Category Archives: Academics

Don’t Let This Ship Sail off Without You!

By Elaina Taylor

I remember very distinctly my parents encouraging me to intern back in high school. However, when I found out that most of them were not the paying type, I quickly dismissed them. I have plenty of time for that, I thought. Why wear dress clothes and uncomfortable shoes free of charge all summer while my friends are out and about raking in the cash? Well, let’s fast forward to the present.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am now one pretty broke college kid. Free stuff? Let me at it! Free food? Holy guacamole, where?! Looking back, it’s only after you fly the coop that you realize just how much you depended on your parents for well, everything. Now more than ever, come summertime I want to be making money and internships don’t always compensate for the work you provide. But before you write them off consider their value.

There are many benefits to interning, and the experience yields valuable tools that often cannot be acquired elsewhere. Chiefly among them is experience – this is quickly becoming a critical factor in hiring decisions. A potential employee with knowledge and experience in a given field is a much safer hire because they already have exposure to that line of work and clearly wish to work there. And with experience comes the acquisition of new skills not to mention confidence in your abilities and contributions. In a competitive job market, an internship can give you the boost you need to edge out another candidate with near similar qualifications. Additionally, internships can also provide course credit for some majors (take a peek at the undergraduate catalog to see if this applies to your major).

Lastly, internships give students the chance to network and create more contacts that could contribute to a possible job in the future. Getting a foot in the door can lead to entry-level jobs, if only because of the connections you established in the duration of your time there. But don’t forget that connections you establish with professors and fellow students could also lead to possible internships and later, job opportunities. Sometimes the best resources are right around you. I myself obtained an internship through a church acquaintance that happened to be the president of a non-profit organization headquartered in D.C. My point is that you can always find people who can help you along in your career, however adolescent it may be, and occasionally not in the most expected places. Take care to remember however, that these opportunities don’t always just present themselves, they have to be sought out and you have to be willing to work to earn your stripes.

Now that the importance of internships has been established, how do you find one? To start out, I’d suggest making a list of places you would be interested in working for and contact them directly. Also be sure to take advantage of the school resources available; JMU has job fairs and services that are specifically tailored to help students find internships and jobs. The Career and Academic Planning Center provides a wealth of related information under the Jobs and Internships tab, and beyond the biannual Career and Internship Fair also offers the Recruit-a-Duke service with recent job and internship postings. Check out Eric’s blog post below for a comprehensive summary of the services offered by the Career and Academic Planning Center!

Once you find an internship you’re interested in, send in an application and follow up! Even if you consider it to be completely out of reach you may land an interview, if only based on your tenacity to be given a chance. You may not have the skills they are looking for, but your persistence and willingness to learn just could pay off. Hint, this has happened to me before! Good luck to you all!

Looking for more information or know-how advice with regards to internships? Then be sure to take a look at my sources: Internships – Career and Academic Planning, Internship information – Academic Services Center under the College of Business

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.

Tackling the Daunting Résumé

By Taylor Hudson

“Graduation” is a four-letter word around here.

Yeah, sure—it’s supposed to be a proud moment, signifying four years of hard work and good times with life-long friends. But let’s be honest, graduation is more terrifying than it is exciting. Most seniors are somewhere between a mild-panic-attack and a quarter-life-crisis when it comes to actually planning this unknown, yet not so far away, concept called “the future.”

As a soon-to-be graduate myself, I have attempted to prepare and have spent a lot of time during the past few weeks knee-deep in “grown-up” documents, such as my résumé, portfolio, and job applications. And I only have one thought about the entire process—It’s a lot harder than it looks.

Lesson One: Avoid the Microsoft Office résumé templates at all costs.
That was my first mistake in this entire process. I thought it would be the most efficient to just click on one of the templates and fill in the blanks. No, I was wrong.

First of all, those templates are extremely generic, so they most likely will not include the best or most effective sections for your particular goal or job search. For example, most of them do not include a relevant course work section. Another problem I had was a lack of space to include the hyperlink to my online portfolio, and, as a media arts and design major, that is really important.

