As a senior, I have watched JMU grow over the past four years. Actually, explode would be a more fitting word for the vast changes, renovations, and expansions that have taken place on campus over the years—and within even just the past year alone. With an incoming freshman class of 4,300 and 880 new transfer students, there are currently upwards of 20,000 students on campus daily. But when even the line for pizza at Topio’s (the option with typically the shortest line) in Duke’s extends almost to the entrance, you might feel like one of a million rather than a measly 20,000—a feeling we are particularly vulnerable to as fresh-faced first years. But, would you believe me if I said that a snow leopard with a blue tongue helped me combat those exact freshman year blues?

It all started on the first fall day of my freshman year. It’s always a wonderful day when you realize the weeks of backpack-shaped sweat stains on your back are through, and sweater weather is upon you. That day, like any other day, I woke up and peered into my closet to put together an outfit, excited at the prospect of finally slipping back into cozy autumn attire.

Normally, putting together an outfit is my favorite part of the day; I love to express myself through my clothing. But, since my arrival at Ikenberry Hall on move-in day, I had been trying to dress like the typical JMU student. I suppressed my need for self-expression and opted for wearing what everyone else wore in order to seem less like a freshman, and moreover, to blend in with the rest of my peers. In high school, I had worn whatever I darn pleased, often mixing multiple patterns, sporting my mother’s old high school geography bee jacket, and tacky sweatshirts bought at Mt. Rushmore over the years. But as an incoming freshman, I was more concerned about fitting in.

Inspecting the contents of my closet that morning, and gazing upon all of the awesome tacky sweaters, the velvet pants, and the leather jacket, I felt conflicted. I wanted so badly to wear the clothes that made me feel most like myself, but felt that I couldn’t–or shouldn’t– for fear of seeming different. Standing there in front of the sliding doors of my Village-style, wooden closet, I had an epiphany: Weren’t there upwards of 20,000 students going to this school? Did I really expect to please all of them? Weren’t there probably other students on this campus that dressed like me, or chose to express their style similarly? Feeling like an idiot, I grabbed the first tacky sweatshirt in sight, a black crew neck with an enormous blue-tongued snow leopard’s face down the front, and ran with it, desperate to make up for lost time.

I will always remember that day as the first day I decided to be myself at JMU—the day I began to fit in because I was no longer trying to be something I wasn’t. Now, I’m not saying that wearing an ugly thrift store find changed my entire college experience, but it was one of my first steps of many toward my own self-acceptance in my new environment. Although one can feel lost at sea on such a large campus, being yourself will give you the clarity of mind necessary to truly grow and thrive, try new things, and ultimately find your own personal niche in the JMU community.


The College Culinary Guide for the Lazy and Hungry

by Eric Cecchett

Returning to school after a long summer can be difficult for some students. Exchanging those long beach-filled days and carefree summer nights for 15 credits and a job hardly seems like a trade worth making. For me, one of the hardest parts about coming back to Harrisonburg in the fall is saying goodbye to the coddling embrace of living in my parents’ house. After living in an apartment for two years where you would be hard-pressed to find a paper towel, I have come to truly appreciate the beauty of a domesticated and well-established kitchen.

Until I came to JMU and began living on my own, I never quite realized the challenges involved in shopping for and feeding oneself. But after many ramen dinners and desperate walks to E-Hall in two feet of snow, I like to think I’ve learned some valuable lessons. In this article, I hope to impart some of this knowledge in the hopes that it will educate even the most parsimonious and nutritionally confused college student.

Perhaps the most essential ingredients (get it?) to maintaining a well-stocked kitchen is to find recipes, plan ahead of time, and most importantly, make lists. On too many occasions have I absent-mindedly left the grocery store having forgot to buy the very thing I went there for in the first place. If you are half as scatter-brained as I am, a well thought out list is an absolute must for any successful grocery run.

Although I would strongly suggest using recipes (I’ll provide some later), if you are someone who simply prefers to wing it, I have some tips for you as well! Amassing a large selection of versatile and non-perishable foods allows you to have a wide range of meal options for an extended period of time. Purchases such as rice, canned beans, and frozen vegetables are easy to store and provide a countless variety of options for the cook who prefers not to follow directions.

