It fuels you

Some of the beautiful Imani women

Some of the beautiful Imani women

Justina's  beadwork

Justina’s beadwork

It is hard to imagine that a world filled with so much color could harbor so much pain.  But that is the world in which many young women and girls in Uganda have found themselves. They are slaves. And their plight is tragic and heartbreaking.

Today throughout the world there are 27 million slaves — more than at any point in human history — and over 50 percent are children who are exploited in the most gruesome ways imaginable.

  • Of the 300,000 child soldiers around the world, 120,000 are estimated to be girls
  • 10 million children worldwide are engaged in some facet of the sex industry
  • Each year at least one million children, mostly girls, become prostitutes
  • The average age of victims is 11-14
  • Girls as young as 13 are peddling their bodies for as low as $1 per act in Gulu, [Uganda].*

Rescuing these women and helping them to escape and build new lives is the mission of the Zion Project. If you follow this blog, you’ll recognize the name. The Zion Project was founded in 2006 by JMU alumna Sarita Hartz Hendrickson, one of our Be the Changers.

Beginning last September, while Sarita returned stateside to build support and awareness for the the project, Brittany Dunay (’12) , a psychology graduate of JMU, stepped into her shoes as in-country director.

We learned about  Brittany recently when Victoria Dickens (’13) nominated her for Be the Change. Victoria wrote of her friend: “She is an in-country director in Africa for the Zion Project, which provides counseling and real jobs for women and children who have been rescued from human and sex trafficking situations. She gets to help these victims feel cherished and gives them a future with hope.”

Jolly, Brittany and Lucy showing off their chitenges, a garment similar to a sarong (photo by Vero)

Jolly, Brittany and Lucy showing off their chitenges, a garment similar to a sarong (photo by Vero)

Colorful varnished beads drying in the African sun

Colorful varnished beads drying in the African sun

Recently, we caught up with Brittany who is now spending her last few weeks in Uganda.

Brittany’s decision to live and work in Uganda began last spring when her psychology professor, Dr. Bill Evans, showed her class a video of about the Zion Project.

“At that point I had no idea what I was going to do after I graduated in May,” Brittany writes. “While viewing this video my heart was captivated and a fire was stirring up inside of me. My heart was breaking for women and girls I only knew through a video screen. I knew right then and there the Lord was calling me to serve him in this way.”

Motivated by her deep faith, Brittany traveled to Uganda and stepped into the role of director. “The problem these women and girls face is as big as the holes in their hearts. After  being abandoned, trafficked, tricked, used, and devalued, they are in dire need of healing from the pain,” she explains.

Some of the girls hanging out in the kitchen

Some of the girls hanging out in the kitchen

The Zion Project, a Christian ministry, provides the girls and women with a safe home and an occupation that bolsters rather than tears down their self-worth.

“After the girls were rescued from a life of danger and being swept into the sex trade, [they are] given a loving and safe home. The women are given an occupation that doesn’t involve selling their bodies,” she writes. “They all need healing. They all need to know what their true identify in Christ is and that they are valued. It is important to address this need because without healing, they would live the rest of their lives in pain, hurt and believing lies about themselves. During and after they are healed, they are able to live their lives in truth and freedom. They are then able to walk in wholeness and can reach out to others who are struggling with the same hurt they once knew.”

Brittany has watched them change. She has seen the hearts of the Ugandan girls transformed through the ministry, and she has seen transformation in her staff as well: “One of my favorite parts is having one-on-ones with the staff weekly. Watching the Lord work in the lives of these women in incredible, and knowing they are the ones leading this ministry is moving.”

Nail time a the girls home (photo by Jacky, Zion Project social worker)

Nail time a the girls home (photo by Jacky, Zion Project social worker)

It has not been an easy journey for Brittany, but it has been rich and rewarding. One challenge has been the language barrier. Although all of the staff and girls speak English, most understand only bits and pieces, she writes. “It was frustrating and challenging at first, but I’ve learned how to communicate beyond words…and learning a bit of Swahili has helped.”

