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Dean's note: Marching into April

April 6, 2022

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the horrific news out of Ukraine. I know this has personally affected some members of our community who struggle to make sense of the invasion and its brutality. We are doing our best as a community to support each other, and recently had a panel discussion about the conflict in Ukraine with Professors Garnett, Graham and Olcott. I learned a lot from their expertise, as well as the insightful questions from students.

So much has happened this past month, and I am happy to share some of the highlights I experienced. For starters, March was Women’s History Month. In his DEI note last month, Dr. Brian Johnson, assistant dean for diversity equity and inclusion, featured some of Madison’s pioneering women and introduced a series of stories about current Madisonian women who are making a difference. Be sure to read the stories and profiles of Student Senate President Rosa Razmi and JMC recruitment coordinator Emelia Hammond.

Additionally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t celebrate James Madison’s Lisa Cook who is slated to be the first Black woman elected to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. We are all eager to receive word when Dr. Cook will be confirmed.

The energy and activity in Case Hall has increased tenfold. Plus, we now have the benefit of seeing people’s faces. And what better place to see people’s faces than in the dining hall.

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed my very first meal in Case Dining Hall with several members of the JMC Student Senate. Not only did we have a chance to meet and get to know one another a bit, I think I can say with some level of confidence, they know I am a real, living and breathing person who can appreciate the delicacy of gummy worms and who has some knowledge about popular culture. I look forward to my next lunch date with the student writing consultants at the end of this month.

While meeting with students certainly was one of my favorite moments in March, there were so many highly anticipated events. On March 24, the College welcomed University of Notre Dame associate professor and scholar Susan Collins as our Jack Paynter lecturer. Her lecture reminds us conflict is a regular occurrence in societies, and the discussion about which political systems are more effective forms of governance, is a debate that predates itself to ancient Greece.

Following the Paynter lecture, the Race in 21st Century Americas Conference welcomed a student seminar day on March 25, planned and facilitated by students for students. The in-person event was an opportunity for students to think more deeply about the relationship between race, citizenship and land use. The days that followed included virtual and in-person watch parties and two days of virtual conference sessions featuring several guest speakers and panelists who engaged in dialogue about topics ranging from community policing to housing practices to community gardening, as ways to challenge racist systems.

In addition to these community events, I had the honor of presenting James Madison College as a leader in public affairs education to the President’s Council, a group of approximately 80 campus leaders. My presentation focused on programming, curriculum, faculty and student achievements, as well as our current goals and initiatives.

As we enter the final stretch this spring semester, I am optimistic the collective Madison community will approach these end-of-the year events, deadlines and opportunities with as much energy and determination as we had at the start.

Let’s finish strong.


Cameron Thies

Dean and MSU Foundation Professor