dyads move forward on their own. We want their relationship to be organic and authentic.

6. What kind of activities does THRIVE organize?

We have various affinity groups that we have identified. We are allowing for those groups to take a more authentic form, and those meetings are a space for graduate students to have a more relaxed time, as well as providing professional development opportunities, speaker series, workshops that would be graduate student specific. We also partner with offices and centers on campus that are already doing programing and development for JMU students, and try to connect students with things already happening on campus.

7. What are some of THRIVE’s short and long-term goals?

The long term goal is that we see this as being a center, a safe tangible space that people know where we’re located and know that they can walk in and that’s what they’re in store for. Short term, I think we are meeting our goals, every week we see our goals accomplished in some way. Our short term goal is definitely providing a safe space for graduate students and creating this sense of belonging, kind of removing that isolation feeling as well as providing resources that are available to graduate students on campus.

For questions or more information, feel free to contact

Back to Top

Published: Monday, December 2, 2019

Last Updated: Monday, December 2, 2019

Related Articles