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Ten Carolina faculty, staff, students and organizations recognized at the 23rd annual Public Service Awards


Chapel Hill, N.C. – Ten Carolina faculty, staff, students and organizations were recognized at the 23rd annual Public Service Awards on April 12, 2022 for outstanding contributions to the campus and broader communities.

At the ceremony, the Carolina Center for Public Service, along with Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Chris Clemens, presented the following awards: Ned Brooks Award for Public Service, Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Awards and Robert E. Bryan Public Service Awards.

About the awards:

  • Robert E. Bryan Public Service Awards celebrate a specific effort (rather than an overall record) exemplifying outstanding engagement and service to the state of North Carolina. Bryan awards recognize an outstanding undergraduate student, graduate student, faculty member, staff member and officially recognized student organization.
  • Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Awards recognize excellence in engaged teaching, engaged research and engaged partnership.
  • Ned Brooks for Public Service Awards recognize a staff or faculty member of the UNC-Chapel Hill community who has, in a collaborative and sustained manner, made a difference in the larger community throughout their career.

The awards were held in-person this year at the Carolina Club George Watts Hill Alumni Center, the first time the events were held in this format since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Congratulations to all of the winners. Listen to the awardees describe their work and accept their awards.


Honoring a distinguished and sustained record of service to Carolina and the larger community

Strauss has a neutral gray background behind him. He has a clean beard and mustache and shorter gray hair. His shirt is white and light blue stripes. His tie has yellow and blue stripes.Ronald Strauss, Ph.D., executive vice provost, Adams Distinguished Professor, professor for Adams School of Dentistry and clinical professor of epidemiology.

Strauss has served as the executive vice provost of UNC-Chapel Hill since 2008 and as Chief International Officer for over a decade. He holds joint appointments in three schools at Carolina and is a member of the UNC Craniofacial Center. He received the 2022 Ned Brooks Award for a distinguished and sustained record of service to Carolina and the larger community.

Strauss was instrumental to the establishment of the Thorp Community Engaged Scholars program, which has been a documented catalyst of increasing UNC faculty community engagement. As faculty course director, Strauss has consistently demonstrated personal investment in the program, the fellows and individual programs and community partnerships. He has been a role model for hundreds of UNC faculty who consider him their lifetime mentor in community engagement and service.

Strauss has positively influenced and inspired others to passionately serve. He has achieved all this while tirelessly serving the university in major campus-level administrative roles and continuing to care for young children with craniofacial anomalies weekly in the Adams School of Dentistry Craniofacial clinic. He has also led the UNC Center for AIDS Research Community Advisory Board for decades, and his AIDS course is a testament to his commitment to the HIV community.

One nominator, who was a member of the second class of scholars stated: “Ron’s approach to teaching and connecting made a lasting impression on me as a junior faculty member striving to develop a career that had public service as a cornerstone.”

The nominator continued “as Executive Vice Provost, Ron connects all of the academic deans with the Provost’s office. He approaches this role with the same focus on compassion, mentorship, patience, and service. In both of these settings, Ron demonstrated a type of leadership that is rare. It is grounded in humility and connection. It draws on strengths of others and builds relationships. It relies on trust and openness. It is leadership that looks beyond the leader and the follower to the community that we are all trying to serve and support.”

Ron’s decades-long service at UNC he has positively influenced and inspired others to passionately serve. He has achieved all this while tirelessly serving the university in major campus-level administrative roles and continuing to care for young children with craniofacial anomalies weekly in the Adams School of Dentistry Craniofacial clinic. He has also led the UNC Center for AIDS Research Community Advisory Board for decades now, and his popular AIDS course is a testament to his commitment to the HIV community and to teaching.

Another nominator wrote, “Dr. Strauss is most deserving of this lifetime achievement award. Dr. Strauss has been a pillar at Carolina during times of tremendous transition. He is an incredible leader, mentor, servant and friend.”


Honoring individuals and campus units for public service through engaged teaching, research and partnership


De Marco has short red and brown hair with matching lip stick. Her earrings hang down from her ears and are silver color and geometric with different shapes. She wears a white shirt with a pinched and raised collar. The bush in the background is green and fuchsia, with dark patches in between.Allison De Marco, Ph.D., advanced research scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and adjunct assistant professor in the School of Social Work, is recognized for her partnership with the Community Empowerment Fund on an undergraduate service-learning course focused on economic justice.

