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Funny... I don't feel dead! If you've forgotten JMC - You weren't there!

An academy for wandering minstrels
Equipping lifelong learners to pursue personal and professional interests in art, activism, law, education, business, medicine, international affairs, social services, science, management, media, and more.

What would you consider to have been the uniqueness of JMC?


Quality of student body; course offerings; community spirit; the dorm itself.

(We can't ignore the unique character of the late 60's and early 70's, when JMC was the center of the "Counterculture"on the MSU campus, with the politics, social liberation, and personal change going on. I don't know if that could be replicated today, or if it necessarily should in that same way. Something new should be organically invented for the 21st century)

- David Brigode (Student: 1969 - 1973)


There are plenty of small liberal arts colleges and plenty of large universities, but the combination of both in JMC/MSU were fairly unique and were a major reason I choose MSU over other options at the time. The ability to develop one’s own field of concentration (FOC) was also a terrific opportunity to create a degree plan unique to one’s goals and interests. My FOC was geology, my first roommate’s FOC was Brazilian studies, and my wife’s FOC was geography, economics and urban planning. JMC has graduates who are medical doctors, lawyers, professors, artists, etc. The diversity of opportunities and directions from a common core program for its graduates is the unique legacy of JMC.

- Paul M. Buehrle (Student: 1969 - 1973)


Justin Morrill College’s uniqueness was its ability to draw on the much larger University around it for faculty, for student experiences not offered in smaller colleges and universities, and for allowing students to take courses to expand their intellectual horizons. It also allowed students to be active participants in the educational process, which makes them also want the College to succeed.

- Dennis Hall (Student: 1965 - 1969)


What most drew me to JMC was the rich diversity of its students. I remember coming to MSU orientation (having already signed up at UM with my high school friends), meeting a JMC student admissions rep, taking a tour of Snyder-Phillips, and canceling my dorm reservation at UM. What impressed me was the way JMC students accepted their talents without feeling the need to make them their own focus. Here's what I mean: on the orientation tour a student was playing the piano in the basement of Snyder-Phillips. A difficult piece - Rachmaninoff if I remember correctly. Our little group stopped to talk to the student. "Music major?" we asked. "No,"the student replied, "I was forced to take piano lessons growing up. Now I just play because I like to." That made a big impression on me.

- Mark Harris (Student: 1973 - 1977)


No question...the above- mentioned synthesis and reconfiguration of disciplines to create quite knew ways of viewing those disciplines.

Interestingly, from reading the JMC listserv, I think this may be most representative of the early '70s - era JMC... I'd be interested to see if the '60s - era JMC students see something quite different.

- Steve (Taggart) Johgart (Student: 1973 - 1975)


Even with the planning and vision that pervaded JMC, in the end, JMC simply happened. I am glad to have been a part of it.

- Leonard Kaufmann (Student: 1967 - 1969)


Within MSU, the liberal arts residential college idea was unique. In a larger context, other universities have residential colleges, but JMC’s uniqueness was its international focus (which I understand disappeared after I left). When I talk about my undergraduate experience today, and why my education was as good as what my friends and associates received at Ivy League and small Eastern schools, I always talk about that international orientation and how valuable it was.

- Carl Koivuniemi (Student: 1965 - 1969)


I think the foreign language requirement and the foreign study opportunity were most important, as well as the ability to define your own curriculum without having to be in the Honors College.

- Suzanne Levy (Student: 1965 - 1969)


The people - yes, the people.

From student to staff, one of the most eclectic and diverse combination of styles and interests I've ever encountered, living, working, and studying in close proximity to one another. We were held in the thrall of an ephemeral idea at an optimal time, perhaps not too soon to be repeated. The ever-escalating costs of college, and the press to match college to careers that will pay off that ever-escalating debt in job markets that remain increasingly uncertain render the diffuse and transcendantly removed isolation that was JMC an unlikely proposition.

- William McGarvey (Student: 1966 - 1971)


Small college environment with resources of a major university and being residential.

- Joe Milkes (Student: 1967 - 1971)


Small classes, intense focus, interdisciplinary and creative teaching, residential plan.

- Pamela Oestreicher (JMC faculty: 1976 - 1978)


That you could do whatever you wanted (except what — landscape architecture and pre-vet?) That freedom to design your curriculum was really the cool thing. You could take anything you wanted toward your field of concentration (FOC) as long as you had a rationale for it.

