James Madison University’s mission states: “We are a community committed to preparing students to be educated and enlightened citizens who lead productive and meaningful lives.” Strategically, all of the university’s goals, objectives, action steps, and assessment processes are connected back to that mission, where citizenship is intentionally and consistently partnered with living a life of meaning and purpose. In 2014 a bold, new vision statement in support of the mission was developed: “To be the national model for the engaged university: engaged with ideas and the world.” If the mission statement codified JMU’s historic commitment to civic engagement, then the new vision statement expanded it. Clearly, JMU is all-in when it comes to engagement.
On April 5, 2016, President Jonathan R. Alger signed Campus Compact’s 30th Anniversary statement affirming our support for the five civic action commitments. JMU has made a unique pledge to advance the public purpose of colleges and universities by promoting three areas of engagement:
- Engaged learning;
- Civic engagement; and
- Community engagement.
These three areas of engagement all embrace goals and outcomes that emphasize the value of experiential learning, guided reflection, and collaboration. In addition, these engagement areas meaningfully intersect to create experiences that allow for emergent learning. JMU will pursue the five civic action commitments through these three overlapping areas of engagement and the following represents an example of how JMU’s engagement goals could map to the five commitments:
1. We empower our students, faculty, staff, and community partners to co-create mutually respectful partnerships in pursuit of a just, equitable, and sustainable future for communities beyond the campus—nearby and around the world.
- Student participation continues to grow in Alternative Break programming and Service-Learning courses with the goal of an overall increase of 40% by academic year 2019-2020. Over 600 JMU students annually commit to immerse themselves in serving a community during spring break, winter break, summer break, and over a weekend in the fall or spring. In addition, over 1400 students enroll in Service-Learning courses annually.
- Increase the percentage of undergraduates who study abroad to 33% (from 28% in 2015-16).
- Develop new community partnerships that more thoroughly integrate partner goals into efforts to achieve curricular learning outcomes.
2. We prepare our students for lives of engaged citizenship, with the motivation and capacity to deliberate, act, and lead in pursuit of the public good.
- A new James Madison Center for Civic Engagement will open in July 2017 with the selection of a new executive director following a national search.
- “I am Madison’s Legacy” framework, a set of seven affirmative statements designed to serve as measurable civic competencies, will be widely disseminated.
- In Fall 2017, the School of Communication and Media Studies will offer to 200 Honors students a unique General Education course centered on a Madisonian kind of deliberative dialogue.
- Pre-post student scores on the assessment of major themes and political concepts that structure American civic life will continue to be measured using the General Education program’s American Experience instrument.
3. We embrace our responsibilities as place based institutions, contributing to the health and strength of our communities—economically, socially, environmentally, educationally, and politically.
- Grow current efforts that unite campus and community in the pursuit, creation, application and dissemination of shared knowledge and resources (like the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services and Office for Stewardship of the Natural World)
- Expand economic contributions like Shenandoah Valley Partnership (including participation in the new GO Virginia initiative in combination with the private sector) and Small Business Development Center
- Support educational outreach programs like Value Scholars, the Lifelong Learning Institute, the Adult Degree Program, and the Forbes Performing Arts Center to area residents
4. We harness the capacity of our institutions—through research, teaching, partnerships, and institutional practice—to challenge the prevailing social and economic inequalities that threaten our democratic future.
- Continue our Life in the State of Poverty simulation, now in its 20th year.
- Expand our number of mutually beneficial and reciprocal partnerships, ranging from local to global, that connect learning to practice, address critical societal problems and improve quality of life.
5. We foster an environment that consistently affirms the centrality of the public purposes of higher education by setting high expectations for members of the campus community to contribute to their achievement.
- By 2020, all JMU undergraduates, at the time of graduation, will have completed one or more engagement-related practices such as the Association of American Colleges and Universities “high impact” practices:
- Capstone Project
- Collaborative Assignments/Projects
- Common Intellectual Experience
- Diversity/Global Learning
- Learning Communities
- Undergraduate Research
- Writing-Intensive Courses
- Enhance the newly-established Honors College
- Expand the Centennial Scholars and Valley Scholars programs, which expand the culture of diversity on campus