The Civicist

The Civicist: February and March

February & March 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!

2020 Census

We need your help! The Constitutionally-mandated decennial census has begun. Amidst the immediate crises and short-term responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, higher education also has a long-term civic obligation to the communities in which we are situated to ensure a complete and accurate count in the 2020 Census.

JMU Faculty Resources

JMU Civic has created resources you can use in your virtual classrooms, including a PowerPoint presentation, graphics and a short video. We can also provide trained volunteers to conduct 2020 Census education and completion virtually via Zoom. Submit a request here to schedule a 2020 Census virtual workshop/discussion, which will prepare your students to fill out the form and provide an opportunity to ask questions. It takes approximately 10 minutes. If you have any questions, please email whaleycl@jmu.edu. We also have a Canvas site with resources on the 2020 Census, voting and other things civic-related. Look for "Dukes Vote" in the Public Course Index (here's how).

Video/Photo/Art Contest

Thanks to a Faculty Senate Student Engagement Mini-Grant, JMU Civic Democracy Fellows Ethan Gardner (POSC, ‘20) and Aaliyah McLean (SMAD, ‘20) are sponsoring a 2020 Census video, photo and art contest. The objectives of the contest are to educate about why the 2020 Census matters and encourage JMU students to complete the 2020 Census. Learn more and submit entries here.

The Census Bureau has also announced a Video Prize Challenge to content creators, from students to pros, to help get the word out about the 2020 Census through a short format video for a chance to win up to $30,000.

Where Students Count

Please share with students:Even if you are not in Harrisonburg due to COVID-19 responses, use your off-campus housing address where you typically would have been to complete the Constitutionally mandated 2020 Census. Coordinate with your roommates and designate one of you to complete the form for ALL of you at https://my2020census.gov/.

If you live in on-campus or university-owned housing, you are part of Group Quarters enumeration and Office of Residence Life will work with you on census completion. More info: https://www.jmu.edu/civic/

JMU Civic Census Work in the News

Over the last month, JMU Civic’s 2020 Census work was highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, Teen Vogue, Forbes, Inside Higher Ed, Virginian-Pilot, Daily News Record and WHSV.

Upcoming Events

In response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and federal guidelines to protect public health in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, JMU Civic will be rescheduling previously planned programming. We hope you will join us for online and virtual discussions instead.

Save the date!

JMU’s Engagement for the Public Good conference, “Building Capacity for Public Impact,” is planned for October 19-21.

Call for Proposals

JMU’s Communication Center’s new Journal of Transformative Education will have a special issue on Civic Education as Transformative Education.Proposals (two-page, double spaced) should be submitted by March 31, 2020. Learn more here.

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 April 1, 2020. Learn more here.

Democracy Matters Podcast

JMU Civic’s podcast, Democracy Matters, is excited to join The Democracy Group, a network of podcasts united around the goal of creating a more informed, civically engaged electorate. Podcasts in the network are committed to modeling respectful dialogue and informed inquiry, and feature scholars, policy experts, journalists, organizers, and everyday people who are committed to strengthening democracy and civic life.

Listen and subscribe to Democracy Matters in iTunes or Spotify. Recent Democracy Matters Episodes:

“Is Civility a Cure for the Dysfunctions of Democracy?” with Dr. Robert Talisse, W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.

“Evaluating Political News in an Election Year,” with JMU School of Media Arts and Design Assistant Professor Ryan Alessi about the best strategies for evaluating political news stories in a hyperpartisan election year.

“Banking on Civic Learning,” with JMU Finance Professor Dr. Carl Larsson and Katie Jarrett, a senior in the School of Media Arts and Design and Corinne Barbieri, a senior Finance major, who are members of JMU’s Banking Team.


While global food production has reached record highs, more than 800 million people went undernourished in 2017— including 37 million in the US, or around 11% of the country. While global production is ample, food distribution and access are unjust. This predicament holds true in Harrisonburg, the greater US, and the Earth as a whole. Students enrolled in Mapping Justice, taught by Dr. Case Watkins at James Madison University in Fall 2019, researched, designed, and constructed a StoryMap analyzing food access, food justice, and food sovereignty in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Check out this amazing project here.

Ethan Gardner, POSC, ‘20 & JMU Civic Democracy Fellow, writes about Reimagining Public Inclusion in governance and decision making in the time of #COVID19 on our blog.

Sarah Gully, JMU Civic Graduate Assistant, has a new post on our blog with ideas for productive conversation and staying civically engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students from The Breeze put together a video of the historical exhibit displayed in the lobby of the new Paul Jennings Residence Hall.

Dr. Elizabeth Bennion, a Professor of Political Science at Indiana University South Bend, has put together a list of “Civic Action Projects for Your 100% Online (COVID-19 ADAPTED) Courses.”

JMU Civic and Dukes Vote

In what has become a tradition, JMU Civic and Dukes Vote held a Party at the Precinct on primary election day with pizza, music, Dukes Vote buttons and shirts for anyone, including voters!

Ahead of Virginia’s open presidential primary on March 3, Campus Vote Project Democracy Fellows, Anna Connole and Emily Baker offered primary election information and Student Government Association Legislative Affairs, led by Ethan Gardner, organized a Candidates Fair for students to get information about the different candidates and their policies, and meet representatives of 2020 Presidential Campaigns. Check out WHSV’s coverage of Election Day at JMU.

