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Dean's note: Ending on a high note

May 11, 2022

We’ve had many reasons to celebrate over the last couple of weeks. From the numerous awards announced  within the college to various events to the wrap-up of final projects, papers and exams. And most recently, James Madison hosted spring commencement exercises at the Wharton Center.

Last Saturday’s event saw approximately 200 students walk across the stage, marking the conclusion of their undergraduate studies and the beginning of their professional or post-graduate lives. Our featured speaker Rep. Elissa Slotkin (Mich. 8th District) and our student commencement speaker myrah rafiah beverly (CCP ’22)offered great insight for students and audience members.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin speaking during JMC Commencement
Rep. Elissa Slotkin was the featured speaker for JMC Spring Commencement. 

I especially appreciated Rep. Slotkin’s message to graduates: You must have a code. Find your own and follow it.

Rep. Slotkin spoke at length about times during her career working for the CIA and under two different presidential administrations when she knew she must remain true to her position as it was rooted in the principles important to her, however unpopular it might be. The pressure to adhere to one’s moral code can be challenging, especially as the stakes increase, but it will serve you well.

Listening to myrah speak and watching the way she engages the audience was impressive. She emphasized the importance of self-care and tending to one’s mental health. There are a lot of reasons to feel overwhelmed by everyday stressors, especially these last couple of years. Taking care of oneself and each other must be our priority.

myrah beverly walking to podium to deliver commencement speech
myrah rafiah beverly was the student commencement speaker during the JMC Spring Commencement.


Professor Anna Pegler-Gordon presented the Class of 2022, and her speech was quite remarkable too! Little did I know she could rap about MC201 as though she was part of the cast of the musical Hamilton. So much wisdom and talent within this community!

I also had the pleasure of delivering my first “Charge” to graduating students. The combined takeaway of messages and the outstanding musical arrangements by MSU Jazz Orchestra I conducted by Rodney T. Whitaker, University Distinguished Professor and director jazz studies in the College of Music, offered all who attended an opportunity to reflect and enjoy the close of the academic year on a high note.

To the Class of 2022, congratulations! And to the rest of the student body, faculty and staff, congratulations! We all made it.

graduates smiling and some walking across stage to receive diplomas
JMC graduation candidates smile and some walk across the stage at Wharton Center.

I, along with many, look forward to some much-needed downtime. Next month, I will be joined by several members of our JMC faculty and staff to do more work with the college’s Strategic Plan. Stay tuned and enjoy the sunshine.


Cameron Thies

Dean and MSU Foundation Professor 


Photos by Rod Sanford.