September Board of Visitors Update

Family Weekend, election events, recognition and more

by Jonathan R. Alger


Hello Faculty, Staff and Students,

I hope you are reaching your stride as the semester is well underway! Family Weekend has arrived and we are delighted many are here to experience our close-knit community and see first-hand the magic of Madison.  In this message, I want to celebrate our accomplishments and programs that are paving the way for us to become the national model for the engaged university.

National recognitions

I am always amazed by the number and diversity of awards and recognition received by our university, faculty, staff and students, and the good we do in the world.  

  • We recently participated in the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education study from Harvard University. Our 68 percent response rate compares to a 52 percent rate for our selected peers and a 47 percent rate for the entire cohort. COACHE included a handwritten note in our cover letter stating JMU received one of the most positive reports this year. We are proud that our faculty members find JMU to be a great place to work. The report identified no “areas of concern” and we are consistently ranked among the top four in our peer group.   
  • James Madison University was just cited as one of the most innovative schools in the South by U.S. News & World Report's 2017 Best Colleges rankings. JMU held its place as the #2 public regional university in the South and ranked #8 in the South overall.
  • Keston Fulcher, associate professor of psychology, has been appointed to the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment Advisory Panel. This is a well-deserved recognition of both Fulcher’s and JMU’s reputations in the world of assessment.  
  • Our economics program ranked #2 in the Southeast by Economics Bulletin.  
  • Money Magazine named JMU among the top 50 (#39) Best Colleges for Business Majors.
  • Gina MacDonald, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is the 2016 recipient of the Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences for the Southeastern Region.  
  • Eric A. Imbrescia, instructor of middle, secondary and mathematics education, has been selected to receive a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching from the National Science Foundation. He will receive a citation signed by President Obama, a $10,000 award from NSF and attend a ceremony at the White House.
  • JMU’s nursing program won the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Award.

JMU and Harrisonburg

Block Party with Alger
Merchants opened their doors to more than 5,000 students at Block Party in the 'Burg.

We are deeply committed to the Harrisonburg community, and to being a good neighbor. When we are engaged with our community we create a mutually beneficial relationship in which our students learn and gain experience while working to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods.  We introduced our new students to downtown Harrisonburg with the Block Party in the 'Burg, co-sponsored by Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.

I recently have been named to the Board of Directors of Campus Compact. Campus Compact is a national coalition of 1,100 universities and colleges dedicated to civic-based engagement. Through online resources, training and programs to encourage partnership building and community-based teaching, this organization helps to inform structure within institutions to build a sense of responsible citizenship in students and give them avenues to serve. I am excited to share the programs we have at JMU to other universities across the country as well as grow our civic and community engagement. We are well on our way to becoming the national model for the engaged university.

Valley Scholars

VS Pizza
The Valley Scholars enjoyed pizza and getting to know each other at the kickoff event of the new year.

Our Valley Scholars program is thriving. We welcomed our third cohort this fall and now support 104 students. This partnership with seven local school districts is an ambitious undertaking, and is already providing hope to families throughout our region. Students in the program work with JMU faculty, staff and students and are guaranteed a full-tuition scholarship if they stay on track academically and are admitted to JMU. Learn more about the Valley Scholars program.

Carrier doors grand reopening: The front is the back

Carrier EntranceAfter 34 years, the main entrance of Carrier Library has been reopened. This is a symbolic moment for all of us as this building represents much more than a physical space. It really represents centuries of human history and knowledge, not just from the past, but also as we look toward the future. These doors show that as much as things change, our traditions and heritage are very much alive and paramount to the Madison Experience.  Read more about the event and speakers, including President Emeritus Ronald Carrier.

JMU gears up for the election

As an institution named for founding father James Madison, civic engagement is an important part of our mission. As we enter into election season we have many exciting programs and foundational efforts to encourage an engaged citizenry.

For the election:

  • JMU is entered in the ALL IN Challenge by Civic Nation, which encourages greater participation in the democratic process and increasing voter registration with the long-term goal of fostering a lifelong commitment to be active citizens.
  • We have applied to receive the “Voter Friendly Campus” designation from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and the Campus Vote Project. 
  • Last week we had a mass voter registration project in the residence halls for Constitution Day and National Voter Registration Day. It was a huge success!  
  • We will continue to host voter education, awareness and registration events throughout the fall.   
  • On Nov. 8, we will host an Election Day watch party in conjunction with iCitizen and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The party is part of the national deliberative polling initiative, which polls people after discussing the issues to determine how engaged and informed people would vote. The party will be live-streamed and it will feature many fun activities and discussions. Everyone is invited to attend.Duke Dog Vote

 More Civic Action:

  • We have begun a year-long series in partnership with JMU Libraries and Educational Technologies and JMuse Café focusing on civic engagement across the disciplines. The first event, held last week, was on civic engagement and the media. Keep an eye out for more events.
  • We have submitted a civic action plan to Campus Compact and are committed to expanding our civic and community-based framework.
  • I will be joining other higher education leaders at the third Governor’s Summit on Enhancing Engagement in the Commonwealth next month. We will expand upon the Virginia Compact for the Service Year and discuss other ways we can increase engagement and service to our country.

