JMU Headlines

President's Welcome Message

New students, construction news, breaking records, leave and engagement

by Jonathan R. Alger

UW Dukessss with Alger


Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

Welcome to another exciting year at James Madison University. As we embark on another year, let us embrace the spirit of possibility – and all that we can accomplish. Watch the Year in Review video and recall highlights from the past year as we drive toward new success and further engagement this year!


Pride in Students, Faculty and Staff

Class of 2020 and New Graduate Students

Class of 2020, we welcome you warmly as you begin your journey at JMU. This new class of first-year students is 4,525 strong from 38 states and 35 different countries. Eighty percent graduated in the top third of their class. Also, we had more in-state applications than any other school in Virginia! I am proud and excited for what this qualified class of students will do and how they will add to our JMU Family.

I am pleased as well to welcome nearly 800 new graduate students this year.  We had a 7.7 percent increase in the number of graduate degrees earned this past year over the previous year. The Graduate School has been engaged in a strategic planning process that is now coming to completion.

Purple Star Award Winners

This August we recognized our faculty and staff winners of the Purple Star Awards. We thank you for your dedication and commitment to this university and our community. The individual winners are listed below:

  • Agency Star – Frankie Lucas, Landscaping Manager, Facilities Management
  • Career Achievement – Rich Harris, Director of Community Service Learningpurple
  • Community Service and Volunteerism – Pete DeSmit, Applications Manager, Information Technology
  • Customer Service – Julie Byers, Benefits Team Leader
  • Innovation – Lon Jarvis, Scientific Computing Specialist
  • Teamwork – Transfer Advising Team: Adam Anderson, Regina Adams, Jennifer Jackson, Kate McDaniel, Shannon Mercer, Laika Tamny
  • Work Place Safety and Health – Seth Arnold, Life Safety Supervisor

Check out the HR website to nominate a deserving member of your team! Check it out here.

Facilities Management

Each year we receive countless compliments from visitors, faculty, students and staff about our beautiful campus. We would like to show our thanks to those who make this campus a special place through our “Facilities Fight Song” video. Thank you to the entire Facilities Management team for keeping us going and being essential members of the JMU Family.

Annual Accomplishments

Our annual summary of accomplishments from the past academic year has been completed. While this report is not a comprehensive list, it does highlight many remarkable achievements of our talented faculty and staff. Check out this impressive list from efforts all over campus here. 

Record-breaking year

Our private giving continues its upward momentum after another record-breaking year. We have raised $18.7 million from 20,859 donors. It is impressive to note that 10 percent of all donors are students, faculty and staff.  I am proud that the Student Alumni Association has grown to over 1,000 members.  This important organization fosters a culture of philanthropy that will benefit all Dukes for years to come. Here are more numbers and a big thank you.

New Senior Leadership Team Member and Engagement Plans

 As you know, our vision is to be the national model for the engaged university, and we’re well on our way. The Engaged University Council completed its work in the spring.  I extend my sincere gratitude to the Council for its efforts in helping us to develop plans and initiatives for the future.

We are now acting upon the Council’s suggestions as we prepare for the new academic year.

Dr. Brian Charette has been named Special Assistant to the President for Strategic Planning and Engagement.  Brian has been involved in helping to lead our strategic planning efforts since 2012, and was a natural choice for this new position, since engagement is at the center of our strategic plan.

CBBecause the work of engagement is the work of each department across campus, it was important that Brian’s position be in a central location organizationally, so he is now reporting directly to the President.

Brian is also leading a new team, the Engagement Advisory Group, to foster, support and coordinate engagement across campus. This group includes teams focused on engaged learning, civic engagement, community engagement, measurement and assessment, and communications and promotions.

We are monitoring our engagement through a database of all of the different ways we participate in engaged learning, community engagement and civic engagement. Check out our progress at  Please let Dr. Charette know if you have any plans or initiatives you’d like to add to our list.

Finally, I am pleased to announce the establishment of the University Engagement Fellows. Through this program, connected with the Service Year Initiative, our three fellows participate in a 10-month program in which they complete a transformational year of public service. Our fellows are Madeleine Ross, with the Institute of Innovation in Health and Human Services; Xavia Gary, with Valley Scholars; and Claudia Salvador with the Department of History and Montpelier Estate. Graduating seniors, keep an eye out for the application to be a JMU University Engagement Fellow later this year!

Being a good neighbor

Community engagement is an essential part of our lives and our purpose at JMU. We apply our knowledge and skills and live out our ideals in part through interacting with, contributing to, and having a positive relationship with the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County community. As you know, the City Council this week extended the noise ordinance to 24 hours and created a permit process for individuals seeking to host a party of more than 100 people. Together, with the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County community, we are taking steps to educate and prepare students on expectations with the new ordinance. JMU police officers, Student Government Association members and personnel from the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices have been going door-to-door with the Harrisonburg Police Department over the past few days to talk about what it means to be a good neighbor. Also, Off-Campus Living will be contacting each student who lives off campus about the new ordinance. Lastly, Fraternity and Sorority Life leaders will also be briefed on these new rules.

 A critical component of community engagement is being a good neighbor. All of us need to make that commitment as part of living as a responsible citizen in a community.

If you are a student and have non-student neighbors, reach out and say hello – get to know them as people. Just as we talk about on our own campus both in and outside the classroom, relationships are key to living in a community. We must show respect in order to receive respect, and I know we are up to the challenge. In all of our interactions with others, we have the opportunity to demonstrate what it means to be Dukes who care about the people and the world around them.

New Facilities and Construction Updates

 We have made great progress with our new facilities and want to show off what we have finished. Check it out!

