Arts and Letters Review Spring 24

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January 2024 | Issue 4





Simulation models bring history alive in the classroom

A ‘91 graduate talks career success and alumni engagement

One student’s journey from The Breeze to The Washington Post

WELCOME Contributors and Introduction.........................................................2

FACULTY FOCUS Teaching Rhetoric and Cultural Awareness........................3 NEH Supports Faculty Research on Aging and the Founding Fathers.......................................................................4

STUDENT SHOWCASE Living History in the Classroom.....................................................5 Independent Studies, Beyond JMU.............................................7 Writing the Headlines.............................................................................8

CAMPUS BUZZ Creating Space: Be)Holding Love & Loss.................................9 The Heart of Administrative Service........................................12 Campus to Career: Linking Liberal Arts Education to Success...................................................................................................13 Trekking to the Capitol.........................................................................14 Staying Connected...................................................................................15 A Liberal Arts Legacy Fund Teacher-Scholar..................16 Give Like a Duke.........................................................................................18




CONTRIBUTORS Melinda Adams Associate Dean, Professor of Political Science

Becca Evans Communications & Marketing Specialist, College of Arts and Letters

Siân White

The College of Arts and Letters boasts as many compelling stories as we have faculty, staff, students, and alumni. This fourth issue of the Arts and Letters Review has room for only about a dozen of them, but they stand as vivid examples of the hundreds of exciting stories playing out each semester in the college.

Associate Dean, Professor of English

Shannon Wilson Director of Professional Development and Engagement, College of Arts and Letters

Laura Wisman Administrative Assistant, College of Arts and Letters

Traci Zimmerman Interim Dean, Professor of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication

In the following pages, you’ll read about the successes of our faculty — how they model and mentor, bring history to life, and explore the future our graduates will help shape. You’ll also gain a window into the accomplishments of our students — how they take advantage of the many opportunities the college affords, and how they create exciting opportunities of their own. Likewise, our alumni continue to enrich the college, as you’ll see in our alumni profile. And all too often the work of our exceptional staff remains invisible to the college community, and so we have endeavored to make visible their vital work with the first in a series of spotlights that share their stories. Of course, some of the best examples of the quality of the College of Arts and Letters people are woven throughout this issue by those who have worked diligently and well to put it together, and I am grateful for such a team. As Rilke wrote, “now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been” — and look forward to what we will do, together.

Dr. Traci Zimmerman Interim Dean College of Arts and Letters




Teaching Rhetoric and Cultural Awareness Ja’La Wourman thinks a lot about public messaging. How do small-business owners and entrepreneurs tailor their design practices to reach particular audiences? What can studying digitized African American print publications and editorials tell us about the changing socioeconomic and political landscape of Black communities over time? As an Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication (WRTC) who joined JMU in 2021 as part of the College of Arts and Letters’ first-ever cohort hire, Wourman is an expert in digital and visual rhetoric: how design practices, branding, and different modes of communication, especially social media and other digital platforms, convey information and connect messenger to audience.

conditionally admitted to the university and, according to Wourman, “really shaped my philosophy without me knowing ... when I became aware of those students’ life experiences and personal situations, that awareness affected my teaching. I wanted to make sure I created a welcoming environment after that experience,” she continued. She recommends that students seek community on campus for support. When Wourman came to JMU, she found Sisters in Session (SIS), an organization that provides support, professional development, and peer mentorship for African, Black, and African American women working across JMU’s campus. Wourman recently gave the sessionopening talk at the Black Women in Academica Conference hosted by SIS.

In the classroom, however, Wourman positions herself as a facilitator rather than the sole expert. “We all have experiences that shape our perspectives and knowledge-making,” she says, so she shares information, cultivates a diverse and respectful class culture, and helps students develop frameworks for writing and communication that honor their identities, backgrounds, and cultures.

