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JMU defines community engagement as fostering mutually beneficial and reciprocal partnerships, ranging from local to global, that connect learning to practice, address critical societal problems and improve quality of life.

From JMU’s perspective a partnership is a relationship with an external party with which JMU has common interest and concerns, where both parties are working toward identified needs and outcomes. These partnerships may include relationships with individuals, organizations, coalitions, associations and/or communities.

It is our belief that partnerships will fall on a continuum that may be informal or formal and will reflect multiple modes of engagement that may evolve over time as partnerships grow and change. Click here to open the continuum.

You may often see community engagement and civic engagement understood as one in the same. And, while there is a connection of course, we make a distinction at JMU. We understand community engagement as fostering beneficial and reciprocal partnerships, from local to global. So, for instance, when a faculty member includes a course requirement that students mentor in the local schools, we understand that as community engagement. Civic engagement, on the other hand, gets at our connection to James Madison and our passion for advancing his legacy. That means our students learn through the practice of citizenship - invested in the affairs of government.

The Engagement Advisory Group is a key coordinating team for engagement at JMU. The leaders for community engagement on the group are Carol Fleming, Assistant Dean for Outreach and Engagement and Dr. Steve Grande, Director of Community Service-Learning.

Share your Community Engagement Activities

Service-learning courses can positively impact post-graduate salaries

Service-learning is already known to have a positive impact in the classroom but a University of Georgia study shows it can help grow graduates' bank accounts as well. Read the article here.

Community Engagement at JMU
A few examples
  • In Spring 2018, freshmen engineering students and sophomore music education students participated in an interdisciplinary project to imagine, design and adapt musical instruments for seven students at Stone Spring Elementary School in Harrisonburg with varying physical and cognitive disabilities. In February 2018, the elementary-school students visited JMU for STEAM—STEM plus the arts—Day, spending time with the music education students and playing different instruments. During subsequent visits to Stone Spring, the music education students observed their clients, assessing their interests, goals, needs and abilities.
  • JMU provides engaging K-12 youth outreach programs and camps through various departments. UREC offers Camp UREC and UREC Adventure Camps. Outreach and Engagement offers the Arboretum Explorer Camp, Robotics Camp and Space Explorers Camp, among others. UREC also offers Kids' Night Out, which is an opportunity for children ages 5-12 come to UREC to play, climb, swim and interact with other children and enjoy a pizza party.
  • With Purple Goes to Page, JMU students from a variety of majors and disciplines have unique opportunities to gain insight into services and possible careers in a rural community. Students are partnered with at-risk elementary students as a caring mentor seeking to improve school attendance, classroom behavior and performance, social skills, and relationship building. Some students also make home visits with staff to better understand the challenges and environments in which children live.
  • The Muhlenberg Brass Festival is an annual classical music festival at Muhlenberg Lutheran Church in Harrisonburg. This free event is open to the community. The first annual festival (2018) marked the debut performance of The Virginia Brass Consort (VBC). The VBC is an ensemble comprised of music professors from JMU and Bridgewater College. It was formed for two reasons. First, to provide professional-level classical, brass music for free to the Harrisonburg/Rockingham community and public schools through outreach concerts. Second, to provide a means for music faculty to collaborate across disciplines and universities in the greater Rockingham county community. Future concerts hope to incorporate theater, dance and poetry in intradisciplinary collaboration in the arts.
  • JMU’s Counseling Center partners with local colleges and universities (e.g. Blue Ridge Community College, Bridgewater College and Eastern Mennonite University) to offer Walk for Hope. This free community event encourages students, faculty, staff and community members to come out to raise awareness about depression and suicide. The day includes a 1-2 mile walk, a speaker discussing mental health topics, creative arts activities, mental health resources and food. The event demonstrates the power of hope and exemplifies the amount of support available when the community comes together.
  • The Big Event is a university-wide day of community service locally in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Through service-oriented activities, The Big Event promotes campus and community unity as students come together for one day to express their gratitude for the support from the surrounding community.
  • JMU Geographic Science professor Amy Goodall and her students form gardening partnerships with local Harrisonburg elementary schools. Goodall’s students work with the elementary students, introducing them to gardening and teaching them about healthy eating, plants, soils, insects and all that goes into caring for a garden. The JMU students also do work and research in the gardens for their capstone projects in biogeography. They create information sets for the elementary teachers about the garden.
  • Alternative breaks challenge students to critically think and react to problems faced by members of the communities they are involved with. Being immersed in diverse environments enables participants to experience, discuss and understand social issues in a significant way. At JMU, we acknowledge and celebrate the overlap between specific areas of engagement. Alternative breaks are an example of both engaged learning and community engagement.
  • The JMU-RMH Collaborative was launched in 2007 to provide a framework to foster innovation between Rockingham Memorial Hospital and JMU to facilitate ideas for collaborative projects.

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