The Nelson Institute Seminars provide justice studies majors and other interested JMU students the opportunity to engage in directed, practical, problem-solving exercises in the field of justice studies in small group ("task force") settings under the supervision of a faculty member. The seminars provide a space where students are charged with finding a solution to a contemporary policy problem. They offer a unique opportunity for students to engage in policy-oriented research that integrates classroom instruction, out-of-class group learning activities, and civic engagement and service learning opportunities.

Projects and topics vary in nature, but have included:

  • needs assessment for after school programs
  • data management systems analysis
  • client survery for a non-profit center
  • homelessness survey implementation and analysis
  • immigration policy
  • best practices in the delivery of healthcare services to immigrant and impoverished populations
  • studying human traffiking and presenting the findings to law enforcement agencies

Students in the seminars have worked with a variety of community partners, including the following:

The Institute also provides students with the opportunity to present their findings to a regional or national audience at conferences, as well as to travel to talk with government, NGO and private sector officials about the policy problem they are working on. Students present their results at a variety of venues including the College of Arts and Letters' student conference, Mad Rush, the conference organized by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and Cultures, and regional conferences such as the Virginia Social Science Association meeting.

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