Brittany defines “being the change” simply: “Love. If you want to change something outside of yourself, you need to love. In order for you to fully sacrifice yourself for others, you need to love them. Zion Project has taught me how to stop for the one. If I did not love the women staff, girls and locals in Uganda, I would guarantee you I would have cut my trip early. This serving challenges you. When I thought of sacrificing before [I went], I would think that I’d be left with little to give. After working with Zion Project, I learned that the more love you give, the more love you receive. It fuels you.”

And it changes you, Brittany writes: “I have been most surprised at the amount of personal seasons my 10-month experience holds. I have  been growing at the speed of light in many unexpected ways.”

Brittany will return to the United States next month. The psychology graduate from Ashburn, Va., is eager to see her family. She’s number three out of six siblings who have supported her during her time in Africa. But the Brittany who’ll return isn’t the same one who left. Her year abroad has changed her as well as the women and girls of Uganda.

And they are all changed for the better.

*from the Zion Projects website:

And to read more about Sarita Hartz Hendrickson and the Zion Project, click the embedded link to read Elizabeth Holena’s (’07) story.

Update: In the comment section, you’ll read a note from Rachel Dawson (’13) about a similar story she wrote on Brittany and Sarita. Check it out here (go to page 8):

Unless otherwise indicated, photos were taken by Brittany Dunay (’12).

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

The echo of change after life

When a person dies, there’s always an echo. Sometimes that echo fades quickly. Sometimes, though, it continues to whisper years and years after the person has left us. Such is the life of the late Chris Carter (’97), a friend to many at JMU, who died unexpectedly of Type II diabetes in 2009.

Recently, we received a letter from Kelly Warren (’00) nominating her late friend Chris for Be the Change.  Kelly beautifully describes the life of one who changed lives while he lived — and continues to do so.

Chris Carter

by Kelly Warren (’00)

The late Chris Carter ('97) (from the CCF website)

Christopher Michael Carter’s effect on the JMU community began the first day he set foot on campus in 1993. With his infectious smile and contagious, boisterous laugh, Chris brightened the lives of everyone who crossed his path. He completely embodied the JMU spirit, always approaching each new day with a love for life and a personal commitment to helping others. No task was too big or small for Chris. He welcomed every opportunity to make someone’s day better through laughter and love.

On campus Chris quickly made his mark, both in and out of the classroom. Whether playing tennis with Dr. Carrier or helping a lost freshman find her way to class, his cheerful and friendly demeanor never faltered. He always carried himself with an honest and easy confidence, and treated everyone equally with respect and compassion.

As a member of the Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity, Chris slid into the role of mentor to many of his brothers and incoming pledges. He was the one people turned to for a good laugh and sound advice, knowing he would be straightforward, tactful, kind, and fully engaged in improving the situation. No matter how bad the circumstance, Chris was always able to find a silver lining and get you to laugh and smile by the end of the conversation.

In his final two years at JMU, Chris decided to channel his school spirit and passion for helping others, and became an Orientation Assistant. This is where I first witnessed his magnetic and charismatic personality. As an incoming freshman I was nervous and full of questions, yet excited about all of the possibilities in my future at JMU. Chris welcomed me with open arms to JMU, dissolved any and all fears, answered my questions with his trademark beaming smile, and convinced me that I had made the right decision by choosing to spend the next 4 years of my life in Harrisonburg. He made me feel special, but the truth of the matter was that he unconditionally did the same for thousands of other incoming students. Everyone was special to Chris.

Chris’ commitment to serve others in need continued well beyond his time at JMU. He had a photographic memory with an uncanny ability to remember anyone’s face, along with the most minute detail s about virtually everyone he met during his short but tremendous life.

It was not until this world lost Chris that we all began to see and feel the magnitude of his love and spirit. Stories emerged from people who had heard of his passing. The overwhelming theme of these very personal accounts was that being friends with Chris meant that he made you feel like you had his complete attention and that there was nothing he would rather be doing than to spend time with you. He was a best friend to hundreds, and shared his knowledge on life and love without expectations. His love was spread far and wide, and never diluted. Everyone who needed him got him 100 percent.

