At JMU, we define civic engagement as advancing the legacy of James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, by preparing individuals to be active and responsible participants in a representative democracy dedicated to the common good.

Although often viewed as synonymous with community engagement, civic engagement is characterized by a sense of citizenship and public responsibility. Few Americans better exemplify these traits than our university’s namesake, James Madison, who devoted his life to promoting the concept of liberty buttressed by the twin necessities of active political participation and rigorous, substantial education. In a period in which many Americans have lost confidence in our political institutions and find “politics” to be too controversial, partisan or divisive, embodying this Madisonian commitment seems a more pressing charge than ever before.

You may often see community engagement and civic engagement understood as one in the same. And, while there is a connection of course, we make a distinction at JMU. We understand community engagement as fostering beneficial and reciprocal partnerships, from local to global. So, for instance, when a faculty member includes a course requirement that students mentor in the local schools, we understand that as community engagement. Civic engagement, on the other hand, gets at our connection to James Madison and our passion for advancing his legacy. That means our students learn through the practice of citizenship - invested in the affairs of government.

The Engagement Advisory Group is a key coordinating team for engagement at JMU. The chair for civic engagement is Dr. Abraham (Abe) Goldberg Executive Director of the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement and Associate Professor of Political Science.

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