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DEI in action: A year in review

April 7, 2023 - Brian Johnson, Ph.D.

It is an exciting time to major in public affairs. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is the ability to provide opportunities for students to learn about public affairs through speaking to and meeting a variety of individuals, many of whom are James Madison and/or Michigan State alumni. Whether it’s through legislation, law, or journalism, the chance for students to hear firsthand about paths in public affairs is invaluable. This year, James Madison College and our Office of Justice, Equity, and Inclusion (OJEI) offered a variety of experiences for students with that very goal in mind.

  • We began the year by welcoming JMC alumnus Hayes Brown to James Madison College’s New Student Orientation. Mr. Brown discussed how his time at James Madison prepared him well for a successful career in journalism.
  • During Early Start Week, students met virtually with State Senator Mallory McMorrow, then coincidentally met her in person during a later visit to the Michigan State Capitol. Senator McMorrow spoke to students about the capacity they have to effect change and advocate for others.
  • Students from JMC’s inaugural Early Start Program were able to tour the Federal Reserve in Washington D.C., meet Federal Reserve System Board Governor Lisa Cook, and learn how she advocates through an economic lens.
  • Early Start students met with JMC alumnus and State Court Administrator Thomas Boyd. They were able to ask him questions, tour the Michigan Supreme Court, and speak virtually with immediate past Chief Justice, The Honorable Bridget McCormack.
  • Early Start students visited the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC’s) headquarters in Washington D.C., met with NAEYC’s Executive Director, and learned about advocacy through public policy.
  • In honor of Black History Month, OJEI collaborated with various departments across the university to host its first Black History Month symposium featuring National Book Award winner Jason Mott.
  • Early Start students read Centered and met MSU alumni Anthony Ianni. A nationally renowned author, motivational speaker, and anti-bullying activist, Mr. Ianni was also the first athlete with autism to play NCAA Division One College Basketball.
  • During Women’s History Month, James Madison College students met and spoke with The Honorable Chief Judge Janice Cunningham, Eaton County’s first woman Circuit Court Judge. Chief Judge Cunningham spoke to students about her legal path to becoming a judge and the importance of community service.
  • On Tuesday, OJEI will welcome Senator Debbie Stabenow for a Lunch and Learn event. Senator Stabenow is the first woman from Michigan elected to the United States Senate. In addition, she is a two-time alumna of Michigan State University.

I am grateful to each of the speakers for lending their time and demonstrating the range of possibilities within public affairs. OJEI is committed to continuing these learning opportunities that extend theory into practice, and we look forward to the work ahead. Go Green!


Brian Johnson

Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion