Michigan State University

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Academics and the First Year Program


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James Madison College provides a liberal education in public affairs for undergraduates. Our curriculum cultivates in our students skills of rigorous thought, lucid prose writing, and articulate speech. Our courses draw insight from various social sciences and related fields, including political science, economics, literature, sociology, philosophy, and history. The multi-disciplinary perspective and focus on applied social science prepares students to face real world challenges with maturity, creativity, and responsibility.

James Madison offers a common set of courses for students during their first year. After the completion of the first year curriculum, students choose at least one of the following majors to pursue:

International Relations
Comparative Cultures and Politics
Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy
Social Relations and Policy


Information on the First Year Program

Our students take approximately half of their course work inside the college, and the other half through various departments at MSU. Some students even decide to specialize, minor, or double major in programs offered outside of James Madison. Double majors such as journalism, economics, and history are popular with our students, among many others.


First Year Curriculum

In their first year, students will take two Madison courses in the fall semester: MC111, “Identity and Community: An Approach to Writing,” and MC201, “Introduction to the Study of Public Affairs.” Students will have one Madison course in the spring semester: MC202, "Introduction to the Study of Public Affairs II."

MC 111 introduces students to significant questions and problems in the humanities, drawing primarily on humanities-based texts such as novels, autobiographies, histories, essays, and films.  While each seminar is concerned with the overarching theme of identity and community, individual sections pursue this theme in a variety of historical, cultural, and intellectual contexts. 

The first year of Madison also features our introductory course in the social sciences (MC 201: Introduction to the Study of Public Affairs). The course introduces students to some of the political, economic, and social dimensions of American civilization, and how they shape our approach to public affairs. During the second semester, students focus on selected issues in American and international public affairs, particularly as these are reflected in contemporary public debates.  

Spring semester's MC202 will allow students to explore topics within the social sciences and humanities through a writing-intensive research seminar. Students will engage through the research process to create research proposals.


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Field Experience

During either the junior or senior year, at least one semester is spent in an internship with an agency, organization, business, or legislative office, instead of in the classroom.  The College believes that it is important that our students spend at least three months interning in an organization and a position that interests them and gives them a chance to apply what they have learned in the classroom to the policy world.  Apparently, employers think so too. Many of our graduates have developed excellent job contacts through the organizations in which they interned.

Our students are doing extraordinary work -

  • Interns in courts or law offices typically do everything that second-year law students on clerkship do: interview clients, help prepare cases, conduct legal research, and attend court hearings.
  • In district congressional offices, interns generally solve problems for constituents, help draft correspondence or press releases, work on community outreach projects, and provide background research for legislative initiatives.
  • In Washington, whether students work for legislators, committees, lobbyists, or non-profit agencies, students attend hearings and subcommittee meetings, brief supervisors on events, and analyze policy issues and legislation.
  • With social service agencies, students assist case-workers, handle media contacts, and work as liaisons with legislators and funding agencies.
  • In corporate placements, students work in industry-government relations units, in strategic planning units, and in labor and industrial relations divisions.



Students also have the opportunity to complete their Field Experience Abroad. JMC offers many options in locations such as Hong Kong, Geneva, Madrid, Bangkok, Sydney, and Cape Town.

Students often work for community organizations in the fields of sustainable development or public health, for international organizations like Amnesty International, or for the State Department in embassies and consulates around the world.