The student view
March 28, 2013 Leave a comment
On the inauguration day of President Jon Alger, James Madison University’s Convocation Center was filled with people eager to see JMU history made. After all, this hasn’t happened often at JMU. Three students watching, including author of this post, Rachel Dawson, were paying special attention. They played a role in the events both before the inauguration and during the formal event. In her second post this week, Rachel relates their perspectives and what a new president means for the university’s future.
Viewing a new vision
by Rachel Dawson (’13)
The Convo was crammed with Dukes in purple eager to see JMU history made. All the work and preparation was about to become real. Senior SMAD major Meaghan MacDonald and I assisted with greeting and making sure special guests were in the correct locations during the speech. Sophomore writing, rhetoric, and technical communications major Rosemary Girard had been involved in the behind the scenes work shadowing President Alger’s head speechwriter, as well as assisting in editing and working with various speeches Alger gave while at JMU and on his listening tour.
Meaghan, Rosemary and I are students who give of our time to volunteer or work in the marketing and communications department, and we are committed to what we do and this university we do it for. Our views on the vision and goals of President Alger are different, and I think all three of us have unique perspectives in response to what President Alger has done so far and what he plans to do as well.
Meaghan has a less common JMU experience: “I am a first generation graduate paying my way through college because my father was out of work for four years,” she said. “When I first came to college, I was ashamed and embarrassed when people asked me where I was from, what my parents did and where they went to college. I have learned to get over that struggle, but I think it is very important that when Alger addresses diversity that he includes those aspects and makes those kids feel welcome and important.”
Thus, for Meaghan, who is from Jackson, N.J., a main concern is Alger’s vision for the diversity of JMU’s campus in all regards. “When it comes to diversity, I hope he is focusing on all forms of diversity outside of race, ethnicity, etc.,” she said. “I want to know his goals regarding economic and class background and again, with first generation graduates and how he can make that less taboo and make the kids feel more welcomed.”
Rosemary, from Arlington, Va., values JMU’s “open door” policy in all areas of student and staff life—a guiding principle that often leads to special opportunities and experiences for students. “This inclusive culture is what led me to contact the Office of the President,” she said. She was pleased to see that door open. For Rosemary, being able to participate in the speechwriting process and other communications work in the Office of the President spoke volumes about the character of President Alger himself.
“I have nothing but respect and admiration for President Alger,” she said. “As I’ve interacted with him over the past several months, I have been continually impressed by his intelligence and qualifications for the position. He has extensive knowledge of law, education, history and countless other topics. He has dealt with topics like diversity in education at the Supreme Court level, for example. His brilliance and career background are quite impressive and will serve JMU wonderfully.”
Because Rosemary has worked with President Alger and his staff for an extended period of time, she has seen the new president in action around campus and at work on his presidential duties.
“Aside from looking excellent ‘on paper,’ President Alger’s humility and kindness are what tie him to this campus,” Rosemary said. “The mere fact that he has allowed me to connect with his writing and communications team shows his dedication to students. In our speech meetings, even behind closed doors, President Alger exhibits an immense amount of dedication to education and propelling JMU forward.”
Based on the opinions of Rosemary and Meaghan, my own observations, and the general feelings and opinions I’ve witnessed around campus, I think the JMU student body is ready for the change President Alger wants to bring. We have high standards for the one who will lead the university so many of us love so dearly, and I think it’s safe to say we’re all hoping he’ll meet and exceed them.