  • The UREC expansion and renovation is complete.  The new expanded and renovated UREC opened to the public on August 26. Everyone is invited to use the new facilities. Watch the "NewREC" video.
  • The College of Health and Behavioral Studies building is ready for the new academic year, using all of the latest technology to help each student excelHBS
  • Hotel and Conference Center: Site preparation is in progress.
  • Mason Street Parking Deck: Opened August 2016 and adds over 1,000 parking spaces on campus!
  • D-Hub: Open and in full service! Not bad for a tent, right? If you are missing D-Hall you can buy a brick for $100;  proceeds will go toward scholarships. Donate here. 
  • Convocation Center:  Fundraising continues. Many thanks to Mike and Cecilia Battle for their recent gift in support of the Convocation Center and student scholarships.

Official Honors College

I am happy to announce that over the summer the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia approved our Honors Program as an Honors College. Previous director Brad Newcomer is now the dean of the Honors College. After years of promoting our Honors Program, I am looking forward to its success as an Honors College. Read more details here.

Social Media Ranked Nationally

snap chatWe hope you are plugged into our social media platforms! According to a report by the public relations firm Up & Up, JMU’s social media channels ranked #7 in the nation for our overall social media engagement. There is a great deal of competition for your attention in social media.  We know that this ranking is a reflection of your passion for Madison.  Be sure to check out our newest channel – Snapchat

National Topics in Higher Education

I’ve spent a lot of time this summer with other college presidents and leaders from around the country, as we continue to focus on the challenges and opportunities we face in higher education.  I’d like to highlight a few of those issues on which we will continue to work during the coming year.

Sexual Assault

We all know the issue of sexual assault has been the focus of increased national attention for the past several years. It is a serious issue that extends beyond any one campus. Here at JMU we work to improve our policies, procedures and training for faculty, staff and students.  It is not a problem that is going to go away with one easy fix.  It will take our continual commitment to create an environment that is free from discrimination, sexual assault and harassment. All of us can make a difference here, and model how we can treat one another with respect. You’ll hear more about training and educational opportunities in the coming weeks. Let’s all participate in training, in efforts to raise awareness and in providing the resources we need so that all members of our community feel safe and secure. You can find more resources here and here.

Social Justice and Civil Discourse

Campuses across the country are dealing with calls for increased attention to issues of social justice, including issues related to discrimination and unequal opportunities related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. These conversations are taking place in a broader national, political and world context that has become increasingly polarized.  As an institution of higher education named for the Father of the Constitution, there is no higher calling for JMU than to be a beacon of civil discourse on the major issues of our time. True learning is only possible when we put aside insults and overheated rhetoric, and begin listening to one another. That is what higher education is all about.

One initiative in which we are participating is the ALL IN Challenge from to get everyone involved in democracy and to be informed participants in the election. We take our responsibilities seriously to be enlightened and engaged citizens.

Our society needs us to be that beacon of civil discourse during these turbulent times.  Just as we open doors on campus for one another, let’s resolve to open our ears, eyes and hearts so that we can hear and learn from one another.  That is how we can all BE THE CHANGE we want to see in the world!

Access and Inclusion

Speaking of big challenges today, we hear a lot of conversation currently about how the American dream is no longer within reach for many people in our country.

Higher education has long been regarded as an engine of social mobility – but we can only be that engine if we continue to open our doors wide for students and families of all backgrounds.

We are working hard at outreach to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and to provide pathways of opportunity to JMU.

valley scholarsFinancial aid is a key component of these efforts.  There is much more we can do to build bridges and expand access.

The Valley Scholars Program is one such example (we now have 105 students in this program).  This partnership with seven local school districts is an ambitious undertaking, and is already providing hope to families throughout our region. Learn more about this program here.

Compensation and Recognition Leave

I imagine that by now you’ve heard the news from Richmond regarding the significant revenue shortfall for the past year.  The planned compensation adjustments from the state were contingent upon strong projected revenues for the fiscal year, and this week we received notice from the Department of Human Resources Management that the planned raises for state employees for this fall have been canceled.

The governor and legislature are reviewing the state of the budget. The revenue shortfall is report to be just under $1.5 billion of the current two-year $105 billion budget. We expect to hear more about their revised plans for the budget and for salary adjustments as reviews continue.

We will not make decisions regarding compensation until we have clear direction regarding on how the revenue shortfall will impact the overall university budget. 

At JMU, we have made great progress over the past four years regarding compensation – providing a variety of annual raises, bonuses, merit pay and In-Band Adjustments, and tackling compression/inversion issues. 

 As you’ve heard me say before, salaries and support of our hard-working and talented employees remains a top priority.  I pledge to continue to work hard in support of your compensation.

We are in this together, and I am encouraged by the collaborative nature of our partnership with the Faculty Senate and the Compensation Advisory Council on compensation (among many other important topics).  These efforts will be ongoing, regardless of state revenues in any particular year.

When we receive further direction from Richmond, we will refocus our efforts here and inform you of any changes.

In the meantime, we are continuing to look for ways to recognize and reward our people.  For example, each year as President I have the authority to designate Recognition Leave. 

I am pleased to announce that JMU will once again be closed the whole week of Thanksgiving for 2016.  We will also close for winter break at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 20, and reopen on Tuesday, Jan. 3, closing the university for just shy of two full weeks. 

algerI hope this additional leave will make it possible for people to make plans early for the holiday season.

Everyone, welcome to a new academic year! I look forward to hearing about your accomplishments and seeing you at upcoming events this fall. Go Dukes!

Jonathan R. Alger
James Madison University, President

Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2018

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