Wourman integrates her lived experience into her research and classwork and encourages students to do the same. In her Content Strategy course, students select their ideal brand, from luxury designers to ice cream companies, and Wourman teaches them to connect social media strategies and content to a wider cultural context. Last fall, her newly created course called Designing for Cultures, Audiences, and Communities invited students to consider how different artifacts — from public art and design to advertisements and even business documents — reflect a broader cultural landscape and reach wider, even global, audiences.

Wourman’s teaching philosophy stems from her experience during graduate school at Eastern Michigan University working as a college-level instructor and advisor in the Trio Student Support Services program. Those students, many first-generation or non-traditional, had been

That work begins with each student developing greater cultural awareness in an educational context where they can grow. “I had professors who created spaces in the classroom where I could share and explore those things,” said Wourman, “so I do that for my own students.”

Wourman and Gus Hallmon, assistant professor in the Hart School, leading a study abroad program in Ireland.




NEH Supports Faculty Research on Aging and the Founding Fathers Rebecca Brannon, Associate Professor of History, was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for her project, “Old Age in the Wake of the American Revolution.” NEH fellowships “are competitive awards granted to individual scholars pursuing projects that embody exceptional research, rigorous analysis, and clear writing.” For the 2023-24 fellowships, NEH funded just seven percent of the proposals it received. Concerns about the mental acuity and poor health of aging politicians may sound like contemporary headlines, but Brannon shows that our nation’s first leaders faced the same questions about their aging minds and bodies. George Washington, according to her research, was “subject to increasingly public whispers and accusations that his memory loss from aging had accelerated into doddering senility.” John Adams and Thomas Jefferson corresponded about their fears of aging and loss of status as they aged. Brannon’s interest in the topic stems from her previous scholarship on the American Revolution, and “measuring ‘how radical’ [it] was by its effects — what it did and did not change.” She wondered whether 18th century Americans were scared about aging, too. “Was it true there was a time in the hazy past when old people were simply respected for wisdom and lovingly cared for by their families without any hesitation? I know every other ‘Golden Age’ has been disproved. We humans are and always have been complicated. My work will show that getting old was complicated for the Founders, too.” Brannon’s research explores the ways that American Revolutionary and Enlightenment ideals established a new emphasis on youth as a source of creativity and democratic virtue, as a demographic transition set off by the Revolution led to a drop in birth rates in the 18th century. The idealization of youth’s potential arose just as young people became scarcer.

While Brannon’s work focuses on the Founding Fathers’ experience with aging, she also draws on diverse archival sources like family letters, personal diaries and memoirs, charity home records, runaway ads, and sermons to provide a broader account of non-elite experiences of growing older. This evidence, Brannon says, has uncovered both “a particular American Revolutionary ‘enlightened’ fear of advanced age” and a “deep continuity over time with the difficulties of facing an old age we cannot control— a fear people shared in the past and now.” Brannon’s fellowship began in September 2023 and runs through August 2024. Reflecting on the value of the NEH fellowship, Brannon shares: “The fellowship gives me a wonderful period of time […] to marinate in the ideas and evidence and thereby (hopefully) produce a better, more readable book in the end. It is especially helpful as my work uses a lot of handwritten letters from several archives in the United States.” Sometimes evidence does not come together until late in the writing process. “Books take time,” she says. Brannon plans to submit a completed manuscript to a publisher at the end of her fellowship period. It’ll be worth the wait. ARTS AND LETTERS REVIEW



Eun Soo Han (‘23) playing the role of the Earl of Derby.

Living History in the


For three weeks of the semester, Alison Sandman transforms her Wilson Hall classroom into a nineteenth-century English town: part town hall, part marketplace, part public house. Populated with factory owners and workers, aristocrats and spinsters — many played by students studying to be teachers — the town is a simulation exercise that explores how history, geography, and economics intersect.