Chris Carter lived his life fully and selflessly. He leaves behind a legacy of laughter, love and kindness. To have witnessed his greatness was a true blessing and gift. For all that he has done for me, and countless others, I believe that Christopher Michael Carter is a perfect “Be the Change” nominee.

Kelly Warren (’00), Ph.D.,MPT

Kelly, a teaching assistant professor at The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, also told us that Chris’ legacy continues. She writes:

“After Chris unexpectedly passed away in 2009, his best friends and fraternity brothers from JMU (Alpha Kappa Lambda) created the Christopher Carter Foundation. Partnered with Virginia Hospital Center (where Chris was cared for in his final days), CCF raises money and awareness for diabetes education and treatment. Chris was unaware that he had Type II diabetes, and it eventually took his life very quickly.  One hundred percent of what is collected (by the foundation) is given to VHC.  In the past two years, the foundation has organized fundraising events such as 5K memorial runs, golf tournament, auctions and more. I belive the founding members have brought in close to $100,000 in their first two years as a nonprofit. I think this is very impressive, especially since the foundation is something these men do out of their love for Chris. Each of them have full-time jobs and families to care for.”

Still they make time to honor their late friend. And in doing so, they are changing the world for others with diabetes. While Kelly so eloquently nominates Chris, the efforts of Chris’ friends are equally laudable. In keeping Chris’ memory alive, Vincent Coyle (’97), his best friend, and many others are continuing to change lives.

It is all a beautiful and meaningful echo from the life of Chris Carter. His life — like the memory of his laughter — reminds us of how important it is to connect with others. Only by that connection, whether intimate or international, can real change happen.

To learn more about the Christopher Carter Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting the prevention, early detection and active management of diabetes, visit

Change like jazz

Omar Thomas ('06)

Think jazz. Do you instantly imagine a sultry saxophone, a winsome trumpet and brushes on skins accompanying a silky voice? Or do you think of an intimate, smoke-filled club with a pianist and the thump of an upright bass? Yep, that’s jazz.

But ask Omar Thomas (’06) about jazz, and you’ll find he has a different take. He thinks big.

Drawn to enroll at JMU after hearing the Marching Royal Dukes, Omar studied music education, thinking initially that he would become a high school band director. Instead, he realized he had a passion for composition. Now the award-winning composer is on the faculty of the department of harmony at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston where he shares his passion for music in a big way. He also is an adjunct faculty member at Harvard. Omar  founded and now leads his own 18-piece jazz orchestra in Boston, the Omar Thomas Large Ensemble. Big jazz. Beyond his scheduled classes, Omar has worked with Composers and Schools in Concert, a nonprofit organization that “supports music education and the creation and performance of contemporary jazz and classical music,” according to the CSIC website. In this capacity, Omar delivers his passion for music to high school musicians. For these young musicians, it has to be cool jazz.
Berklee College of Music logo, circa October 2010

Image via Wikipedia

This week, Omar will be on JMU’s campus to deliver his big brand of jazz to JMU. He will conduct the premiere performance of his arrangement of Radiohead’s Sail to the Moon with the JMU Jazz Ensemble. The performance is Thurs., Feb. 16th, at 8. p.m. in the Concert Hall of the Forbes Center. Omar will also present a master class about “how to have a life in music after JMU.” The class will begin at 1:25 p.m. on Wed., Feb. 15. He will discuss grad school auditions (New England Conservatory), making a living in Boston as a freelance composer, using social media as a marketing tool, working with music publishers and teaching music at the university level.

According to music faculty member Chuck Dotas, one of Omar’s mentors, Omar “was awarded the ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award and received an Honorable Mention at the Ithaca College Jazz Composition Competition. Dancing, his first big band piece, composed for the JMU Jazz Ensemble, garnered international acclaim at the Jazz Composers Symposium hosted in Tampa, Fl.  Omar was also a member of the exclusive BMI Composer’s  Workshop in New York City, under the direction of Grammy-winning composer, bandleader, and pianist Jim McNeely. Omar is a two-time Boston Music Award’s “Jazz Artist of the Year” nominee.

