General Education: The Human Community is the core academic program of James Madison University. It is required of all students regardless of their major or professional program. JMU’s general education program seeks to educate students in ways that have been fundamental to higher education and to thinking people for centuries. The philosophy of the program promotes the cultivation of habits of the mind and heart that are essential to informed citizens in a democracy and global community. The program is committed to helping students develop their ability to reason and make ethical choices; to appreciate beauty and understand the natural and social worlds they live in; and to recognize the importance of the past and work toward a better future.
By providing a strong foundation of knowledge, skills and experiences expected of all educated people, The Human Community prepares students to become flexible thinkers and life-long learners. This core of knowledge, skills and experiences transcends every major and professional program and is essential for successful and rewarding careers and lives. The program encourages students to become active in their own education and deliberate in making good choices for themselves and in connection with others.
In a rapidly changing world, it is increasingly important that students learn how to create knowledge out of the vast amounts of available information and place that knowledge in its appropriate contexts. The role of general education is to introduce these concepts, so students understand that knowledge seldom develops in isolation, but rather within larger interactive, often competing contexts.
As students study intensively in their chosen field, they also take The Human Community courses in which they can come to understand how distinct disciplines look at the world from different vantage points, using different methodologies, different tools and different kinds of answers, reasons or evidence. Thus, the General Education Program and the major or professional program complement and complete each other; together they are integral and essential components of a student’s full and proper education.
The mission of The Human Community is four-fold.
The Human Community provides fundamental knowledge and skills across the breadth of traditional disciplines so that students learn how to do the following:
In each of these five clusters, students choose and complete a multidisciplinary grouping of courses. These courses together challenge students to make connections among disciplines while satisfying all of the learning objectives of each cluster. Every grouping of courses forms a coherent and integrated body of knowledge, and students must be consistent in completing the course work of each cluster.
Because Cluster One provides the necessary college-level skills of critical thinking, information literacy, writing and speech, all students must meet Cluster One requirements during their first year. It is strongly recommended that all students complete Cluster Three: The Natural World by the end of their second year. If students need to defer completion of the Cluster One course work, they may request a deferral from the Dean of General Education.
General Education Requirements
Students acquire knowledge of past and present achievements of our own and other cultures in the arts, letters and sciences; of the impact of people, institutions and communities involved in the creation, preservation and transmission of culture and of the distinctions and interconnections among disciplines. This includes knowledge of the following:
Students learn the skills of perception, research and investigation; the critical analyses needed to cope with problems and find solutions and the written, oral and electronic communication skills requisite to shaping ideas and transmitting them persuasively. These skills include the following abilities:
Students will actively engage in reflection about aesthetic and ethical concerns and the diversity of human values through experiences that transcend the limits of specialization. This is evident when students: