James Madison University

James Madison University (also known as JMU, Madison, or James Madison) is a public research university in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Founded in 1908 as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg, the institution was renamed Madison College in 1938 in honor of President James Madison and then James Madison University in 1977.[5] The university is situated in the Shenandoah Valley, just west of Massanutten Mountain.

James Madison University
MottoKnowledge is Liberty
Academic affiliations
Endowment$103.9 million (2018)[1]
Budget$620 million (2019)[2]
PresidentJonathan R. Alger
Academic staff
Location, ,
United States
CampusSmall city, 721 acres (2.92 km2)
ColorsPurple and Gold[4]
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division ICAA
MascotDuke Dog


Founded in 1908 as a women's college, James Madison University was established by the Virginia General Assembly. It was originally called The State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg. In 1914, the name of the university was changed to the State Normal School for Women at Harrisonburg. At first, academic offerings included only today's equivalent of technical training or junior college courses, but authorization to award bachelor's degrees was granted in 1916. During this initial period of development, the campus plan was established and six buildings were constructed.[6]

The university became the State Teachers College at Harrisonburg in 1924 and continued under that name until 1938, when it was named Madison College in honor of James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, whose Montpelier estate is in nearby Orange, Virginia. In 1976, the university's name was changed to James Madison University.[6]

The first president of the university was Julian Ashby Burruss. The university opened its doors to its first student body in 1909 with an enrollment of 209 students and a faculty of 15. Its first 20 graduates received diplomas in 1911.[6]

In 1919, Burruss resigned the presidency to become president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Samuel Page Duke was then chosen as the school's second president. During Duke's administration, nine major buildings were constructed.[6] Duke served as president from 1919 to 1949.

In 1946, men were first enrolled as regular day students. G. Tyler Miller became the third president in 1949, following Duke's retirement. During Miller's administration, from 1949 to 1970, the campus was enlarged by 240 acres (0.97 km2) and 19 buildings were constructed. Major curriculum changes were made and the university was authorized to grant master's degrees in 1954.[6]

In 1966, by action of the Virginia General Assembly, the university became a coeducational institution. Ronald E. Carrier, JMU's fourth president, headed the institution from 1971 to 1998. During his administration, student enrollment and the number of faculty and staff tripled, doctoral programs were authorized, more than 20 major campus buildings were constructed and national publications recognized JMU as one of the finest institutions of its type in America. Carrier Library is named after him.[6]

21st century

During the first decade of the 21st century, under JMU's fifth President Linwood H. Rose, the university continued to rapidly expand, not only through new construction east of Interstate 81, but also on the west side of campus. In early 2005, JMU purchased the Rockingham Memorial Hospital campus just north of the main JMU campus for over $40 million. The hospital has since moved, and JMU now occupies the site after having made substantial renovations to it.[7] In June 2005, the university expanded across South High Street by leasing the former Harrisonburg High School building from the City of Harrisonburg. In May 2006, the university purchased the property.[8] The sale was approved in June 2005 for $17 million.[9][10] The university named the old HHS building Memorial Hall.[11] Recently completed projects include the Rose Library on the east side of campus, which opened on August 11, 2008. The John C. Wells Planetarium, first opened in 1974, underwent a $1.5 million renovation in 2008. It is now a state-of-the-art hybrid planetarium, the only one of its kind in the world. Its mission is science education and public outreach. It offers free shows to the public every Saturday afternoon and hosts annual summer space camps in July. The 175,000-square-foot (16,300 m2) Forbes Center for the Performing Arts opened in June 2010, and serves as the home to JMU's School of Theatre and Dance. It also provides major performance venues and support spaces for the School of Music, and the administrative office for the Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

The rapid expansion of JMU's campus has at times created tension in the city-university relationship.[12] In 2006, the local ABC affiliate reported that the university had nearly doubled in size in the last 20 years,[13] including purchases of several local properties.[14][15]

The university has also experienced tension with local residents with occasional clashes between local police and students at a popular off-campus block party. In 2000, the party with about 2,500 students grew out of hand and required a police presence at the Forest Hills townhouse complex on Village Lane.[16] Ten years later, police equipped with riot gear used force to disperse a group of 8,000 college-aged people at the party.[17][18][19] Several participants were airlifted to a medical center in Charlottesville to treat their injuries.[20] The university condemned the block party attendees' behavior.[21]


James Madison University is considered "More Selective" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It received 22,648[22] applications for an entering freshmen class of 4,325 for the 2012–13 academic year.[23] The retention rate for the 2011–12 freshman class was 91.4%, and the ratio of female to male students 60/40. About 38% of students are from out of state, representing all 50 states and 89 foreign countries.

