CHBS programs nationally recognized for engagement


By: Caroline Whitlow
Creative Services Student Writer

The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) recently recognized JMU nursing and social work for exemplary civic education within their respective programs. 

Only 22 institutions from across the country were selected for recognition on the association’s website.  From those 22, nine will be featured in the AAC&U’s quarterly magazine, Peer Review. Both nursing and social work will appear in the journal, making JMU the only Virginia university to receive this honor. 

Each department contributes to JMU’s stellar reputation in the field of civic responsibility both in the classroom and through community engagement.  In recent years the nursing department has implemented more policy and advocacy work within its curriculum for both undergraduate and graduate students.

“At a time when the U.S. healthcare system is changing faster than ever, it is imperative for nursing students to understand collaborative advocacy for health policy,” said Melody Eaton, associate director for graduate nursing programs. 

Each year, JMU Nursing undergraduates and graduates come face to face with legislative advocacy initiatives through participation in the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Student Health Policy Summit in Washington, D.C.  There, deans and directors of nursing schools lead visits with lawmakers to push for nursing legislation.

Since 2016, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students have also attended a weeklong immersion with policymakers on Capitol Hill.  At the Health Policy Institute, students work directly with groups such as the American Nurses Association (ANA), the American Association of Home Health and Hospice and other public health policy associations to meet with legislators and work on a variety of health-related initiatives.

“The students do not always start out with the requisite confidence but as experienced DNP students they know about nursing practice,” said Eaton.  “It is exciting to see our DNP nursing students have a transformative policy experience by working with the policymakers on Capitol Hill and realize that they are nursing experts who can influence health policy legislation.”

Social work students also gain hands-on experience with navigating the legislative process by completing a social policy class as part of their curriculum.  The class includes an advocacy day in Washington, D.C., where students meet with representatives and discuss policy change regarding a pre-selected and researched social issue.

“Social workers are always considering people and their environments.  And our governmental policies truly shape peoples’ lives every day, from their economic situation to their healthcare and beyond,” said department head Lisa McGuire.

JMU stands out in the field of civic responsibility not only for work within individual departments, but with innovative inter-professional initiatives.  In 2014, the School of Nursing developed the Health Policy Summit. The workshop brings together students from the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Business and places them in problem-solving situations.  Together, students of various backgrounds must reach a conclusion on how to best address a ‘hot topic’ healthcare issue.

The summit, put on by an interdisciplinary group of faculty members that make up the Health Policy Collaborative, serves as one of many cross-professional initiatives.   Others include a poverty simulation, cultural competence workshop, and community engagement courses in topics such as rural health.  These initiatives help students practice professional collaboration and open their eyes to a wide range of civic issues and how to address those issues.

“Students learn to analyze policies at the local, state and federal level as well as learn how to advocate for changes to those policies to enhance the social, economic and environmental justice for all people,” said McGuire.

Regardless of major, JMU stands out for its development of civically engaged citizens and nationally acclaimed institutions are noticing.  Those interested in reading the AAC&U’s write-up can find it in the January 2018 edition of Peer Review.

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Published: Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Last Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2020

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