Lastly, I will play the role of the concerned parent and implore you to not ignore fresh fruits and vegetables. Most grocery stores in the area offer a fine selection of fruits and veggies for an affordable price for any college student (try downtown Harrisonburg’s Friendly City Co-op for slightly more expensive, but delicious and local produce). I’ve learned in these past few years that buying lots of veggies for myself forces me to get creative and find new ways to use them that I never before would have considered. If you’re still like I was a few years ago and are scared of those greens on your plate, it’s time to grow up and learn to love your veggies.

Hopefully these tips have provided some guidance from your kitchen to the grocery store and everywhere in between. Here are some of my personal favorite recipes for your viewing (and perhaps tasting) pleasure. Enjoy! Easy, healthy and completely vegan tofu lettuce wraps! Sweet potato fries are an easy, moderately healthy snack (or meal) fit for any occasion.

This last recipe is one that my girlfriend and I have pieced together over the past couple of months. It is incorporates tons of veggies and leaves enough leftovers to feed yourself for most of the week!

Chelsea and Eric’s lazy veggie pasta:

1 lb of your favorite pasta.

1 can of plain tomato sauce.

~2Tbs olive oil

½ large onion, diced.

½-1 green pepper, diced

1 clove of garlic, finely diced

½ block of tofu. (optional but highly recommended)

frozen spinach (however much you like.)

8-10 baby carrots, diced.

Salt (to taste)

Pepper (to taste)

Red pepper flakes (to taste)

Cumin (to taste)

  1. Start by sautéing onion, garlic, and olive oil in a medium sized pot (this will be the same pot that you cook your sauce in. So make sure it’s big enough!)
  2. When the onions begin to turn translucent, add the rest of the veggies and crumbled tofu. Continue to sauté for a few minutes on medium heat.
  3. After a few minutes, add the entire can of tomato sauce and stir, making sure the veggies are evenly incorporated. This is also when you want to add your spices. Turn heat to low and leave covered for roughly 30 minutes. Make sure to come back occasionally to give it a good stir.
  4. After the 30 minutes are up, cook your pasta according to the directions on the box. Once it is finished, combine with sauce in a large pot.


30-Day Challenges

Experience the 30-Day Challenge

College is about learning right? So what better way to learn than through experience! A 30-day challenge is the perfect way to set parameters for experiences. Their logic is very simple; chose a challenge and carry it out each day. Say you chose a BIG challenge like eating a vegan diet. You are going to have to take steps that you believe in to achieve this challenge. If you want to go cold turkey, that’s great, but if the challenge is intimidating take it one step at a time. Start by only buying vegan foods at the grocery and slowly replacing those you already have. It is important to set goals you feel you CAN achieve.

Some of the people I admire most are constantly finding new challenges for themselves. One of my friends makes it a point to reach out to the meaningful people in her life and spend time with them when she is at home, another has recently embarked on the peace corps for two years, and a third has removed all items from his room only to return 100 or less. I see these challenges they set for themselves as a path to a new experience and perhaps a new perspective. It keeps things fresh.

For this reason, and with some help from my TAD team, I have compiled a list of challenges for all of us to consider. I even organized them with input from Dr. Anne Fabine’s advice in a 2012 “Harvard Men’s Health Watch” publication which discusses different ways you can exercise your brain.

So, without further ado:

30 Day Challenges


Unplug from any unnecessary social media (TV, FB, Twitter, Radio)

Reconnect with an old friend or reach out to someone new

Write a thank you note


Try a vegan/vegetarian diet

Bike everywhere within two miles

Write out a workout routine and follow it

Use the concept of sleep cycles or the circadian rhythm for sleeping

Pick up hula-hooping


Turn your phone off for an hour a day

Dedicate an hour to yourself

Start your day with meditation/yoga

Capture a moment in a photo

Find a list of topics to mull over and write a journal entry on them

De-clutter: get rid of one thing

Don’t buy anything new


Don’t plan out your free time

Learn a new word and apply it

Explore a new place

Read a news article, or section of a book

Discover a new artist (art, cinema, music, etc.)