In this microcosm, students vie for prestige and a chance to be heard. During the “open, free-forall” simulation, students acting entirely in character debate the merits of trade and voting rights, donate to charitable causes, and strike economic deals. Reform-seeking workers organize or protest. Factory owners facing a labor shortage bid up the price of labor or hire immigrants.

To prepare, Sandman's students in HIST 333: Maps, Money, Manufacturing, and Trade read deeply about Industrial Revolution-era Britain and study primary source texts, including posters and propaganda, to understand their characters’ concerns and motivations.

Afterward, the class debriefs with guided reflection: How did they end up with a highwage equilibrium? Why was it harder to recruit angry workers? What makes revolution less likely? Then, they apply what they learned to the present. The exercise guides students to associate intellectual work with lived experience. As Sandman explains, “Simulations help them see connections they would not otherwise see, and it helps them feel power relations in a way that analyzing them can’t.”

As part of the game “Rage Against the Machine: Technology, Rebellion, and the Industrial Revolution,” Sandman provides students with character biographies and parameters, such as cotton prices or social expectations, but no other requirements or script. The magistrate must favor law and order, for example, but the student decides how that viewpoint influences action. 5



This simulation-reflection model comes from the Reacting to the Past games developed by The Reacting Consortium at Barnard College, a group

of humanities, sciences, and social sciences scholars. Sandman learned about the program from History colleague Rebecca Brannon, who recognized its potential for “unleashing our students’ drive into a new way to learn.” Brannon secured funding from the JMU President’s office to travel with Sandman to Athens, Georgia, to learn about game methods and administration, and they have shared the lessons with other JMU faculty. Brannon has run the “Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York City, 1775-1776” game in her early American history course several times. Students move quickly from skeptical to passionate about the experience, she says, and are “taken in by the buzz in the classroom from the moment the game simulation begins.” Sandman’s students say the exercise helps them experience the relationship between economics and politics; one said she now understands why workers thought breaking machines was their only recourse. Simulations aren’t the typical classroom experience, but they turn a history class into an exercise in living history. ARTS AND LETTERS REVIEW



Flannery and the student cohort met frequently to prepare for the conference.

Flannery and Boyer watch as Cronan delivers her portion of their presenation.

Independent Studies, Beyond JMU Frances Flannery, Professor of Religion, and a cohort of three undergraduates — Sydney Dudley, Abigeal Cronan, and Sage Boyer — are influencing biblical studies on a national level. The students’ research about current debates in religious studies for REL 200: Exploring Religion caught their professor’s attention. “I identified their papers as filling gaps in current scholarship on their topics,” says Flannery, who then designed an independent study for the cohort to deepen their research and bring the papers to a publishable form. The teaching approaches included peer mentorship, vision boards, and journaling, as well as strategies for fostering discovery, holistic learning, flexibility, and accountability. "One of my favorite aspects of this independent study was the balance between mentorship and research,” said Dudley. “While guiding us as we dove deeper into our research, Dr. Flannery provided us with the tools to explore graduate studies and engage in professional development opportunities [such as] submitting to journals, applying to conferences, and searching for grants and financial assistance.” The results were immediate and tangible: in November, Flannery, Cronan, and Boyer 7



presented their research experience at the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. This internationally attended professional conference has rarely, if ever, included undergraduate research before. For Boyer, “The conference was incredible. It was a one-of-a-kind experience that will shape our academic journeys for years to come.” Evidently, their experience will also shape future conferences, as SBL considers adding a permanent undergraduate research section to its SBL Global Virtual Meeting. The organization has long welcomed graduate students but offered no mechanism for including undergraduates or showcasing quality undergraduate education. All three students plan to submit a proposal. What Flannery and these outstanding students have accomplished together represents the very best kind of faculty-student engagement that Arts and Letters celebrates. “The very heart of my approach to teaching is helping students to discover their own voices as emergent experts,” added Flannery. “It has been a pinnacle of my teaching career to work with these three wonderful students and to watch their research projects widen and deepen in ways that continually surprise and inform me.”

