RecRe Roundtable: Mary Ann Alger of James Madison University

· by Griffin Harrington

As proud JMU alumni, Page and I have been thrilled to be able to lean on the JMU community throughout the growth of RecRe. JMU students were our first users, JMU alumni were our first investors and we have found great advisors over the last few years in JMU’s leadership. One of those important leaders is Mary Ann Alger. I met Mary Ann in her first semester on campus as the “First Lady” of JMU, married to our President, Jon Alger. Even though we met briefly, Mary Ann and Jon both remembered me by name throughout my time on campus, and even kept in touch as an Alumni.

As RecRe began to take off and expand to campuses around the country, we have sought investment from our networks, and Mary Ann has often been present in presentations and conversations where we have been leaning into the JMU investment community. She comes with decades of venture capitalist experience and a wealth of higher education knowledge. After our last conversation, we asked Mary Ann to take a moment to be our first guest in a new series called “RecRe Roundtable,” where influential figures will share thoughts on their perspective on trends in higher ed. More of these to come…

Thank you again Mary Ann!

Mary Ann Alger - James Madison University

“My name is Mary Ann Alger.  With a background in venture investing and early stage business consulting, I have served as an advisor to the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship at James Madison University for over 10 years.  That’s where I became acquainted with RecRe.  But going further back, I have known Co-Founder Griffin Harrington since he was a student at JMU.  

I am married to the president of JMU and am heavily involved in higher education issues around the country.  I literally live and breathe higher education, have visited many college campuses, and I love college students.  What’s more, I have fully experienced parenting a college student.

Student affairs and facilities professionals are constantly considering ways to enhance on-campus residence life.  Thus we see a plethora of amenities that help to make the transition from the student’s decent-size bedroom back home to a small, shared, dormitory room and shared bathroom.  In addition, student safety is top of mind for higher education professionals, who are continually creating safe, on-campus activities and opportunities for fun and friendship.

Some examples of amenities I have seen include movie nights; sophisticated recreation centers; “dog petting days” right before exams; game rooms full of pool and ping pong tables; technology-equipped clothes washers and dryers that notify a student when the load is complete; safe rides home late at night; and enticing smorgasbords of food encompassing all tastes, styles, and dietary preferences.

I believe on-campus amenities will continue to increase and shift based on whatever mix of offerings catches the attention of decision makers and on their views of what appeals to students.  Sometimes whatever fire they recently put out is the next problem they want to solve on a macro level.  

From the student point of view, students expect offerings that make their lives easier and more fun.  We will see new technologies/apps that help students operate efficiently and safely.  I regularly encounter student-led startups that focus in these areas – in fact, many entrepreneurs in the higher-ed space have themselves experienced some kind of hassle that they seek to alleviate.

RecRe’s product is attractive for several reasons:  

1) Items ranging from board games to vacuum cleaners are in a central location, thereby reducing the number of items that need to be purchased and stored in tight dorm rooms.  As colleges and universities step up their commitments to the success of lower income and first generation students, having some centrally located items is a way to assist that cohort of students.

2) The process of checking out the offerings can be fun.  College students love using simple technology throughout the day.

3) The array of available items provides opportunities for students to engage with each other in face-to-face activities.  Sadly, this point deals with a significant concern in higher education – how to help students build in-person relationships and spend less time online and in isolation.

As a result, the RecRe product captures the attention of both parents and students.

In my estimation, RecRe has a significant market opportunity.  I believe there are many schools that will order multiple units.  It will be interesting to see what types of items show up inside.”

– Mary Ann Alger, First Lady at James Madison University

Interested in participating in our RecRe Rountable series? Email