James Madison College

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James Madison College at Michigan State University
JMC 50th logo
DeanCameron Thies
Academic staff
Undergraduates1,150 (approximate)
Location, ,
AffiliationsMichigan State University

James Madison College is a college of public affairs within Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, USA. It was founded in 1967, "with a vision of creating a residential college merging the best attributes of a small college with an undergraduate education focusing on public affairs and firmly rooted in liberal arts."[2] The college was named after James Madison in honor of his role in writing the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and The Federalist Papers.

The college was developed as part of MSU president John A. Hannah's attempts to increase the profile of Michigan state university and to greater exploit international and federal government contacts linked in the MSU Vietnam Project.

The Lyman Briggs College was also founded in 1967 on the same general principle as James Madison College, though teaching the natural sciences rather than public policy and political theory. A third college on the same general model and focusing on the humanities, the Residential College in Arts & Humanities, opened in 2007.

The administrative and faculty offices, classrooms, seminar rooms, and the library for the college are housed completely in Case Hall, where James Madison students (also called "Madisonians") live during their first year.[3] About 320 students are admitted into the college each year, with the total student body currently around 1200.[4] Classes in the college are small, with an average of 25 students, and are taught almost exclusively by tenure track faculty with PhDs or occasionally PhD candidates.[5]

James Madison College also has a relatively large number of academically successful students; about 15% of its students are in the Honors College and the college generally represents about 35% of the Phi Beta Kappa graduates at MSU each year (while representing only about 4% of the total graduates). Madison boasts numerous major award recipients, including 6 Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, 13 Fulbright Scholars, 8 Marshall Scholars, 1 Beinecke Scholar, 4 National Science Foundation Fellows, and 4 George Mitchell Fellows.[6]


Majors are chosen at the end of the first year, during which all students are required to take year-long introductory courses in writing and public affairs: Identity and Community: An Approach to Writing, and Introduction to the Study of Public Affairs, respectively. The first semester of Introduction to the Study of Public Affairs (MC 201) notably introduces its students to The Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. All majors require two years of foreign language, two semesters of economics (which unlike the other requirements may be fulfilled through Advanced Placement or similar credit), and one Field Experience internship. The Field Experience requirement can be waived under some circumstances, including completing an approved Study Abroad program, having prior professional work experience, or completing a Senior Honors Thesis as part of the JMC Honors Program. Petitions for substitution of Field Experience are approved on a case-by-case basis.

The James Madison majors are Comparative Cultures and Politics, International Relations, Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy, and Social Relations and Policy. Among members of the Madison community, these are typically known by their acronyms, CCP, IR, PTCD, and SRP.

Comparative Cultures and Politics[edit]

The college's newest major, Comparative Cultures and Politics (CCP) started in the 2007-2008 academic year. It deals with the similarities and differences between cultures, and how cultures and the interaction between them affects politics and policy. CCP puts a much more explicit emphasis on interdisciplinarity than the other majors. CCP faculty include professors from the SRP and IR majors in addition to those who teach exclusively within the major. CCP's focus is on the understanding of culture and its effect on the domestic and international affairs of modern nation-states.

The curriculum is divided into comparative studies and transnational studies. The comparative perspective in the curriculum (which informs the fall segment of the sophomore sequence) focuses on issues of nationalism, national identity, culture, and politics within individual countries, comparing them along the way. The transnational component (which informs the spring segment of the sophomore sequence) focuses on cultural interaction and cultural conflict. Upper-level courses address topics including identity performance, post-colonialism, visual culture, the refugee experience, gender and violent conflict.

International Relations[edit]

The International Relations (IR) curriculum is the largest major within James Madison College. It is organized around international security and conflict resolution; international political economy; global governance; foreign policy of the United States and other countries; and comparative, regional and cultural studies.

The curriculum encourages students to think creatively about a variety of issues, such as what constitutes "national security", the social consequences of modernization, the causes and likely consequences of ethno-nationalism, how the United States arrives at foreign policy decisions, and how is that different from how foreign policies are made in other countries and the strengths and weaknesses of each. It addresses the impact of protectionist foreign trade policies, how national, regional and international political, social, and economic factors interact in the transition to a post–cold war global order, the impact of the United Nations and other international organizations, the effects of weapons and communications technologies on world politics, and the means by which national defense policies have been implemented since the end of World War II. Some classes use case studies in which students examine real or hypothetical foreign policy dilemmas and developing solutions to them, while others use evidence about the importance of theories and models for comprehending and influencing world events.

Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy[edit]

Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy (PTCD) probes the major competing principles that have animated political communities and attempts to translate them into practice and the complex fundamental questions in trying to sort out values and principles that have been most important to humankind. Such questions include what it means to flourish as a human being, what the rights and responsibilities of good citizens are, and what the best way of life is for society as a whole. The program seeks not to pretend to have the definitive answers to these questions, but rather to teach students how to think about these concepts and how to approach these questions in a productive and intellectually exciting way.

