The Civicist

The Civicist: March 2019

March 2019

Civic Engagement

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

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Giving Day: Thank you!

Thank you so much to everyone who supported The Madison Center and Dukes Vote on Giving Day! Gifts to The Madison Center and Dukes Vote helps enhance civic learning opportunities and we're excited to strengthen our democracy together.

JMU Designated "Voter Friendly Campus"

In February, James Madison University was once again designated a “Voter Friendly Campus” by NASPA and Campus Vote Project because of its work to prioritize civic learning and democratic engagement. JMU was one of 123 campuses across the country to receive the Voter Friendly Campus designation. Thank you to all our partners across academic and student affairs who made this possible! 

Arc of Citizenship

RSVP today for Arc of Citizenship on April 13-14. The experiential learning tour will begin at James Madison’s Montpelier on 4/13 and include a stop at the Gilmore cabin, at a train depot to learn about the impact of Jim Crow laws, and discussion with Dr. Patrice Grimes, a member of the slave descendant community. On 4/14, led by Steven Thomas of Northeast Neighborhood Association, we will do a walking tour in Harrisonburg at sites to learn about the local history of slavery, Charlotte Harris' life and lynching, civil rights, and urban renewal. Returning to campus, we will have a discussion with Dr. Meg Mulrooney on JMU’s history as a segregated school for white women, the symbolism of the named buildings on the Quad, and what she knows so far about the Black men and women who worked, studied, and contributed to JMU’s development. The trip will conclude with lunch, reflection and discussion about contemporary social justice issues.

Workshop: Online News Information Literacy for JMU students

news-info-literacy-workshop.jpgIn February, Professor Ryan Alessi (SMAD), Hillary Ostermiller (JMU Libraries) and Howard Carrier (JMU Libraries) facilitated a workshop about Online News Information Literacy for JMU students. Among many useful tools, students learned how to be “Info Ninjas” to analyze online information using a “4 W’s” framework (who, what, where, when), how to conduct effective searches, how social media uses algorithms to populate feeds and how to use resources available from JMU Libraries. The Madison Center also has an online information literacy page with resources. The workshop was sponsored by The Madison Center and Dukes Vote and we plan to do one per semester, so stay tuned for the Fall workshop if you missed this one!

Out & About

The Madison Center's Campus Vote Project Fellow Anna Connole (Political Science & Communication Studies, '21) and The Madison Center's Engagement Fellow Shelby Taraba facilitated a workshop at William and Mary's Active Citizenship conference in March on how to promote civic engagement on campuses.

Abe Goldberg co-facilitated a workshop with Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed and Boris Ozuna on community engagement and organizing for the United Way’s Emerging Leaders program. Participants discussed strategies to address real-world community programs emphasizing the importance of collaboration. Abe also joined a panel with Felice Nudelman (American Democracy Project) and Bill Flores (University of Houston-Downtown) at SXSW EDU on the role of higher education in strengthening democracy.

Carah Ong Whaley presenting at NASPA

Carah Ong Whaley, Kassie Phebillo (University of Texas at Austin) and Rosalyn Kempf (Mount St. Mary’s) presented a workshop at NASPA on the importance of building an inclusive coalition for civic learning and democratic engagement on campuses. They developed resources valuable in coalition building that can be accessed here.

How do you make positive change in the world? Dr. Terry Beitzel, Director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center at James Madison University, spoke on “With Good Reason” about how he helps his students better understand political protest as a form of citizen engagement. Take a listen here.

Let's Talk about the "F" Word!

Students in Dr. Kristin Wylie's Women & Politics course held coffee talks at the Madison Union Commons for International Women's History Month. Dr. Wylie also sat down for a one-on-one interview with WHSV and discussed some of the reasons for women’s underrepresentation in the U.S. Congress including: attitudes about the roles of women; structural barriers (e.g. inequities in pay); less access to informal networks that determine access to party resources & political explanations (e.g. single member districts). Watch the full interview here.

