All posts by privetlm

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.



Fun Places to Relocate to After Graduation

by Lauren Privette

You’ve got your degree and your college career is at an end; it’s time to spread your wings! The entire world is open to you; where do you want to live?

Realistically, many will be headed home for a year or two, but after that, it’s time to figure out your next move. The U.S has many unique cities that can fit the lifestyle you want in your 20s! I’ve decided to compile a list of four recommended U.S cities that I’ve either been to or have friends living in.

Memphis, Tennessee: My cousin Erika lived in Memphis for a few years and had the time of her life. Live music can be found in abundance within the many bars and restaurants along the Memphis streets (especially Beale St!) The southern hospitality and overall friendly disposition of the city’s inhabitants creates a comfortable, fun-loving environment.

Austin, Texas: I recently just got back from a trip to this Texan city where I stayed at my friend Alex’s apartment! First of all, Austin is a hipster haven; they’re everywhere. So for all you hipsters out there, take note. Austin is also home to the University of Tennessee at Austin, making the city a hot spot for young adults (even if you don’t partake in hipster culture). It’s also been dubbed the live music capital of the world, as made evident by the annual SXSW music festival. Hook ‘em horns!

Tucson, Arizona: A former NOVA-native friend of mine recently moved to Tucson and can’t help but brag about the city surrounded by mountains. Tucson is one of the cleanest cities in the U.S, according the American Lung Association. That fresh air is perfect for you bikers out there as it’s also extremely bike friendly. Its program “Bicycle Boulevards” works towards making streets more biker-safe.

Raleigh, NC: I have tons of family members living in this city. They’ve been living there for many generations, which isn’t incredibly shocking given that Raleigh has been ranked the happiest city in the U.S! Based on data gathered by the Center of Disease Control, Raleigh residents have 14% fewer days of feeling “bummed out”. Bring your pet and picnic basket too! About 20% of the city is parkland!

Finally, besides my personal connections to these cities, another reason I chose them was because they’re relatively cheap to live in compared to other stereotypical “big cities”. Consider saving the “big city” for your 30’s, when you’re more secure job-wise. Good luck!

Enjoy the Season, go Snowboarding!

by Lauren Privette

It’s the perfect time of year for one of my favorite hobbies—snowboarding. Dropping temperatures and winter storms are things to get excited about when snowboarding’s a hobby. In honor of this seasonal hobby and the current Winter Olympics in Sochi, I’d like to highlight a few resorts, both local and far away, where you can enjoy this sport.

Massanutten: A short trip away and great deals for students, Massanutten Resort offers a convenient place to snowboard for both beginners and veterans. For only $18.00 a ticket and $12.00 to rent with the presentation of your Jac card, you can ski from 4:00 until close on Thursdays.

Bryce: A little less than an hour away is Bryce Resort. This four-season resort offers much the same as Massanutten; however, it’s more geared towards beginners as Bryce offers easier and fewer slopes.

Timberline and Canaan Valley: These resorts are about two hours away from the ‘burg and are better for those of you intermediates and up. The slopes are evenly split up amongst greens, blues, and blacks. But for those of you who consider yourselves experts, Timberline Resort has significantly more double-black diamonds.

New York and Vermont: For the serious snowboarder—head to New York or Vermont. I know it’s a trip, but on the east coast these two states have the best slopes you can find. Holiday Valley (NY), Smugglers’ Notch (VT), Hunter Mountain (NY), and Stowe Mountain (VT) are just a few on a long list of resorts in the northeast. Many of these mountains have at least double the runs you’ll find in Virginia. Smugglers’ Notch, for example, has 76 trails with its longest run 3 miles long… Massanutten on the other hand has 12 runs with its longest run at 0.75 miles long.

Finally, before you head out, get the FREE app “Alpine Replay.” It records your sustained speed, max speed, average speed, distance, vertical, jumps, airtime, calories expended, and many more. It’s a fun app, but don’t try to keep beating your max speed—though it is tempting, it’s dangerous!

