"Why Madison?" Huffman Hall
"Why Madison?" Listening Tour
Oct. 10—Village Residence Halls
It is important for me as president to connect directly with students
I've been visiting with students tonight from the Village residence halls to get their input into our "Why Madison?" Listening Tour. It's really important for me as president to connect with students directly and to hear their perspectives. So far I have talked with a lot of alumni who have lived the Madison Experience, but tonight I am speaking with students who are experiencing it right now. They are living the JMU experience. They're taking classes. They're in Gen Ed. They're in different majors. They're living in the residence halls, and so to hear their perspectives on what life is like right now at the university has been very valuable. I have relished this time, and it was just a really fun evening for me.
Students are confirming Madison's culture of friendliness
I really appreciated some of the themes we've been hearing from parents and from alumni on our "Why Madison?" tour about the friendliness of the campus, the hospitality, the sense of feeling welcome they have experienced at JMU. To actually hear it again now firsthand from students is so important, especially to hear them acknowledge that they embrace the responsibility in helping to create and sustain that climate. That was reassuring to hear.
Engagement in the life of JMU makes students feel welcome
Sometimes, as we've heard tonight, when students first come into JMU, they can feel a little bit overwhelmed. It's a large place, and when you're coming out of high school or you're transferring into the university, that size can be a challenge at first. But we heard students talk about how they became engaged in the life of the university. They found a niche and they then felt that sense of a welcoming community. That's something we all have a responsibility to help create. The students here tonight understand that and plan to carry out their part as they go forward.
Students' questions show interest in the future of JMU
While the "Why Madison?" format is designed for me to ask questions of students, I was actually really pleased that students were asking questions of me about the future of the university. What's the vision? What is the strategic plan going to look like as we go forward? That shows me that they care about the institution, not just about themselves and their courses and what they're going to do over the next year or two, but what's going to happen to the next generation of students who come after them. I was really pleased to hear students thinking more long term in that way and I think they're going to make great alumni who hopefully will continue to be engaged with JMU after they graduate.
Each student experience is unique depending on the choices they make
The student stories I heard tonight were a reminder that everyone's experience here is unique. It depends on the student's major, and on what organizations they join. It may even depend on where they live, either on or off campus, in terms of how much they feel involved and engaged in the life of the university. Certainly what I heard from students is that they recognize that engagement is an important part of their learning process. It's not just what happens in the classroom, although that's very important, certainly, but it's also what they are doing outside the classroom as they interact with other students in student organizations—with leadership opportunities, opportunities for teamwork and collaboration, and in some cases to learn or develop new skills.
Civic engagement off campus was a central topic too
We also talked about civic engagement and getting involved in the community and how important that is. Students shared tonight what a difference that has made for them as well, when they've had the opportunity to interact with people in Harrisonburg or in the county or in the valley, and how that has changed their own perspectives. There are a variety of ways for students to get involved beyond just themselves and their own studies, and I think what I heard tonight is, "We understand how important that is. We're looking for more such opportunities and we're looking for ways to foster additional interactions outside the classroom at every turn."
Meetings with students make me so optimistic about the future
Meeting with the students is a reminder of why we're here at JMU. It makes me so optimistic about our future when I hear the voices of these students—their hopes and their dreams for themselves, and for the university community. They really care about this place. They care about the things that make JMU a great institution and they want it to be even greater. So, I 'm very excited at the prospect that they're going to be our future alumni. I think that more than ever there is a sense that people understand that for the university to take that next step to get to an even higher level, we need to do it collectively. We need to take collective responsibility for this university. I think these students understand this point, so I think they're going to be great supporters in the future.
"Why Madison?" conversations with students will continue
We have some additional visits with different student organizations coming up. For example, I will be meeting over the next week with the MYMOM group, and with student organizations involved with the Center for Multicultural Student Services. I participated in the lunch with 12 Strangers a few days ago. There will be a lot of opportunities, I hope. We're still developing opportunities to have these "Why Madison?" conversations. We're hoping there'll be some random groups of students as well as student organizations. I know the SGA is coming over for a Halloween party at the house in a couple weeks. We're looking forward to that. Just finding different ways to interact with students and to hear from them what their lives are like, that's important to me. I can be much more effective in my job if I understand what their lives are like, so we're continuing to look for those opportunities and we're excited about it.