In 1985, in response to a significant increase in the number of ethnic minority students admitted to the University, the Division of Student Affairs and University Planning made a conscious decision to expand the programs and services of the Office of Minority Student Affairs. With the hiring of a full-time Assistant Dean of Students/Director of Minority Affairs, the office began the task of creating opportunities for the involvement of ethnic minority students in all aspects of student life. Additionally, intentional efforts were made to increase the opportunities for academic growth and development of this target population, with particular emphasis on African-American students.
In 1986, the office assumed the responsibility of directing the Virginia Student Transition Program, which launched the beginning of a series of efforts to retain ethnic minority students at JMU and broadened the scope of our university-wide recruitment and retention efforts. This change in direction brought about a significant increase in staff and ultimately strengthened the commitment of the Division of Student Affairs to provide holistic retention activities through graduation for students of color at JMU.
During the 1986-1987 academic year, the office was renamed the Office of Minority Student Life and the scope of the office was expanded. The office increased its programming responsibilities and began to develop collaborative programming activities throughout the university community, working specifically with academic departments, the Division of University Advancement and other major programming units within the Division of Student Affairs. Furthermore, the office increased its involvement with the multicultural student organizations and strengthened existing programs such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, Black History Month and on-campus recruitment activities.
In the spring of 1992, the Office of Minority Student Life acknowledged the expansion of programs, services and staff along with an increase in the number of different ethnic groups and individuals benefitting from its services. As a result, the existing location of the office in Warren 245 was renovated and the department was renamed in the fall of 1993, becoming the Center for Multicultural Student Services (CMSS) and serving as a hub of activity for the promotion of diversity and retention of students of color at JMU.
In 1999, the Center was renamed the Center for Multicultural/International Student Services (CMISS), expanding its focus to include international student development along with its other functional areas - recruitment/retention, cultural programming and awareness, leadership development and student support.
In 2005, the international focus of the Center was moved to the then recently-created Office of International Programs. Thus the Center refocused its efforts and energies on ethnic and cultural programming and education and changed its name once again to the Center for Multicultural Student Services (CMSS).
In 2006-2007, CMSS enhanced its New Officer’s Leadership Program with greater participation throughout the Student Affairs and University Planning divisions. The CMSS Multicultural Attaché Program was created and implemented to provide support to first year students.
The Center also saw an increase in the number of students attending its Student Leadership Conferences and added two new Hispanic Conferences: The U.S. Hispanic Leadership Conference and the Northeast Latino Student Leadership Conference. CMSS also added five new student organizations under its umbrella: Vietnamese Student Association, Chinese Student Association, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Gamma Sigma Sigma Sorority and Multicultural Women for Change. In addition, the Center reestablished its collaboration with Community Service Learning (CS-L) through the annual CMSS Alternative Spring Break trip.
In 2007-2008, through the support of two innovation grants, CMSS hosted its first Fall Motivational Leadership Retreat for its student executive board members and enhanced CMSS Greek life by attending the National Summit on Black Greek Letter Organizations for the first time. The Black and Latino Greek Caucus (BLGC) also hosted its first off-campus retreat.