Writing the Headlines Senior Grant Johnson (‘24) has become adept at time-management skills while at JMU — if only to ensure he finds campus parking. Johnson is majoring in Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication (WRTC) and Media Arts & Design (SMAD) with minors in Sport Communication and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. He also serves as editor-in-chief of The Breeze, JMU’s studentrun newspaper. Johnson arrived at JMU with general interests in journalism and sports but wasn’t sure how to combine the two. He learned that JMU had a journalism program during an offhand conversation with one of his First Year Orientation Advisors (FROGs) during Orientation week, and a Career & Academic Planning course taught him to translate his interests into majors and minors. On his second day on campus, Grant applied to write for The Breeze's sports desk and, after encouragement from his editor, applied for a higher position on the paper months later. By Johnson on the roof of The Washington Post.

the spring, Grant was hired as a copy editor, becoming the newsroom's lone freshman and youngest member of The Breeze's editorial staff. He continued in that role during his sophomore year, later becoming the sports editor and finally editor-in-chief. He attributes much of his success to working with and learning from his collaborators and informal mentors. “Being part of a team, something bigger than yourself, is invigorating” he affirms. A summer internship at The Washington Post, where he copyedited stories and wrote headlines, cemented his goal to work in journalism after graduation. Among the many professors and courses at JMU that have impacted Johnson and his writing, a few stand out. Professor Mike Grundmann’s advice in his SMAD 310 Advanced Reporting and Writing class to be physically present with the subject of a story has made Johnson a better reporter and storyteller. A self-directed project in Seán McCarthy’s Introduction to WRTC class led Johnson to pitch a story to The Breeze that evolved into an impactful series on student experiences with the JMU Counseling Center. “Seán [empowered us] to relate stuff from class to real life,” he explained. The initial class assignment became a several monthslong project that drew others’ attention. Brad Jenkins, General Manager and Advisor for The Breeze, shared, “I have really been impressed by Grant’s instincts as a reporter. I saw this especially when he wrote a story last year about student-athletes and their mental health. This came soon after a JMU student-athlete died of suicide. Grant approached the story with empathy and care, but also didn’t shy away from asking questions that deepened the story. He won a well-deserved national award from the Associated Collegiate Press for the story.” Johnson’s advice to current and future students?: “Be selfless. Faculty and staff here are gracious with their time and will go out of their way to help you. Know that you’re not alone and you have a support system. JMU is a large campus but if you apply yourself, you’ll find your people and your niche.” And maybe even a parking space. ARTS AND LETTERS REVIEW



Photo by Zach Williams, JMU Libraries

Creating Space: Be)Holding Love & Loss

“Be)Holding was a true and humane service to our community,” said Erica Cavanagh, Professor of English. This past fall, Michael Trocchia, Instructor of Philosophy and Collections coordinator for the JMU Libraries, orchestrated “Be)Holding Love & Loss,” an ambitious interdisciplinary arts and humanities events series on grief. The series, which ran from September through November, included exhibits, readings, talks, and performances. Trocchia designed the event to foster intercommunal connection through conversation and art. "I wanted to create a program with several entry points into a sustained consideration of grief, to provide ways in which the arts and humanities open up our experiences and understanding of love and loss,” Trocchia added. “It was important to have a number of opportunities and settings for the community to participate and engage in, to create an extended and collective reflection on the theme.” 9



Pursuing that vision meant mobilizing an enormously wide-ranging group of scholars and artists, writers and thespians, and dancers and social scientists from JMU, Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), and across Harrisonburg. “What Michael and his collaborators pulled off in organizing this thoughtful interdisciplinary series is stunning,” added Cavanagh. Events held on campus included a public conversation between Trocchia and Jesse Ball, internationally acclaimed author of Autoportrait, Silence Once Begun and many other creative works, about how loss and grief — particularly after losing both his father and brother as a young man — have shaped his work. The offerings also included grief-inspired exhibitions. Furious Flower Poetry Center (FFPC) invited Trocchia to curate its first broadside exhibit of the semester, and JMU Libraries assembled a book and media display composed

Visitors enjoying FFPC’s Broadside Gallery during the opening exhibit. Photo by Megan Nicole Medeiros, FFPC.

