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James Madison University seeks to be the model of the ENGAGED university: engaged with ideas and the world. The Social Work Department at JMU has a long history of involvement with the community. Many social work courses have a formal expectation of service-learning and other courses regularly incorporate activities of all forms of engaged learning as part of the pedagogy for the course. At JMU, community engagement is defined as a process of fostering mutually beneficial and reciprocal partnerships, ranging from local to global, that connect learning to practice, address critical societal problems and improve quality of life.

During their BSW curriculum, social work students will complete a minimum of 530 hours of service in human services agencies in the local community, the Shenandoah Valley, and sometime internationally – many students do many more hours than that through course projects, service-learning electives and their personal volunteer commitments. The department maintains formal agreements with over 100 agencies where students complete service-learning hours for classes, personal volunteer work and their Senior field practicum experience. We work closely with these agencies to ensure an excellent learning opportunity for students as well as meaningful impact for the community. The agencies include public child welfare agencies, hospitals, mental health agencies, nursing homes, schools and other programs that provide community-based service to vulnerable people. In addition, JMU has a unique center that brings together a number of community services right on campus – the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services - which provides opportunities for students and faculty right on campus, allowing strong partnerships with the local community.

The faculty of the social work department is actively involved in the community through serving on community agency boards to fully utilize their expertise in a broad array of social services. Individual faculty, as well as the department as a whole, are also involved in providing continuing education and expert consultation for local practitioners. In addition, they partner with community coalitions to sponsor events such as The State of the Older Adult conference, which brings together students, faculty, community agencies and older adults themselves to identify community needs for the growing older adult population in the Harrisonburg community.

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