Slide Slide Students present their container solution for healthcare for the homeless to the local news and community. Slide Slide Slide Community Innovations

Featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education

In February 2019, JMU X-Labs and the Community Innovations class were featured on the front page of The Chronicle of Higher Education in an article called “No Textbooks, No Lectures, and No Right Answers. Is This What Higher Education Needs?” written by Senior Writer Beth McMurtrie.

Community Innovations

The communities we live in endure many complex problems, and although many people want to help solve them, it’s not as easy as it looks. Effective and sustainable change requires collaboration, creativity, a willingness to take risks, and the courage to fail. This course is a passport to active, creative, and impactful global citizenship. It helps students build vital and transferable skills for their careers, and the work they accomplish becomes a signature entry in their professional portfolios.

Fall 2020


Undergraduate and graduate students and faculty from Writing Studies, Public Policy and Administration, Math and Statistics, Social Work, and Graduate Psychology will be working with the United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County to help serve the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population of Harrisonburg and surrounding counties. This is the second time that Community Innovations has worked with the United Way, and this year, we will be exploring how to collect data about how COVID-19 has affected the economic, social, and health of the ALICE population.

Spring 2020 – Addressing Human Trafficking


Human trafficking is on the rise across the globe, exploiting and enslaving roughly 40.3 million people worldwide (–en/index.htm). In the spring of 2020, professors from seven different disciplines (communication studies, health sciences, hotel management, justice studies, nursing, statistics, and writing, rhetoric and technical communication) mentor mixed students teams as they develop impactful solutions to select problems, such as the following:

  1. Law enforcement collaboration (Arc Aspicio)
  2. Coordination of community efforts (NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center) – Create a system for local agencies to coordinate efficiently and effectively to respond to people affected by human trafficking.
  3. Human trafficking education in Virginia schools (New Creation) – Address misconceptions about human trafficking and find ways to overcome barriers for schools in Virginia to implement existing quality training on prevention of human trafficking.
  4. Addressing stable homes for those recovering from experiences of human trafficking (Shared Hope International) – Increase the number of sustainable and healthy placement options for children recovering from human trafficking that provide stable and supportive environments.
  5. Stopping child exploitation in digital environments (U.S. Department of Homeland Security: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) – Find new ways to stop child exploitation in digital environments.

Read more here: CHBS faculty co-teach course on human trafficking

Spring 2019

This semester we partnered with the United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County to look for systemic solutions to particularly difficult challenges for  the local ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population. Using a variety of tools associated with ideas around design thinking, collective impact, and the lean startup model, students are researching, interviewing and prototyping solutions to these complex and “wicked” (intractable) problems:

  1. Access to affordable childcare
  2. Challenges related to the public transportation system
  3. Issues surrounding the relationship between the university and local non-profits

Fall 2018


Collaborating closely with community partners on real problems in the healthcare and education sectors, students are learning to use design-based research methods and apply them to real challenges faced by our community partners. Working in multidisciplinary teams and collaborating with faculty members from across disciplines, students work with community partners to understand their work and how to respond to the challenges they face, talking with experts across the country as they design innovative solutions for the following partners:

  1. Gift & Thrift
  2. Plains Elementary School
  3. The Suitcase Clinic

Fall 2020

Community Innovations
Monday evenings
Lakeview Hall 1165

Class Websites

Become a
Client Partner

  • Does your organization face local or global challenges in healthcare, education or security?
  • Are you aware of a technology that could transform your industry but you don’t have time to explore it?
  • Does your organization have long–range design problems that you don’t have the resources to solve yourself?
  • What if you could hire graduates who are ready to start working on your top needs from Day One?

Learn how to become a client partner

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