As an aside, I always found it amazing that no one really abused the system by designing an incredibly easy FOC. I had some friends in Advertising and Social Work (not academically rigorous majors at that time) who were at times searching for "passable" classes to finish their degrees. If they had been in JMC, they could have easily taken their core requirements and rounded out with surefire 4.0 classes like the infamous Packaging 401.

I guess no one that needs easy classes has the energy to design their own curriculum, so we end up taking things like Molecular Genetics to round out a program of Marketing & Communication Research.

- Cleo Parker (Student: 1974 - 1978)


At JMC I enjoyed the small class size and intense interaction I wanted from Ripon and Wabash (but could not afford) and the resources of a Big Ten University, without being lost in the crowd, as I expected I might be in Ann Arbor.

- Charles K. Roberts (Student: 1966 - 1970)


No grades. Good students will work to get "A's". When there are no grades, students can learn, take risks, follow new paths, and achieve genuine education!

- Nancy R. Shaffer (Student: 1972 - 1975)


The "citizen of the world" [orientation] and the respect for the student as a mature learner despite being fresh from high school.

- Deborah Sirotkin Butler (JMC Student: 1966 - 1970)


Besides the broad interdisciplinary focus discussed at other points, I was attracted to JMC’s self governance.  Students played a larger role in college governance than any other institution that I knew of, and that was a major factor in my deciding to come to MSU and JMC. 

In the first three years I sat on all of the major committees at one time or another, including curriculum, and tenure and promotion.  (These days, the thought that students had half the votes in the P&T committee produces a bit of vertigo).  Student participation in college governance added significantly to the feeling of community.  Unfortunately, student participation dwindled over the four years I was there, and both sides seemed to me at fault.

Governance was also one of the many ways JMC prodded students to take responsibility for their lives and educations.  Indeed, one might say that the most distinctive feature of JMC was the degree to which in almost every area of college life students were given responsibility.  For some students it was wonderful, but others struggled.

The international/language aptitude theme in JMC did not play an important role for me.

Life long learning, which arose as a mission after I arrived, was, in my opinion, an experiment too far and killed the college.

- John Stick (Student: 1971 - 1975)


The language requirement was certainly a wonderful uniqueness. I really enjoyed the small class size and the individual attention that I received in all of my classes. I also enjoyed the innovative class offerings, things that you would never see in the university as a whole.

- Darlene Swartz-Hubsky (Student: 1969 - 1973)


One thing that was important to me was the small class size. Seminars instead of lectures, that’s a real educational experience. We had a sense of community that I did not see anywhere else on campus. We had an identity and were proud of it. We thought we were the academic elite on campus and I think we were right.

- Robert Walter (Student: 1969 - 1974)


Relative to MSU at large, and most all other schools, I judged JMC unique with respect to an entire set of factors, including:

  • Combining the advantages of small-scale 'community' with large University resources
  • The 'sense of community' inculcated by the residential environment
  • Emphasis on essential skills development toward equipping a student for lifelong practical learning
  • A 'heuristic learning' paradigm in which undergrads had to exert to absorb basics while addressing advanced topics
  • Emphasis on writing and other forms of creative output
  • Practically unlimited capacity for 'customizing' each student's curriculum, up to and including the 'major' itself
  • Regular exposure to, and opportunity for close relations with, the core faculty
  • An emphasis on multidisciplinary perspective which has turned out to be more and more critical as time goes on
  • A persistent motif of internationality which induced a worldview that literally encompassed the whole world
  • An emphasis on 'doing' (i.e., action; participation) and hence 'learning by doing'
  • A requirement that a student spend an entire term outside the normal classroom context pursuing an educational project for which he / she was personally responsible

- Randy Whitaker (Student: 1969 - 1973)


I feel the thing that really made JMC unique was how close the students were to each other. Even students who had totally different points of views, and there were many different points of view on lots of things, still seemed to have a respect and genuine caring for one another. I just think JMC really gave everyone a chance to be who they really were without having to worry about what other people may think. JMC was a kind of "rebel" college and many of the students were rebels or rebellious too. I think maybe that is what I liked best about it. It just seemed like a time when everyone was realizing you don't always have to do it like the book says. It seemed to be contagious, and I think that was a good thing.

- Larry Wickett (Student: 1965 - 1969; ongoing JMC experience til 1976)

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Editor and Site Steward:
Randy Whitaker (JMC '74)


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