The Civicist

The Civicist: January 2020

January 2020

Civic Engagement

by Carah Ong Whaley


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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!

Upcoming Events
Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement 2020

The Call for Program Proposals is now OPEN for Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement 2020 in Minneapolis, MN.

Visit NASPA CLDE20 to submit your proposal online or to submit your interest in reviewing proposals by January 31, 2020.

Madison Vision Series

The Office of the President invites you to join the next Madison Vision Series event on February 6 at 6 pm in Wilson Hall Auditorium for a lively panel discussion featuring JMU alumnae shaping the future of business and technology. Panelists will explore the role of the changing corporation, the skills employees need for the 21st century, the evolving nature of leadership, hot jobs of the future, and more.

mvs.jpgFrom left to right: Jennifer Morgan (‘93), Co-Chief Executive Officer of SAP, Carrie Owen Plietz (‘97), Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Hospital Division of WellStar Health System and Kathy Warden (‘92), Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Northrop Grumman.
Spring SGA Elections

Student Government Association and the Madison Center are hosting a debate for SGA’s 2020-2021 candidates for student body president.

Join us February 12, 2020 at 7 pm to hear from the candidates directly and learn about their platforms. Students interested in running for any SGA office should complete the Spring 2020 Candidate Packet.

Virginia Student Democracy Summit

Elections are coming! Join the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement, Campus Vote Project, Piedmont Virginia Community College, UVA's Center for Politics in Charlottesville on February 15 for the Virginia Student Democracy Summit! We’ll focus on campus organizing for the 2020 Census and 2020 Elections, with inspiring keynote speakers, interactive breakout sessions, and more.

February 15, 2020 Piedmont Virginia Community College, 9 am - 5 pm. Learn more and register.

VALHEN Latinx Leadership Academy

The VALHEN Latinx Leadership Academy invites current Latino/a high school freshman and sophomores in Virginia to apply to take part in this new summer 2020 program sponsored by VALHEN and James Madison University. Accepted students will participate in workshops on self-awareness, civic engagement, and leadership and will spend 2 nights and three days on the beautiful campus of JMU in Harrisonburg, VA experiencing campus life and meeting new friends from across the Commonwealth. All costs are covered for accepted applicants and transportation will be provided to and from major cities in VA. For more program information details contact VALHEN LLA Coordinator, Karina Kline-Gabel at llajmu@gmail.com. Apply by March 27, 2020.

Democracy Matters Podcast

New decade, new Democracy Matters podcast episode! It’s hard to educate for democracy if we're not teaching students how to participate in it. Take a listen to our discussion with Ian Simmons, Founder and President of the Foundation for Civic Leadership and a member of the Madison Center’s Advisory Committee, about how campuses can achieve full participation in the 2020 elections. Listen and subscribe in iTune or Spotify.

Promoting Democracy

promoting-democracy.jpgDemocracy promotion is a central pillar of the foreign policy of many states, but the results are often disappointing. In her book Promoting Democracy: The Force of Political Settlements in Uncertain Times, JMU Political Science professor Manal Jamal examines how Western donor assistance can both help and undermine democracy in different parts of the world

James Madison University President Jon Alger talked with Stewart Harris on his podcast "Your Weekly Constitutional" about the role Virginia has played in establishing and maintaining representative democracy. Take a listen.

In the lead up to the November 2020 U.S. presidential election, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has created resources to help voters better understand the critical international issues at stake in the campaign.

Census 2020 Effots
Democracy Counts

Looking for an innovative interdisciplinary course addressing complex challenges to our democracy and society? Sign up for Democracy Counts, POSC 351-2 or WRTC 328, co-developed by Dr. Carah Ong Whaley and Prof. Cathy Copeland, with Adrienne Hooker (SMAD), Dr. Henry Way (ISAT-CS), Kala Melchiori (Psychology), and John Manuli (Marketing). For more information, contact Carah at whaleycl@jmu.edu

Experiential Learning Trip

Join us for an experiential learning trip to Census Bureau Headquarters on Thursday, January 30, 2020 from 7 am to 6 pm. Participants will gain an understanding of the census, why it matters for our political and economic systems, efforts around 2020 Census, cybersecurity, efforts to combat misinformation, data literacy, internship and job opportunities, and more. Anyone interested can contact Dr. Carah Ong Whaley at whaleycl@jmu.edu. The deadline to RSVP is January 23, 2020.

Live Chat with President Alger

James Madison University President Jon Alger joined U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham for a live chat about 2020 Census and why it matters for Higher Ed.

Watch it online here.

Filling Out the 2020 Census

The U.S. Census Bureau has a new explainer video about how to fill out the 2020 Census questionaire.

Work for the Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting to fill hundreds of thousands of temporary positions across the country to assist with the 2020 Census count. These are flexible, well-paying jobs, ideal for students. Learn more and apply here.

In the News

In an Education Dive article focused on what colleges can do to help students vote in the 2020 Election, author Natalie Schwartz writes about efforts at JMU with a special focus on the traveling candidate town hall organized by JMU’s Office of Residence Life and The Madison Center.

The All IN Campus Democracy Challenge recently recognized James Madison University President Jon Alger as a Standout President for his leadership in cultivating a culture of democracy and voter participation on campus and beyond. “It’s crucial that colleges and universities assume a leadership role in efforts to enhance our democracy, and graduate civic-minded students capable of solving tomorrow’s challenges,” said President Jonathan Alger. “This award reflects the work being done by many faculty and students here at JMU. I am honored to accept the award on their behalf and look forward to working with countless partners across campus to continue the good work focused on civic engagement. James Madison University, named for the Father of the Constitution, has an important role to play in preparing people for active and responsible political engagement.”

