Rooms with a view

Josh Smead

Josh Smead

You’ve been accepted to James Madison University. You’re psyched about moving to campus. You’re searching for a roommate, and you’re wondering if your flat screen or your favorite lounge chair will fit into your room. In fact, you’re wondering what your room will look like.

Now you can get an early look via a cool new app that’s free and downloadable.[UPDATE: The app is now available. Here’s the link: ]

Josh Smead (’12), coordinator of social media and marketing for the Office of Residence Life, has spent this year working on an app that will allow incoming students to see what their residence hall rooms look like before they arrive on campus.

“The app will let new students virtually tour every single residence hall on campus,” Josh says. Some colleges and universities offer similar services, but “nothing like this. As far as we can tell, this is the first app like this anywhere in the country.”

Students will not only be able to view a residence hall room, but they will be able to navigate through the 3-D image for a realistic “walk” through their room.

If you follow this blog, you’ll recognize Josh’s name. Last year, he and a couple of other seniors designed an iPad app that allows visitors to tour JMU’s Lisanby Museum virtually and also provides an enhanced experience by giving them access to additional information.

Double room in Shorts Hall

Double room in Shorts Hall

The residence hall app was “a little more challenging,” Josh says. The Lisanby app had a single room to navigate, while the new residence hall app has 28 navigable environments, one for each of JMU’s residence halls. (The “Tree House” residence halls are all identical and thus are grouped together; Greek Row is not included because it is not designated for first year housing.) Plus, Josh adds, when he created the Lisanby app, he had the help of fellow students Peter Epley (’12, engineering) and Matt Burton (’12, physics).  This time around, however, “I had to teach myself programming to create the app,” he says.

In addition to navigating individual rooms, Josh figured out a way of integrating a campus map into the new app. The built-in map function has all the major campus landmarks and will allow users to see where they are on campus.

And soon Josh, ever the explorer, will start a new personal venture. He’s leaving JMU and enrolling in a graduate program at Syracuse University to become an architect.  “I have wanted to become an architect nearly my whole life,” he says, “and I finally had the opportunity, so I took it.”

The new app, which is called JMU Res Life, has just been submitted to the Apple store and should be available shortly. 

There’s an app for that….

I was traveling around the blogosphere today and made a stop at Harrisonblog, a site run by JMU alum and local realtor Chris Rooker (’92). On the site, I noticed a great feature. While sitting at my computer I can take a virtual tour of most of Harrisonburg’s neighborhoods, as if I were driving through them. Imagine how cool that would be for someone moving here from Colorado or Italy. Instead of making an initial expense in traveling, take a virtual tour?

And imagine this: What if  you were a newly-admitted student DUKE and wanted a closer view of where you will live? What if you could virtually tour your room and your residence hall?

Right now — at the halfway week of summer break — a whole lot of members of the Class of 2016 are wondering just that. What will the rooms where they’ll be living look like — and the halls where they’ll be hanging out? Wouldn’t a virtual tour of campus residence halls be a great idea?

At Madison, that may become a reality.

Josh Smead (’12) has recently signed on to a position in Residence Life. Josh will coordinate social media for the office. He will work toward creating a brand new app for the university.

“The new app will feature a virtual tour of campus built for new and prospective students, which will also allow students to see a virtual tour of their rooms on campus,” he says. 

You may recall that Josh and a few fellow Dukes had already done a few cool things with iPad apps. Now Josh is turning that experience and the expertise he acquired as an undergraduate into building the new app for Residence Life.  He’s taking his education and paying it forward in a way. He’s making the transition smoother for future Dukes as they move from home to, well, their JMU homes.

A positive change. Definitely a positive change. Definitely.

To learn more about the app that Josh Smead (’12), Peter Epley (’12) and Matt Burton (’12) created click on the link above. There’s the link to a great Chris Myers (’11) video about Josh and his undergraduate experience.

To learn more about JMU’s Office of Residence Life, go to

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)

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