By Heather Greene, a graduate assistant in the Office of Public Relations
On February 22, 1883, the Alabama state legislature signed into a law a bill creating a state normal school which was designed to be a college and a preparatory school for Calhoun County and the surrounding area. With twelve acres of land, a two-story brick building, a fund totaling $4,751.25, twenty-five college students, and 222 preparatory school students, Jacksonville State Normal School embarked upon a journey which has since established it as the leading educational institution in northeast Alabama known as Jacksonville State University (JSU).
Since the time of its inception in 1883, JSU has grown into a 459-acre campus, with 59 buildings, multiple locations, over 150 degree programs, and currently boasts over 9,000 students.
This year marks the 130th birthday of Jacksonville State University and calls for a look at recent advancements being made since its humble beginnings.
The fall of 2011 welcomed the largest incoming freshman class in the history of the university- 1,414 students.
The incoming freshman class of 2012 broke another record with the highest average ACT score to date- 22.3.
Perhaps one of the largest and most recent milestones JSU has seen within the past year is the fruition of its first doctoral program. Students at JSU can now pursue a Doctorate of Science in Emergency Management at JSU as of 2011.
JSU is partnering with regional PK-12 school systems in an exciting new venture called CORE --Collaborative Regional Education, a program designed to train teachers in utilizing cutting edge technology in the classroom.
In June 2013, JSU held the CORE Academy, a three-day conference which brought together over 270 educators and provided them with multiple instructional sessions geared towards learning how to best incorporate technology into their classroom.
Dr. Alicia Simmons, executive director of the JSU Department of Planning and Research and Institute for Research and Collaboration, explains, “Jacksonville State University defined an exciting future when, through our Red Balloon Initiative and Strategic Plan development, we defined our campus as a learning centered university. This concept aligns with all the forward thinking in education and now positions JSU as a leader in collaborative education efforts. While we were focused on expanding new methodologies and technologies in our classrooms, it became apparent that PK-12 school systems were going through the same thing. When we all joined together and formed the CORE partnership, we began finding ways to learn from each other. Now with almost 20 school systems representing almost 100,000 students, the CORE Academy has been the culmination of our commitment to transform education here in Northeast Alabama and anywhere else interested in our model. At JSU we will be using the process of developing innovative models through the research centers represented by the Institute for Research and Collaboration (IRC). With efforts in grants development, interdisciplinary strategies will also lead JSU to an exciting future led by the brightest minds at JSU. It's an exciting time to be at Jacksonville State University!”
“Jacksonville State University has a rich 130 year history which is deeply rooted in serving students and our community, explains Dr. William A. Meehan, eleventh president of JSU. “Our university has been fortunate to have hardworking and dedicated individuals who created an institution which is future driven and learning centered. We are thankful for all the men and women who helped JSU obtain its excellent reputation and for those who are currently working to further develop JSU as a leading educational institution.”
From new degrees and career options, to cutting edge breakthroughs in research and technology, to changing the world one step at a time, Jacksonville State University continues to carve a path in the realm of education 130 years after its founding.
For more information about the beginnings of JSU and current statistics of the institution, please visit the JSU Fact Book or the At a Glance Facts at http://www.jsu.edu/oira/factbook/.
This article originally appeared in the "Town and Gown" of the Jacksonville News.