Unofficial Orientation

And so another semester at JMU begins. You reacquaint yourself with those signature JMU hills, curse at the traffic you hoped would magically disappear this year, and dig out your trusty JAC card. Or maybe this year is your first at JMU, and if so, just look at that last sentence as a preview of what’s to come.

Welcome freshman and transfer students! Consider this your unofficial orientation, and some advice from someone who’s been-there done-that.

  1. Get involved! No really. Go to Student Org Night each semester! Even if it is hot, crowded, and people are shoving flyers at you all night. You never know when you’ll run across The One; the club that helps unearth your true passion.
  2. Explore all possible majors. You may think you have it all figured out, and you may think you’re perfectly happy with your predetermined major. But what if you were to discover something like, say, Justice Studies or Biology, and realize that’s where your true calling lies?
  3. Don’t let yourself get too comfortable. You are here to challenge yourself and that means experiencing new things, so don’t rule out the hula hooping club (Free Flow), the Quidditch team, or D-Hall (Cheesy Thursdays!).
  4. Get the JMU Bus App. It will help you decipher the maze of bus routes and you’ll thank yourself later.
  5. Save your documents online. Use something like Google Drive so when you inevitably loose that USB dangerously dangling from your keychain during finals week, you won’t see your life flash before your bloodshot eyes.
  6. Explore downtown. I have heard way too many upperclassmen say they still haven’t ever really been downtown. Venture outside the JMU bubble, like now. Who doesn’t love a good farmer’s market, salsa night, burger topped with mac and cheese, or a little light afternoon shopping?
  7. Save yourself some money. Don’t make the mistake of spending $500 on full priced books the first semester. Chegg (and Amazon) exist for a reason, people.
  8. Invest in a good quality, waterproof backpack. Because we all know that canvas messenger bag or Vera Bradley tote is cute, but when you’re halfway through the semester with an aching back and rain-soaked notes, you’ll be thinking otherwise.
  9. Look for internships early. Don’t wait until your last semester. Consider these as test runs for your future career, resume builders, and invaluable hands-on experiences in your job field.
  10. If you live in a dorm, shower shoes. ‘Nough said.
  11. Look for unique classes to fulfill your credit requirements. Because why not take Fly Fishing for your lab or Elementary Ballet for fun?!
  12. Find a job on campus! If you’re like me, money doesn’t just appear on that worn out debit card, you gotta work for it. You can’t beat the commute, flexible hours, and the always-flattering purple uniform (seriously, purple is a good color on almost everyone).
  13. Lastly, seek out diversity. Don’t let yourself fall into a blissfully ignorant state, constantly surrounded by people just like you. There’s more out there, you just have to look for it!

Thinking Outside the Cap

by Taylor Hudson

I’ve been looking forward to decorating my graduation cap since the moment I stepped on this campus. And I’ll admit, over the past few weeks, I have seen some pretty creative caps. I suppose I will start with my own cap. The explanation is quite simple. I wanted to say thank you to the most important things in my life—God and my parents. A lot seniors go with the simple, yet effective, “Thanks Mom and Dad!” But you see, with divorced parents, fitting “Thanks Mom, Dad, and Stepdad!” all on one cap was a bit too much. So I shortened it. I say it gets the point across, don’t you think?

89 Congratulations Class of 2014, we did it! Kudos to these seniors—you’re natural cap-decorating skills are superb.


Harrisonburg’s Curvy Profile

by Lauren Privette

JMU has a large campus. Everyday students trudge up the ISAT hill in an effort to make it to class from the quad in 15 minutes.

You may be thinking—as you’re sitting, drenched in sweat from your race against time to make it to a Gen Ed—why is this campus so hilly? I can’t tell you why it’s hilly; that’s simply how the earth formed. However, I can introduce, or reintroduce, you to another approach to looking at hills: topographic maps.

Topographic maps illustrate the natural features and curves of the earth through lines called contours. The lines you see on the bottom left topo map are ‘contour lines.’ Contour lines that are closely spaced indicate a steep grade while wider spaced lines indicate a more gradual slope. The number you see next to a line is the elevation of  that site above sea-level. In this case, the units are in US feet.



