Jul 20, 2024  
2019-2020 Undergraduate Catalog 
2019-2020 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

College of Arts and Letters

Dr. Robert D. Aguirre, Dean

Dr. J. Christopher Arndt, Associate Dean, School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

Dr. Melinda Adams, Associate Dean, School of Public and International Affairs

Prof. Dietrich Maune, Associate Dean, Schools of Communication, Information and Media

Phone: (540) 568-6334
MSC: 2105
Location: Harrison Hall, Suite 1109
Website: http://www.jmu.edu/cal

Academic Units

Communication Studies, School of  
Dr. Eric M. Fife, Director

English, Department of  
Dr. Dabney A. Bankert, Head

Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Department of  
Dr. Giuliana Fazzion, Head

History, Department of  
Dr. Maura Hametz, Head

Justice Studies, Department of  
Dr. Glenn P. Hastedt, Head

Media Arts and Design, School of  
Dr. Gwyneth Mellinger, Director

Philosophy and Religion, Department of  
Dr. Frances Flannery, Interim Head

Political Science, Department of  
Dr. Jonathan W. Keller, Head

Sociology and Anthropology, Department of  
Dr. Liam M. Buckley, Interim Head

Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, School of  
Dr. Traci A. Zimmerman, Director

Mission Statement

The College of Arts and Letters serves multiple vital needs of JMU students. First, it offers high-quality programs of specialized study in the social sciences, humanities and communication, and in several pre-professional and cross disciplinary areas. Second, the college provides a challenging array of courses designed to promote lifelong learning by sharpening analytical abilities; improving computational and communications skills; cultivating a facility with written expression; enhancing cultural awareness, intensifying moral and aesthetic sensitivity, and fostering awareness of the contingent nature of knowledge. Linking these two missions is a college-wide commitment to free but rigorous and controlled inquiry into human nature.


In addition to the special goals of each major, all programs in the college are committed to helping the students achieve the following common objectives:

  • Improve foundational skills fostered by general education courses: writing, critical thinking, information access through technology and, where appropriate, foreign languages.
  • Develop the ability to use writing to acquire knowledge and to communicate ideas effectively through writing-intensive courses required in the major.
  • Enrich cultural perspectives essential to effective citizenship in the 21st century, global awareness and appreciation of American cultural diversity.
  • Provide significant active-learning experiences through field courses, research projects, internships, studies abroad and simulations.

Majors and Minors

Students may select from a broad spectrum of major and minor programs in the seven departments and three schools. The departments and schools fully describe their programs in the “Academic Units” section.

Cross Disciplinary Activities

In addition to departmental majors and minors, the college offers a wide array of interdepartmental majors, minors, pre-professional programs, general education courses, annual events and supporting services, some of which reach out to the regional community. Information on cross disciplinary programs offered by the College of Arts and Letters may be found in the ““Cross Disciplinary Programs” section .

Pre-professional Programs


Dr. Melinda Adams, Coordinator
Phone: (540) 568-3377
Email: adams2mj@jmu.edu

Students who plan to apply to law school may select their major from a wide range of fields, depending upon their interests. The scope of the law is broad and offers room for individuals of varied educational and intellectual backgrounds. Students should choose courses that provide them with broad informational and cultural preparation and develop their reasoning abilities.

Especially valuable to a pre-law program are courses in:

  • Communication, including composition, language and speech, which enable students to express themselves well.
  • The humanities and social sciences, which help students to appreciate and perform effectively in their culture and society.
  • Logic, mathematics and the natural sciences, which develop skills of fact discrimination, analysis and synthesis.
  • Accounting and economics.

Also important to the pre-law program is Phi Alpha Delta, a student organization that organizes law-related activities.

Pre-theological Studies

Dr. Robert Brown, Coordinator
Phone: (540) 568-5415
Email: brownre@jmu.edu

Students join the pre-theology program to prepare for careers in the service of religious communities. Usually, these careers—such as ministry, religious education, counseling and chaplaincy—require specialized training and graduate degrees from theological seminaries, rabbinical schools or university divinity schools. The pre-theology adviser guides students toward courses and experiential learning at JMU that will provide an academic foundation for graduate studies in theology as well as an opportunity to develop their practical skills or vocational gifts. Students in this program may major in any field, although the Association for Theological Schools recommends substantial pre-professional training in philosophy and religion. 