Not surprisingly, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts George Sparks thinks Omar would  be a great candidate for Be the Change.

It is a great nomination … notable jazz….  Change like jazz.

Read Tyler McAvoy’s (’12) story about Omar at

Art and activism

Steven Webber of Harrisonburg has nominated his wife Jade, a current JMU student working toward her MFA in painting, for Be the Change. Steven writes that Jade is an artist and environmental activist who merges her talents and interests for the benefit of others. Steven writes:

 “Jade has started several non-profits in her life, though she is only 24 years old. Last year, in three weeks, she rallied a small group of dedicated activists to raise enough funds to buy and install two solar panels on local housing for the homeless in Las Cruces, N.M. This project was named one of the top ten in the nation by during last year’s 10/10/10 day of global climate action. [ is a grassroots effort addressing climate change.] This year as an art project to stop climate change, she started a movement called ‘We The People Choose To Be Meat Free for One Month.’ A Belgian official said, ‘If everyone in Flanders (a province in Belgium) does not eat meat one day a week, we will save as much CO2 in a year as taking a half million cars off the road.’ Jade has been collecting names and signatures for several weeks and already has over 100 people from around the world participating.

“She and I co-ordinate Wellness Immersion Retreats in Italy and the Caribbean.  The retreats are held in sustainable farms and centers around the world to connect writers and artists with sustainable models for the future. She teaches yoga and breath-work for healing as well as painting classes on the retreats. She has changed the world of each of the people she has touched through these projects — from the activists she inspires to make changes to the students in her painting and yoga classes.  Anyone who has known her has been touched and changed by her. She would be a wonderful ‘Madison person’ to be featured on the site.”

To learn more about Jade’s current project, visit
You can also learn more about Jade, her passions and her art by exploring her website


Soccer has rarely attracted so much attention as it has this week. Even a stadium of vuvuzelas would not drown out the enthusiam for the victorious U.S. Women’s Soccer team. All over Harrisonburg — in some surprising and unexpected places — I’ve overhead people talking about it. That this is a women’s event makes it even more interesting.

I suspect that among those following the story are two JMU professors emeriti

Lee Morrison and Pat Bruce

of physical education: Lee Morrison and Pat Bruce. They understand, perhaps more than many of us, how far women have come in the realm of sports and athletics. For them, it has to be exciting. During their careers, Dr. Morrison and Dr. Bruce contributed significantly to the revolution in women’s sports. The change they have witnessed — the changes they promoted — have been exceptional.

When Pat and Lee joined the faculty of Madison College some 50 years ago, opportunities for women were very limited. There was no Title IX or girls’ soccer leagues. For many women, housekeeping was the height of their physical activity, and for those who might have wished to participate in sports, they had few options — or none at all. In Dr. Morrison’s homestate of Georgia, and in neighboring South Carolina, no colleges had teams for women. In fact, one of Virginia’s drawing cards for both women (Bruce grew up in Massachusetts) was that some colleges in the state had women’s teams. Madison was one.

As faculty members, Lee and Pat both coached and taught. As mentors, they encouraged and inspired an entire generation of women to pursue sports, not as an occupation, avocation or a temporary hobby — but as a lifestyle. Their contribution to the change in attitudes and opportunities for women did not go unnoticed.

In their honor, the Morrison-Bruce Center for the Promotion of Physical Activity for Girls & Women opened on JMU’s campus in 2006. The center has a three-pronged approach. It encourages and generates opportunities for women to be physically active. The center also sponsors and conducts research into exercise science, and it disseminates information about women in sports. An extension of what Morrison and Bruce did during their half century careers, the center takes their philsophy of physical activity and promotes it to women of all ages, and especially to young girls.

