The Civicist

The Civicist: January 2019

January 2019

Civic Engagement

by Carah Ong Whaley


We emphasize that active participation in political and civic life should be rooted in the knowledge that makes one a more informed citizen, enhanced by skills that make one a more effective citizen, and grounded in values that promote the public good over private interests and a positive attitude toward pluralism and diverse perspectives.

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Our mission is to educate and inspire people to address public issues and cultivate a just and inclusive democracy.

Share your civic work and opportunities with us!

Welcome New Fellows

Welcome to our new Madison Center and Dukes Vote Spring 2019 Democracy Fellows! Ethan Gardner, Virginia State Politics Democracy Fellow, will be working with us, among other things, to prepare primers on state politics and on traveling town hall with Residence Life. Aaliyah McLean will be working with Anna Connole and Angelina Clapp on voter outreach, education and engagement. Bryanna Moore and Iyana Cooper-Deyo will be working with us on our “Arc of Citizenship Experiential Learning Tour,” open to all JMU students, that will take place in April. The experiential learning tour will begin at Montpelier and visit other sites to learn about the struggles for freedom, rights and justice at Montpelier and in Harrisonburg/Rockingham. 

Honors College Montpelier Retreat

It’s easy for political science, public administration, education and social service majors to have opportunities to think about how they apply what they learn in their major to civic life. But what about the biology or mathematics major? The Honors College at James Madison University is leading the charge with its path-breaking efforts to institutionalize civic engagement no matter which discipline their students choose. Read our feature story on how the Honors College Freshman Retreat at Montpelier is providing a learning experience that is deeply connected to JMU’s vision and mission here by emphasizing informed citizenship and civic leadership here.

An astounding 97% of students said that they learned something new about James Madison and his legacy. According to one student, “The Montpelier Retreat showed us how to be active members of the JMU communities and how we should incorporate some of Madison’s ideas into our own lives.” Another student commented that the Montpelier Retreat was more thought-provoking than a traditional orientation “in the sense that your reflecting on Madison’s life to determine what your values are going to be at JMU over the next four years.”

Preparing for 2020 Census


The 2020 Census is coming and Virginia is preparing for it. On December 18, 2018, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Order Twenty Seven establishing the Virginia Complete Count Commission for the 2020 Census. According to Governor Northam, the goal of the commission is to improve the participation and representation of all Virginians in the 2020 Census. JMU President Jonathan Alger is among the roughly 40 members appointed to the Commission by Governor Northam. And there’s good reason for that. According to “Hard to Count 2020,” Harrisonburg is home to FIVE census tracts that are considered “hardest to count.” Traditionally, among the hardest to include in census data are recent immigrants, households with poor internet access, and children under age 5. College students (especially those who live off-campus) are also among the hardest groups to count. JMU plans to help enable students, faculty, staff, and community partners leverage community assets both on and off campus to decrease the undercount of vulnerable populations.

Recent Activities

Last Fall, Dr. Paul Mabrey, with help from Dr. Mike Davis and Kathy Clarke (JMU Libraries), facilitated Debate Across the Curriculum workshops at JMU and Virginia Commonwealth University to assist faculty and staff with incorporating debate pedagogy and techniques into the classroom. Read reflections from JMU faculty on our blog here.

Communications faculty Sarah Jean Taylor and Madison Center Associate Director Carah Ong Whaley were interviewed for the first Compact Nation podcast episode of 2019 "Putting the 'Action' in Civic Action Plans." Take a listen to learn about one of the path-breaking efforts across JMU to implement the university's vision to be a national model on civic engagement by helping students in a general education course develop civic action plans to address issues they care about.

Libraries have long been seen as essential institutions to democracy and integral in supporting the civic life of their communities. Check out this new article by JMU Librarians Kristen Shuyler and Liz Chenevey about how library workers and libraries in Virginia are supporting democracy through intentional support and promotion of civic engagement and civic literacy in their communities.

On December 4, the Valley Justice Coalition, the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence, and the Department of Justice Studies at James Madison University hosted a discussion on parole and parole reform in Virginia with Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran and Adrianne Bennett, Chair of the Virginia Parole Board. Read about the event here.

Upcoming Events & Opportunities









Published: Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Last Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2022

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