In the Department of Philosophy and Religion , pre-theology students will find a robust offering of courses ranging from the interpretation of religious texts to theology and ethics, and from the histories of particular religious traditions to cross-cultural topics in global religion. Class assignments develop students’ skills in critical thinking, ethical reasoning, scriptural hermeneutics, and written and oral communication, all of which theological schools highly value. The pre-theology adviser may direct students to relevant courses in foreign languages, social work, non-profit studies, humanitarian affairs, education or justice studies to complement their academic training in religion. Qualified students are encouraged to undertake independent studies or write honors theses in order to explore in greater depth the theological topics most important to them. 

The department also offers students the opportunity to receive academic credit for practical supervised field work with social agencies and religious organizations in order to help students explore the particular forms of religious service they would like to pursue. Making connections with faith leaders within their own traditions helps students access larger networks of tradition-specific resources and contacts as they reflect on their goals and decide where to apply for further study in theology. We encourage students to visit various theological schools during the application season and to meet with representatives that the department invites to campus to discuss theology programs with students.

Resource and Service Centers

Archaeology Collection

Dr. Carole Nash, Coordinator
Phone: (540) 568-6805           

The archaeology collection contains artifacts dating from early in prehistory through the modern era that were excavated from numerous Virginia archaeological sites. It also includes an extensive library of site reports, field records, maps and artifact identification guides. Artifact study collections spanning the 12,000 year occupation of Virginia’s Ridge and Valley Province are being developed for teaching and research purposes. The collection is an important teaching and research asset of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Center for Public Broadcasting/ WMRA-WEMC

Mr. Matt Bingay, Director
Phone: (540) 568-6221
Email: wmra@jmu.edu
Website: http://www.wmra.org

The Center for Public Broadcasting’s mission is to inform, connect and engage communities through journalism, broadcasting and outreach. It serves over 50,000 listeners in the Shenandoah Valley, Charlottesville and Farmville areas.

The center comprises a network of non-commercial public radio stations, serving Harrisonburg at 90.7 FM, Charlottesville at 103.5 FM, Lexington at 89.9 FM and Winchester at 94.5 FM, and one standalone station, WEMC, serving Harrisonburg at 91.7 FM. The WMRA network stations are licensed to the James Madison University Board of Visitors. WEMC is licensed to Eastern Mennonite University, but is operated entirely by the center. Much of WMRA’s programming is rebroadcast by WMLU 91.3 FM, the station owned by Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. WMRA and WEMC are members of National Public Radio, and are affiliated with Public Radio International and American Public Media. The stations broadcast 24 hours per day year-round, offering extensive in-depth news coverage and classical, folk, blues and jazz music. The center also operates Valley Voice Radio Reading Service for the print-impaired. Listeners and local businesses contribute nearly three-quarters of the center’s annual budget.

Annual Events

Conference on Global Issues

Dr. Giuliana Fazzion
Phone: (540) 568-6068
Email: fazziogx@jmu.edu

The Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures organizes a yearly conference on global issues, held in the spring. The conference brings together scholars and researchers from a variety of disciplines to address and assess specific global issues, issuing a call for papers in the fall on an announced topic. Proposals for papers, panels and workshops should be sent to the coordinator.

Madison Writing Awards

Madison Writing Awards (MWA) is a university-wide biennial competition that celebrates writing across the curriculum in all undergraduate academic programs. Winners are recognized at a spring awards reception and the top papers receive generous cash prizes. These awards reflect the commitment of the School of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication and the College of Arts and Letters to promote crossdisciplinary dialogue and engagement as well as to acknowledge the power of writing in all its forms and contexts.


Dr. Chris Arndt
Phone: (540) 568-3993           
Email: arndtjc@jmu.edu

The MadRush Undergraduate Research Conference features outstanding work by undergraduate humanities and social science majors. Held every spring, it attracts students from across the eastern United States and has become one of the largest humanities and social science undergraduate research conferences in the region.