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Academic Year Welcome 2013 Email

Academic Year Welcome 2013

Dear JMU family,

Happy (Academic) New Year!  I hope you enjoyed a refreshing summer.  I want to welcome you to the new academic year and share an update on activities and developments on campus as we prepare for classes to begin.  There are so many good things to share.

JMU Family by the Numbers: Students: 20,200.  Faculty: 1775 (103 new faculty members join us this year). Staff: 1257.

Annual Accomplishments:  A highlight list of accomplishments from the past academic year has been completed and is online. Visit This report reflects the efforts of everyone on campus and is an impressive list.

Strategic Planning:  The Madison Future Commission sub-committees continued their good work over the summer.  The Board of Visitors participated in the process as well.  The commission is now preparing the plan for final consideration and approval at the October BOV meeting.  This tremendous effort will help us chart our course and our priorities for years to come, and we look forward to sharing it with you soon.

Compensation Task Force:  Addressing compensation issues at JMU continues to be a top priority.  The Compensation Task Force completed its report and formulated a set of recommendations that were thoroughly reviewed by the Senior Leadership Team.  In June, we were pleased to announce well-deserved salary increases for all full-time faculty and staff.  The JMU budget office team worked hard to supplement the raises provided by the commonwealth.  We will continue to address compensation issues by taking action on recommendations made by the task force, such as developing a multi-year phased approach to salary improvements and the appointment of a Compensation Advisory Committee that will review compensation matters and proposals and provide advice to the Senior Leadership Team.  The task force recommended further review on a number of topics and benefits for employees.  Our goal is to look broadly at all aspects of compensation and work-life balance to make JMU the best possible place to work.

Summer Schedule:  In response to suggestions from staff members, we experimented with a modified summer work schedule to help extend the summer weekends.  Human Resources is currently conducting a survey to get your feedback on the summer schedule.  The feedback will help us decide whether to follow the modified schedule again next summer.

New Business Dean:  Dr. Mary Gowan has arrived on campus and begun her tenure as Dean of the College of Business.  Mary has met with nearly every faculty member in the college and has an ambitious schedule to meet alumni and other University supporters in the months ahead.

Madison Collaborative:  I am pleased to announce the leadership team for the Madison Collaborative:  Ethical Reasoning in Action.  Dr. William Hawk will serve as Chair of the program, and Dr. Lori Pyle has been named the Associate Chair.  Several faculty members piloted Madison Collaborative modules in courses last spring, and the Summer Springboard Orientation Sessions introduced incoming students to the program.  Yesterday we launched “It’s Complicated”, the kickoff collaborative activity for all new first-year students. Early reports are that is was a major success.  Special thanks if you were one of the 170 volunteers who participated in delivering this signature program.

Diversity Task Force:  The Diversity Task Force submitted their report to the Senior Leadership Team early this summer.  Findings and recommendations will be presented to the Senior Leadership Team in early September.  We will continue to build upon the welcoming and inclusive community at JMU for diversity in its broadest aspects.

Development Update:  Fiscal year 2013 ended on a strong note, with a total of $12,945,776 contributed, representing an impressive 59% increase over FY2012. The number of alumni donors in FY 2013 increased 10% over FY 2012 for a total of 8,508.  We are also delighted to announce that we have hired Marts & Lundy as consultants to help us prepare for the upcoming comprehensive campaign.  We are grateful to everyone who is helping develop a culture of philanthropy throughout the University community, including all of our generous faculty and staff donors, who participated at a record 40 percent in last year’s employee giving campaign! Thank you for giving back. 

4VA:  We continue to work with Cisco and our partner institutions (UVA, Virginia Tech, and George Mason) on the 4VA collaborative project, which has allowed us to take advantage of new technology to develop joint courses and research projects (some of which are now garnering additional grant support from outside agencies).  We congratulate the faculty members and students involved in projects that have received grants through the program.  I will be chairing the 4VA collaborative project this year and hope that these efforts will continue to expand.

