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The Civicist Monthly Newsletter of the James Madison Center for Civic EngAgement & Dukes Vote, November/December 2018

We emphasize that active participation in political and civic life should be rooted in the knowledge that makes one a more informed citizen, enhanced by skills that make one a more effective citizen, and grounded in values that promote the public good over private interests and a positive attitude toward pluralism and diverse perspectives.

Health Policy Summit

Dr. Laura Trull (assistant professor, Social Work) and Dr. Lili Peaslee (associate professor, Political Science) were organizers of this year’s Health Policy Summit, which took place on October 15 and brought together business, nursing, health policy, social work, and political science majors to tackle the opioid epidemic. The winning teams all took different approaches in addressing the opioid epidemic, including: focusing on education instead of treatment; discussing whether Medicaid should cover methadone prescriptions to help addicts overcome their opioid addictions; and suggesting implementation of a Board of Practitioners to define guidelines to doctors who prescribe these medications. The summit was covered by the Daily News Record and WHSV.

Deliberative Dialogues

In October, students in Dr. Lori Britt’s class on Facilitating Dialogue and Deliberation tested their skills with students enrolled in Dr. James Herrick’s Infectious Diseases biology class (Bio 447/547). Using a deliberative approach, students engaged in a bioethics conversation to weigh the options of translational medicine, including whether it should be fully available, of limited availability, or restricted to the public. The facilitation team was led by Communications majors Jessica Martin, Illana Doroteo, and Marissa Quander, who prepared and aimed to enable a discussion that would demonstrate how to go about presenting new-found research and information regarding translational medicine to the public. Read more here.

On October 31, Dukes Vote and the Madison Center also partnered with students in Dr. Lori Britt's deliberative dialogue course for our first "Tent Talk" on pressing public issues. Students were invited to learn more about the national debt and its implications for the future, and were asked to offer their thoughts. Dukes Vote also developed and distributed this primer on the national debt. Additional highlights here.

Former Members of Congress Nick Rahall (D) and Jim Coyne (R) spoke on November 1 as part the Office of the President Madison Vision Series, which is co-sponsored by The Madison Center. As part of their Congress to Campus tour, Rahall and Coyne discussed the current political landscape and the need for a return to bipartisanship and compromise in Washington. They also took a moment to tell us what democracy means to them.

Election 2018 Turnout Music to Our Ears

The 2018 mid-term elections were historic for many reasons, but perhaps the most important of those reasons was really big turnout. Turnout is not usually high in mid-term elections, and has averaged only 40 percent of eligible voters in last several decades. In 2018, a record 116 million people cast a ballot, based on preliminary data made available by states and analyzed by University of Florida political science professor Michael McDonald at the U.S. Elections Project. Turnout in 2018 was equivalent to 49 percent of the nation’s voting-eligible population and the biggest turnout for mid-term since 1914.

We know from our NSLVE data from the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tuft’s University that JMU’s turnout rate was just 8.8% in the 2014 mid-term elections. While we won’t know our campus-wide turnout until mid-2019, we do know that there were almost as many voters in 2018 at JMU’s campus precinct (which primarily serves first-year students living in residence halls) as there were total voters in 2014. So, we expect to far exceed the 2014 turnout rate. In addition, based on Virginia Department of Elections data, turnout was up almost 50% at JMU’s campus precinct alone in 2018 compared to the 2017 elections.

Professors David Stringham, Jesse Rathgeber and their JMU Music Education students using their skills, talents and time to rock the polls were the highlight of Election Day. As Mike Burns, national director of the Campus Vote Project, noted in an Inside Higher Ed article, these efforts help build a “culture of democratic engagement.” Watch the highlight reel of Music Ed Students closely and you’ll also see that the Madison Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Abe Goldberg, also joined in the musicking.

Special thanks to #VoteTogether and MTV for the gift sponsoring our celebrations of democracy!

We promised and delivered in keeping community members entertained and engaged as we watched the results come in. There was free food and Cheerwine samples, airbrush tattoos, live music by JMU Alum DJ Golden Boy (of Golden Pony), and political poetry readings by Dr. Joanne Gabbin and Lauren K. Alleyne of the Furious Flower Poetry Center. Representatives from JMU student orgs, the Madison Center, and Jennifer Domagal-Goldman from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge also delivered substantive remarks and analysis. Led by Professor Ryan Alessi, Breeze TV also did their live coverage of Election results from our party.

The day after the election, there was a packed house in the John C. Wells planetarium for the Madison Center’s panel discussion “Making Sense of the Midterms,” which featured Professor Ryan Alessi from the School of Media arts and Design, and Dr. Tim LaPira, Dr. Kristin Wylie, and Dr. Kathleen Ferraiolo from the Political Science Department, facilitated by Dr. Carah Ong Whaley. Each shared key highlights of the elections and takeaways for understanding the results. Watch the WHSV clip here.

