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James Madison University emphasizes that participation in civic life should be informed by knowledge, enhanced by skills, and reflective of democratic values (below you will find our civic engagement learning outcomes). Our goal is to use civic engagement assessment results to inform development and improvement of civic engagement programming. Dr. Dena Pastor, Associate Director for the Center for Assessment & Research Students and Professor of Graduate Psychology, leads JMU’s civic engagement assessment in collaboration with the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement.

The James Madison Center for Civic Engagement and Dukes Vote annually develop a campus-wide Voter Engagement Action Plan outlining our strategy to prepare students to participate in elections at the local, state and national level. The document includes our voter registration initiatives, opportunities for students to learn about public issues in an academic environment, and plans to facilitate informed participation in elections. Read our 2020 Voter Engagement Plan. The Voter Engagement Action Plan allows JMU to participate in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge and ensures we retain our Voter Friendly Campus designation. Read our 2018 Voter Friendly Campus Year-End report and our 2020 Voter Friendly Campus Year-End report pdf version here or text version with hyperlinks here.

JMU is one of three public universities in Virginia with required general education coursework in the American Experience domain. All students are required to complete a 4-credit hour American Experience course (HIST225, POSC225, or JUST225), which provides students with an understanding of the major themes and concepts that structure American life today. HIST 225 does so through a contextual and document-based study of the American historical experience that emphasizes the interaction of people, ideas and social movements. POSC 225 focuses on the evolution and contemporary operation of the American political system by examining its fundamental principles and current dynamics. JUST 225 frames questions regarding historic and contemporary events in terms of issues of justice, highlighting how societal structures interact with individual lives and vice versa.


We use results from the National Study or Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE)To create and assess the Voter Engagement Action Plan. NSLVE provides information on JMU student registration and voting rates after each midterm and general election.

2020 NSLVE Report

2018 NSLVE Report

2016 NSLVE Report

2014 NSLVE Report

2012 NSLVE Report

Learning Outcomes
Other Assessment Instruments

Among other assessment instruments JMU uses are:

  • An instrument created by JMU faculty to assess the American Experience domain’s learning outcomes, the American Experience Test (AMEX), is used as partial assessment of the knowledge component of the civic engagement initiative.
  • The Political Engagement Project Survey (PEPS) assesses whether students have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for informed and effective political involvement. The PEPS was created by Beaumont Colby, Ehrlich, and Torney-Purta (2006)1 for use in the Political Engagement Project, a 2007 multi-institutional study of the effectiveness of 21 higher education programs and courses focused on promoting political understanding and involvement. Items on the PEPS are categorized into the following domains: Political Knowledge & Understanding; Political Skills, Political Identity, Values, & Norms, Political Interest & Motivation, Political Efficacy, Political Action & Involvement.
Student Survey of Civic Learning




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