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Institute Takes the Classroom to the Community

From: Office of Public Affairs

The IIHHS cultivates a blend of courses, workshops, clinics and community outreach programs to offer

So what is JMU's Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services exactly? Here's what people in the community say. "Absolutely amazing." "A hidden treasure." "The crown jewels of JMU." Responses like these offer an intriguing incentive to find out more about the activities of this largely unknown piece of the JMU fabric.

Strictly defined, IIHHS, under the College of Integrated Science and Technology, is a loose alliance of organizations and programs offering community-based research opportunities and student learning experiences for a wide variety of disciplines that include nursing, health services, psychology, education, languages, marketing, communication and more.

Established in 2003, IIHHS is the legacy of the late, beloved JMU Director of Nursing and CISAT Associate Dean, Vida Huber, who worked tirelessly to get it off the ground. Thanks to Huber's efforts and a supportive administration, IIHHS figured prominently in JMU's selection as one of The Princeton Review's Colleges with a Conscience in 2005.

The institute now successfully blends academics with innovative community service, allowing students to apply classroom learning while they assist with projects that address the unmet health and human service needs of the surrounding community. These are learning opportunities where the rubber meets the road.

Take Muso Chukwu ('08), for example, a health sciences major whose IIHHS graduate internship includes several programs. She's planning a career in international public health and is excited about the variety of hands-on experiences she's receiving. Chukwu's assignments include fieldwork, administrative work and special projects with administrators and programs directors for the Gus Bus, Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative, and the Office on Children and Youth. "I'm going to walk out of here with a better understanding of so many aspects of public health," she says.

IIHHS is not simply another human services agency.

The institute houses 27 richly diverse programs and partnerships such as Valley Program for Aging Services and the Shenandoah Valley Child Development Center, which celebrates its 30th anniversary at JMU this year. The institute's programs and partner organizations actively involve students in learning experiences that meet academic objectives and allow faculty collaborators to discover opportunities for applied practice, research and interprofessional teaching. In 2007-08, 728 students worked 14,527 hours to help hundreds of families and thousands of clients.