JMU offers 115 degree programs on the bachelor's, master's, educational specialist, and doctoral levels. It comprises seven colleges and 78 academic programs, including the College of Arts and Letters; the College of Business; the College of Education; the College of Health and Behavioral Studies; the College of Integrated Science and Engineering; the College of Science and Mathematics; the College of Visual and Performing Arts; and The Graduate School. Total enrollment in the 2012–13 academic year was 19,927—18,392 undergraduates and 1,820 graduate students. JMU granted 4,908 degrees in 2012—4,096 undergraduate degrees, and 812 graduate degrees.

On October 2, 2009, JMU was granted a chapter by the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society.[24] Its chapter of Phi Kappa Phi was the first academic honor society chartered at JMU. The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi (or ΦΚΦ) was established in 1897 to recognize and encourage superior scholarship without restriction as to area of study and to promote the "unity and democracy of education".


On June 24, 2004, the Board of Visitors approved the Madison College Proposal, which created the College of Visual and Performing Arts out of the College of Arts and Letters. The College of Visual and Performing Arts includes the School of Art, Design and Art History, the School of Music, the School of Theatre and Dance, and the Madison Art Collection. About 1,200 students are enrolled in the college, and the Master of Fine Arts degree offered by the School of Art, Design and Art History is nationally ranked by U.S. News and World Report.

On January 9, 2007, the Virginia higher education governing body approved the School of Engineering.[25] The school began accepting undergraduates in fall 2008. The program focuses on sustainability with an emphasis on environmental sciences. The School of Engineering offers general engineering degrees with no specializations.


University rankings
Forbes[26] 143
Times/WSJ[27] 279
U.S. News & World Report[28] 6
Master's University class
Washington Monthly[29] 8

U.S. News & World Report ranked JMU the No. 2 public masters-level university in the South (6th overall) for 2019.[30] In the 2018 Washington Monthly college rankings, JMU ranked 8th among master's universities nationwide. Washington Monthly assesses the quality of schools based on social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), and service (encouraging students to give something back to their country).[31]

In 2013 BloombergBusiness ranked JMU 15th among all undergraduate business schools in the country for return on investment.[32]In 2014 it ranked JMU's College of Business 40th among undergraduate business programs in the U.S.[33] Kiplinger magazine's 2015 "100 Best Values in Public Colleges" ranked JMU 21st in value in the nation among public colleges and universities.[34]


The campus of JMU originally consisted of two buildings, known today as Jackson and Maury Halls.[35] Today the campus has 148 major buildings on 721 acres (2.92 km2).[36] It has since become Virginia's second most photographed location on social media sites like Instagram and Twitter, after King Dominion. The campus is divided into five parts: Bluestone, Hillside, Lakeside, Skyline, and the Village.[37] The Skyline area is on the east side of Interstate 81, while the Bluestone, Hillside, Lakeside, and Village areas of the campus are on the west side. The two sides are connected both by a bridge over, and a tunnel (Duke Dog Alley) under, Interstate 81.[38] Other unique campus features include Newman Lake, a 9.7-acre (39,000 m2) body of water in the Lake Area next to Greek Row and Sonner Hall,[39] and the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, a 125-acre urban botanical preserve in Harrisonburg and on campus. The arboretum combines naturalized botanical gardens (33 acres) and forest (92 acres), and is Virginia's only arboretum on a public university campus.

The original, historic "Bluestone" side of campus is on South Main Street (also known as U.S. Route 11, and historically as "The Valley Pike"). Since the late 1990s the campus has expanded both east and west of the Bluestone area. To the east, across Interstate 81, the expansion has included The College of Integrated Science and Technology (CISAT), the University Recreation Center (UREC), the Festival Conference and Student Center, the Leeolou Alumni Center, several residence halls, the Chemistry and Physics Building, and University Park, which opened in 2012 off Port Republic Road, combining recreational and varsity athletic fields. The Rose Library, completed in August 2008, serves as a repository of science and technical material.[40]