Second of all, it’s near impossible to condense your résumé into one, convenient page using those templates. They are unnecessarily fluffed up with images, chunky boxes, and 12-point font. Any attempt to make the font smaller just messes up the entire layout and will have you screaming at your computer in a matter of minutes—and yes, I speak from experience. It’s much more simple to just create your own résumé layout from scratch.

Don’t get me wrong; those templates are good to use as a reference or basis. But, overall, just make our final résumé an original.

Lesson Two: Don’t compare your résumé with your friends. It never hurts to get feedback and criticisms to improve your résumé. However, I suggest receiving professional feedback, such as from a professor, mentor, or employer—not a friend or roommate.

If you are like me, I am the only one in a house of four people pursuing a career in my particular field. I am pursuing a journalism career, one is pursuing a dietetics career, one is pursuing education, and the final one is pursuing theater. Four clearly different fields. It didn’t seem like much of a barrier at first, because at first I thought, “How different could our résumés be?” Again, I was wrong.

Theater-focused résumés look like Mars compared to my journalism-focused one. In theater, for example, a clear and definitive objective is of higher priority in order to state your artistic goals as an actor. Meanwhile, in journalism, an objective statement could be included, but if you need more room for your internship experience and skills sets, then those take higher priority. In my case, I completely deleted it, but my roommate believed that I needed to write an objective statement. She wasn’t wrong.; objective statements aren’t bad. On the other hand, they aren’t good for everyone. The moral of the story is simple: don’t argue with your roommate for twenty minutes about what to include in résumés, when in reality, you are both right.

Lesson Three: Sometimes you just have to hit the “Submit” button. Pushing the “Submit” button after you have completed an online job application is terrifying. Don’t worry, I completely understand. Nevertheless, at some point, you just have to stop re-reading, editing, and revising your application, and click the button. Let go. Just do it.

I decided to apply to Teach for America, and I completed my application about a week and a half ago. Yet, I just submitted it three days ago. I was so paranoid that I misspelled something, or that I awkwardly worded a sentence in my responses. So, instead of actually sending the application, I just let it sit. My stress just exponentially grew every time I looked at. I probably rewrote the application about three times.

Eventually, I realized I just needed to send it because my acceptance into the program has no direct correlation to the amount of times I edited the application. Once I hit the “Submit” button—regardless of how initially terrifying it was—I felt infinitely better. So, if you currently have an application just waiting in limbo like I did—please, do yourself a favor, and go send it.

Last but not least—believe in the power of drafting! I realize it is only October, and graduation is over six months away. But it is never too early to start thinking about post-grad life. So, don’t be afraid to tackle those “grown-up” tasks—just remember to take it slow and learn as you go through the process. Your resume and portfolio will not be perfect the first time. You will have to re-write and re-organize, but it will all be worth it in the long run. But don’t just take my word for it.

If you are looking for professional help, and not just the advice from a fellow stressed out senior, I suggest looking into an appointment with Career and Academic Planning. They are awesome with this sort of thing—from resumes to cover letters to personal statements. You could even browse Recruit-a-Duke, a convenient one stop location for JMU students to search for current job or internship openings.

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.”

Finals Week Myths: True or Busted?

By: Taylor Hudson

Summer is within your grasp! After what I am sure has been a long semester, finals week has approached us. But don’t let yourself become overwhelmed with your schedule overflowing with papers, projects and exams. And, more importantly, don’t fall victim to many of the finals week myths and study schemes that some students swear by.

Study Now, Sleep Later: BUSTED!
I suggest that you refrain from entering Carrier or Rose library during finals week after ten o’clock at night. The only thing you will find in there at that point are overstressed, overworked and ridiculously tired students that are probably not leaving until their exam time on the following day. Don’t be one of those people; studies show that all-nighters actually decrease grades. You brain needs sleep in order to function properly, so depriving yourself completely the night before an exam will actually hurt you in the long run. Aim to get at least four or five hours of sleep, and I promise you won’t regret it.

