Classes that partner with community organizations

Fundamentals of Human Communication (Spring and Fall)

Just want to get the word out about your community organization without a major commitment? This class for first-year students emphasizes presentational speaking. Student groups will interview someone at your organization and spend a few hours volunteering.  They'll take what they learn to help them build a series of speeches that they present to their classmates. It's a great way to help new Dukes connect with our local community.

Intercultural Communication (Spring and Fall)

In this large lecture class, students have the opportunity to work in a small group and volunteer with a local nonprofit organization. Professors are looking for opportunities that require a small group of 4-5 students to volunteer their time for 2-3 hours in a context that offers cross-cultural interaction.

Online Design (Spring only)

In this course, students create interactive, professional websites that can include forms, animated buttons, searchable catalogs, and splash pages. Need a consultation about your online presence? Concerned about responsive web design or accessibility?  This would be a great class with which to partner. (This class is part of The School of Writing, Rhetoric &

Technical Communication.)

 Usability Testing (Spring only)

Students in this course study product testing of documents and interfaces in a variety of media environments. In addition, students design, plan and conduct usability tests, code data from the tests, and interpret and report on the results. If your organization is looking for an online communication audit that focuses on how their web presence “works,” this would be an ideal partner. (This class is part of The School of Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication.)

Introduction to Organizational Communication (Spring and Fall)

Students in this course work in small groups of 4-6 to conduct a "communication audit" of a local organization. Organizations share their communication materials, practices, and goals and provide additional access for questions. Students assess the strengths and weaknesses of current practices and make recommendations for the future. Students are typically sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Professional Editing/Technical Writing (Spring and Fall)

Students in technical writing/editing classes gain design, formatting, and editing skills for manuals, handbooks, forms, and other similar items. Have a form that needs to be updated? A handbook that nobody uses because it's too hard to navigate? Send it to us and we'll have students mentored by faculty members redesign the documents to meet your needs. Projects might range from a 1-page form to a 150-page manual.  (This class is part of The School of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication.)

Visual Communication Design (Spring and Fall)

This course is an elective for students in the Creative Advertising, Interactive Design, and Journalism concentrations within the School of Media Arts and Design. Elements of print production will be covered from software to pre-press techniques and production management, while focusing on design aesthetics and criticism. Community-partner projects have ranged from program and event promotions to logo and identity systems to environmental graphics. Students learn to be flexible by working on multiple projects with local community partners, classmates, and interdisciplinary collaboration with other courses.

Writing for Business and Industry (Fall only)

This course is designed using a community-based learning model, with an emphasis placed on working directly with a local business. Students work on understanding audience(s) for business communication and on the creation of business documents, including proposals and business plans. This course is typically made up of junior and senior Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication majors. These students can customize their contributions in consultation with individual businesses and can offer a variety of services, from in-house workflow and organizational tools to outward facing promotional materials.

Writing for Nonprofits (Spring only)

This course is designed using a community-based learning model, with an emphasis placed on working directly with a nonprofit agency in the local community. Students in this course are typically junior and senior Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication majors, who can assist nonprofit organizations with a number of projects, including but not limited to, the creation of internal and public documents, such as proposals, grants, and publicity materials.

Writing in the Community (Spring only)

In this course, upper-level Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication majors study political and social engagement at the community level using multiple texts and a community-based learning model, with an emphasis placed on hands-on service projects with community agencies. Past iterations of this course have worked with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Harrisonburg and Habitat for Humanity.

Writing in the Health Sciences (Fall only)

This course is designed using a community-based learning model, with an emphasis placed on communication within the medical field and the translation of medical language for lay audiences. Students involved in this course are upper-level Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication majors who can work with health organizations to create medical documents, including reports, proposals, and technical articles, as well as informational and promotional materials.

Advanced Public Relations Writing (Spring and Fall)

In this course, students learn how to develop a wide variety of content across digital and print media, including social media postings and more traditional newsletters. Partnerships with this class are more prescribed because students have a series of predetermined writing and design assignments to complete. But, why not use the assignment to develop items that are useful to your organization? Students are generally sophomores and juniors in our Public Relations curriculum who have already passed Introduction to Public Relations Writing. Depending on the class you partner with, it may require just 30 minutes of your time for 1 piece of content or ~3 hours over the course of the semester for several pieces of content.

Public Relations Campaigns (Spring and Fall)

Community partners who work with the Public Relations Campaigns class benefit from working with a small group of students (primarily seniors) who have experience in our Public Relations curriculum. At the end of the semester, the students provide a comprehensive public relations plan that the organization can implement on their own (or with another group of JMU students). As part of the course requirements, students will conduct original research (focus groups, interviews, surveys, etc.) to develop the best possible proposal. In the past, students have worked with Harrisonburg Transit to help increase student ridership on the busses, the local children's museum to build relationships with members and donors, and Matchbox Reality to enhance internal communication within offices and external communication with residents.

Facilitating Public and Organizational Engagement Processes (Fall Only)

Need help facilitating a dialogue in your organization or community? In this course, students learn skills for facilitating dialogues of all types, ranging from strategic planning to public or organizational input on challenges and opportunities to community discussion on sensitive topics, like gun control. As part of the course, students develop and facilitate real dialogues with community partners. The students act as impartial facilitators who are trained to design and keep the talk productive. Students are generally juniors and seniors who have experience in the Organizational Communication curriculum. If you require a higher level of professionalism or more flexible schedule, you can connect with the Institute for Constructive Advocacy and Dialogue.

Training and Development (Spring Only)

Students in this course partner with organizations to develop and deliver a training. Students work with partners to properly conduct a needs assessment, develop a training topic in partnership with their community partner, research and design the training, and ultimately deliver the training to at least one group. Students are primarily Organizational Communication students with junior and senior ranking. Past trainings have included Emotional Intelligence in Facilitation, Metacognative Test Prep Strategies, Email Etiquette, Improving Interoffice Communication, and Participant Conflict Resolution.

Advanced Organizational Communication (Spring Only)

This course requires that students integrate research into semester-long consulting projects. Students work in pairs on a wide variety of projects that might include logistics, events, or publicity, among other things. Students are seniors and work either alone or in pairs to help you accomplish your objectives. In contrast to the introductory class, this course is better for projects that don't need as many people, but require independent research to accomplish the project well. Don't have time to research best practices? They do.

Bluestone Communications – Student-run PR Firm (Spring and Fall)

Bluestone Communications is a full service, student-run public relations firm. While the Public Relations Campaign class designs a campaign and hands it off to you, Bluestone Communications designs AND executes a public relations plan that fits your needs. This is a selective group of less than 30 students who were selected through an application process. Bluestone Communications does charge a fee for their work, which supports the firm's operations and scholarships for students. You can learn more about the firm on the Bluestone Communications website.

ICAD: Institute for Constructive Advocacy and Dialogue - Skilled facilitation services (Ongoing)

ICAD works with community and organizational partners to design and guide conversations to help people think together productively. ICAD can design spaces for a) Dialogue to promote understanding multiple perspectives and the complexity of the issues that face us in organizations and communities, 2) Deliberation to thoughtfully consider choices and consequences as part of decision-making, and 3) Collaboration to advance collective goals. ICAD’s goal is to support talk that helps people engage, connect and sustain. For more information about service and fee options, contact Director Lori Britt at You can also learn more on the ICAD website.

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