James Madison University

Spotlight on Caroline Cooke

Posted:  January 3, 2017

Caroline Cooke

Caroline graduated from JMU in 2014 with a B.S. in Psychology. She now lives in New York City and works for Virgin Pulse as a Client Success Manager. Virgin Pulse, which is part of the Virgin Group, is the leading provider of technology solutions that promote employee engagement and wellbeing. Their online platform cultivates daily habits and sustainable behavior change that help people thrive at work and across all aspects of life. 

What was your best experience as a psychology major at JMU?
Being the person behind the JMU Nap Nook [a bean bag nap area in Festival] was pretty cool. The positive feedback from students was always motivating and gratifying. We had such a passionate team working on that project, which allowed us to come up with fun and creative ways to engage students with both the Nap Nook and our “Revive the Sleep Deprived” campaign. These programs focused on shifting the unhealthy student perspectives held towards sleep deprivation and napping. We wanted to make our program fun, educational, and relatable, so we held all sorts of events with things like flash naps, 10-minute nap challenges, harp lullabies at the Nap Nook, and alarm clock shaped piñata bashes. I look back fondly on those experiences, and I'm glad that we were able to connect with students in an attempt to make a difference in their lives. 

What would you have done differently?
I would have declared a minor. When going directly into the workforce after college, there is a huge benefit to having diverse skill sets. Throughout your professional career, it's common to begin focusing on a particular area of expertise; however, when you're first starting out and figuring out your path - the more you know, the better.

What key experiences or courses helped you professionally?
Hands down, my best experience was working in the Sleep & Actigraphy Lab (SAL). It was an incredible opportunity to work with Dr. Jeff Dyche, because he allowed me to pursue my passions and interests to the fullest capacity. The work that we did in the SAL set the foundation for my career and allowed me to gain experiences that were virtually non-existent for someone of my pre-professional level. For instance, I was given the opportunity to frequently collaborate with JMU administrators to incorporate concepts from the “Revive the Sleep Deprived” campaign into existing student programs. I have referred back to these experiences throughout my professional career.  Having the opportunity to collaborate with fellow students and faculty provided me with fantastic real world experience.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself during your sophomore year?
I have three pieces of advice to share:

  1. Get to know the students and professors in your major sooner rather than later. There are incredibly bright people at JMU who share the same interests and passions as you. By collaborating with these people you will set yourself up for success - both academically and professionally.
  2. Care enough to master the concepts. In my earlier years at JMU, I didn't give enough attention to my coursework and not only did that hurt my GPA, I also missed opportunities to thoroughly learn concepts that are helpful to know later on in life. Pay attention in that random business class! You'll be thankful later when you're the Excel wiz in the office.
  3. Bravely pursue your beliefs. People initially laughed at me when I said that I wanted to open a napping center on campus. After the Nap Nook was launched, it received coverage from Time Magazine and other news sources.  The moral of the story is this: you have a unique perspective on the world, and therefore you have unique insights on how to improve it. Be brave enough to pursue, or stand by, what you believe in.