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Living what you learn
Integrating academics and service-learning embodies the JMU mission
By Bill Gentry, Jan Gillis (’07) and Kelley Freund (’07)
Living what you learn happens everywhere at JMU.
The JMU Huber Residential Learning Community’s volunteer placement program is one example. A Huber placement — complete with its introspective methodology and the seismic value it affords its recipients — is a shining model of what makes James Madison University different.
According to Huber Residential Learning Community Coordinator Sharon Babcock, Huber students undertake a full year “with a kind of a volunteer experience that really commands a sort of attention, planning, professionalism, and rethinking how you’ve thought about volunteering because so many students have already done volunteer work or service in high school.”
Combining hands-on work with lots of writing and group discussion, Huber students gain invaluable perspective about volunteering in general and, frequently, about themselves. “They often come in with a huge perception that, ‘Oh, it’s more of this,’” Babcock says. “Interestingly, what we’re hearing more and more from Huber students on the way out is, ‘Oh, this so changed my perspective of the role of service-learning from what I had experienced in the past.’ “
“These kids are getting it. They are living it. They are not just parroting it. They are weaving it into an experiential understanding. You get the sense that they have got it, and that they are taking it with them forever.” - Sharon Babcock, Huber Residential Learning Community Coordinator
Repeatedly, students mature dramatically throughout their Huber program year, Babock says. “It’s not unusual to hear something such as, ‘Oh my gosh, I now understand a lot more about every person that I am interacting with, in terms of their respective situations and their needs — and how my participating in the process has really taught me a lot about the true value of helping others.’”
The pay-off for the JMU student, Babcock says, is often dramatic. Some Huber students “move beyond the ‘I’ve done this and this and that’ to a place where they are able to write a personal statement about this, why it’s not just an intellectual exercise or a hypothetical exercise of, for example, why I want to apply to PT school. For those students, the experience becomes here is what I have done, how I have changed and what I have learned.”
Both in the Huber world and all across campus, providing chances for students to live what they are learning is the embodiment of the JMU mission to prepare engaged and enlightened citizens who will lead meaningful and productive lives.
Entering her sixth year at the Huber helm, Babcock says the transformations she sees are real, powerful and inspiring. “These kids are getting it. They are living it. They are not just parroting it. They are weaving it into an experiential understanding. You get the sense that they have got it, and that they are taking it with them forever.”
Seven students, seven backgrounds, seven academic paths, seven varying career goals and one huge commonality — the Madison Experience. Learn how these seven JMU students have used classroom studies to make a difference in other’s lives — and in their own.