Anna Morris (‘12) explains the process of dance therapy. Photo by Richard H. Hronik III, Daily News Record.

of fiction, nonfiction, podcasts, and music recommended by series participants, including some of Jessie Ball’s books. During an event at the Golden Pony, Artist Julia Merkel (‘92), Preservation Officer for JMU Libraries, exhibited Absence/Presence, a book sculpture created in response to the loss of her son. Merkel’s exhibit was part of several downtown events that approached the topic in different modes, such as poetry readings and musical performances during a standing-room-only gathering at the Pale Fire Brewing Co. A panel of JMU faculty moderated by Trocchia later convened at the Golden Pony to discuss representations of grief in literary, religious, and ancient philosophical texts, as well as in modernday psychological research and curatorial practice. Grief, panelists suggested, can help create meaning and authenticity in life. It can be

Jesse Ball reading from his novel, Silence Once Begun. Photo by Abby Anderson, JMU Libraries.

personal but also global; through a presentation by Dean of Libraries and Professor of English Bethany Nowviskie, the conversation touched on the experience of ecological grief, an expression of climate-related loss. “Michael’s series was truly a community event, showcasing the best of the humanities,” Nowviskie shared. “It brought an all-ages crowd together across disciplines and fields and encompassed all types of media and expression.” Another event held at the Harrisonburg Dance Cooperative (HDC) addressed the embodiment of grief — that is, how we hold, work through, and express grief in the body — by bringing together both therapeutic and performative perspectives. Speakers included Jennifer Matthaei Cottrell, Certified Yoga Therapist; Anna Morris (‘12), Licensed Dance Therapist; and Rubén Graciani, Dean of JMU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts and Professor of Dance (CVPA). The speaking portion of the evening was followed by ARTS AND LETTERS REVIEW

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a dance performance choreographed by Ellie de Waal, an instructor in EMU’s Theatre Program.

these series’ conversations, pieces, and performances."

The series culminated in November with the downtown stage production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, directed by Trocchia and produced by Alison Trocchia, the Program Coordinator for Valley Scholars at JMU. Ruhl’s contemporary adaptation of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth renders from Eurydice’s perspective the wellknown story that centers on Orpheus’ grief. The cast and crew included JMU students, staff, and faculty, as well as members of the Harrisonburg community and EMU faculty.

This work enjoyed support from across JMU and the Harrisonburg community: the Office of Creative Propulsion, JMU Libraries, Ethical Reasoning in Action, General Education, Department of Philosophy of Religion, Creative Writing, CVPA, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, Friendly City Food Cooperative, The Golden Pony, Harrisonburg Homes at Kline May, Asbury United Methodist Church, and the EMU Theatre Program.

For Trocchia, “Whether someone came to one event, attended some of them or all, my hope is people were moved and deeply enriched by

“The Be)Holding series helped us explore what’s universal about grief,” Nowviskie added, “and what’s particular to each experience of loss. I’m so grateful to Michael for his vision in organizing it.”

The full cast of Eurydice , left to right: Joseph Seitz, Kerri Hewett (‘24), Owen Buckenmaier (’25), Grace Altman (‘24), Christian Perritt (‘93), Hope King (’25), and Eileen Hernon. Not pictured: Jim Clemens (Instructor in CVPA), the show’s music director and accompanist. Photo by Zach Williams, JMU Libraries.