Several new campus construction projects were included in Governor Tim Kaine's $1.65 billion higher education bond package. Kaine's proposal designated more than $96 million for JMU projects. Among the projects included were the construction of a new biotechnology building, Centennial Hall ($44.8 million), and the renovation and expansion of Duke Hall ($43.4 million). The proposal also included $8.6 million as the final installment payment for the purchase of Rockingham Memorial Hospital.[41] Beginning in 2002 JMU began receiving state and private funding to construct a state-of-the-art performing arts complex. The facility is opposite Wilson Hall across South Main Street, and visually completes the Main Quad. It was named the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts in honor of Bruce and Lois Forbes, who gave $5 million to the project. The wing of The Forbes Center dedicated to theater and dance is named the Dorothy Thomasson Estes Center for Theatre and Dance in honor of a $2.5 million gift by the husband of Dorothy Estes. The wing dedicated to music is named the Shirley Hanson Roberts Center for Music Performance in honor of a multi-million dollar gift from the husband of Shirley Roberts. The entire PAC was built at a total cost exceeding $92 million, and opened in June 2010 to house academic offices and performances by the Schools of Theatre, Dance and Music, and the administrative offices of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.[42]

Wilson Hall is the centerpiece of the university's main quadrangle. It contains an auditorium, administrative offices, and the Community Service Learning Office. The building's cupola has been featured on the university logo, letterhead, and other university stationery and postcards. Completed in 1931, the building was named after President Woodrow Wilson, who was born in nearby Staunton, Virginia.

Bus service around campus and the city is provided by the Harrisonburg Department of Public Transportation.

Student life

The Princeton Review also recognized James Madison as one of 81 schools in America "with a conscience", and in the latest year ranked JMU second in the nation behind only the University of Virginia in the number of Peace Corps volunteers it sent from its student body among "medium-sized" universities.[43] And in 2010, the food at JMU was ranked third in the United States.[44] In 2011 the student body was ranked 20th "happiest in the entire nation" by Newsweek and The Daily Beast.[45] These rankings take into consideration the surrounding area's activities, academics, as well as the social scene on campus.

The school has 35 residence halls, ten of which serve as sorority houses.[46] While most residence halls are only for housing, several halls also provide auxiliary services like computer labs and study lounges.[47] All freshmen must live on campus, and a large portion of JMU's on-campus housing is set aside for incoming students. Consequently, most upperclassmen and graduate students live off campus. Continuing students who wish to live on campus must re-apply for housing each year. While occasional exceptions are granted, generally freshmen are not granted on-campus parking permits.[48] Some JMU halls are set-aside as specialized living and learning residential communities. Shenandoah Hall is devoted as an Honors residential experience, Chesapeake Hall is for pre-professional health disciplines, Gifford Hall includes the Roop Learning Community for future teachers, and Wayland Hall is reserved for majors in the art disciplines.

Student activities and involvement

James Madison University has over 350 clubs and organizations for students to choose from. The goal is to provide students with a unique experience that will help them to grow in community and in engagement outside of the classroom.[49]


Student Government Association

The JMU Student Government Association (SGA) was founded in 1915 and stood as the first organization on campus. Their goal was to become an organization whose role was to be the voice for the JMU student population and advocate on behalf of the students to the administration and the rest of the community.

SGA consists of two governing bodies, the Executive Council and the Student Senate. The Executive Council consists of the Student Body President, Student Body Vice President, and SGA Treasurer, positions that are elected by the JMU Student Body each academic year. The fourth member of the Executive Council is the Speaker of the Senate who is voted on by the Student Senate. Meanwhile, the Senate consists of Academic Senators and Class Council members who form the various committees within the Senate.

SGA can be attributed to many of the traditions known to JMU, such as Homecoming's Purple Out, Mr. and Ms. Madison, Ring Premiere, the Annual Tree Lighting, the Big Event, and SafeRides. They also vote on Front End Budgeted (FEB) organizational budgets each year as well as allocate contingency funds to other organizations throughout the school year. In 2015, the organization celebrated its 100th year since being founded.

Marching Royal Dukes

James Madison University has the largest collegiate marching band in the nation, with 535 members as of Fall 2018. Nicknamed "Virginia's Finest", the Marching Royal Dukes have performed at venues such as the inaugurations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the NFC title game between Washington and Dallas in 1983, Bands of America Grand National Championships in 1988 and 1991. The band has made four appearances in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, first in 2001, again in 2008, 2013 and most recently in 2018. In the past decade, the band has taken trips to Europe during the school's winter break, featuring Athens, Dublin, Monaco, London, and Rome.[50] During their most recent trip to Europe, the MRDs participated in the 2015 Italian New Year's Day Parade in the Vatican.

