A Community of Caring
Forever changed and vowing to always remember, students gathered on campus at a candlelight memorial service following the tragedies of September 11, 2001 .
While it may be scholarship, leadership and achievement that drive colleges, at JMU a primary motivation is compassion. In the first decade of the Rose administration - a decade ravaged by tragedy – students have shown themselves to be a community caring about the needs and conditions of others.
The tragedy of September 11, 2001, the disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech, have all colored the first decade of the new century.
But it is through tragedy – and through numerous acts of individual and corporate kindness – that JMU has excelled.
In 2005, when Princeton Review named JMU one of the nation's most socially conscious campuses, it was not only a recognition of the university's actions but also an indication of the depth of the JMU community's service.
Hundreds of students participate annually in campus and community activities benefiting others. From the University Recreation Center's annual “Warm a Winter Wish,” which provides toys to needy local children, to students who “adopt” area children through Big Brothers/Big Sisters, JMU students regularly set their studies aside to meet the needs of others.
Student volunteers participate in rebuilding Biloxi , Miss. , following the 2005 Katrina disaster.
Students volunteer to translate for English-as-a-second-language children in public schools, assist in local retirement communities and with special needs citizens, and perform endless acts of kindness individually and collectively. The list of accomplishments by JMU students out of the classroom is as impressive as their accomplishments inside the classroom.
After Hurricane Katrina, a steady stream of students and faculty headed to the Gulf states to aid in rebuilding coastal towns destroyed by the storm. These trips, paid for by the participants, filled up quickly and completely. It is not an understatement to say there is never a shortage of volunteers ready and willing to help at JMU.
Taking the lead in coordinating service efforts, Community Service-Learning is a partnership joining JMU students, faculty, staff and the surrounding communities. By identifying service opportunities, CSL fosters a generation of leaders committed to positive social change.
Following the April 16, 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech, a Centennial Duke Dog statue got a Hokie makeover to memorialize the students and faculty who lost their lives.
The service learning center coordinates not only student and faculty involvement but also alumni action with more than 75 identified community organizations and international agencies. In the fall of 2006, alumni traveled – at their own expense – to the Dominican Republic, one of the poorest nations in the world, to participate in that country's Community Day of Service.
But the efforts of current JMU students are not peculiar to their generation. The attitude of civic service is rooted in the history of the school. During both World Wars students sold war bonds, rolled bandages, held first aid classes and planted Victory gardens to better the community at large. During a measles epidemic in 1911, students substituted in local classrooms for ill teachers.
The mission of today's Community Service-Learning Center – “identifying and coordinating intentional service opportunities to cultivate social responsibility and life-long learning, thereby fostering a generation of leaders committed to positive social change” - sums up not only its own mission, but the mission of the entire university community.
It is, after all, the mission of JMU to make a better world.