Lots and lots of Caffeine: BUSTED!
As a coffee drinker myself, this one hits home. One or two cups of coffee won’t hurt, but drinking massive amounts of caffeine through out the day will do more to hurt you than help. Your attention span will decrease, your anxiety level will increase, and energy level will decrease faster. So, you can see how this won’t exactly help your already high stress level and heavy workload.

Jamming Out While Studying: TRUE!
Music will actually keep you more focused, if used correctly. I suggest not listening to your favorite songs or artists because you will end up singing along—or in my case, dancing around the kitchen—rather than focusing on the task in front of you. Perhaps, you can try some acoustic or classical music without lyrics?

The Library is the Best Place to Study: BUSTED!
Contrary to popular belief, there are many places you can study on this campus besides the library. Both Taylor Hall and Warren Hall are open 24 hours during finals week. Try some off-campus locations such as Starbucks, Panera Bread, Greenberry’s, or, or head to Martin’s Grocery Store—the little café in the corner is open 24 hours and they have free wireless Internet.

The moral of the story is simple: Don’t believe everything you are told. Finals week shouldn’t be about all-night cram sessions and overworked students. It should be about ending the year on a positive note and heading into summer knowing you just kicked that exam’s butt.

Value in College

by Molly Robinson

There are some hundred of organizations at JMU, some 20,000 students that attend classes, and over 50 majors offered. How does the average student sort through it all and find their path at JMU?Statue of James Madison holding a card that reads "thinking of you"

It all comes down to what you choose to take value in:

  • Family, friends, and close/meaningful relationships
  • Excelling academically
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Fun
  • Work: part time or full time
  • Networking—connections through meeting a plethora of people

The reality is that when in college, you can do everything you want. It is possible to value all the above items; but when push comes to shove, some weeks you will have to choose what is most important to you. Beginning each new semester, students should reassess their goals and rank the above items. That way, when you have an “off” week or weekend, you can look back at what you’re going towards and what you want from your college experience—long and short term. At the end of the day, its better to give your all to a few things then to give little pieces of your time to a lot of things.

If you value getting into medical school, perhaps your organizations will be centered around this goal—from research with a professor, to TAing, and perhaps a biology honors society. If you value having fun and being around others, maybe you’ll choose Greek life or Student Ambassadors. Whatever you choose to value in college, I hope it suits you well. People will notice where you stand in your values and goals, and while college is an opportunity to experiment, it’s also a time to narrow down what you want out of your life!

A Blast into the Past

By Taylor Hudson

There is no denying that Carrier Library holds a lot of history and meaning on the JMU campus. As the first free-standing library on campus, completed in 1939, Carrier library has become a JMU landmark and will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2014.

In order to commemorate the library’s 75th birthday, library employees created an exhibit entitled “Observe Our Library.” This exhibit—on display in the hallway outside of Special Collections—focuses on the need, planning, construction, and completion of the original section of the present day Carrier Library. It was originally called Madison Memorial Library, and the exhibit displays many interesting artifacts and items, such as photographs, blueprints, and articles from the Breeze about the new library. There are also many older items that were used in the original library on display. Julia Merkel, the library Preservation Officer, says, “The little porcelain water well roller for moistening due date slips in the back of books is so charmingly anachronistic that many folks don’t know what it is.”

Alyssa Fisher, the Graduate assistant for Special Collections and Preservation, spent all last semester researching for the “Observe Our Library” exhibit. Then, during the last three weeks of the Fall semester, the exhibit was finalized and constructed. It has been on display ever since and will end on March 11th.

Fisher believes that it is important for students to learn the history of their school. “Understanding the history of JMU allows students to have a greater sense of the community in which they spend four or more years of their lives learning and growing into the individuals they hope to become,” says Fisher.

And Merkel agrees, saying, “There is no substitute for a sense of place and history. Thinking about the footsteps of the students and faculty who tread the same steps years ago. That’s powerful.”

Carrier Library hopes to create a larger exhibit for the library’s 75th anniversary. But, until then, check out the “Observe Our Library” exhibit anytime during the Special Collection’s normal operating hours—Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. It is completely free and open to everyone.