Making History by Changing the Future

Women For Madison

SUMMARY: The 100+ women of JMU’s Amethyst Circle are on a multi-million dollar mission to reduce financial barriers for freshmen seeking to attend JMU, help JMU recruit more top students and send more JMU graduates out into the world. Making history and changing the future: Does working together get any better?

JMU students graduate prepared to make a difference. Shaped by the Madison experience, they’ve built knowledge, character and collaborative skills. These motivated graduates are JMU’s contribution toward a brighter future for us all.

But what if today’s harsh financial realities force these high-achieving students to withdraw before they can graduate from JMU? What if JMU can’t recruit them in the first place?

The need for strategic recruiting

Cannie Campbell (’95 and ’20M), Associate Vice President for Constituent Engagement and Women for Madison, emphasizes how the need for scholarships is growing — dramatically. “Continuing financial fallout from the pandemic is just one factor,” she notes. “Recruitment is another. Colleges and universities that compete with JMU, for example, offer scholarships to 35% of the students they admit. JMU offers aid to 6%.”

Campbell points out that even when JMU students do receive scholarships, the gap between total financial aid and actual costs averages $5,000/year. “Multiply that gap by four years and it becomes a $20,000 hurdle to graduation.”  

It’s critical to increase the number of scholarships JMU can offer. It’s equally critical to retain students so they can graduate and make the most of their chance to change the future. To meet this challenge, Women for Madison created a brand new model for JMU philanthropy: The Amethyst Circle.

A first-of-its-kind giving initiative

What’s so different about the Amethyst Circle?

  • It’s led by women. Dawn Smith Barnes (’90) is an Amethyst Circle founder, proud to be making history with JMU’s first women-led scholarship mission. “The Amethyst Circle is new,” she says. “It’s created by women to support what’s needed most.”
  • It’s a big program. The Amethyst Circle is on a multi-million dollar mission is to bring at least 200 women together every two years. During that time, these women contribute $5,000. Together, they raise $1 million to  invest in giving the Madison experience to 25 students. And they repeat this, raising another million dollars every other year.
  • It’s a renewable scholarship. Amethyst Circle scholarships cover the $5,000/year gap not just for one student for one year, but for 25 students for four years. “What a difference that makes to students!” Campbell says. “We’re giving these deserving students time to grow in the Madison experience, forge relationships, emerge as JMU “ambassadors.”
  • There’s real engagement. The Amethyst Circle creates genuine connections between members and scholarship recipients. Special events give Amethyst Circle members to share their experience — academically, professionally and now as philanthropists. During the four years, they come to know scholarship recipients directly, listening to their stories and learning the dreams these students are striving to realize.

For Campbell, engagement is at the core of this mission. “The Amethyst Circle has three objectives: to knock down financial barriers for students seeking to earn an education; to help JMU recruit more of these top students; and to send more JMU graduates out into the world. Making history and changing the future — does working together get any better?”

Learn more about JMU's Amethyst Circle

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Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 11, 2022

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