Category Archives: Traditions of a Duke

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.

I Loved Being a FROG, But…

By Taylor Hudson

Photo Credit: James Madison University

Being a FROG is seen as a quintessential experience for a JMU student, and I am not going to disagree. For those of you who want to be a FROG, I say do it. This past summer, I was one and dove headfirst into the sea of camaraderie and friendships that come with it.

But fair warning: there are some “buts” about the entire experience that they don’t tell you about. Or at least some things you don’t expect, though, that are bound to happen.

1. I loved being “mama-hen” to over 20 freshman guys, but… you will forever be that “mama-hen.” It’s time to accept the fact that those parental-like feelings will probably not disappear. Every time I see a status update about how one of my first years received a bid to a fraternity, my first thought is, “I’m so proud!” When anxiety-ridden tweets drowned my newsfeed during their first finals week, my first inclination was to shower them with food and energy drinks. And come on—how do you turn down a first-year when they text you asking for rides to get a hair cut, or to fulfill a prescription during flu season? You don’t. That’s exactly my point. Motherly (or for you guys, fatherly) instincts will exist to some degree and won’t disappear, so you might as well accept it now.

2. I love my FROG partner, but… we are two totally different people. He’s tall. I’m short. He’s blonde. I’m brunette. He’s a science major. I’m a SMAD major. He’s an only child. I’m the oldest of five. He’s an extrovert. I’m an introvert. I could go on but you get the picture; we are very different. However, I loved the fact that we are so different because it made us a great team. It was a yin and yang relationship, and it worked. Sometimes differences are what truly make a friendship flourish.

3. I love showing my school spirit, but… I was exhausted. Maintaining the hyper, school-spirited, and positive FROG image is hard work, and it is even harder after moving in boxes for 8 hours, after 3 hours of sleep, and nothing but D-Hall coffee. By the end of the day, the affirmation you receive from parents for making move-in day a welcoming and smooth experience is unbeatable. In my opinion, it is worth the watered-down coffee and back sweat.

4. I love the FROG dance, but… it will forever ruin the Top 40 Song list for you. Seriously—if I hear “22” by Taylor Swift or “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, my natural response is to break out into dance. You will forever hate “that one song” because it reminds you of that “one move” that you could never quite get. Sorry Ke$ha, but “Die Young” and I will never be on good terms again.

5. I love the friendships I made with my fellow FROGs, but… I hardly ever see them anymore. Our schedules are always packed. Everyone is always busy with classes. Or jobs. Or clubs. Or homework. Yet, you know what’s great? Even though I barely see them anymore, they are the few people I know will always say “hi” to or give a huge hug if we happen to pass by each other on the Quad (and, I may be a little bias but, they are the best huggers). I guess it is true what they say—absence makes the heart grow fonder.

If you want to be a FROG, do it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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.”

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!