The Heart of Administrative Service Sandra Purington is a self-described workshop and training junkie. “You always come away with something new and useful,” she says. Her role as Senior Administrative Assistant in the School of Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication (WRTC) gives her many opportunities to learn new things and meet new people. Purington has seen lots of change at JMU. After beginning her JMU career in 2000 in what was then the Honors Program, she moved to Writing and Rhetoric Studies just two years before it merged with the Institute of Technical and Scientific Communication to become WRTC in 2008. Though her regular departmental tasks are many — budget work, faculty searches and hires, procurement, and scheduling increasingly more classes, new events, and conferences — she always makes time to mentor other administrative assistants and seeks out opportunities for growth and discovery. Purington credits the four Academic Unit Heads (AUHs) she has worked with for encouraging her to pursue professional development opportunities. Michael Smith, AUH of WRTC, describes Sandra as a leader: “It comes through in a lot of different ways. You can lead by example, and she certainly does that. Her organizational skills. Work ethic. Professionalism. Optimism. The willingness to learn new things, to get genuinely excited about trying to improve on the same old ways of doing business. She sets a high standard in all of these areas. “But you can also lead by helping others to excel,” Smith continues, “by giving them the necessary preparation and tools they need to succeed, or by keeping everyone on point, on task and headed in a clear direction. She's mentored and led so many folks at JMU in those ways. It's been my constant bit of good luck to work with and learn from her." Purington is particularly proud of helping conceive and launch the first CAL Career Conference in 2017. She and Daisy Breneman,

faculty and advisor in Justice Studies, proposed the conference “to create a coordinated, unified experience to help students explore career and civic-engagement opportunities available to CAL students and alumni.” For Purington, “Building this conference from the ground up with the CALCC committee was an amazing opportunity and experience and one I was thrilled to be a part of.” The college will host its fifth iteration of the successful conference in February. Beyond her daily responsibilities in WRTC, Purington lends her expertise to various committees and organizations. At JMU, she serves as co-chair of both the Academic Affairs Administrative Staff Advisory Council and the College of Arts and Letters Staff Advisory Committee. While time-consuming, she proudly states, “We are a voice for staff members [throughout the university] — we help solve problems, and that’s important.” As a member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals, she serves as co-director of the Central Virginia branch, part of the Mid-Atlantic Region. Through IAAP, Purington earned her Certified Administrative Professional certification in spring 2023. Purington’s professional life has revolved around relationships, and she recommends that anyone considering working at JMU or in higher education “connect with others and have multiple mentors, as each one fulfills a need. And partner with your supervisor. I have been fortunate to work with people who value my opinion.” ARTS AND LETTERS REVIEW

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Campus to Career: Linking Liberal Arts Education to Success This past September, George Anders, senior editor at LinkedIn and author of You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Value of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education visited JMU to share his expertise and advice during a campus-wide event and in smaller group and classroom settings. The visit was generously cosponsored by the University Career Center, General Education, Honors College, and University Studies. Shannon Wilson, CAL’s Director of Professional Development and Engagement, designed and orchestrated the ambitious itinerary, guided by a vision that Anders himself describes as “bold, dynamic and extremely practical.” During the large event in Wilson Auditorium, Anders fielded questions from students, faculty, staff, and the public about transferrable skills, the future of liberal arts programs, and how Artificial Intelligence programs like ChatGPT will impact the future workforce, among other topics. The conversation was guided by student moderators Noel James Okoth (‘23) and Sam Game (‘24), who Anders said “asked engaging, incisive questions [and] showed tremendous poise on stage.” He stressed that liberal arts graduates have skills that are needed in every sector. Like CAL alumni now working in a variety of professions, our students can find meaningful work in any industry they desire. Smaller events enabled Anders to give more targeted advice. He spoke with faculty and staff about how to support students beginning to think about careers and with employers about how to recruit liberal arts students. He also joined two different classes to engage students on topics especially relevant to each course. With Ryan Alessi’s SMAD 101: Intro to Media Arts and Design class, Anders addressed the importance of writing, the influence books and publishing still have on media, and the processes of writing a book and working with a publisher to bring the book to market. 13



