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 Montpelier Magazine

 

Greetings from the President

A university does not become, or remain, distinguished by happenstance. America's truly outstanding institutions of higher learning achieve their success by meticulous attention to detail, by carefully setting lofty standards of excellence and striving relentlessly to achieve those goals.

James Madison University has undergone an extensive procedure of formally identifying those qualities that characterize our university - both as it currently exists and as it will ideally exist in 2008 at the university's 100th anniversary.

For many years, it has been clear that JMU's overall objective is to become the finest predominantly undergraduate university in the nation. Although we are close to that goal - and, perhaps, have already accomplished it - the university has never categorized the characteristics that are vital to our continued success.

Shortly after being named president of JMU, I appointed the Centennial Commission to define the ideal JMU of 2008. Commission recommendations were reviewed by the entire university community. The Board of Visitors and administration then consolidated the recommendations into 29 characteristics that define how JMU can be the finest institution of its type in America.

The guiding force behind the characteristics is JMU's mission statement: "We are committed to preparing students to be enlightened and educated citizens who will lead productive and meaningful lives."

The 29 characteristics support that mission statement and establish a road map for the present and future. By making these characteristics a full reality, JMU will become the archetype for a new American university - one that meshes the best qualities of small liberal arts colleges with those of large research universities.

Drawing on liberal arts colleges, JMU will provide a student-centered atmosphere, superlative teaching, high levels of service and support, and a liberal education - along with character development for students and a spirit of civic responsibility. At the same time, the university will feature the best qualities of large doctoral universities: a wide breadth of programs, a world-class faculty, modern facilities and academic programs of national distinction.

Many universities can satisfy one set of characteristics. By embracing both sets, JMU will become the institution of choice for prospective professors and students.

The 29 characteristics cover the full range of JMU's academic and support programs. Befittingly for a high-quality university, most of the characteristics - more than two-thirds - deal primarily with academics. I urge you to look on JMU's Web site at all 29 characteristics <http://www.jmu.edu/ie/JMUmission.htm>.

The characteristics are not prioritized or listed in any particular order. Perhaps the most important is No. 22, which restates JMU's ultimate commitment - a pledge to focus on the student in all that we do.

Another important characteristic calls for JMU to continue its primary role in serving the region but to enhance the institution's national reputation. We have made major steps toward that goal this year by bringing to campus several nationally known speakers. We have also re-ceived national attention for our service programs, like Alternative Spring Break, and for JMU's ranking 21st nationally in the number of alumni in the Peace Corps. Also receiving national attention are a number of programs, like information security, communication sciences and disorders and the doctoral program in assessment and measurement.

The importance of diversity is clearly set forth in a characteristic calling for JMU to enhance the diversity of its faculty, staff and student body. Our graduates will work and live in diverse settings. Diversity enriches the educational experience and promotes growth.

The heart of any great institution of higher learning is its academic program. We are pledged to providing new and innovative academic programs; developing a limited, but distinguished, core of graduate programs; enhancing private support for academics; and using JMU's notable assessment program to provide guidelines for improving our existing efforts.

JMU is aggressively moving into the 21st century and aspiring to provide a new level of excellence when we celebrate our institution's 100th anniversary in seven years. Please join us with your support for planning these improvements and helping to make them a reality.

Linwood H. Rose, President