The Civicist

The Civicist: April & May 2020

April & May 2020

Civic Engagement

by Carah Ong Whaley


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In this Edition:


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!

Congratulations Class of 2020!

Congratulations to these extraordinary graduates who we've had the honor of working with at JMU Civic & Dukes Vote, especially our Democracy Fellows: Ethan Gardner, Angelina Clapp, Kearstin Kimm, Caroline Whitlow, Aaliyah J. McLean, Leeyah Jackson, Saidah Lehrman, Caroline Byrd.

Thank you to all the amazing '19-'20 student and faculty Democracy Fellows who, despite extraordinary circumstances, make our world a better place, especially:

Bryana Moore, Sarah Gully, Anna Connole, Katrina Tilley, Drew Persinger, Emily Baker, Kasey Clayton, Tyler Strosnider, Mary Tolentino, Kyel, Prof. Ryan Alessi (SMAD), Prof. Cathy Copeland (WRTC) and Prof. Adrienne Hooker (SMAD).

Voting and Election Efforts

In order to protect public health, many states, including Virginia, have changed the dates of local elections and primaries. Text five people today and remind them to register or update voter registration and/or request an absentee ballot!

Update or register to vote and apply for absentee ballot in Virginia here, and for other states, click here.

The Harrisonburg Democratic Party is holding a caucus to select nominees to run for City Council in the November 2020 General Election. The caucus will close at 5:00 PM on May 16, 2020. On April 29, The Citizen and JMU Civic hosted a Virtual Town Hall with the Democratic candidates running for their party’s nomination to run for Harrisonburg City Council in November 2020. All candidates were given 60 seconds to respond to questions posed by our moderators on issues including, among others: response to COVID-19, affordable housing, the environment, education, comprehensive plan.

The June primary will now take place on June 23. Be sure to update your address or register to vote by May 26, 2020. Request an absentee ballot by June 16, 2020 at 5 pm at your local registrar where you are registered to vote. On April 16, Dr. Daniel Gade, a Republican candidate running to serve the Commonwealth of Virginia in the U.S. Senate, joined us for a virtual discussion moderated by JMU senior Economics major Kyle Ford and Wyatt Blevins, president of JMU College Republicans. Dr. Gade discussed in-depth his positions on a wide range of issues, including: government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, the student debt crisis, criminal justice, the Second Amendment, and the role of military in the world.

2020 Census

We need your help! Complete the 2020 Census today and text five other people to remind them to complete the census.

JMU DUKES: Even if you are NOT in Harrisonburg because of temporary closures due to COVID-19 responses, use your housing address at JMU where you would have been on April 1, 2020. Complete the form at https://my2020census.gov/.

Ensuring a complete count can help Harrisonburg and Rockingham rebound from the social and economic impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic and contribute to the long-term vitality of our communities.

For every Virginia resident who does not complete the 2020 Census, their community will lose $2,000 per person, per year until the next decennial census.

Read about what we have been doing locally to ensure a complete count for community resilience here and here.

On April 1, JMU Civic hosted a virtual discussion with students and leaders within the higher education community to talk about the impacts of the 2020 Census, how efforts have been impacted by COVID-19, and to plan continued outreach to hard-to-count communities.

On April 2, JMU Civic and the regional Complete Count Committee hosted a virtual town hall about the 2020 Census, why it matters for our schools and communities, and how it will impact Harrisonburg and Rockingham Counties. The town hall featured Beau Dickenson, Social Studies Coordinator for Rockingham County Public Schools; Rockingham County Supervisor Sallie Wolfe-Garrison; Dr. Michael Richards, Superintendent for Harrisonburg City Public Schools; and Sal Romero, Jr., Vice Mayor of Harrisonburg.

April & May Virtual Events

James Madison University President Jonathan Alger presented on the opportunities for college and university presidents to contribute to achieving the goals of full student voter registration and voter participation in the 2020 election cycle as part of the Compact20 Virtual Summit of Presidents & Chancellors.

COVID-19 has impacted us all in various ways. Dr. Michele Kielty, a professor in Graduate Psychology at James Madison University and Director of School Counseling Program, discussed ways to manage stress and to support ourselves and others. For more information on how to get help, visit JMU’s COVID-19 Resources.

JMU Civic hosted a virtual discussion with Delegate Tony Wilt (VA, HD 26) that was live streamed in April. Delegate Wilt discussed a wide range of issues, from the budget to the Second Amendment, to casinos and other outcomes of the General Assembly legislative and veto sessions. According Delegate Wilt, “One of the most consequential pieces of legislation to pass in the General Assembly this year was redistricting reform. That will now be on the ballot in November.” The livestream can still be accessed on our Facebook page.

