Student Life

JMU: Dissecting America’s Kindest Campus


It’s no secret that people love JMU. Whether it’s the stunning campus, engaging classes and

professors, or the scenic views of the Shenandoah mountains, there’s plenty to appreciate

about this education institution. But one aspect of campus life that keeps people coming back

time and time again is the inexplicable kindness of the student body.


Any JMU student, past or present, will tell you this campus has some of the friendliest people

they’ve ever met. After all, the school is located in the heart of the Friendly

City. The campus wide attitude, this continuous good mood, is reflected by everyone’s

constant willingness to help their fellow Dukes. Everyone seems to share the same level of

enthusiasm about simply being here. 


“It’s like we’re all part of this kindness hivemind,” said Sean Benson, a senior Hospitality

Management major.


Even before committing to JMU, Sean noticed there was something special about the campus:

“Every time I went visit, it was warmer out and people would be out on the Quad…and the

whole campus just kind of felt alive.”


Perhaps the lively atmosphere is the source of the student body’s kindness. That kind of excited

energy is easy to get swept up in. 


“Lots of the events JMU puts on are fun and always encourage bonding,” said Rey Wintersgill, a

senior Communications Studies major. For her, events such as FROG Week or Summer

Springboard help to instill a sense of community in new students that they carry with them

throughout their time at JMU. The kindness is almost infectious.


This sentiment is shared by another student, Drew Lewis, a senior Psychology major. JMU was

not Drew’s first choice, and he was hesitant to call the campus home when he first arrived. But

he kept an open mind due to all the positive feedback he’d been given.


“Everyone who recommended this place to me was over the top excited about it,” he said,

“because they had such a good time.”


The general consensus is that JMU makes it easy to find your niche.  Whether it’s through any

one of the 300+ student organizations, or people met through classes, there’s a group on

campus for everyone. This campus seems to have an innate ability to bring people together.


“Practically anyone and everyone is welcome here,” said Drew.


From the way people talk about JMU, one gets the sense that kindness is simply just a part of

the culture of this school. Students and alumni alike will remark how easy it is to find smiling

faces on the Quad or to be given an unexpected compliment in the hallways or on the bus. 



“I think Dukes Opening Doors is where it initiated,” said Jessica Herring, executive secretary of

University Unions and JMU alum. This well-known campus tradition in and of itself is a small act

of kindness and is actively shared and passed along to students the moment they set foot on

campus. Perhaps it is the little moments like this that contribute to our campus’ friendly



Jessica has experienced first-hand the overwhelming kindness of the JMU community as both a

student and a staff member. To this day, she continues to pay it forward. 


“I always make a point to smile and say ‘hey,’ or ‘hey how are you,’ on-campus,” she said.


Paying it forward seems to be the most important aspect of carrying on kind traditions, and

JMU seems to be the ultimate case study. It’s funny to think that the simple act of holding a

door or saying a few friendly words to a stranger can morph into a self-preserving kindness

culture. And in a year as hectic as this one, it’s important to remember that there is always a

silver lining.


This year, the Madison Society is celebrating JMU Kindness Week from March 1 st  to March 5 th  to

help keep the friendly traditions of the JMU community alive and spread a little extra positivity.

All week there will be different activities, giveaways, and random acts of kinds happening on

campus and online. Make sure you’re following the Madison Society Facebook page to get all

the details! And be sure to participate in the daily Kindness Prompts! Anyone who comments

and shares is eligible to win a prize. Stay positive Dukes!

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Published: Monday, March 1, 2021

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 2, 2021

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