Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 62.34
Liaison Christie-Joy Hartman
Submission Date Jan. 27, 2022

STARS v2.2

James Madison University
IN-49: Innovation C

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 0.50 / 0.50 Abraham Goldberg
Executive Director
James Madison Center for Civic Engagement
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
James Madison Center for Civic Engagement (JMU Civic)

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

The James Madison Center for Civic Engagement (JMU Civic) at James Madison University (JMU) was formed in 2017 to further meaningful participation in civic and political life. The mission of JMU Civic is to educate and inspire people to address public issues and cultivate a just and inclusive democracy.

As a nonpartisan entity, JMU Civic emphasizes the acquisition of knowledge to make one a more informed participant in our democracy, skills to make one a more effective participant, and values that embrace pluralism, open-mindedness, empathy, respect, diversity and inclusion.

What JMU Civic Does:

Builds year-round voter education and engagement initiatives with students, faculty and staff.

Integrates civic learning opportunities in courses and academic programs with faculty and departments across campus.

Provides resources for students to learn about and discuss public issues in an academic environment, and to develop and implement plans for informed participation in civic life.

Collaborates with JMU's Center for Assessment & Research Studies to assess campus-wide civic learning.

Works alongside community, state and national partners on civic learning initiatives and events.

Voting is one form of political and civic engagement and JMU Civic facilitates year-round voter education and engagement, which is a groundbreaking practice. JMU has an on-campus precinct. And, JMU is one of only four campuses in Virginia with a Voter Friendly Campus designation. JMU Civic annually develops a campus-wide Voter Engagement Action Plan outlining its strategy to prepare students to participate in elections at the local, state and national level. The document includes voter registration initiatives, opportunities for students to learn about public issues in an academic environment, and plans to facilitate informed participation in elections.

JMU Civic research and experience show that students care deeply about issues, but are ill-equipped to connect political and civic participation as a means to address those issues. Student-led efforts at JMU Civic lean into politics through learning-centered, action-oriented dialogues, dubbed “Tent Talks,” which bring major issues like racism and social justice, the economy, the public health crisis, the environment and immigration to public spaces on campus with opportunities for deliberation, discussion and action. In the pandemic, JMU Civic harnessed social media spaces for public deliberation and action. The program’s goal is to normalize and demystify discourse on public issues, especially important as discussion of politics has been deemed too divisive and therefore off-limits in other areas of students’ lives. Students had the opportunity to increase civic knowledge and skills by researching and developing background and issue primers for presidential and vice presidential debates, and joining online discussions with campuses across the country during the 2020 debates. Students also developed primers on pressing public issues - including racial justice, the environment, immigration, public health, education, among others - and creating public discourse on social media through Live discussions and carousels that combine videos, pictures and graphics to share in-depth, multi-media posts on key issues and why voting matters.

JMU Civic and Dukes Vote hosts town halls with local, state, Congressional and presidential candidates, giving students the opportunity to research and develop questions on pressing public problems, and to facilitate social media Live town halls that were also more accessible to the broader public. During 2020, JMU Civic held 55 virtual programs reaching over 260,000 individuals.

Additionally in 2020, JMU Civic partnered with the Office of Residence Life to hold virtual trainings for Resident Advisors on how to facilitate difficult election conversations with hall residents and offered a new tool to facilitate reflection and discussions exploring how experiences and identities shape our politics. JMU Civic also partners with JMU Athletics, designing civic programming and registering 100 percent of JMU student athletes to vote.

74.6% of JMU students voted in the 2020 Elections, a 20.5 percentage point increase in turnout from the 2016 general election and 8.6 percentage points higher than the national average for higher education institutions, according to the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University. A record 92% of James Madison University students also registered to vote in 2020. As a result, JMU earned the Highest Voter Registration - 4-year (Tied) & the Most Improved Voter Turnout - 4-year Awards for the State Challenges Awards from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge for nonpartisan student voter participation efforts in the 2020 Election. Additionally, James Madison University earned a Gold Seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

Because the construct of civic engagement is broad, a comprehensive approach is needed for its assessment. JMU Civic and the JMU Center for Research and Assessment developed campus-wide civic engagement learning outcomes, which is a groundbreaking practice. Information on assessment can be found at https://www.jmu.edu/civic/assessment.shtml and the learning outcomes can be found https://www.jmu.edu/civic/_files/civic-engagement-learning-outcomes.pdf.

JMU Civic uses civic engagement assessment results to inform development and improvement of civic engagement programming.

JMU Civic also participated in "Assessing and Improving Political Learning and Engagement with American Democracy." Over the course of two years, 12 American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) campuses, including JMU, tested tools with which to assess campus climates for political learning and engagement. Together, campus teams working with researchers from the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. The civic engagement assessment program was featured at the 2021 Assessment Institute as an extraordinary practice.

The James Madison Center also partnered with the JMU Center for Faculty Innovation to hold the following sessions: Embedding Dialogue in the Classroom: Facilitating Difficult Discussions, Debate Across the Curriculum, and Teaching in an Era of Political Polarization.

JMU Civic also uses podcasting for civic learning and engagement, with close to 100 episodes featuring conversations with scholars, experts, artists, practitioners and students as of December 2021: https://www.jmu.edu/civic/podcast/index.shtml. Podcast episodes integrate knowledge with ideas for action, including on sustainability and environmental issues. For example, in Episode 91, Dr. Carole Nash (Integrated Science and Technology), Dr. Tobias Gerken (Integrated Science and Technology) and Dr. Greg Wrenn (English) talk about the urgent changes that need to happen at the systemic level and impactful ways individuals can contribute to addressing climate change. Podcast episodes are typically accompanied by suggested readings and discussion questions, which can easily serve as a learning module in in-person or virtual courses.

More broadly, JMU Civic also helps facilitate Global Climate Change Week at JMU. GCCW is a new international endeavor that aims to encourage academic communities – including academics, students, and non-academic staff at universities in all disciplines and countries – to engage with each other, their communities, and policy makers on climate change action and solutions.

As a second example, Associate Director, Dr. Carah Ong Whaley, partnered with Horizon's Learning Foundation in 2020. JMU students designed and implemented learning activities for Harrisonburg City Public School and Rockingham City Public Schools at Horizon's Edge. The students did this as part of a course that examined scholarship and models of political learning and civic engagement to develop learning initiatives in P-16 curriculum. Through academic study, dialogues with practitioners, case studies, site visits, and hands-on activities, students developed a critical understanding of the underlying theories and key ideas central to civic learning and democratic engagement, including: democracy, justice, citizenship, community, equity and inclusion, deliberation, compromise, mutual respect/civility, social capital, civic leadership, political knowledge, and efficacy.

Note: JMU distinguishes between community engagement and civic engagement. JMU Community Service-Learning (CS-L) cultivates positive social change through mutually beneficial service partnerships, critical reflection, and the development of engaged citizens through our values of humility, intentionality, equity, accountability, service, relationships, and learning. Service-Learning is a method of teaching where students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized community service. The service experience is integrated into and enhances the academic curriculum of the student. CS-L estimates students' community service hours for JMU, as reported elsewhere in STARS.

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :
The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Source: Carah Ong Whaley, Associate Director, James Madison Center for Civic Engagement. November 29, 2021.

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