The Class of 2012, part 1

Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know a number of current students through the Be the Change blog. Some are now seniors, ready to launch into the next phase of life. Every one of them is interesting, perceptive and enthusiastic about life.

As a run up graduation on Saturday, I asked them to reflect on their Madison Experience, about the best and worst parts of graduating from JMU and about their plans after commencement. Nine responded to my email query. Beginning today, I’ll feature two a day this week. You’ll remember some of their names from prior posts, and you’ll learn some things about them that will surprise you. (Their names are linked to the original post in which they appeared.) All together these seniors represent the best of the Madison Experience, the Class of 2012, and very bright futures.  One senior wrote that her future goals include changing the world.  Given what these students have accomplished  and how they look at the future, they — and their fellow members of the Class of 2012 — probably will. 

Abby Burkhardt and friends in China

“JMU opened my eyes to the world…”

Abby Burkhardt of Branford, Ct., first came to our attention when her hometown newspaper interviewed her after she participated in an Alternative Spring Break. She’s majoring in international affairs, with minors in Chinese business and Asian studies. Not  surprisingly, Abby plans to teach English in China for a year.

For Abby, JMU has been transformative. She writes: “JMU has changed me in numerous way. I had always been a homebody (I didn’t realize it then), but then I came to JMU not knowing anyone. I really loved where I grew up and didn’t realize how much I would miss being away from home. I cried pretty much the entire first semester even though the people here were some of the nicest bunch of people I had met my entire life. I was so far away from home, so I really had to rely on myself and my friends here to help me get through the year.”

“JMU really helped me find my own two feet and enabled me to make my own life decisions and become a more independent person. I joined a sorority, studied abroad in China, did the Washington semester, attended an Alternative Spring Break, and I am volunteering at the refugee resettlement center’s life skills class. JMU opened my eyes to the world,and now I am sad but also prepared and excited to get out into the real world.”

“The best part about graduation is knowing that I have completed all four years here and actually have accomplishments and lifelong friendships to show for it. The worst part by far is leaving the comfort of the JMU bubble and my best friends who, after graduation, are dispersing all over the world. I’m also going to miss the easy-going lifestyle and the mountain views.”

“The best part of graduation is knowing……”

Josh Smead

Josh Smead of Harrisonburg will receive a degree in art and art history with a minor in studio art on Saturday. Josh and  two other students, Matt Burton and Peter Epley, developed an iPad app for JMU’s newest museum. The app, introduced to the world in January, garnered 136 downloads from 15 different countries in the first 36 hours after hitting the Apple app store. It has also stirred up interest from other organizations.

But the iPad app is only one dimension of Josh’s rich Madison Experience. He, like so many other students, found opportunities here that are unheard of at other institutions of higher learning. The biggest opportunity for Josh — which he seized and ran with — was the chance to curate a new and interesting art collection for the university.

As curator of the new Charles Lisanby Collection, he says: “The best part of graduation is knowing I’ll be in the position to immediately apply the skills I’ve developed at JMU in the real world, yet the worst part is knowing I am finishing the most influential and life-changing undertaking of my life. JMU has given me a sense of real-world issues and has granted me the ability to productively apply my experience in a professional field. I plan on continuing my research and work with technology and the arts in the hopes that I will help drive innovation, engagement, and enthusiasm for the museum field.”

Eventually, Josh wants to continue his education. This next year, he’ll be exploring opportunities that the iPad app has created.

Next up: Ben Schulze and Scott Dovel…………

(Photo of Josh Smead by Mike Miriello; Abby Burkhardt, compliments of Abby)


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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