The Class of 2012, part 5

Kent Graham and Scott Dyer

Every day this week, we’re showcasing seniors we’ve met through the Be the Change blog.  As a group they represent the more than 4,000 students who will receive their degrees on Saturday. We asked them about their Madison Experience, how it has changed them and the best and worst parts of graduating from JMU.

“I feel like I have always received the support …”

Scott Dyer of Baltimore, Md., has a huge heart. During his four years at JMU, he’s worked with local Hispanic students as a leader for Young Life, providing friendship and mentoring. It’s not a passing fancy for the brand new Phi Beta Kappa inductee and Spanish major who also will earn minors in secondary education and teaching English as a second language. “My plans after graduation are to send out applications to teach English to adults and to run an after school program in Harrisonburg,” he writes. “Then I plan on applying for graduate school in order to get my master’s in teaching for Spanish and ESL. I also hope to be involved in community development in a big city within a Latino population.”

Scott, who has also worked at a local restaurant throughout college, writes: “JMU has helped me grow into a person who is comfortable starting a conversation with any type of person. This university has always encouraged learning through relationships: faculty to student, and student to student. I have developed a lot of confidence in the person I was made to be, and I feel like I have always received the support of faculty and staff and peers.”

“The best part of graduating is having the opportunity to enter with confidence into my next stage of life. The worst part is no longer being able to be consistently around the same community of people who have loved me so well over the last four years.”

And finally, one student who hasn’t been mentioned by name…

…. but who has been quoted and consulted. Kent Graham, my youngest son and third Duke, will graduate Saturday as part of the first engineering class. More than four years ago, as he was deciding which college to attend, Kent wrestled with his choices. Accepted into all the schools he applied to, he was captivated by the freedom and the excitement of learning at JMU. Here he could find out what he really wanted to do, rather than be forced into one discipline only to discover it was not what he wanted. In the end JMU won, and so did Kent. Recently, I asked him if his was a good decision so many years ago. “Oh, yes,” he said, without a moment’s hesitation. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in engineering, he’ll head to industry as an assistant project manager for a large mechanical contractor to begin his pursuit of a professional engineering license.

For Kent, like Scott, much of the Madison Experience has focused around work and friendships developed through Young Life. He’s spent four years driving back and forth to a local high school, mentoring students. And then, there’s the Toolbox, where he, Scott Dyer and more than a dozen other students have shared their JMU years. The Toolbox is one of the many named houses in Harrisonburg where students live. It is  a dilapidated old house with little heat, a sofa-laden front porch, an eclectic hodgepodge of furniture exceeded only by the variety of wall colors — and a home where lifelong friendships are forged.

I have long told my children that the best friends they’ll ever have, they’ll likely find in college. As you’ve read the thoughts of students this week, that sentiment is affirmed. It is in the relationships that we live and those relationships merged for greater purposes that will change the world.

The college experience should never be exclusively about academic pursuits, prestige or bragging rights. It should be about becoming the best one can become, of finding that place in the world  to make a difference, and of discovering a life pursuit that will challenge, interest and inspire for decades to come. Few universities, including my alma mater, accomplish that better than JMU. It is the right size, the right disposition, the right balance. These 10 students prove that, and as they move out into the “real” world, they’ll carry with them the best of JMU.

Congratulations and many thanks to Abby Burkhardt, Josh Smead, Ben Schulze, Scott Dovel, Matt Burton, Peter Epley, Dave Stevens, Jessie Taylor, Scott Dyer, Kent Graham and to the entire James Madison University Class of 2012.

We can’t wait to hear about all the thousands of ways you will change the world.



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....

One Response to The Class of 2012, part 5

  1. Tom says:

    All of JMU and JMU’s grads are special, including one very reasonably prejudiced mom! Way to go!


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