The political science department at James Madison University has long prided itself on being competitive, current, and comprehensive. This tradition started in the late 1960’s with the separation of the Department of Social Sciences into three separate departments. The creation of a separate political science department allowed the department to become specialized and offer more courses on a wider variety of subjects than it had ever been able to offer previously. These new course offerings attracted students of steadily increasing caliber from all walks of life.
Courses that were introduced throughout the decade had topics that spanned from the traditional (American Government, Political Philosophy, and Constitutional Law) to the most up-to-date (Soviet Russian Politics, Communist Political Theory, and Chinese Communism). These new course offerings were inspired by current events and world trends. The presence of the communist threat, the Vietnam War, and struggles with the status of America in he greater world led to course offerings that were much broader and much more globally aware than they had been in the past. This international focus forced the department into prominence, increasing the number of interested students and the prestige of recent James Madison University department of political science alumni when they entered the job market. The modern political science department at James Madison University has a strong emphasis on international affairs and relations; an element that can be traced back to the 1970’s.
The graduate school at James Madison University was in its early years during the 1970’s. Madison being a teaching college historically, all of the graduate degrees offered were in teaching. Students could minor or concentrate in political science, however. This option allowed future teachers to specialize as experts in the field of political science and the very opportunity to earn a masters degree at JMU increased the prestige of the school greatly. Although the graduate school at JMU has diversified greatly since its time as an exclusively MEd granting institution, the current graduate education program enjoys a spectacular reputation because of its long history of producing excellent teachers in all fields, including political science and government. The modest beginnings of the graduate program as seen in 1970’s era course catalogs actually illustrate a well organized department with immense offerings for such a small college. With such a successful program at such an early stage in the university’s existence, it is no surprise that the graduate school at James Madison University would one day be as successful of an institution as it is today.
Also improving the notoriety of the school, was the construction of new academic buildings. The eventual long-term home of the political science department was constructed and unveiled during the 1970’s; Miller Hall. Although the department was, at the time, held in Harrison Hall, the construction of Miller Hall had strong implications for the growth and potential of the department. The construction of new academic buildings also had strong implications for the growth and potential of the school. The extensive construction at James Madison University throughout the 1970’s allowed the school to grow tremendously and change its image from a small teaching college to a full scale, impressive university.
Similar to today, the political science department of the 1970’s was heavily involved in the non-academic lives of its students. Whether by professor involvement or offering of course credit, the department made an effort to enhance student’s lives outside as well as inside the classroom. As seen in the memoirs of Dr. Cline, the faculty at James Madison University considered relationships with students to be of utmost importance and made their success a priority, both academically and socially.
The 1970’s were pivotal in the development of the James Madison University political science department into the department that it is today. The department became more modern, more relevant, and more comprehensive throughout the decade. During its first decade of existence the department was guided onto a pathway leading toward success, and it has stayed on that path ever since.