Traveling Town Hall
Delegate Tony Wilt (R), and Democratic candidates Cathy Copeland and Brent Finnegan all rode together on a van to three different residence halls to engage with JMU students about state politics.


On March 21, The Madison Center and Dukes Vote partnered once again with the Office of Residence Life on a Traveling Town Hall with Delegate Tony Wilt (R), Cathy Copeland (D) and Brent Finnegan (D). All three candidates visited the Apartments on Grace Street, Huffman Hall and Shenandoah Hall to discuss state politics and why they are running for election this year. One JMU senior who attended the Traveling Town Hall told us, “Seeing the candidates come engage with JMU students restores my faith in democracy.” Delegate Wilt is seeking reelection in November and currently represents Virginia’s 26th House District, and spoke about what the General Assembly accomplished in the 2019 legislative session. Copeland and Finnegan two Democratic candidates are competing for their party’s nomination in a primary election on June 11. JMU students registered in Harrisonburg can vote absentee in-person in Harrisonburg City’s Registrar Office (in City Hall at 409 S. Main Street) beginning April 29. Students can also request an absentee ballot by mail.

In preparation for the Town Hall, The Madison Center's Virginia State Politics Fellow Ethan Gardner (Political Science, '20) and Anna Connole wrote primers about the General Assembly and key legislation affecting JMU students. Ethan, Anna and Bella Chua also did a pop-up talk in the Student Success Center to distribute the primers and free Benny’s Pizza. Read the primers here.

Local Politics Dinner & Discussion

The Madison Center and Dukes Vote hosted Harrisonburg’s Mayor, Deanna Reed, and Vice Mayor, Sal Romero, Jr., for a dinner and discussion about local politics with JMU students. Mayor Reed told students, “We need you to get involved, we need your voices to be heard in Harrisonburg. Come to city council, show up.” Vice Mayor Romero told students, “Your perspective is unique and different. You can contribute to solving problems.”

Remote Area Medical Clinic

ram-clinic.jpgMore than five hundred people from underserved populations received dental, vision and medical services at no cost at the Remote Area Medical Clinic at Rockingham County Fairgrounds March 2 and 3. Dr. Laura Trull (Social Work) organized RAM Clinic in Harrisonburg, explaining the “substantial need” for free medical care. Her efforts included signing up nearly 500 volunteers. Dr. Trull said, “This event can only happen with the dedicated teamwork of community members and organizations, including the RMH Foundation, the Community Foundation, United Way, JMU College of Health and Behavioral Studies and hundreds of businesses, churches and volunteers who have given generous donations, packed lunches and will give their time around the clock to bring these needed services to hundreds of patients in our community.”

Spring Health Policy Summit

spring-health-policy-summit.jpgJMU held its bi-annual Health Policy Collaborative Summit, led by Dr. Laura Trull (Social Work) and Dr. Liliokanaio Peaslee (Political Science) in early March to provide students from different disciplines with an opportunity to develop an understanding of the policy making process, the role of citizens in addressing public concerns and what actions might be taken to effectively address the Opioid crisis. Throughout the event, students utilized their skills and resources to develop a proposed policy solution to the opioid epidemic. The best proposals were then presented to legislators Tony Wilt, Dickie Bell, and Dawn Williams who determined the top six proposals.

JMU Banking Team at the Community Bank Case Study Competition

Led by Assistant Professor of Finance Carl Larsson, the JMU Banking team is competing in the nationwide Community Bank Case Study Competition. The competition allows for undergraduate students to partner with local banks and conduct research throughout the community. JMU’s team submitted a 25-page case study and 10-minute documentary which focused on the impact of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act recently passed last May on local banks. The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act essentially grants more power to community banks in order to help communities gain affordable loans. The JMU team worked with the Blue Ridge Bank to examine its relationship with the community and the benefits since the law passed. Read more in The Breeze.