Out, About and Awards

On January 30, the Democracy Counts 2020 Census class, led by JMU Civic Associate Director Dr. Carah Ong Whaley, Professor Cathy Copeland (WRTC) and Professor Adrienne Hooker (SMAD), were joined by the JMU Civic Executive Director Dr. Abe Goldberg, JMU Civic team members Sarah Gully and Bry Moore, Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellow Aaliyah McClean, and Campus Compact Virginia Executive Director Tiveeda Stovall and Kristina Oates, for learning trip to the U.S. Census Bureau. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham told the group, “JMU President Jon Alger is a national leader and Dukes are on the map in leadership for the public good.”

The College of Business and JMU Civic hosted Jennifer Park Stout (JMU, ‘98), Vice President of Global Policy at Snap, Inc. and JMU Civic advisory council member, as a C-Suite Speaker on February 10. Jennifer told students, faculty and staff, “You have the opportunity to do whatever you can for civic engagement, democracy and giving back to your community from wherever you are in public or private sector. You can make a difference.” Through Jennifer’s leadership, Snap, registered more than 425,000 of its users to vote through its social media platform and also partnered with Ballot Ready to help 1.4 million Snap users to find what their sample ballot looked like through the map function.

Jennifer Park Stout (JMU, ‘98), Vice President of Global Policy at Snap, Inc. and JMU Civic advisory council member.

Ryan Alessi, School of Media and Design Professor, JMU Civic Faculty Fellow and co-founder of The Citizen Takes on Harrisonburg, was awarded an Up to Us mini-grant for his Media and Politics class to increase voter education and engagement. Ryan was also awarded a 2020 Virginia Press Association Leadership and Innovation Award for civic engagement and student mentoring. In February, Ryan also ran several workshops on election news literacy for JMU students on campus and for community residents at the Massanutten Regional Library.

JMU Civic Executive Director Dr. Abe Goldberg attended Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) annual meeting in Washington, DC. to learn more about implementing best practices for diversifying higher education, creating more inclusive spaces, and different challenges that are shared across campuses. Abe also facilitated a round-table with Arielle del Rosario, Assistant Director of Project Pericles and Nicole Costa, Campus Outreach Lead of Democracy Works called Blackboard to Ballot: Using Curriculum to Educate Students as Voters.

In February, James Madison University was selected to be one of the U.S. colleges to receive the 2020 Community Engagement Classification by The Carnegie Foundation. This designation represents the university’s institutional commitment to community engagement.

JMU sophmore, Kasey Clayton, received a student engagement mini-grant for her civic action plan to educate about and combat human and sex trafficking. In order to create awareness, Kasey organized a viewing of the Not My Life documentary along with a panel discussion from community members and professors including Sabrina Dorman, owner and co-founder of New Creation.

The Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services (IIHHS) Poverty Simulation was held February 3-5, 2020 to educate and engage students across different disciplines to think about the implications of poverty and how it affects not only an individual but also the greater community. JMU Civic Associate Director Dr. Carah Ong Whaley participated in the simulation, discussing how to be an advocate for the A.L.I.C.E. population and the importance of the 2020 Census.

Students attending IIHHS Poverty Simulation.

The College of Integrated Science and Engineering, the School of Integrated Sciences, and the STS Futures Lab hosted a collaborative workshop on February 6 to encourage students and faculty to see themselves as socially responsible agents of change within our world. Learn more about the STS program here.

For Valentine’s Day, JMU Libraries provided an opportunity for students to write a postcard to their representatives to thank them and/or inform them of issues and topics that they are passionate about.

The JMU Civic team participated in the 2nd Annual Virginia Student Democracy Summit, organized by Campus Vote Project and hosted this year by Piedmont Virginia Community College, and co-sponsored by UVA’s Center for Politics and JMU Civic. The Summit featured workshops and discussions to cultivate a climate for civic learning and political engagement on campuses, and how to effective educate and engage students in the 2020 Census and 2020 Elections.

JMU Civic team brainstorms ideas for our voter engagement plan at the Virginia Student Democracy Summit.

In partnership with JMU Communication Professors Dr. Carlos Aleman, Dr. Melissa Aleman, JMU Libraries, Virginia Organizing, Virginia Humanities, students in the Scholars Latino Initiative and Mary Tolentino (JMU, ‘23 & JMU Civic’s Woodson Martin Democracy Fellow) facilitated a workshop for community members to share their immigration experiences.

African, African American, and Diaspora Studies (AAAD) held its 10th Annual Interdisciplinary Conference in February centered on the theme “Black Temporalities: Past, Present, and Future” and including a range of topics from oral history to Afrofuturism. JMU Civic Engagement Fellow Bry Moore spoke on a panel about the JMU Through Living Color Exhibit and how JMU has shaped them as individuals.

On March 6, Jarrit Sheel, Assistant Professor of Music Education at Berklee College of Music facilitated a discussion about “Civic Engagement thru Hip-Hop.” Music in general but hip-hop specifically, has been able to cultivate the voices of marginalized groups within society and engage others in dialogue through arts and culture for years. Sheel dove into the political, societal, and psychological history of hip-hop and how each of these aspects are still prevalent in the music made today. Sheel told participants, "Democracy is about the rule by the people, not over people. Civic engagement is about collective action. You can’t do work for people, you can only do work with people. When you’re engaged in civics, you’re part of a group, and you take ownership by voting, by being involved.”

Published: Sunday, March 1, 2020

Last Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2022

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