The proximity of the contours in the left image between Lower and Upper Turf shed light on Upper Turf’s namesake. Notice how close together they are? That means there is a steep grade there. As seen in the image on the right, you would not have been able to see the hill in the image itself. The stairs leading to Upper Turf from the sidewalk in front of convo is the only clue that there is a hill there. This is one reason why topographic maps are useful.

JMU’s campus ranges from about 1300 to 1450 feet above sea-level. To put this into perspective, Miami Beach is only 0 –to 35 feet above sea-level (0 is where the water touches the beach). So you might want to visit Miami Beach soon, or you’ll be boating around the streets in about 50 years. We use elevation above sea-level simply as a standard from which to measure.

To get more in depth, in the United States, our government-made maps are organized by a 7.5 minute grid. A “7.5 minute grid” is a reference to Latitude and Longitude. This coordinate system allows you to obtain highly accurate coordinates for a location. It’s broken down into degrees, minutes and seconds. In Harrisonburg we are at about 78° (degrees) 52’ (minutes) 30” (seconds) longitude and 38°30’30” latitude. The 7.5 minute grid topo map of Harrisonburg, for example, shows the area and contours of 78°52’30” to 78°45’00” longitude and 38°30’00 to 38°22’30”. Unfortunately, if I put an image of the Topo map on here, you won’t be able to see the numbers, so I’m leaving it off, but you can go to this site to find topo maps of anywhere in the US!

Below is a screenshot of a part of the actual Harrisonburg, VA 7.5 minute topo map. Look at those gorgeous contours; that’sMassanutten Mountain. The lines are very closely spaced, revealing the steepness of the land; the lines then become wider as you descend, moving away from the ridge. Circled in red is a tick mark showing the latitude of the location. The bold number circled in blue is another type of coordinate system, the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM), which I won’t be getting into because it’s simply not used as much.


Unlike the earlier two images, this topo map shows the contours without the distraction of satellite imagery. Topo maps like this are used for urban planning, architecture, mining, etc.

While topographic maps are interesting, they don’t offer a cure for the hills. You’re still going to have the ISAT hill and those foreboding steps, however, there’s power in knowledge, and now you have some. Embrace the exhausted condition you arrive to class in, it’s keeping you in shape, and, remember to respect the hill.

After JMU

Its students deem JMU the “happiest place on earth” apart from Disney world. I don’t think JMU is the happiest place on earth; it is a college full of happy individuals. It’s not the windy climate of Harrisonburg or the blossoming quad in the springtime that makes the school what it is, it’s the ability of JMU’s students to find a balance between personal life – what makes us passionate and true to ourselves –and academics.

We are, for the most part, well articulated people, stuck in the in-between of childhood and adulthood. We plug ourselves into activities that match our interests and put everything we have into them, and, yes, we still manage to maintain a passing grade-point average without making ourselves miserable in the library.

I speak for a large population of girls when I say, JMU made us develop a backbone. The large proportion of girls at the university coupled with the normal aches and pains of our first “adult” relationships enabled us to discover what we’re made of at a rapid pace.

If I were to pick one descriptive word for myself after JMU, it would be prepared. That may seem like an awkward choice, but the reality is, a person may have a plan, and the next day it could be thrown out the window. If you don’t have rain boots/an umbrella on a rainy day, you may find yourself simply miserable, but if you are prepared for a storm, you will dance in the rain. So, the only thing that makes happy people succeed in life is being prepared—prepared to be flexible, to experience something new, to fall in love, to make a move, to do a job you never pictured yourself doing.

A quote I really like is “when you can’t control the winds, adjust the sails.” Change will happen, and your plans may take a positive spin that you never imagined. JMU was a different experience than I expected: I am graduating with a degree I did not plan on, I explored every career interest of mine under the sun and ended up with the one I started with, and I made fun of a handful of organizations that I didn’t understand completely, only to end up joining them or being friends with people in them.

My future is not concrete; I still make mistakes, and I am learning every day from them. However, I can promise myself that my personal journey at JMU brought me to a better place than I could have imagined – it strengthened my values of faith, love, and family. These are the three things that I want in my life despite where I live or what I do, and I am positive that they will be present should I continue to be able to adjust my sails.

The Heart and Soul of James Madison University


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