James Madison Day at JMU

For James Madison Day at JMU, The Madison Center and Dukes Vote set up tents on the Quad with cupcakes, pocket Constitutions, and information about the life and legacy of James Madison. In addition to his key contributions to American democracy and political life, students were also prompted to think about the paradox of Madison as a slave owner. Students responded on cards to questions about what the Constitution means to them, how they might strengthen democracy and ensure the rights of others, and what they can do to become a more informed citizen dedicated to the common good.

Service Year Coalition Day of Service

James Madison University hosted the first annual Virginia Service Year Coalition “Day of Service” in Harrisonburg on March 18. JMU’s engagement fellows and their mentors, along with service year fellows from William and Mary learned about the community and engaged with local organizations - including Fig and Vine, the Northeast Neighborhood Association and the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services - in service projects. In his concluding remarks to fellows, JMU President Alger said, “We can’t assume that democracy will survive without active engagement. We envisioned the year of service as an opportunity to be intentional, and that our fellows would continue to be involved even after moving on in life.” Applications are now being accepted for the 2019-2020 engagement fellows. Apply here.


Thank you to Steven Thomas for a historical walking tour of the Northeast Neighborhood Association of Harrisonburg, VA for James Madison University's first annual Service YearC oalition Day of Service. We learned about the history and development of Newtown (in Harrisonburg) established by freed slaves and path-breaking Black leaders who contributed to community development, education and social life, including George Newman, Lucy Simms, and Roberta Webb. We also learned about the impact of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws and urban renewal. We saw first-hand, NENA's vision and efforts to preserve history at the Dallard-Newman house through the creation of a museum. Carlotta Newman was the last resident of the Dallard-Newman home. Her grandparents were slaves, “showing that we really are not so far removed from the institution of slavery that we talk about,” Steven told us. NENA's work also goes beyond preservation, with efforts at community engagement and education.

The Arts of Civic Engagement


On Saturday, March 2, The Madison Center co-organized with the School of Music an experiential learning trip for students, faculty and staff in JMU’s School of Visual and Performing Arts to see the world-renown Kronos String Quartet and Persian vocalist Mahsa Vahdat perform “Music for Change: The Banned Countries” in Washington, D.C. In light of the 2017 Executive Orders limiting travel to the United States by people primarily from Muslim-majority countries, the 2019 Grammy-winning quartet performed works by composers from the original seven “banned countries”: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, with Persian vocals performed by world premier performer, Mahsa Vahdat. JMU doctoral candidate Elaine Lim commented after the event, “This experience with the Kronos Quartet was a glimpse of many cultures of different countries such as Egypt, Iran and Afghanistan, and has opened my ears in many ways. I am inspired to perform with purpose and intent like they did.”

“In, If Not Always Of” Is a series of photographs in which a being or presence that Pato Herbert calls, “The Oscillator,” appears in various landscapes. Photo by Pato Herbert.

Patrick “Pato” Hebert, a visual artist, educator and cultural worker, was a visiting scholar at JMU in February. In addition to being associate arts professor at NYU Tisch School in the Art and Public Policy Department, he is also very active in various social movements, including empowering homeless communities and LGBTQ+ communities. At JMU, several of Pato’s works have been installed in the New Image Gallery located at 131 Grace Street and can be viewed until April 10, 2019. While a visiting scholar at JMU, Pato also gave a community workshop and public lecture.

JMU Debate

The 19th Annual Madison Commemorative Debate and Citizen Forum (aka The Madison Cup Debates) will take place on Thursday, April 18, 2019. The debate topic is: The United States federal government should significantly reduce executive authority over immigration. The Madison Cup Debate attracts competitive debaters from around the world to compete for substantial scholarship prizes and is a significant national collegiate debate event. If you are interested in judging, you can sign up here. The Madison Cup Debates are sponsored by The Madison Debate Society, the School of Communication Studies, the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement, the Office of the President and the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.

In March, the JMU Debate Team competed against 50 other universities in the National Debate Tournament for the 10th consecutive year.

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by Carah Ong Whaley

Published: Monday, April 1, 2019

Last Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2022

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