Alger emphasizes community and family in address to faculty


In his remarks at the Opening Faculty Meeting on Friday, JMU President Jonathan Alger focused on the themes of community and family, and highlighted many of the accomplishments, ongoing projects and goals JMU has identified as important to becoming the national model of the engaged university.

“We all share a great privilege and responsibility in working here at a place that helps people to fulfill their potential and their dreams,” Alger said to the group gathered at the Festival Conference and Student Center.

Alger acknowledged Madison’s 106 new faculty members for the 2014-15 academic year. The president himself will be co-teaching an Honors seminar this fall on leadership with Dr. Brian Charette, associate vice president of university planning and analysis.

At a time when many people are asking about the value proposition of higher education, JMU has a new strategic plan in place that offers some powerful answers, Alger said. “We believe that we transform lives through several forms of engagement,” he said, including engaged learning, community engagement and, in honoring the legacy of James Madison, the father of the Constitution, civic engagement.

To help realize these goals, JMU is a national leader in assessing student learning outcomes. This goes beyond measuring employment and salary outcomes for graduates, Alger said. “We try to measure what students actually learn, and how they grow and change, and we are also committed to trying to measure the long-term impact on helping students lead meaningful and productive lives.”

Alger also highlighted The Madison Collaborative: Ethical Reasoning in Action, JMU’s bold new initiative to provide all students with a framework for ethical decision-making throughout their lives. Dr. William Hawk, professor of philosophy and religion and a co-director of the collaborative, said it is unique within higher education. “We are a part of something very powerful that could possibly change our students’ lives — and ours as well,” Hawk said.

Another important theme for the coming year is how JMU values and gains strength from its diversity. “We have a strong commitment to access and inclusion for individuals of all backgrounds,” Alger said. “Diversity has educational benefits for all of us.”

To that end, Madison will launch a pilot program this fall known as Valley Scholars. JMU is working with school districts throughout the Shenandoah Valley to identify middle-school students with academic potential who come from first-generation and socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. The university will work with these students, their families and support networks to help prepare them for college, and promise full tuition to those students who are admitted to JMU.

On the topics of campus safety and sexual assault, Alger emphasized that JMU takes these issues very seriously. “As a father, a university president and a lawyer with a civil rights background, I understand and care deeply about these issues. Student safety is a top priority for all of us. Sexual assault has no place in our community, and we will not tolerate it.” He also cautioned that facts and circumstances matter and that as Americans, we must respect the rule of law.

JMU remains committed to improving compensation for all of its employees, Alger said. However, the uncertainty surrounding the state budget is making the planning process difficult. “Until we know more from the state, it will be difficult for us to be specific about what we will be able to afford,” he said.

Meanwhile, JMU is working hard to prepare for a second comprehensive campaign, having recently forged a renewed partnership with the JMU Foundation with a focus on growing the endowment beyond $100 million. “Relationships are at the heart of the Madison experience,” Alger said, noting the launch of a special campaign aimed at inviting alumni and others to make a gift in honor of a professor, mentor, friend, parent or someone who made a difference to them at Madison.  Thus far, 451 gifts have been made.

Also at Friday's Opening Faculty Meeting:

• Dr. David Slykhuis, associate professor of middle, secondary and mathematics education, was presented with the Faculty Emeriti Legacy Grant.

• Cannie Campbell and Dietrich Maune reported that a record 41 percent of JMU faculty and staff made a gift to JMU last year through the Employee Giving Campaign. Additionally, 2,146 students, or about 11 percent of the overall student population in 2013-14, gave to the university.


Aug. 22, 2014

Published: Friday, August 22, 2014

Last Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2016

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