On that note, I hope you’ve been inspired to try snowboarding out for the first time, or, for you veterans, to branch outside of Virginia and West Virginia. Now get out there and shred!

Winter Break To-Dos for College Kids of All Ages

By Lauren Privette

Picture of a snowy day on the JMU campus

You’ve just come back from a weeklong Fall Break that was just as unproductive as you were worried it would be, only to be thrown into two weeks of stressful studying and due-dates. As miserable as the next two weeks will be, you have a nice, month-long Winter Break to look forward to! The problem arising with such a long winter break, however, is what to do. You don’t have tests to prepare for, lab reports to complete, or projects to finish. Below are a list of things to do, depending on your year, followed by an overall list for all years.

Freshmen: You made it through your first semester! Congratulations, only 7 more semesters to go. Here’s a list of possible things to do during your first Winter Break:
• Research different majors! Even if you’re not undeclared, now is the time to make sure you are selecting the best major for you.
• Check e-Campus to see if any of the classes you want, but didn’t get, have a seat open! We all know you guys get the scraps, but conflicts arise in schedules, and people end up having to drop a class. So, keep a look out for those opportunities.

Sophomores: One more semester till your halfway done with your college career! Here are some options for you sophomores:
• Start looking at internships! Even if it’s not for this summer, but one for during the next school year or next summer. It’s always a good idea to get a head start on these as they can be competitive and deadlines creep up faster than you think.
• Read a book! You probably haven’t read a book since the required reading before your freshman orientation week. Reading stimulates your brain and expands your vocabulary—both will help you if you intend on taking the GRE’s for graduate school.

Juniors: You’ve passed the halfway point! Hang in there. Here are some possible things for you to do:
• Apply for an internship! The summer after your junior year is the perfect time for an internship.
• Plan out your next three semesters! You’ll lessen the stress in the long run if you begin planning out the classes you’ll need to take in order to graduate when you want to.

Seniors: The bittersweet graduation is almost upon you! You’re most likely freaking out about what you’ll be doing after graduation; keep yourself occupied with these productive tasks to accomplish over your last Winter Break:
• If you haven’t found a job, start looking. Spending just 15 minutes a day looking at possible jobs is a simple way to ease that particular stress. And, if you see one you like, apply for it!
• Order your graduation announcements! You’ll be doing yourself and your family a favor the sooner you get these out of the way

Last but not least, some overall Winter Break ideas for all years and majors:
• Find a job! Shops, especially around the Holidays, are looking for extra people to hire. Simply call the shop and inquire whether they need extra help during the holidays. This works more often than you’d think.
• Read a book! You probably haven’t read a book since the required reading before your freshman orientation week. It’ll aid your overall intellect, and they can be as entertaining as your favorite movies!
• Explore a nearby city! It’s always fun to do this around the holiday season.
• Learn to read Tarot cards! Random, but I worked on this one last Winter Break, and it’s a fun skill or great party trick.

Where Is Your Tuition Really Going?

By Lauren Privette

If you are a student here at JMU, according to USA Today: , approximately 28.4% of your tuition went to JMU Athletics for the 2010-2011 academic year. That’s $2,228.00 for the year and, if the tuition stayed at $15,880, that would be $8,912.00 throughout your four years. On top of that, some alumni donate millions of dollars that fund athletic scholarships and monthly allowances given to the best of the best athletes. In fact, a university with “Division I sports spend[s] three to six times as much on each athlete as they do to educate each of their students” (Lewin, NY Times, 2013).

Everything from the addition to Bridgeforth Stadium to the $500 reimbursements all student-athletes receive every year for sport and non-sport related provisions—like clothing and linens is paid for by our tuition. If a student-athlete sees a nice pair of jeans at Lucky Brand Jeans, they can buy it and be paid back in full. The money is really meant for covering necessities like winter clothing for a student-athlete from a warmer climate, or bed sheets and towels for a student-athlete living on their own for the first time. Chiefly, it is meant for people who are in serious need of the money; however, it’s open to all.