On November 9, The Madison Center’s Engagement Fellow Shelby Taraba and our Campus Vote Project Democracy Fellow Anna Connole (Political Science and Communications Studies double-major) served on a major panel at the National Press Club to discuss college student voter engagement and our efforts at JMU. Aaliyah McClean, president of Women of Color, also joined and was able to answer reporter questions. The event was sponsored by the Education Writers Association and was live-streamed for journalists across the country.

Engagement for Public Good Conference:

JMU’s Engagement for the Public Good conference was huge success! Congratulations to the entire planning task force, and especially to Assistant Dean for Outreach and Engagement Carol Fleming, who spearheaded organizing. The conference brought together faculty, administrators, engagement professionals, students, and community members to collaborate with peers, share strategies, research, and best practices relating to civic learning and partnering with communities on and off campus. Among the terrific line-up of panels and workshops, The Madison Center’s executive director Dr. Abe Goldberg facilitated a panel with Dr. Tim Shaffer (Kansas State University and the Kettering Foundation); Jen Domagal-Goldman (ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge); and Verdis Robinson (Community College Engagement at Campus Compact). You can watch the panel via Periscope.

The Madison Center’s executive director Dr. Abe Goldberg, and our Engagement Fellow Shelby Taraba attended the Students Learn Students Vote Summit in DC following the election to share ideas, lessons learned and successes from engaging around the election. We heard from campuses across the country and their struggle to engage their universities in political processes ranging from acquiring a campus precinct, or persuading administrations of the importance of their endeavors. Abe also facilitated a panel at a Students Learn Students Vote Philanthropic Partners Convening titled, "Collaboration: Working Together to Best Serve Local Leaders in Campus Communities."

In partnership with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics,The Madison Center hosted a MongoliaLEAD delegation at James Madison University on November 15, with young leaders joining us for a day to share ideas about the importance of civic engagement to address shared public concerns. JMU President Jon Alger addressed the delegation and spoke about the important role of higher education in creating active and informed participants in democracy. The day also included workshops by Dr. Chris Blake (Political Science) on ethics in public service and Dr. Carah Ong Whaley led a workshop on evidence-based advocacy and deliberative civic engagement. JMU Music Education students Graham McDowell (Music Industry), Riley Millward (Music Education), Mason Moy (Music Composition), Lindsey Showalter (Music Education), Ben Dingus (Music Industry), and Andrew Foote (Music Education) played “Purplegrass” at the evening reception, demonstrating once again how music can build a culture of democratic engagement. Read more here.

Eight honors courses within the School of Communication Studies have spent the semester considering what they care about and what they can do about persistent public problems. In November, the Madison Center’s associate director Dr. Carah Ong Whaley had the opportunity to go into each class and offer a framework for developing civic action plans around these issues. You can join the SCOM Honors students and professors at their Symposium on December 2, from 1-4 pm in Harrison Hall to see what wicked public problems JMU’s newest batch of Honors College students want to see SOLVED.

American Democracy Project

As part of our work with ADP, The Madison Center organized two webinars in October and November: "Higher Education's Mandate for the Midterm and Beyond," featuring Nancy Thomas, IDHE, Tufts University, and Anna Connole, Campus Vote Project Fellow at the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement; and "Mock Debates for Civil Discourse to Increase Democratic and Civic Engagement on College Campuses," featuring Semline Delva, Program Coordinator for Leadership and Civic Engagement at Kennesaw State University, and Grace Stafford, Kennesaw State University Campus Election Engagement Project Fellow. Videos of the webinars are available here.

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, senior fellow-in-residence for public service at JMU visited the Danville/Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce, and gave a presentation at Averett University on November 27. Borrowing from a recent headline from The Atlantic magazine, Bolling told the audience that America “is living James Madison’s nightmare.” “The Federalist Papers,” Madison warned that if a democracy lost three things — civic engagement, civil conversation and compromise — it would devolve into mob rule with the most extremist elements of both political sides in control, Bolling said.

The Madison Center partnered with Community Service-Learning on November 26 to prepare 40 Alternative Break Leaders to help students create pathways from service to deeper engagement in civic and political life. Groups were formed around social issues including community wellness, youth development and environmental issues.

Amy Lewis was the College of Visual and Performing Arts Cultural Connections Artist-in-Residence at JMU in October and spoke on “Anti-Racist Advocacy, Black Lives Matter, and Arts Education." The Madison Center co-sponsored her visit. Ms. Lewis reflected on her involvement in Black Lives Matter (Lansing Chapter) and how it connects to the power of teaching music and art.

Upcoming Opportunities

Are you between 21-35 and want to develop the skills, knowledge, and perspectives needed to effectively improve your communities and explore topics such as the state of democracy today? Apply to the Global Pathfinder Summit, taking place May 20-24, 2019.

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