Michele James-Deramo, director of Virginia Tech's Service-Learning Center, has received a special commendation for Outstanding Contributions to Service-Learning in Higher Education.

Deramo received the award at the Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education held March 13 through March 15, 2008, in Nashville, Tenn. It is presented each year to an individual who has demonstrated excellence in creating, providing, and sustaining opportunities for engaging college/university students in service-learning.

Since becoming the first director of Virginia Tech’s Service-Learning Center in 1995, James-Deramo has been responsible for guiding and directing the program through many developmental stages. She has succeeded in bringing it to national attention, identified as a College and Character Program by the John Templeton Foundation and recognized as a national model for service-learning endeavors. She has also managed to secure over $775,000 in external funds in support of campus service-learning initiatives.

During her time with the center, James-Deramo has funded the University-Community Partnership Conference, given leadership to the Virginia Higher Education Civic Engagement Network, taught the service-learning sections of several campus courses, and designed an international service-learning summer exchange program that debuted in 2006.

In addition, she has served as a core member of a group responding to the resettlement needs of several Somali Bantu families from 2004 to 2006, an effort that launched a housing and educational program – called the Pilot Street Project – in conjunction with Refugee and Immigration Services in Roanoke.

“Michele James-Deramo is exemplary in her efforts for equality and justice for all people, regardless of socioeconomic, ethnic, or educational background,” says Gresilda Tilley-Lubbs of Virginia Tech’s School of Education, who nominated James-Deramo for the award. “Without hesitation, I can say that she is one of the most inspiring, hard-working, dedicated and committed people I have ever known.”

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