Media specialist Jenna Polk (’14) was voted as JMU’s best staffer due to her lasting impact on her student employees and the educational environment at JMU. With six student employees working under Polk to add insight and complete projects, each coming from the School of Media Arts and Design, she attributes the recognition of best staffer to these students and calls them her motivation to help create media for others.
Professors and instructors often use instructional and educational videos, PowerPoints and other media in their classroom, and Polk leads the design of these media projects. According to Educational Technology Instructor within the JMU libraries, Ivan Guadarrama, Polk has impacted each area of expertise throughout the university.
“She contributes so much to the university, but nobody really gets to see that,” Guadarrama said. “She’s worked with almost every single college at the university, and she’s helped them produce educational videos from two minutes all the way to hour sessions. The majority of the education videos coming out the university, she’s had a connection to it in some way. She’s just an unsung hero.”
In addition to completing work through the different sectors of education at JMU, Polk assigns her student employees a weekly or twice-weekly project that’s related to the other work they’re completing at the time. According to Mina Johnson, a junior SMAD major, Polk pushes them to think outside of the box and be creative to improve their skills.
“Jenna is very personable. As a boss, she knows when it’s time to get things done, but I can also laugh with her,” Johnson said. “She’s just a great person to know and really funny in her own way. She talks to us, communicates with us, asks us what we think about projects or how we think it can be improved. She allows us to put our creative thought into each project, which is really nice. Jenna definitely has challenged me to expand on the skills that I had previously.”
Polk works in the Innovation Services department of JMU Libraries, similar to the work she accomplished during her college career at JMU. From 2013-14, she was a student employee in the now-renamed Center for Instructional Technology, sparking her interest for helping faculty and staff throughout JMU. Shortly after graduating, Polk knew she wanted to stay at the university.
“I jumped on it (working at JMU) because I knew I loved the atmosphere, I loved the school, I loved everything that the libraries stood for and how they helped everyone,” Polk said. “I just knew I would be happy here. JMU is just awesome. No matter what tough time JMU may bring, the atmosphere and students draw you in because they are inviting and want to show the best of JMU no matter what.”
Polk and her team have worked on many projects over the years, such as the “You are Welcome Here” video for JMU Libraries and the “I Love JMU Libraries” promotion video. She has also worked with Health Services, Nursing, Foreign Language, Writing Rhetoric and Technical Communication and Diversity Training to create informative media.
“I work with a lot of faculty and staff all across JMU,” Polk said. “It’s just amazing because I don’t know anything they’re talking about or teaching but I can bring my expertise and help enhance their course. Being able to work with a lot of differents projects and with a bunch of different people and collaborating with them is just really awesome.”
CORRECTION (March 12, 2:00 p.m.): A previous version of this article stated Mina Johnson's name was Mina Elizabeth and that she was a senior. Elizabeth is Johnson's middle name and she is a junior at JMU. The error was due to miscommunication between the writer and Johnson.
Contact Bridget Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.