Oh please, not Jiffy Lube


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A rose by any other name, wrote Shakespeare, still smells as sweet. So what if a rose were called “sour flower” or “pig petals” or a “bad bud?” Would it be really be quite as appealing?

Ask any young couple expecting their first child if a name matters, and they’ll tell you unequivocally that it does matter. What we call something often defines it. I’ve always liked that JMU’s new performing arts center is “The Forbes Center.” It has a nice, sophisticated ring to it. Certainly better than Portland, Oregon’s, “Sleep Country Amphitheater” (yawn) or Northern Virginia’s “Jiffy Lube Live,” formerly the much more inviting “Nissan Pavillion.”

Then there are the unfortunate people saddled with unarguably bad names. Somewhere in Georgia, there’s a woman named “Module McGhee,”* born on the day U.S. astronauts landed on the moon.

Considering names for things made me wonder if changing the name of something can make it more appealing. Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Russian dictator Joseph Stalin, who died a few weeks ago, renamed herself Lana Peters. Probably a good choice given her father’s infamy.

So when something triggers rolled eyes, say like “Gen Ed” courses, would a name change make them more likable? What if they were called Renaissance Courses?

I had a conversation recently with a JMU alumna who is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. She’s a fan of heavy metal music. She also loves Opera. She’s one of the most talented people I know in her given profession. She’s also an avid hunter. She’s a devoted and knowledgeable Dukes fan, but she is also blown away by the poetry of Sonia Sanchez. She defines Renaissance, albeit in some unconventional ways, but isn’t that why Renaissance is appealing? Renaissance  is the opposite of boring. And who wants to be boring?

According to Webster, a Renaissance man is “a person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas.” Shouldn’t every university graduate aspire to fall under that classification?

In an earlier blog post, Be the Change intern Tyler McAvoy (’12) wrote about the value of his general education experience. As a senior with a whole lot of interesting courses under his belt, he gets it. He understands the value of having a broad reservoir of knowledge and understanding. Most of the rolled eyes I’ve seen have come from freshmen and sophomores, none of whom, I suspect, would object some day to being labeled “Renaissance.” A handful of classes, of course, will not establish the kind of mastery that characterizes a Renaissance man or woman, but it’s a start. In fact, it’s an essential first step toward deeper learning.

So I have a suggestion for a change at James Madison University. Rename Gen Ed. Call it the “Renaissance Series” or “Renaissance Courses,” because that’s exactly what general education does. It exposes students to worlds, ideas, theories, people and disciplines that they might never discover otherwise. Along with what students learn in their majors, these interesting and diverse courses give them the opportunity to begin to build the reputation of the best and to create their own label.

I’d call them Renaissance Dukes.

To learn more about JMU’s General Education program, visit: http://www.jmu.edu/gened/


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

2 Responses to Oh please, not Jiffy Lube

  1. grahammb says:

    Thanks, Tom. As I think back on my own undergraduate days, I enjoyed my major courses. But those various and wide-ranging other courses I took are the ones that have had the greatest resonance for me since. Exposure to law, business, music, history, theatre, horticulture, photography and marketing made my political science degree all the richer.


  2. Tom DuVal says:

    Bravo, Martha (or rather, “Brava”)! Words absolutely affect perception. Yours is both a sensible and a poetic idea, and it wouldn’t surprise me if JMU eventually comes around.


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