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 an ethic 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 leader for civic engagement on the group is Dr. David Kirkpatrick, Interim Executive Director of the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement and Associate Professor of Political Science.

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Civic Engagement at JMU
A few examples
  • Dukes Vote is a student-led initiative, supported and facilitated by the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement at JMU. Dukes Vote works in partnership with academic and student affairs, and with community partners, to enhance JMU's mission of civic engagement among students by providing opportunities and programming to build capacity, knowledge, skills and values that prepare students for an active and informed role in democracy.
  • In Fall 2018, Dukes Vote sponsored and facilitated the Civic10dencies series of workshops with the goal of building civic and democratic capacity, knowledge, skills, values and dispositions.
  • Various departments and groups at JMU developed and sponsor the "Democracy in Peril?" series which focuses on the state of democracy both in the US and abroad. It provides a forum for presentations and open discussions about current politics.
  • D.E.E.P. (Diversity Education Empowerment Program) Impact is designed to influence meaningful change throughout the JMU campus community through the development of programs and services that heighten awareness, increase knowledge and celebrate the value of diversity in all forms. D.E.E.P Impact also focuses on promoting inclusion, advocacy and respect in order to equip students with the cultural capacity to change and shape the world. D.E.E.P Impact is sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Student Services (CMSS).
  • Madison Vision Series is a lecture series honoring James Madison's conviction that cultivating an informed and educated citizenry is essential to the health of our republican democracy. The series brings scholars, thinkers and leaders of all kinds to campus for lively explorations of issues facing our society.
  • The Student Government Association (SGA) of James Madison University is an organization dedicated to collaborating with all members of its community to advocate for student opinion, while fostering a proactive, inclusive environment. Follow JMU SGA on Twitter for updates.
  • The Health Policy Collaborative (HPC) is a partnership between faculty from multiple disciplines. Faculty from the School of Nursing, in collaboration with the Department of Health Sciences, Social Work, Communication Sciences & Disorders, and the College of Business, has developed the HPC to be a conduit for educating students, faculty and the community about health policy. The HPC will act as an infrastructure for research for practical policy solutions and provide a platform for students to engage in health policy both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Gen Ed Cluster Four: The American Experience and The Global Experience require students to think critically about their own society and its relationship to the larger global community.  These courses develop responsible and enlightened global citizenship by examining a wide variety of the processes that shape the human experience.
  • The Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence is a nonviolence-oriented organization classified under the Justice Studies Department at JMU. Embodying the highest values of inquiry, learning and creativity, the Gandhi Center functions as a global hub to advance the understanding of, appreciation for and practice of nonviolence. The Center features a library and reading room for individual research, collaborative endeavors both internal and external, and public participation in service both on and off campus. The Center seeks to pursue justice and service through nonviolent means and ends.

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