2012 Fall Madison Letter
Volume 35, Number 3
Listening tour offers mutual discovery and opportunity to etch a bold vision for JMU
One of the most enlivening aspects of life at a university is the constant transitioning. Freshman arriving, faculty members discovering, students learning, seniors graduating — all of these experiences, among many others, are fully transformative events that affect not only those experiencing them, but the entire university community as well.
I am acutely aware of how powerfully formative transitions can be, as I became president of James Madison University in July. Moving to Harrisonburg and still finding our way around campus, my family and I are in the midst of major change. So I say to you Madison freshmen of the Class of 2016 — if you feel a bit lost on campus, please know that you are not alone!
As freshmen and the rest of Madison’s student body dedicate themselves to learning in their courses this semester, I will dedicate myself to learning about James Madison University. Already, I know a great deal about this wonderful university. I can say with the objectivity of an outsider that the world has taken notice of JMU. The quality of the academic programs, the great minds and personal commitment of the faculty, the student-centered culture, the commitment to societal engagement, the problem-solving approach to education, how JMU has synthesized these elements into one Madison Experience — these aspects are evident to outsiders and among the many reasons I sought the “best presidency in America,” as Dr. Linwood Rose identified it.
But still there is much for me to learn about James Madison University.
In my acceptance address last November I emphasized the importance I place on an “engaged university” in today’s world. Indeed, I believe that James Madison University can become recognized nationally as the model for what it means to be the engaged university in the 21st century. But if we are to become this national model, the university community must go there together. My first step in working toward this vision will be to fully engage with you. I must acquire a complete 360-degree understanding of the university’s strengths as well as its challenges and an understanding of what makes Madison unique.
I have launched a listening tour to meet as many of you as I can. Just as I have been asked why I came to Madison, I plan to ask you “Why Madison?” Why did you choose to attend, teach or work at JMU? Why is Madison important to you? Why are you committed to JMU? Why do you volunteer your time or invest your resources in the university? Why is Madison uniquely suited to address the most pressing challenges of our society and our world? Why Madison?
I want our conversation to be one of mutual discovery. It will be intellectually invigorating, open and frank. I also expect that it will be enjoyable and rewarding. Already during the first few listening tour events, our conversations have ben deep and enlightening. The themes that emerge from your answers to “Why Madison?” will inform the university’s next strategic planning process. So please reflect deeply on my question, “Why Madison?” I hope to hear your answer soon when the listening tour makes a stop near you.
I want to thank the JMU Board of Visitors and the search committee for expressing faith in me and my leadership. I am honored to join the Madison community as its president. You achieved great things under Dr. Rose’s strong, strategic leadership, and I say with deep humility that I plan on building upon his legacy and meeting your high expectations.
I look forward to my first semester Madison Experience. Please come to campus for Homecoming and Family Weekend, football games, other athletics events, and shows at the Forbes Center. Or just visit when you happen to be driving down Interstate 81. Please look for dates when I will be visiting your part of campus and the country. I look forward to meeting you — faculty members, students, alumni, donors, staff members and friends of JMU — and getting to know the Madison community intimately. Together we will define “Why Madison,” etch a bold vision for the university’s future and then show the world “Why Madison.”
Jonathan R. Alger
President, James Madison University