National Constitution Center:  On June 20, I had a terrific introductory and brainstorming meeting at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia with new CEO, Jeff Rosen, and the Chief Operating Officer, Vince Stango.  We discussed a variety of possible joint programs and initiatives, and are establishing a working relationship to explore further options.  This initiative and our increasingly closer ties to Montpelier will help us to raise student and public awareness of James Madison’s legacy.

International and Domestic Study Programs:  I was recently able to visit our Study Abroad programs in Salamanca (Spain), Florence, and London, and to meet and interact with students, faculty members, staff, community leaders, and our international university partners.  These programs are very well organized and operated, and the students repeatedly noted how these experiences have had a transformative impact on their lives.  We also had a memorable alumni event in London, where we met with some remarkable individuals who are eager to engage with JMU on a global level.  We are creating an international alumni chapter that will help us enhance the study abroad experience and strengthen ties with alumni who live and work abroad. Finally, I had the chance to visit the innovative JMU in Los Angeles program under the leadership of the School of Media Arts and Design and to hold an alumni event in that city.  We hope to continue to strengthen and support these programs that provide opportunities for students to engage with the world off campus.  Also, don’t forget that International Week is September 23-27. See

Forbes Center Season:  We hope you can come to events at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts this year (see the schedule at The Forbes Center is one of the great jewels of the University and the Shenandoah Valley, and is a showcase for our superb performing arts programs.

Fall Sports:  The schedule of fall sports events can be found at We hope you can join us to cheer on the Dukes.

Facilities and Construction Updates

  • Duke Hall:  Renovation and expansion of this academic facility for the visual and fine arts is on schedule for substantial completion in late 2013.
  • Student Success Center (old hospital):  Renovations continue.  These buildings (more than 250,000 square feet) will be a leading-edge center for student health and success.
  • College of Health and Behavioral Studies:  Plans for this facility are currently in the design stage and construction is slated to begin in fall of 2014.Grace Street Housing Project:  Site work has begun on a residential apartment building that will house 500 students and the facility is slated to open in August 2015.
  • Main Street Median:  For safety reasons, a median has been added in front of the Forbes Center and Anthony Seeger Hall to help traffic and encourage pedestrians to use the South Main crosswalks or the tunnel underneath Main Street.
  • Ice House:  Renovations are underway in this downtown building which will house several community-based programs.  More details will be available as plans are finalized.
  • Recreational/Health and Wellness Facilities:  An expansion of the UREC building is in the design stage, as the current facility is operating at full capacity.  The facility is used not just for recreation, but is also a significant center for health and wellness education.  Daily visits have increased nearly 100% since 1996; sports club participation has increased by 200%.  Last year alone, UREC recorded 550,298 visits!  University Park has also been well used already, with construction to start soon on an event parking deck, steam lines, and a field hockey facility.
  • Convocation Center:  Plans are being considered for an updated facility, but no final decisions have been made in terms of the plans or timeline.

Other Special Events:  As we develop the schedule for the academic year, I wanted to bring to your attention a few of the many special events that might be of interest, as noted below.

  • September 16: Dominion Lecture Series, 7-8 pm (reception following) at HHS2301—“Debunking the Myth:  The Hierarchy of Oppression” presented by Rev. Irene Monroe, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Huffington Post columnist, public theologian, LGBT activist and motivational speaker
  • September 17:  Guest lecture for Constitution Day at JMU by Professor A.E. Dick Howard, University of Virginia School of Law (recipient of an honorary JMU degree)October 16:  Campus presentation by Carol Geary Schneider, President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (the leading national organization devoted to liberal arts education)
  • November 28:  Marching Royal Dukes will participate in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC
  • January 20:  The Dr. Martin Luther King celebration speaker will be Dr. Steve Perry, Founder of Capital Preparatory School, Best Selling Author of "Man Up", and an Education Contributor on CNNFebruary 16:  JMU School of Music concert at National Presbyterian Church (Washington, DC)

These accomplishments and plans for the future are propelling JMU toward our vision of being a national model of the engaged university.  Let me express our great thanks to everyone for their teamwork, contributions, and collegiality.

As you can see, it has been a busy and productive summer, and we have big plans for the upcoming year.  I look forward to a new year of learning and growing together.

With all best regards,

Jon Alger


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