Feel the impact, be the impact

One of the most rewarding ways to work with The School of Communication Studies at James Madison University is by partnering with JMU students to complete semester long projects. It not only offers you the benefit of young minds addressing the needs of your organization, it is also an opportunity to mentor students and shape their futures.

The list below describes several of the courses that often partner with community organizations and a short description of the kinds of projects that might emerge from those courses. But you aren't limited to these formats - there are many ways you can work with a class over the course of the semester.

Our Community Engagement Liaison, Dr. Jennifer PeeksMease, can help you to decide what course might be the best fit and to develop a project proposal for the course instructor to consider.  Semester long projects run September through November in the Fall, and January through April in the Spring. Professors begin reviewing proposals for the Fall semester as early as March, and for the Spring semester in late September.

Propose a project

Ready to propose a project?  Just want to talk through ideas and options?

Either way, it's time to reach out to our Community Engagement Liaison, Dr. Jennifer PeeksMease.  Just click here to introduce yourself and get the process started.

Fundamentals of Human Communication (Spring and Fall) 

Just want to get the word out about your community organization without a major committment?  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 non-profit. We're 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)

Student 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 help plan an event or produce a deliverable that you just don't have the time or peoplepower to do. The course content is focused on helping students to better analyze, participate in, and create group and organizational processes.  Students are typically Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. Students have planned and delivered children's holiday events in partnership with Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation, a High School Leadership Summit for Shenandoah Valey Scholars Latinx Initiative, and developed a welcome packet for new clients at Skyland Literacy.

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 noone 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 manual.  (This class is part of The School of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication.)

Visual Communication Design (Spring and Fall) 

This coThis 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

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, 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 communictions 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 (see below).

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 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 highly selective group of less than 20 students who were selected through an application process.  Bluestone Communications does charge a fee for thier 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. We 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. Our 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 brittll@jmu.edu.

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