University Program Board

The University Program Board (UPB) puts on large-scale events at JMU, including concerts and themed alternative night-out events like Late Night Breakfast.

Student Ambassadors

The JMU Student Ambassadors work alongside the Admissions Office to offer student-led tours for prospective students. While these positions are not paid, there is an extensive selection process to become a member.

The Breeze

The Breeze is a student-run newspaper serving James Madison University since 1922. Since then, the newspaper has provided news and information to the university community. The Breeze publishes 7,000 copies every Thursday and maintains an online website, mobile app and a Twitter and Facebook page. The Breeze publishes local news, a culture section, sports and an opinion section during the academic year. The Breeze has been nominated and won numerous awards during its existence including a 2012 Online Pacemaker Award, 2012 VPA award for Best in Show for a Non-Daily News Presentation, and a 2012 VPA sweepstakes award. The Breeze is also known to all JMU alumni and current students for having the long-standing tradition of publishing Darts & Pats.

Speech Team

The James Madison Speech Team has been recognized by AFA-NIET as one of the top 20 intercollegiate speech teams in the nation. JMU Forensics is the only program in the nation directed by two recipients of AFA's most respected coaching awards: Distinguished Service and Outstanding New Coach.[51]

A Cappella

JMU is home to 9 different a cappella ensembles: four all-female, three all-male, and two co-educational groups.[52] These groups are nationally recognized, with many of the groups being featured on the Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) yearly compilation albums.[53][54][55] Several of the groups, such as Note-oriety and The Overtones, have gone "viral" for their music videos, "Pretty Hurts"[56] and "Say Love"[57], respectively. Note-oriety has also performed at the White House in Washington, D.C[58].

Club sports

Men's and women's club soccer

The JMU Men's and Women's Club Soccer Teams are two of the most decorated club organizations in JMU school history. The men's program has an extensive tradition of winning, most notably National Championships in 1999, 2000 & 2009. Similarly, the women have won National Championships in 2009 & 2012. Both the men's and women's teams are involved in campus philanthropy, including annual community fundraisers, as well as responsibility for the upkeep of roadways through the Adopt-a-Highway program.

Men's club Ultimate

The JMU Men's Ultimate team, the Flying Hellfish, was founded in 1997.[59] The team is named after the Simpsons episode 22, season 7, "Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in 'The Curse of the Flying Hellfish'"[60][61] Since 2005, the team has hosted an annual tournament known as "The Hellfish Bonanza," which attracts between 12 and 16 teams from across the east coast.[60] Several current and former Hellfish play Ultimate professionally for Major League Ultimate's Washington DC Current and the American Ultimate Disc League's DC Breeze.


Board of Visitors

Like all public universities in Virginia, James Madison is governed by a Board of Visitors appointed by the Governor of Virginia.[62] In addition to the 15 members appointed by the governor, the speaker of the Faculty Senate and an elected student representative serve as representatives for the faculty and the student body respectively. The appointed members serve for a maximum of two consecutive four-year terms, while the student representative is limited to two one-year terms. The faculty representative serves for as long as he or she remains the speaker of the JMU Faculty Senate.[62] Some appointed members of note include former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and former first lady of Virginia, Susan Allen.


Jonathan R. Alger is the sixth and current president of the university. Before being named president, Alger served as the senior vice president and counsel at Rutgers University.[63]

Former Presidents


James Madison University's athletic teams are known as the "Dukes." An English bulldog, with crown and cape, and the Duke Dog, a gray bulldog costume in a purple cape and crown, serve as the school's mascot. The "Dukes" nickname is in honor of Samuel Page Duke, the university's second president. The school colors are royal purple and gold. Madison competes in the NCAA's Division I in the Colonial Athletic Association and the Eastern College Athletic Conference.

