College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Alumni James Graves ‘02 and Jennifer Lesesne ’04 and ’05, both former CSM employees, are practicing believers of lifelong learning. The Mechanicsville couple met while at CSM but found themselves on different paths for many years until, they say, the “universe” had other plans. Now married, and with Jennifer continuing to serve CSM as an adjunct professor, the two have established a scholarship to assist CSM students who are pursuing a career in Business and Information Systems.
“Life has a way of throwing curveballs,” said Graves.“This scholarship is for students in the business and IT field who need a second chance, financial support, motivation to keep going, but most important, determination to succeed.”
Graves and Lesesne said they understand the struggle of being single parents, divorcees, and working full-time, running a business – while pursuing an education.
“We get it,” said Graves. “JLG Dream Investments scholarship is here to help students pursue their educational dream so their degree, certificate, or license can help propel them where they want to be in the future.”
Graves’ career has always been focused around technology and IT, spending 20 years working in various ways to support the CSM IT infrastructure. He began as a student assistant working at the CSM Help Desk and later transitioned to support the college’s systems and network administration.
Graves said he also discovered a true passion for cybersecurity where the focus was on ethical hacking and digital forensics. As an employee, he said that CSM provided an opportunity for him to also develop and instruct courses with a concentration on cybersecurity and networking technologies. Once in the classroom and building educational resources, Graves said he realized he possessed a strong passion for instruction and giving back to his community. Currently, he works for the Navy Department of Defense and as an adjunct faculty member at University of Maryland Global Campus.
“I learn as much from my students and peers,” Graves shared. “The ecosystem is supportive and very rewarding.”
Lesesne, a native Washingtonian, spent many of her years living in various areas of Maryland.Her resume now includes three associate degrees, a bachelor’s of science, two certificates (Management Foundation and Human Resource Management), an M.B.A, a licensed real estate agent and an assortment of certifications and designations in the real estate industry.
Lesesne’s affiliation with CSM spans nearly 20 years and she continues to serve the college community as an adjunct faculty member. While working at the college, she also became the owner of Jenil Event Planning LLC before transitioning into a real estate career.
“I take pride in assisting my clients with their real estate goals, building my real estate investment portfolio and growing my property management business with my business partner,” Lesesne said. “I value the opportunity to encourage students to keep pressing forward, regardless of their current circumstances and I believe this scholarship will enhance students’ chances to open new doors in their lives.”
Married in 2014, James and Jennifer blended their families to include their 10-year-old daughter Ava; 19-year-old daughter and CSM alum Bianca ’20; and 25-year-old son and CSM alum James ’18 – plus two very spoiled dogs, Chaos and Rambo.
“We are very excited about establishing this scholarship,” said Lesesne. “Our goal is to eventually turn this scholarship into an endowment.”
The JLG Dream Investments Scholarship will support students pursuing a degree, certificate, letter of recognition or workforce training within the Business and Information Systems Guided Pathway at CSM. To be eligible for JLG Dream Investments Scholarship, students must: possess a high school diploma or its equivalent; possess and maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA; and be pursuing a degree, certificate, letter of recognition, or workforce training within the Business and Information Systems Guided Pathway program at CSM.
For information on how to apply to the JLG Dream Investments Scholarship or to donate to the scholarship, please visit csmd.edu/foundation/give.