JMU Madison Winter 2012 : SpreadA

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW A rare occasion: Jonathan Alger, J.D., accepts appointment as JMU’s sixth president. Speaking the same language President-Elect Jonathan Alger talks about democracy, “the engaged university,” JMU’s student-centered culture and a future Madison listening tour On Nov. 28 something rare occurred at Madison. The JMU Board of Visitors announced a new president to lead JMU. Jonathan Alger, J.D., will take the helm as the university’s sixth president on July 1, 2012. A lawyer who has worked on constitutional issues throughout his career, Alger comes to JMU from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where he serves as senior vice president and general counsel. Alger earned his educational degrees at Swarthmore and Harvard Law School. Even for the Madison community, which embraces change as an integral part of its culture, the appointment of a new president is momentous. In its 103-year history, only five presidents have led the university. Each one has guided the university into a distinctly new phase of its journey and simultaneously upheld Madison’s core values. Already, Alger and Madison are speaking the same language. In his acceptance remarks last month at the JMU Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, the president-elect spoke extensively of “the engaged university” as his vision for JMU. A movement beginning to take hold in higher education, the engaged university is a concept lived every day by the Madison community. It is regarded as a point of pride among JMU’s 104,000 alumni and as a great promise among 16,000 JMU parents. After the flurry of activity surrounding the presidential announcement subsided, Madison had a chance to speak in depth with President-Elect Jonathan Alger about “the engaged James Madison University,” Madison culture and the future. Madison: Why is an engaged university important in this day and age? Madison: Other universities are beginning to embrace the notion President-Elect Alger: More than ever, a university has a criti-cal role in preserving and enhancing the heritage of democracy. It is up to us to develop educated and enlightened citizens who will participate actively in the world, who have the knowledge and skills to meet and confront new challenges, and to work with people from different backgrounds. Certainly, higher education can be an eco-nomic engine for our communities and the world at large. In the marketplace of ideas that we represent, faculty, students, alumni and others can debate and address the big issues of our time and chal-lenge assumptions. That is how a democracy flourishes and grows. MA D I S O N MA G A Z I N E of the engaged university, something JMU has embodied for a long time. What is Madison’s role in this movement? Alger: This is why I am so attracted to James Madison University. The principles of the engaged university are deep-rooted in the JMU culture, summed up so well in Be the Change. Another great strength of JMU is the historic linkage in name to James Madison. He helped build a framework of government in which different perspectives and points of view can thrive. He promoted educated and enlightened citizens who are involved and built structures for diversity and inclu-sion and progress. As the one university named for him, JMU has a P H O T O G R A P H B Y MIK E MIRIE L L O ( ’ 0 9 M )

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