In football, they are in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision.[64] Over 415 varsity athletes compete in football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's tennis, women's swimming and diving, women's volleyball, baseball, women's lacrosse, field hockey, men's and women's golf, women's cross country and track and field, and softball. James Madison's two national championships are tied for third most national titles by a college or university in Virginia. James Madison's baseball team advanced to the College World Series in 1983, becoming the first Virginia school to do so. The JMU women's field hockey team won the university's first national title in 1994. JMU football won the NCAA Division I-AA national title in 2004, with a 13–2 record, and in 2016 with a 14-1 record going undefeated in the FCS. They are the only team in history to win the title after playing four straight road playoff games. Since 2004, the JMU football team has appeared in the playoffs in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

James Madison University invested heavily in new athletic facilities throughout the tenure of President Linwood Rose. JMU built a new multimillion-dollar baseball and softball field complex that opened in 2010. Additionally, after the last football game of 2009, the university began an expansion of Bridgeforth Stadium that increased seating capacity to approximately 25,000. Construction was completed in time for the 2011 football season.[65]

Women's basketball

In 2012, the James Madison women's basketball team won a program record 29 games, and advanced to the WNIT National Championship game, where it lost to Oklahoma State University. The Lady Dukes defeated Wake Forest, Davidson College, Virginia, South Florida and Syracuse prior to falling to Oklahoma State. In 2013, head coach Kenny Brooks led his team back to the WNIT defeating NC A&T, NC State, and Fordham before falling to Florida in the tournament's quarterfinals. In 2014, the Lady Dukes posted an overall 29–6 record that culminated with an 85–69 loss to Texas A&M University in the NCAA Championship Round of 32. This marked the ninth consecutive year that the Lady Dukes participated in postseason play and the program's ninth consecutive season with 20 victories, a school record.

Men's basketball

In 2013, James Madison University's men's basketball team won the CAA championship title for the first time since 1994. The Dukes then won their first NCAA tournament game in 30 years, defeating Long Island University-Brooklyn. The Dukes fell to Indiana in the second round, 83-62, finishing the season with a 21–15 record.[66]

John C. Wells Planetarium

James Madison University is home to the John C. Wells Planetarium. The planetarium first opened at JMU in 1956 under the direction of Dr. John C. Wells, head of the Physics Department. The facility was then moved to Miller Hall and renovated in 1975, later named in honor of Wells on the occasion of his retirement in 1980.[67]

The planetarium seats 72 individuals within a 30-ft dome. It features a GOTO Chronos star projector together with Evans & Sutherland Digistar 5 digital projectors.[68] The John C. Wells Planetarium also employs students enrolled at James Madison University to operate the system and host shows to the public.


  • Late 1940s: James Madison University, then Madison College, purchased its first planetarium to be installed in the attic of Burruss Hall[67]
  • 1956: Planetarium first installed on JMU's campus by Dr. John C. Wells, who was a professor in the JMU Physics Department (1947–1988), Department Head (1956–1974), and Planetarium Curator (1979–1988). It was placed in the attic of Burruss Hall during the fall semester. The cost of the installation was $500 for the Spitz Model A star projector, and about $850 for the 20-ft fabric dome. Dr. John C. Wells built the console at the cost of approximately $100.[67] Usage was mainly for school groups and college classes.
  • 1975: Moved to Miller Hall, where it is still currently located. A Goto II star projector replaced the obsolete equipment in Burruss, manufactured in Japan and installed at a cost of $47,000 by Planetariums Unlimited, a branch of Viewlex Audio-Visual, Inc. The cost of $47,000 was considerably lower than the other two bids offered by Minolta and Spitz because Viewlex was preparing to cease marketing Goto planetarium projectors in the country. Spitz is now the U.S. Goto representative. The old Spitz Model A, the dome, and console were given to the Augusta County School Division in hopes that it would be installed at the county educational center at Fishersville, VA.[67]
  • 1979: Dr. John Wells retired from the Physics Department June 30, 1979, continuing to work at the Planetarium until 1980.[67]
  • 1980: Planetarium is officially named after Dr. Wells
  • 2005: Renovations made to the Planetarium; closed to the public for the following three years (3-year Hiatus)
  • 2008: Renovations complete; Planetarium opened to the public, Rededicated to Dr. Wells due to his death in 2005. A Digistar 3 full-dome projector system was installed alongside GOTO, which allowed for full-dome movies in conjunction with a traditional star talk about the constellations.
  • Summer 2013: Evans & Sutherland Digistar 5 ultra-high definition digital projection system is added to the Planetarium.


In the early years of the Miller Hall Planetarium, not yet named after Dr. John Wells, all laboratories in the General Studies astronomy course met in the planetarium as well as other astronomy classes such as "Controversies in Astronomy" and "Planetary Astronomy".[67] As the Planetarium grew older, it began scheduling astronomy instruction for off-campus groups. The planetarium also hosts regular public shows and special events such as Starry Nights Harrisonburg, Space Explorers Camp, and Bad Science Movie Nights as well.[69]

Notable alumni


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