Madison Vision Series: Service as the American way

BridgelandOur Constitution Day and Madison Vision Series speaker, John Bridgeland, founder and CEO of Civic Enterprises and vice chair of the Service Year Alliance, spoke on the fundamental role of service in America and the opportunity that all of us have to be more fully involved as citizens. He challenged and inspired us to take action by asking, “What is your scratch on history?” 

Our next Madison Vision Series event will be a debate titled “Celebrating the Electoral Process Through Civil Discourse.” The debate will cover substantive issues that our country’s next president will face, particularly national security. This event will take place on Nov. 2 at 3:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall Auditorium. Check out

JMU all over the world

Last fall I signed an agreement with the Republic of Kosovo intended to result in cooperation and collaboration among faculty, staff and students from JMU and academic institutions in the newly recognized European state. Next month we will be holding a summit in Harrisonburg and Washington, D.C., for representatives from Kosovo’s government agencies and universities. During this weeklong summit, participants will share strategies, best practices and procedures from the U.S., JMU and Kosovo.Kosovo Signing

Dr. Herb Amato has been appointed as a member of the State Council of Quality of the Kosovo Accreditation Agency.  He has been involved with their accreditation process for higher education institutions. We anticipate additional JMU faculty will soon be appointed to the Kosovo Accreditation Agency's list of experts to examine programs and make recommendations regarding accreditation and program improvements.

 Finally, two students enrolled in the European Union Policy Studies master’s program completed internships in Kosovo during Summer 2016.  Shannon Rano worked with the Ministry of European Integration on Kosovo’s integration of foreigners and migration. She examined whether Kosovo’s policies are consistent with European Union membership.  Karissa Suarez Del Real worked with the University of Prishtina and the Secretariat of Kosovo’s Security Council on the country’s de-radicalization strategy.

Winning athletics

The Virginia Sports Information Directors announced that JMU’s .660 overall athletics winning percentage for the 2015-16 academic year was the best in the state of Virginia. It was JMU’s first such designation since 1995 and its best percentage since 1982. The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame will present an award in recognition of the achievement at the Oct. 8 William & Mary game. 

Congratulations Coach Lombardo on 400 career victories!

In their first season under Head Coach Mike Houston, the football Dukes have carried forward their offensive firepower and have started the season 3-1 and ranked #7 in the nation. Field hockey (#19 nationally), men’s golf (#37 nationally) and cross country (#10 regionally) have also attained noteworthy early rankings.

Finally, congratulations to women’s soccer Head Coach Dave Lombardo on 400 career victories! The Dukes’ 3-2 double overtime win at VCU made him just the seventh coach in Division I history to achieve 400 career wins.

State budget update

As many of you know, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced that revenue forecasts for this past fiscal year have not met targets.  The Virginia Department of Budget and Planning has advised many state agencies to prepare for a 5 percent budget reduction.  VDBP has also advised that the 3 percent salary increase included in the biennial budget would not be funded. While higher education institutions are not among those who have been asked to prepare for a budget reduction for the 2016-2017 budget year, we are awaiting further guidance on the status of the commonwealth’s budget. We have been told to expect possible budget reduction plans for FY2018 (which starts July 1, 2017). We expect to receive more information about the budget and how that may affect faculty and staff compensation in early November.

Compensation continues to be a high priority for us, and we will provide more information as soon as we can. We are grateful to all of our faculty and staff for their service and dedication.

 Welcoming all families

Cute FamThis weekend, I am excited to welcome families of our students! There will be more than 50 family weekend events taking place. We already had some amazing events including the General Education Student Conference and Back to School for Parents, which exemplified our engaged learning. This weekend we have the Godwin Field Picnic, followed by the football game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and many other events happening downtown and all over campus.

As we transition into fall and the rhythm of the semester, I ask that you stay connected and take advantage of all we have to offer to become educated and enlightened citizens.  Enjoy our fall months of bustling activity and the next big event on campus: Homecoming!DD and Alger

Jonathan Alger
James Madison University President


Published: Friday, September 30, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2018

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