As part of Public Service Recognition Week, James Madison University celebrated the tireless efforts of our partners, who help maintain and grow successful, equitable and resilient communities in the best of times and, as our current situation presents us, the most sudden and hardest of times. 2020 is the 36th year of a nation-wide effort to celebrate the contributions of those public servants employed in the government and nonprofit sectors. Read about the extraordinary individuals honored this year for their public service and watch the ceremony with concluding remarks from JMU President Jon Alger here.


Jamie Lockhart, JMU Political Science alum ‘08 and JMU Civic Advisory Council Member, educated students through a virtual engagement about what it is like to work in nonprofit, organizing, and public policy fields. She shared her unique perspectives on how to apply for jobs, network within your community, and how to make an impact through public service.

Democracy Matters Podcast

Listen and subscribe to Democracy Matters, the podcast of JMU Civic and a member of the Democracy Group, in Radio Public, Stitcher, iTunes or Spotify.

Leadership in a Time of Global Crisis: Serving the campus, community and beyond

Listen to our in-depth conversation with James Madison University President Jonathan Alger about what kind of leadership is needed during a global crisis and what it has been like to make important decisions on big matters with incomplete information at an unprecedented pace - from reorganizing courses for distance and online learning to responding to local community needs.

Listen to this Episode

The World Needs U.S.-China Cooperation

As headlines declare relations between the United States and China have sunk to a new low, we talk with China expert and James Madison University Political Science Professor Dr. Edward Yang. Dr. Yang discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting domestic politics in China, the trajectory of domestic reform and prospects for democratization.

Listen to this Episode

Protecting Democracy During Pandemic

As states prepare for primaries and as the nation plans for the November 2020 general elections, we talk with Dr. Larry Sabato, Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia and director of the Center for Politics about the fundamental need to preserve how voters have a voice in government by deciding who governs.

Listen to this Episode

Counting for Community Resilience: Census in the Time of COVID

We talk with JMU students Jonathan Derks, Kearstin Kimm, Tristan Thorgersen, and Abby Wallen enrolled in an interdisciplinary course focused on educating about the importance of the census and facilitating get-out-the-count initiatives in hard-to-reach communities. The Democracy Counts course was designed and co-led by Dr. Carah Ong Whaley (JMU Civic, Political Science), Professor Cathy Copeland (Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication) and Professor Adrienne Hooker (School of Media Arts and Design), with contributions from Dr. Kala Melchiori (Psychology) and Dr. Henry Way (Geography). Dr. Dena Pastor (Graduate Psychology, Center for Assessment and Research Studies) led 2020 Census assessment efforts in collaboration with JMU Civic.

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Bonus Episode: Civic engagement, social distancing, and democracy reform

Democracy is very much a collective activity. Inside, we come together to debate, discuss, do the work of government, and make laws. Outside, we protest and hold rallies. But much of this is not possible. Social distancing presents a tremendous challenge. In this episode from The Democracy Group podcast network, we look at the barriers and the opportunities as we all deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listen to this Episode

Upcoming Events & Opportunities

Campus Compact is holding a virtual gathering May 11-13, providing free, accessible opportunities for learning, networking, and pursuing our ongoing commitments. Throughout, we will emphasize key questions facing us now, exploring topics such as online community-engaged learning, civic digital literacy, place-based justice, civic learning ecosystems, student voting participation, and more. Sessions will be live streamed on YouTube.

On Wednesday, May 13 from 11-12:15 pm ET, JMU Civic’s executive director, Dr. Abe Goldberg, will contribute to a Campus Compact virtual session, “Reclaiming our Civic Purpose,” along with Dr. Martin Carcason (Colorado State University) and Azuri Gonzalez (The University of Texas at El Paso), and moderated by Campus Compact President Andrew Seligsohn. Watch the live stream on Campus Compact’s YouTube channel.

The Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Conference (CLDE) will be held virtually this year to foster deep connections and practice deliberative dialogue and responsible scholarship in an online format. The changes to higher education in the midst of the coronavirus have been extraordinary, and we recognize that our roles in civic learning and democratic engagement will continue to change. Join virtually on June 4–5, July 24, and September 11.

Call for Papers

If you are a current or recent undergraduate or graduate student, consider submitting your research, reviews, profile of practice, or critical reflections about community/civic engagement to the VA Engage Journal by May 15, 2020. Learn more here.

Published: Friday, May 1, 2020

Last Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2022

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