New dean seeks answers to key questions that will guide the growth of graduate education at JMU

John Burgess

SUMMARY: “What is the significance of graduate education at JMU? What makes us unique? What makes us distinct?”

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

The Graduate School is pleased to introduce our new Interim Dean, John Burgess.

1. What were you doing before you got this position?

I was in the school of Theatre and Dance. I was the director of technical production for 10 years. I worked in the Forbes Center and I advanced all the theatrical productions in both the main stage theater and the studio theater. I helped out with dance productions. I also taught classes and advised students. I moved to the Graduate School two years ago as the Interim Associate Dean for graduate student services and was excited to be able to work in a position that helped support graduate students develop professionally. This year I moved into the Interim Dean position.

2. How has the transition to the position of interim dean been for you?

It’s been exciting. I think we’re in a very important moment for graduate education at JMU. The university is developing a six year strategic plan, graduate enrollment is at an all-time high at JMU, and we’re poised to continue to develop, improve and grow what we offer at the graduate level at JMU.

3. What are some of the projects that the Graduate School is currently working on?

We have a number of projects. We are working on recruitment. We want to recruit the best students in Virginia, the best students in the nation and the best students in the world. We’re working to bring JMU’s graduate programs to the attention of many more potential students. 

Another great project is THRIVE. This is a big initiative to create a more inclusive, supportive environment for our diverse student body.

We are also working to explore ways we can bring some of our educational opportunities closer to the population centers in Northern Virginia and Tidewater.

4. What is your vision for this year?

We have been asked to develop a vision for the significance of graduate education at JMU. JMU has a long tradition with undergraduate education, so we're working to define our distinct university as an institution that offers outstanding graduate programs. We want to appreciate and celebrate how graduate education at JMU is different than what you find at other universities in Virginia or in the region.

5. What are your interests outside of your work at JMU?

There’s a lot of them. I’m an avid cyclist, I like both road cycling and mountain biking. I haven’t been able to do it as much as I would like during the past several years. The last time I was on my bike, I rode it a 100 miles over two mountain passes. I would like to be able to get back out on the road, hopefully once the weather gets better.

I am starting to take up off-roading and my wife and I purchased a new jeep. We're really excited to explore the backroads and trails around the Shenandoah Valley. Also, my father and I are going to take a trip next summer out to the Monument Valley in Utah and Arizona and travel the deserts of the Southwest, which is a region I love.

I’m also an avid film fan, I used to work in the film industry in Los Angeles, and I like to stay connected with what’s going on in the film industry and on television.

This article is the first in a three-part series introducing staff in new roles in the Office of the Graduate School.

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Published: Thursday, November 7, 2019

Last Updated: Monday, February 1, 2021

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