In Lori Britt’s SCOM 447: Facilitating Public and Organizational Engagement Processes class, Anders consulted with students to create a Facilitator Discussion Guide for leading conversations about the critical thinking skills that employers desire and a liberal arts education cultivates. Anders subsequently published "Putting connections to work: A student playbook for LinkedIn” featuring JMU students whom he met during his visit. “None of this would have been possible without Shannon’s leadership,” Anders writes. “Meetings happened on time; the right people were there; the sound system worked and a hundred other details all fell into place with perfection. I've done many such campus visits in the past decade. I'd nominate the JMU experience [...] as a model of how to get everything right.”

Trekking to the Capitol


Career treks are profession-oriented trips in which students learn about specific field(s) by visiting organizations and learning from professionals who work in them. On one recent trek, CAL Alumni Board member Matt Wasniewski (’91, ‘94M), Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives, hosted JMU students at the Library of Congress. Wasniewski and Maureen Walsh (‘91), partner at SMART Policy Group, president of Dynamic Change Group, and current CAL Alumni Board President, organized two alumni panels: the first featured alums working in the federal government, and the second included alums who work for non-governmental organizations or entities that work with the government. Impressed by the testimonials and advice shared by both panels, students also enjoyed a networking lunch with panelists and a Capitol tour lead by Wasniewski and members of his staff.

February 22 & 23 CAL Career Readiness Conference Alumni share their experiences after leaving JMU. The alumni panels focus on different phases of life post-graduation and highlight the fact that there is no direct path for success as CAL students can have careers in a wide range of sectors.

Mid-March Pre-law & Legal Studies Career Trek Students will visit the 4th Circuit Court and listen to appeals, then visit with JMU alumni lawyers to learn about different career paths available in the law field.

Taking student career preparation on the road generates a special energy. Students share that meeting professionals in their actual workplaces helps them envision their own futures more concretely. They return home excited, inspired, and grateful for the time and energy spent planning the experiences. Alums interested in hosting a career trek can contact Shannon Wilson. ARTS AND LETTERS REVIEW



Staying Connected Maureen Walsh (‘91, History and Art History), an environmental lobbyist with SMART Policy Group and President of the CAL Alumni Board (for a second term), offers succinct advice for JMU students preparing for their professional lives: “Be nimble. Fail fast and pivot.” Current students should take note: Walsh has been where they are now and has found remarkable professional success. Walsh reflects fondly on her academic and extracurricular experiences at JMU. As a selfproclaimed “liberal arts person,” she studied widely in the humanities and social sciences disciplines, following interests in archaeology, politics, and media to classes in anthropology, economics, and communications. While working at WMRA, she helped create WXJM, JMU’s student-run radio station. She chose majors in History and Art History and a minor in Italian because of particularly inspiring faculty and because the storytelling and deep research aspects excited her. Following her talents and interests earned her good grades and equipped her with a number of skills — in critical thinking, persuasion, writing, reading, and research — to pursue a wide range of career paths. “The idea that there’s a clear connection between particular majors and monetary outcomes is a fallacy,” Walsh says. The abilities and enthusiasm she developed at JMU gave her “lots of levers” in professional life. Though she graduated into a difficult economic market, by fall she was interning with a Member of Congress from Virginia. Walsh has spent her career in government and government relations in D.C., apart from a few years working in Colorado for political campaigns and a technology company, and a pause to pursue her law degree at Georgetown, primarily for credentialing purposes. 15