Buying winter clothing is a viable use of that money, but there are no restrictions. People who don’t need the money are able to spend and be reimbursed the same amount as people who do. I don’t have a problem helping out a person who literally does not have the money to buy a winter jacket, but paying for a $100 pair of Lucky jeans seems out of reason. Multiply the $500 by 415 (the number of Varsity athletes) and that’s $207,500, if all student athletes take advantage of this offer and turn in their receipts.

College is about getting an education, obtaining a degree, and contributing to society. Scholarships are good, when given financially or academically. Instead, we’re giving them to many academically unqualified athletes—brushing aside the qualified person because we need the room for the athlete. I’m not saying that all athletes are stupid or unqualified, but many of them have tunnel vision regarding their sports; they concentrated on sports in high school and most will concentrate on the same in college; academics is put on the back burner.

Sports are a fundamental part of our society, and therein, lies the problem. Guess who the highest paid public employee is in your state? There’s a 78% chance that it’s a university coach.

Check how this info-graphic to find out about your state:
Also, if you’re curious, check out this website to see all public university salaries:

University basketball and football coaches are getting paid (some in the millions of dollars), while non-student athletes struggle to pay for a tuition that is only rising. It’s a problem with its roots set deep in U.S American culture.

We grow up in a country where sports are a part of college, and college is a part of sports—they come hand in hand. But in reality, we’re one of the only places in the world that does this—Europe and developed Asian countries have some of the best universities and they don’t have intercollegiate sports. The idea that sports are a fundamental part of the college experience doesn’t exist. Instead, they have clubs and teams organized outside of academic institutions. There, much like our club teams here at JMU, participants must raise the money through fundraisers to pay for their travel costs and such.

However, there are positives in offering athletic scholarships. One positive is that athletes contribute to more diversity at the university. And by offering scholarships to athletes in lower income areas who have been at a disadvantage from the start and, therefore, had less of a chance at getting in, we are facilitating admission to people who wouldn’t have had a shot at college otherwise.

In pre-college schooling, U.S Americans are continually falling behind in the world rankings of reading and math scores. Along with a revamping and realignment of our education system, we could shift sports over to clubs and maintain universities as a place for higher learning.

However, it isn’t feasible to seperate sports and college in the US. It would be like pulling a baby away from its mother. Some people live for college sports events, like March Madness. Not to mention that college sports DO generate a ton of revenue, though it might not help the average student directly, it does help the schools’ and country’s economies (and those wealthy coaches…).

I maintain that the system of varsity university sports needs to revevaluated. Attending college is about your education, not athletics.

Top Chef: Camping Edition

By Lauren Privette

University Park’s pavilion served as a makeshift kitchen for the UREC sponsored event “Top Chef at University Park,” on Wednesday, the 19th. A judge walked around monitoring students who manned their cooking stations complete with ingredients, utensils, and grills provided by UREC.

The UREC sponsored event also included the UREC Nutritional Analysis Service—a service provided for students, faculty, and staff to analyze and learn about their specific nutritional status. The service includes a unique package with a computer analysis on your diet and a consultation with a nutritionist with additional information about your nutrition and diet. You can sign up by clicking this link for the JMU main page. Jackie Ferretti, a dietetics senior and UREC nutritional analyst, was excited about the “Top Chef” event. “We (Nutritional Analysis Service) do different programs for Health 101 classes, so this can count towards a wellness passport event,” said Ferretti.

Ingredients included spinach herb tortillas, black beans, extra virgin olive oil, brown rice, mangoes (the main ingredient), avocados, and peppers. Like the show, competitors had 40 minutes to complete their cooking creations.
Contestants were set up with camping- specific gear: a two-burner propane grill, metal cooking pots, and a mini-cast iron skillet—all available for rental at UREC. Styrofoam bowls and plates along with plastic utensils made this competition a challenge.

While not as many people as expected took advantage of the unique and engaging passport event, the competitors that did attend enjoyed the experience, and, they got their passports stamped. For the procrastinating health 101 students, an opportunity for a unique and passport event was lost. “It’s only our second year doing this event,” said Ferretti, “and we’re happy people showed up and had a good time.”