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March



Deep, critical thinking at the heart of campuswide initiative

JMU senior Abby Ware, a member of the Quality Enhancement Plan Task Force, talks about the plan's value to students in their personal, professional and civic lives during an Inauguration Week panel presentation.
JMU senior Abby Ware, a member of the Quality Enhancement Plan Task Force, talks about the plan's value to students in their personal, professional and civic lives during an Inauguration Week panel presentation. 

"The Madison Collaborative: Ethical Reasoning in Action is aimed at creating critical, deep thinkers," Dr. Josh Bacon, director of the Office of Judicial Affairs, explained to a group of students, faculty and staff assembled to learn more about JMU's Quality Enhancement Plan. 

Bacon, Dr. Fletcher Linder, professor and director of Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies, and senior Abby Ware, who is majoring in political science and philosophy, provided an extensive overview of The Madison Collaborative as part of JMU's Inauguration Week activities. The three are part of the 19-member QEP Task Force, which represents a broad cross section of the faculty, administration and student leadership at JMU.

Development of the QEP, which began in 2010, is required of JMU for its reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – Commission On Colleges. "The purpose of this part of the SACS process is to give a jolt of change to big institutions," said Linder, noting that such change can be difficult to spark without an important catalyst.

"We want to make sure the QEP aligns with JMU's core mission and values," said Ware. The QEP mission statement – "The Madison Collaborative prepares enlightened citizens who apply ethical reasoning in their personal, professional and civic lives" – works well with JMU's mission: "We are a community committed to preparing students to be educated and enlightened citizens who lead productive and meaningful lives."

Eight Key Questions guide The Madison Collaborative. "They do not teach ethics; they focus on enhancing students' reasoning skills," Ware said. The questions were crafted to be applicable to many situations and outcomes.

The Eight Key Questions:

  • Outcomes – What are the short-term and long-term outcomes of possible actions?
  • Fairness – How can I act equitably and balance all interests?
  • Authority – What do legitimate authorities (e.g., experts, law, my god[s]) expect of me?
  • Liberty – What principles of freedom and personal autonomy apply?
  • Rights – What rights (e.g., innate, legal, social) apply?
  • Responsibilities – What duties and obligations apply?
  • Empathy – How would I respond if I cared deeply about those involved?
  • Character – What actions will help me become my ideal self?

"Immigration, gun control, environmental issues, bullying are all ethical issues that we can consider through The Madison Collaborative: Ethical Reasoning in Action," Bacon said.

"The process of forming the QEP has been thorough and quite collaborative," said Linder. The QEP will be reviewed by SACSCOC and JMU intends to implement the plan in fall 2013 to reach all students with the goal of developing people who can use the eight key questions to reach better decisions.

More information about the Quality Enhancement Plan is available at http://www.jmu.edu/qep.

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By Janet Smith
March 14, 2013