Dan Glickman and Alan Solomont write on CNN.com about how young voters will be key to winning 2020 elections based on turnout rates in 2018 and the impacts of institutionalizing civic learning and democratic engagement in higher education. “College campuses have always been hotbeds of student political activism, but the rate of engagement from these voters in 2018 is historically large. This can be attributed, at least in part, to colleges and universities investing in the civic development of their students by embedding political and policy discussions in classroom learning, encouraging non-partisan voter registration and helping students confront consistent barriers to electoral participation (such as providing information about where and when to vote). This is happening, for example, at James Madison University in Virginia; De Anza College, a community college in Cupertino, California; and the University of Texas at Austin.”

JMU Political Science Professor Dr. Howard Lubert wrote about what the framers of the Constitution thought about impeachment in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

U.S. presidential candidates are on track to smash campaign fundraising and spending records. JMU Political Science Professor Dr. David Jones talked with Fortune Magazine about campaign finance.

Out and About

UNIBE.jpgIn January 2020, JMU Provost Dr. Heather Coltman, Center for Global Engagement Associate Executive Director Dr. Felix Wang, and Madison Center Executive Director Dr. Abraham Goldberg and Associate Director Dr. Carah Ong Whaley visited the Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) in the Dominican Republic to establish civic and global learning partnerships. The JMU delegation learned about how UNIBE has developed curriculum to include experiential learning with local and global impact to address complex societal challenges. The Madison Center and Dukes Vote hope to offer exchanges between JMU and UNIBE students that focus on political learning and democratic engagement. In addition, Center for Global Engagement programs in the Dominican Republic will include a visit to UNIBE where JMU students will have the opportunity to participate in lectures and workshops with UNIBE students.

steven-thomas.jpgIn December, Steven Thomas, Northeast Neighborhood Association Community Organizer, Madison Center Associate Director Dr. Carah Ong Whaley and Community Service Learning Associate Director Jamie Williams (in spirit) presented at NASPA's Multicultural Institute in New Orleans about working alongside community partners for social justice. Carah also co-presented a workshop on the 2020 Census focused on how campuses can ensure a complete and accurate count. Full presentation here.

In November, Madison Center Executive Director Dr. Abraham Goldberg, Associate Director Dr. Carah Ong Whaley and Engagement Fellow Bry Moore attended the Students Learn Students Vote summit in Washington, DC. Carah facilitated a panel at the summit on the 2020 Census.

2019 Election Recap


Dr. Jesse Rathgeber’s Music Education Students and the Center for Inclusive Music Engagement performed throughout Election Day at the Convocation Center to celebrate democracy.


Nothing is sweeter than democracy! Thank you to JMU Dining for the election-themed desserts in D-Hall and E-Hall!


Thank you to JMU Transportation Services Driver Lenny Day for giving rides to students throughout Election Day to precincts in Harrisonburg and Rockingham on our Van to Vote.


Our Election Night Watch Party mixed substance and entertainment with a live-stream of Virginia statewide election results, an a capella performance by Exit 245, and live Breeze TV Coverage of the elections.


The day after elections, the Madison Center and Dukes Vote hosted a panel of experts to discuss the outcomes of the 2019 Virginia elections and the implications for governance featuring JMU School of Media Arts & Design Professor Ryan Alessi, JMU Department of Political Science Dr. Valerie Sulfaro, JMU Seniors Michael Walsh and Ethan Gardner, moderated by Madison Center Associate Director Dr. Carah Ong Whaley.


The Campus Election Engagement Project joined JMU CEEP Democracy Fellows Katrina Tilley and Drew Persinger on campus in the College of Business for a “Donut Forget to Vote” event the weekend before Election Day.

Fall Happening Recap


The iScream 4 Equality van came to JMU to educate about efforts in Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In partnership with JMU’s SGA Diversity Committee, the Madison Center and Dukes Vote held a tent talk on “Cultural Appropriation,” leading up to Halloween festivities.


The Madison Center and Dukes Vote participated in Fall Fest organized and hosted by Black Student Alliance and numerous other multicultural organizations to celebrate multiculturalism and address issues, including criminal justice. The Madison Center and DukesVote offered a rendition of the Race Card Project in which students shared their experience with race in 6 words or less. Stop by Burruss 243 to see what students had to say.

rosemarie-zagarri.jpgThe Madison Vision Series hosted George Mason University Professor Rosemarie Zagarri for a talk about “How Women Won and Lost the Vote in Early America.” Take a listen to Episode 13 of Democracy Matters featuring Prof. Zagarri, "Talkin 'Bout the Revolution: What we can learn from women breaking barriers in early America" on iTunes & Spotify.

The Madison Center participated in the Poverty Simulation organized by Emily Akerson and Mary Walala at the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services (IIHHS) for students across disciplines, including nursing, social services, and health and behavioral sciences. In partnership with United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, we developed a primer about Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed (ALICE) population and worked with students to write to decision makers. Read our primer here.

JMU Biology Senior Saidah Lehrman organized a Tent Talk with Dukes Vote on Climate Disruption in Festival Student and Conference Center. Read Saidah’s primer here.

Women Breaking Barriers hosted an event about how Virginia will become the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment during the 2020 General Assembly legislative session featuring Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed, Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan, Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy and Anthropology Professor Dr. Megan Tracy. Check out this 400-year timeline that walks through the history of women’s rights in the United States noting landmark court cases, milestones of legislative equality and the barriers women faced and broke, created by Democracy Fellow Kearstin Kimm (JMU Computer Science, ‘20) for the Madison Center.

Published: Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Last Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2022

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