She uses the skills she gained at JMU every day. Lobbying Congress on behalf of a client requires persuasive writing and argumentation supported by substantial evidence. Hard work is essential; in interns, Walsh values creativity and the willingness to do what needs to be done. Throughout her career, she has worked for causes she values, serving clients in education, healthcare, and the environment, including sustainability, green tech, energy transition, and climate technology. “It has been important to be able to work toward the good,” Walsh says, “to do something I believe in.” Staying connected to JMU is another way that Walsh lives her values. During her first term as alumni board President in 2012, she lobbied JMU to develop a mechanism for donating online and helped establish the Liberal Arts Legacy Fund — which supports faculty research and creative productivity — to honor the valuable facultystudent engagement she experienced as an undergraduate. This past year, Walsh helped create the Chris Arndt Society, a means for past board members to stay connected, named for the former Associate Dean and history professor who helped found the original board. When the Society launches in March, Arndt, Walsh, and current and former board members will gather on JMU’s campus to celebrate what they started and to look forward to what’s next.

A Liberal Arts Legacy Fund Teacher-Scholar The Liberal Arts Legacy Fund, established in 2012 by Maureen Walsh and the alumni board, supports projects proposed by “teacher-scholar” faculty who involve students substantially in their fieldadvancing research. Gianluca De Fazio, Associate Professor of Justice Studies, received the 2023 Legacy Fund Award to support his ongoing project on the history and legacy of lynching in Virginia in the research-intensive course JUST 400: Senior Seminar on Lynching and Racial Violence. Using a “flipped classroom” approach, where students researched individually or in groups, meant students “could rely on me and other students to ask questions, receive feedback, and learn from each other the ‘tricks of the trade’ of finding and cataloguing these markers,” De Fazio said. In Spring 2023, De Fazio organized his fifteen Justice Studies students into two research teams. The first team analyzed newly digitized and transcribed archival sources — such as death certificates, Coroner’s Inquisitions, or Commonwealth Causes — related to Virginia lynching cases to update the posts on the Racial Terror: Lynching in Virginia website, which De Fazio designed and launched in 2018. De Fazio and his students collaborated with the Library of Virginia to publish the Lynching and Racial A portion of the student-created interactive map, with various marker locations tagged.

Violence Collection, making those records available to the public. The second team began building the first comprehensive scholarly database of all U.S. historical markers that memorialize lynching victims. The record for each of the 149 catalogued markers includes an image of the marker along with its text, location, year erected, and the organization responsible for its creation. Students also produced an interactive map of these historical markers. De Fazio developed all of these digital projects with expert help from Kevin Hegg, Head of Digital Projects in the JMU Libraries. This course teaches students the value and practices of exploring material history; compared to other academic assignments, students say, this research “felt ‘real’ and akin to solving puzzles.” Moreover, the processes that follow — transcription, analysis, digitization, and curation — underscore the importance of these efforts for collective memory. “Knowing that all their work would be made public,” De Fazio says, “boosted their commitment and involvement in the project." That close faculty-student engagement, where a student learns research skills and methods through applied experience, is precisely what the Legacy Fund was established to support. A marker erected in Charlottesville, VA by the Equal Justice Initiative in 2019.







Give Like a Duke: Giving Day is February 22nd! The College of Arts and Letters is a vibrant, inclusive community devoted to curiosity and discovery. Our students, faculty and alumni wrestle with some of humanity’s most urgent questions and shape the world for the better. Your gift opens doors: making a JMU education possible for an underserved student, advancing faculty research and creativity, and supporting vital learning experiences, such as internships, community engagement and field work. Give Like a Duke today and elevate the student experience of tomorrow through these funds:

Arts and Letters Opportunity Fund Propel academically qualified, underrepresented students, first-generation students and students of modest means into a brighter future.

Liberal Arts Legacy Fund Support research and creative endeavors for faculty who blend teaching and scholarship and actively involve students in advancing their fields of study.

Pre-Law Fund Support scholarships for pre-law students participating in unpaid legal internships, like Madison Lane (’22): “As a first-generation college student, I had little to no guidance or knowledge of what exactly I wanted to pursue. First-hand experiences, through internships, help students choose the career that is perfect for them.”

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Harrison Hall, MSC 2105, 54 Bluestone Drive Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.