What makes the center so important is that the emphasis is not on sport. It is on women, and finding the right motivations for them. The center’s website explains it best:

“The interscholastic, intercollegiate, and elite programs have grown and many opportunities are there”, says Dr. Morrison. “However, those with average skills (and in some cases those from low income or immigrant families) have not had the chance to learn or have been cut from participation. Also, there are many women who did not have opportunities while growing up to participate in physical activity and as adults have an interest yet they find it difficult to find a place to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to maintain appropriate physical activity behaviors. I am interested in helping those women and girls and in supporting research projects that produce results that can be translated into practice. My message to girls and women is this: Include some physical activity in your lifestyle as young as you can and find groups (co-ed and female) for participation. And if you don’t know the sport or skill, don’t be bashful. More than likely the others are also. Be brave.”

Although Pat and Lee are both retired, both are very much still “in the game.” They contributed their expertise to the planning for the Morrison-Bruce Center and regularly participate in activities there. One need only witness the throng of former students and hear their praise of these two pioneering women to understand the extent to which each has contributed to significant change — and why we will soon add them to our Be the Change website.

So next Sunday, when the U.S. Women’s Soccer team squares off against Japan for the 2011 Women’s World Cup championship, you can be certain that if Lee Morrison and Pat Bruce aren’t watching, they will definitely be cheering.

To read more about these two inspiring women, check out Class Notes in the next issue of Madison magazine.

You can also read what their former students said about them in Professors You Love essays:

Lee Morrison
Pat Bruce
And learn more about the Morrison-Bruce Center here:

Changing Harrisonburg

Harrisonburg was named for Thomas Harrison (17...

Image via Wikipedia

New nominees breathing life into downtown

Recently,  John Noftsinger (’85), vice provost of research and public service at JMU, nominated two alumni, Barry Kelley (’83) and Andrew Forward (’86). These two have been making huge changes in the culture of downtown Harrisonburg, and are vitally important to the city’s renaissance. Here’s what Noftsinger has to say about Barry Kelley and Andrew Forward.

Recognizing the need for unique living spaces in downtown Harrisonburg, Barry Kelley and Andrew Forward seized the opportunity to renovate an existing structure, the Wetsel Seed Co. building into City Exchange, a mixed use property with loft apartments and a restaurant. Projects like this maintain the historic character of the Harrisonburg Downtown Historic District and contribute to environmental stewardship by re-using materials and not contributing to landfills when demolition takes place.

Barry and Andrew then targeted an abandoned used car lot in the heart of downtown Harrisonburg for a much larger housing vision called Urban Exchange.  Urban Exchange provides extensive living options for those seeking a downtown lifestyle, and is a model of green building, evidenced by two underground parking levels to minimize parking sprawl, energy efficient windows, appliances and a/c, recycling chutes and plug ins for electric vehicles.

These two have embodied Be the Change right here in Harrisonburg, and in doing so have changed the face of the community for the better, along with the skyline.

In addition to these nominations, Lisa Ha (’04, ’10M), marketing program coordinator for JMU, nominated Eddie Bumbaugh (’73), executive director of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.

Here’s what Lisa has to say : A JMU grad and lifelong area resident, Eddie has been making a difference in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County for more than three decades. Since 2004, he has served as Executive Director of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, a non-profit organization working to revitalize downtown Harrisonburg into a vital, prosperous city center.

Many agree with Lisa’s assessment, including Glenda Rooney, now retired as assistant to the provost for academic affairs, who says, “When the City of Harrisonburg decided that Eddie Bumbaugh was the person to lead the revitalization of downtown, it was the wisest decision that could have been made.  Eddie is the guiding light for taking Harrisonburg back to the energetic city that it once was.”

If you’re an alum of JMU and haven’t been back to Harrisonburg for a while, you’re in for a treat. Thanks to these nominees and others including Be the Changer Lisa Shull, executive director of Harrisonburg Children’s Museum, Downtown Harrisonburg is a thriving and exciting place to live — and a great destination.

— Tyler McAvoy (’12), intern, JMU’s Be the Change office.

For more about the new downtown Harrisonburg, check out this link:

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