To achieve this, the PTCD curriculum is designed to be both philosophical and historical. Course readings range from Plato and the classical poets to contemporary political theory, literature, and U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The introductory course sequence is not a conventional survey of political theory, but introduces students to a theoretical way of thinking about politics and morality, tracking the development of Western political thought over time from its origins in ancient Greek city-state, its revival in the Florentine republic, and its coalescence into the modern liberal democratic consensus during the Enlightenment, which they can then use as a basis of comparison in analyzing the American experience. Other required "core" courses confront students with the most systematic justifications philosophers have offered for one or another conception of justice and also the most challenging, sometimes unorthodox objections to grand theories of justice, including those of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche. In senior seminars, students can critically explore a focused topic in depth in such a way that many of the themes and questions that have been raised by the curriculum may be viewed in a new light. In addition, a wide range of electives, including courses on technology, religion and politics (including, recently, political Islam), the Supreme Court and African-American political thought, are available to allow students to pursue more specialized interests relevant to the general concerns of the field.

After graduation, PTCD majors have gone on directly to work in a wide variety of public and private sector jobs. Many Political Theory graduates go on to graduate or professional school in law, business, philosophy, and political science. From there, their paths have taken many different turns, for example, serving in the Michigan Legislature, as Solicitor General of the State of Ohio, as Budget Director of the State of Michigan, as Executive Director of the Michigan Democratic Party, and teaching at major universities and small liberal arts colleges.

The aforementioned features of the PTCD program make it relatively easy to pursue a dual major; many students combine a PTCD major with a major in another Madison core or a major in a disciplinary department. In recent years, PTCD students have dual majored in biochemistry, criminal justice, economics, English, history, mathematics, philosophy, political science, physics, psychology, religion, secondary education, sociology, and theater.

PTCD was originally entitled Justice, Morality, and Constitutional Democracy (JMCD); the program was renamed and modified in 1991. It has, over its history, been accused of and praised for Straussian tendencies, and Allan Bloom (whose translation of Plato is in currency within PTCD) in particular praised the PTCD curriculum in a visit before his death.

Social Relations and Policy[edit]

The Social Relations and Policy (SRP) major explores the both social relations among groups and public policy. public issues It is explicitly historical and comparative, looking at social relations in the United States and internationally, over time. Courses focus on the interplay of such factors as class, race, ethnicity, sex/gender, religious belief and national identity. In addition, the program also teaches students how to analyze and investigate problems in public policy, such as health care, welfare policy, family policy, and immigration. The program uses the study of social relations and policy as a way to cultivate reasoning, methodological and analytical skills and the capacities for empathetic observation, normative judgment and effective problem solving.

The sophomore sequence provides the conceptual, methodological and substantive bases for upper division work by introducing students to classical and contemporary social theory and comparative social history, and to quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The junior level builds on these skills to assess, in depth, a set of social problems and policy solutions. A senior seminar provides an opportunity to synthesize course work and undertake original research. Students also select from a broad range of electives to develop their expertise and understanding including opportunities for more international and comparative work, greater political analysis, and deeper understanding of particular forms of social relations. A related area requirement is broadly constructed to shape the major in a way that is responsive to individual interests and academic purpose.

Substantively, courses in Social Relations take up issues such as social identity, inequality and mobility, wealth and poverty, assimilation and pluralism, prejudice and discrimination, intergroup conflict and cooperation, the problem of civil rights and the politics of equality. Students develop knowledge in such areas as immigration, race and ethnic relations, civil rights, family and children, housing and residential segregation, urban and metropolitan policy, schooling and educational policy, social security and social welfare policies. They can go into careers such as government, non-profit organizations, labor relations, human resources administration, law, teaching, educational administration, public lobbying, and many others.


James Madison College offers its students the opportunity to add one or more minors to their majors. These are:

Students may also combine their majors with other minors offered at Michigan State University outside the college.

Student life[edit]

James Madison College students play a prominent role in the political life of Michigan State University. Madison students form the majority of the leadership of both the Michigan State College Republicans and College Democrats; The Associated Students of Michigan State University; as of 2008. James Madison also has its own student senate which acts as a liaison between faculty, staff and students. Various other political groups—such as the university chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Young Democratic Socialists, and the MSU chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom; all meet in Case Hall and have a disproportionately Madison membership. Many Madison students are also involved in Model United Nations, including a competitive travelling team as well as a high school MUN conference held on campus every spring.

College traditions[edit]

James Madison College has a tradition of employing MSU's jazz band as accompaniment and entertainment for its commencement ceremony. The tradition dates to the early days of the College, apparently based on an early dean's personal liking for jazz.

James Madison has an annual Parade of Honors, recognizing the many students who have received awards throughout the year.

Notable alumni[edit]

Notable professors[edit]

While not currently a professor at the college, Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist George Will was one of Madison's first professors of Political Theory.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-26. Retrieved 2013-02-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ James Madison Alumni Information "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-06-15. Retrieved 2006-06-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ James Madison Handbook "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-06-20. Retrieved 2006-06-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  5. ^ Quick Madison Facts "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-10-20. Retrieved 2007-10-20.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Hall of Fame | National and International Fellowships and Scholarships (NIFS)". nifs.msu.edu. Archived from the original on 2012-07-07.
  7. ^ Political Economy Specialization http://jmc.msu.edu/specialization/pe/
  8. ^ STEPPS http://jmc.msu.edu/stepps/
  9. ^ Muslim Studies "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2008-07-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Specialization in Western European Studies "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-05-13. Retrieved 2008-07-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Ambassador John A. Heffern | Institute for the Study of Diplomacy | Georgetown University". isd.georgetown.edu. Archived from the original on 2018-09-04.
  12. ^ "Team Leads, Economics and International Trade". Obama-Biden Transition. 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-03-21. Retrieved 2009-03-23.

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