Being involved

JMU senior Rachel Dawson in front of Wilson Hall

JMU senior Rachel Dawson in front of Wilson Hall

Communications and Marketing intern Rachel Dawson (’13) will graduate in August with a degree from the School of Media Arts and Design and double minors in British communications and media, and educational media. Rachel who is from Glen Allen, Va., will finish after just three years. With AP credits and a semester abroad studying in London, she had a head start at JMU. For this week’s blog posts, Rachel reflects on last week’s inauguration, what her Madison experience has been like, and why it’s important.

Reflections from an inauguration

by Rachel Dawson (’13)

In the big picture scheme of things here at JMU, my time as a student is pretty short. I’m graduating this year. For me to be a student as JMU inaugurated its sixth president was historic and monumental, and I was honored to be able to play a small role in the events of that inauguration.

As an intern for the Communications and Marketing department, I assisted in the inauguration by making sure key students, staff, faculty and alumni who President Alger would refer to in his speech were where they needed to be for the camera to show them and give them a few moments of well-deserved recognition.

To meet alumni and Baltimore Ravens player D.J. Bryant, to see a group of JMU’s finest athletes who are also honors students, to meet successful alumni and see them seated next to JMU professors who inspired and supported them as students, and to connect with many others brought President Alger’s inaugural speech to life for me.

His remarks, in reference to the “Why Madison?” listening tour, shifted the focus to “That’s Why Madison,” and the featured guests demonstrated so clearly the model of engagement President Alger is striving for. One example that stood out to me was Pulitzer Prize winning alumnus Jeff Gammage sitting next to his former adviser at The Breeze, Dave Wendelken. As a SMAD major, I have a class with Dr. Wendelken, and seeing how he played such a valuable role in the later success of Gammage was exciting and encouraging to me.

Students at JMU are working hard, not only in their academics, but in their extracurricular activities and sports as well. And JMU faculty and staff aren’t just distant teachers speaking from a podium—they’re taking an interest in these students and motivating them to be the best they can be.

Alumni aren’t just graduating and never looking back—they’re investing in current students and helping open doors for them in the workplace and beyond. There’s a worldwide network connecting everyone at and from JMU, and I am confident it’s only going to grow deeper and wider under President Alger’s leadership.

I became a student when JMU was led by President Rose, and have seen the shifts that have occurred in President Alger’s time here. I see President Alger around campus, interacting with students, taking an interest in their lives, genuinely listening to their thoughts about the life of this university. I’ve seen him take time to connect with students as individuals, not just as the mass body of JMU Dukes. He is leading by example and showing that being involved is something that spreads into every domain of life—learning, community service, athletics, careers, etc. I see President Alger genuinely caring for the life of the university, its student body, and its faculty and staff. Even though President Alger doesn’t know my name or my face specifically, I feel like he does. At a university with over 18,000 students, that’s an impressive feat to accomplish just by him being who he is.

I believe President Alger’s visions for this campus are not only possible but powerful. I know I will graduate with a degree that is not only proof that I gained knowledge in the field of my major, but that I also have a strong foundation and understanding of how to be a team player, a globally aware individual, a grounded and moral being, and a better person in general. JMU is known to be a place of increasingly high quality academics as well as the home of high quality people.

I’m proud to be a student here. I’m proud to call President Alger our new president. I’m proud of the vision and goals he has for this campus and our university. I’m proud to know I won’t be forgotten when I graduate, because I know the JMU family goes beyond Harrisonburg. I’ll be graduating with an incredible education and support system behind me and incredible opportunities ahead of me. JMU is ready for the change that President Alger is bringing. I fully believe his leadership will only make JMU a better, stronger, and more influential university, and I support him fully.

On Thursday, Rachel will continue her posting  with thoughts from other students. 

If you’d like to read the entire text of the inauguration, you will find it here:

The JMU website features extensive photo coverage of the entire inauguration week’s events at

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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