Today, we carry electronic devices that connect us to the Internet and to the office from anywhere. We expect to be paged -- needed -- at any time to deal with a new set of variables and circumstances, which may be dramatically different than they were yesterday or just an hour ago.

Our culture is comparable only to the Renaissance in terms of the transformations that we are experiencing. We are seeing a major shift in the way society organizes itself and a dramatic increase in the speed at which it operates. The nature of work is changing, ideas regarding commerce are changing, the transactions of everyday life are changing. And so are the expectations upon all of us; we are expected to respond and adapt immediately.

The job of a premier university is to anticipate society's demands and synthesize them into the education that it delivers to its students. The mission of James Madison University today is to prepare our graduates to lead productive and meaningful lives in this new "24/7" world, a world in which everything happens "now."

To do this successfully requires that we offer an education that reaches beyond the traditional classroom to equip graduates with the strength of character and self-confidence to know that they can be agents of positive change in a world that whirls all around them.

For decades at JMU we have known -- and shown -- that providing experiential learning opportunities helps students develop a sense of self that will serve them throughout life. It is these experiences that enable an undergraduate to begin, in the words of Diogenes, to "know thyself." At JMU, opportunities for students to acquire that sense of self occur around the clock, perfectly suited to our "24/7" world.

These opportunities even reach into our residence halls, where resident advisers present formal programs on community involvement, academic achievement, personal growth, healthy study skills, attitude and behavior. Residence hall programs have a strong focus on academics and draw heavily on professors, some of whom act as "faculty friends" to students in residence halls throughout the year.

In a new residence life program this year, 36 freshmen residing in a wing of Chesapeake Hall are living and studying together in a self-governing community. The Bradfield Learning Community students participate in leadership and service-learning programs and enroll in the same general-education course, "Individual and Community Perspectives." Students have weekly "reflection sessions" to talk about what's going on in class, in the residence hall and elsewhere on campus.

It was Dr. Cecil Bradfield, the retired sociology professor for whom the program is named, who put into practice at JMU the theory that reflection cements hands-on experiences, hones leadership skills, makes classroom lessons more vital and personally relevant, and helps shape a graduate who can lead a productive life and make meaningful contributions.

The Quad's Ashby Hall now functions as an international living center, an intensely focused microcosm of diversity that students will encounter after they graduate. JMU students from around the globe join American JMU students in Ashby and participate in the newly formed Madison International Program. Each international student rooms with an American student -- an arrangement designed to foster an understanding of each other's cultures and an understanding of themselves. All of the students in the program -- more than 60 of them -- participate in a series of events that include lectures, speakers and international dinners.

The heart of learning at James Madison University is -- and always will be -- a classroom led by a dedicated and skilled faculty member. But a JMU education is distinguished by much more. Around the clock and in all corners of campus, JMU offers an expanded potential for learning. Through these experiences, our undergraduates have the opportunity to become successful, engaged citizens who can thrive meaningfully in today's constantly transforming world.

Linwood H. Rose

Publisher: Montpelier Magazine For Information Contact: What's In a Name?