James Madison University

Alumni Profiles


Spotlight on Nicole (née Saunders) and Josh Tarr

PHOTO:Nicole and Josh Tarr

Nicole (née Saunders) and Josh Tarr majored in psychology and graduated from JMU in 2005.  Nicole went on to earn a MSW from the University of Georgia and is now the College Accreditation Manager for the Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte.  Josh went on to earn a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership at Vanderbilt, and is now the Human Resource manager at Family Dollar Store, Inc.  The couple, who met while pursuing their Bachelor’s degree at JMU, reflect on their experiences at JMU:

What was your best experience as a psychology major at JMU?
Nicole:  By far, my best experience as a psychology major at JMU was meeting my husband. We met our sophomore year in PSYC210 and were Psychology Peer Advisors together. Other top experiences as a psychology major include being involved in Psychology Peer Advising and having Dr. Evans as a mentor, as well as working directly with faculty learning how to conduct academic research and kick starting my own academic publications.

Josh:  Meeting my wife! Second would be creating the Food Fight and leading it's first two years.  Third was working with Bill Evans and Mark Warner to create the foundation for Leadership Studies academic programs at JMU. 

What would you have done differently?
Nicole: If I could do it over again, I would double major in Business and Psychology. When I was a student, minoring in Business wasn't an option, but looking back, I should have double majored to better set myself up for a career post college.

Josh:  Double-Majored in Business and coupling that with a focus on Leadership Studies and I/O Psychology. I also would have studied abroad. 

What key experiences or courses helped you professionally?
Nicole:  For me, the research and independent studies I participated in really helped me to obtain my graduate assistantship at UGA, which in turn led to the start of my career path. Additionally, Psychology Peer Advising helped teach me the importance of service and encouraged me to develop leadership skills, and my time abroad in Honduras was eye opening and gave me a new perspective.

Josh:  Peer Advising introduced me to the field of leadership and that led me to my Masters in Organizational Leadership at Vanderbilt, which has definitely helped me professionally. Course-wise, Psychology of Adjustment and Group Dynamics were good courses.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself during your sophomore year?
Nicole:  In addition to double majoring in Business, I would advise myself to take advantage of every opportunity. College flies by, but it's a time when you are exposed to different learning opportunities. It's not just the degree that will help you build your career outside of college, it's also about the skills you've gained and the experiences you've engaged in that develop your personal and professional self.

Josh:  I would tell my sophomore-self to say "yes" more - it's cliché but true that college goes by quickly. There's nothing like it and every experience no matter how small at the onset has the possibility to create an amazing memory.