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Service-Learning Center receives $125,000 grant

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 17 - January 18, 1996

The Service-Learning Center at Virginia Tech has received a Learn and Serve America grant award of $125,000 from the Corporation for National Service.

The Service-Learning Center, established in January 1995, facilitates the integration of community-service objectives with traditional academic course work and research in a manner consistent with the school's land-grant mission, according to Michele James-Deramo, the center's director.

The grant proposal requested funds to support the center's activities during its pilot year. In addition to the hiring of Marcy H. Schnitzer as the placement coordinator, the funds will be used to hire a second graduate assistant for evaluation, to provide 10 Faculty Implementation Grants of $3,000 each to facilitate the design and implementation of service-learning courses, to provide materials funds for student-initiated service-learning activities, and to support recruitment, placement, training, and reflection activities, James-Deramo said.

Currently, courses in black studies, computer science, teaching and learning, English, humanities, management, physical education, physics, religious studies, sociology, and women's studies offer the service-learning option.

"I believe that the service-learning initiative may be one of the most innovative and creative ways we have to strengthen the partnership between the campus and non-campus communities, stimulate student learning, and serve the needs of Southwest Virginia in practical and lasting ways," said Robert C. Bates, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, which initiated the Service-Learning Program.

The Corporation for National Service is a new governmental organization created by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. Its mission is to engage Americans of all ages and backgrounds in community-based service that will address the nation's education, public-safety, human, and environmental needs to achieve direct and demonstrable results.

The corporation received 210 applications. The Virginia Tech application was one of only 26 new grantees selected as a finalist for negotiation.

"High quality, an ability to clearly connect service activities with learning, and a commitment to continue the program" once the grant expires were crucial elements in the decision to select Virginia Tech as a finalist, according to a letter from Eli J. Segal, chief executive officer of the corporation.

The Service-Learning Center has also received a $4,000 mini grant from Virginia COOL (Campus Outreach Opportunity League) to support CS-Squared (Computer Science Community Service), which promotes computer literacy among K-12 students. Also, the National Science Foundation approved a three-year grant totaling $82,273, co-authored by James-Deramo and Lay Nam Chang, chair of the physics department, to support a Distance- and Service-Learning Project that links physics majors with rural high-school youth, thereby fostering electronic mentoring relationships and promoting advanced science initiatives in rural high schools.