De Marco has partnered in multiple ways with the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF), a Chapel Hill and Durham-based nonprofit founded by Carolina students which, since 2009, has worked to end the racial wealth gap by supporting over 3,000 members (persons experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity) annually, in reaching employment, housing, and finance goals via person-centered support, financial education and asset building.

For six years, De Marco has taught an undergraduate service-learning course through the School of Social Work with a focus on economic justice. Students serve as volunteer advocates with CEF and receive training in conducting racial equity assessments. They learn to develop solutions around transit planning, historical zoning decisions, community engagement for comprehensive plan development, environmental justice issues surrounding coal ash, affordable housing and land use, and property redevelopment. Each year, they present their findings to local elected officials and other leaders in Orange County.

In addition to her undergraduate teaching, De Marco has served as an internship supervisor for 12 Masters of Social Work students who have been placed at CEF. Her work has received national scholarly attention, and the team of partners have been inducted into the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program, conducting applied research to advance health.


Van Deinse is wearing a charcoal gray blazer and burgundy shirt. She has darker hair and is standing in front of trees.Tonya Van Deinse, Ph.D., MSW, clinical associate professor at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work, is recognized for addressing mental illness issues in the North Carolina criminal legal system.

Over the last several years, Van Deinse has worked closely with Durham County community partners (e.g., government and mental health providers) to enhance mental health screening and identification processes in area prisons and to implement and evaluate a re-entry program for people with mental illness and substance use disorder. She is completing a community capacity assessment of county supports for people with mental illness in the criminal legal system. She also serves on various community committees focused on programming for Durham residents with mental illness.

At the statewide level, Van Deinse was selected by the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission to conduct the Victims of Crime Needs Assessment, which examined the effectiveness of support structures in addressing the needs of victims. The assessment focused on underserved groups including tribal communities, immigrants, older adults, and LGBTQ+ individuals. The assessment was developed in partnership with state and community providers and advocacy organizations.

In addition, Van Deinse is co-leading a state-wide evaluability assessment of family justice centers that address the needs of people who experience intimate partner violence. This project builds from a North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS) community engagement award, continuing relationships established four years ago.


Spurlock has short hair and dark stylistic glasses and pink lipstick. Her blazer is black and her shirt underneath is indigo blue. She has two necklaces with prominent dark blue beads and gold-color bars. She is standing in front of trees.Danielle Spurlock, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the College of Arts and Sciences, is recognized for leading a sustained partnership between Communities in Partnership in Durham, UNC’s Department of City and Regional Planning and Duke’s Nicholas Institute and World Food Policy Center.

Over the past six and a half years, Spurlock has provided the support the team needed to implement a community-based participatory research model designed to fully empower community partners in decision making.

In addition to this specific partnership, nominators noted Danielle’s active support of several rural and urban communities with research and community engagement on policy issues, including a food housing justice in partnership with Communities in Partnership in Durham. She’s also supported the work of area Black and indigenous farmers.

Spurlock’s research explores the relationships among land use, the environment, human behavior, and structural inequality on a variety of research projects including social stratification and its impact of the siting of hazardous land uses; social vulnerability and emergency preparedness; and the impact of land use decisions on ecosystems services.

One nominator wrote, “As one of her mentees, I can say she is my model for how to implement research justice practices with community partnerships and how to justly engage students with communities in ways that don’t overburden community partners with supervision and training. I often ask myself ‘What would Danielle (Dr. Spurlock) do?’”


Recognizing students, staff and faculty for exemplary public service efforts


Douthit poses in front of a neutral gray background. His hair is styled medium-short and pulled back. He wears a dark blue blazer, white shirt and Carolina blue tie.Will Douthit, senior business administration major at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, is recognized for his leadership of and work with Carolina Homelessness Prevention Initiative, an organization that works in close partnership with the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness.

The Carolina Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) stems from an organization called Focus on Franklin. Focus on Franklin began building partnerships with community organizations, particularly the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, to directly assist residents struggling with homelessness. With this knowledge and charge, Douthit and his team began fundraising, and in Douthit’s first year with the group, they raised $18,000. Working with their professional partners, they allocated this funding directly to residents–from $50 grocery vouchers that keep food on the table for a week to a $1,000 check to pay the rent.

“CHPI transformed the homeless service system in Orange County by providing the flexible funding needed to find safe places for people facing homelessness. This is especially important here in Orange County where shelter is often not available on any given night – it’s the CHPI funding that keeps people sheltered and safe. It has been amazing to work with this capable and inspiring group of undergraduates under Will’s leadership who are contributing so meaningfully to our community,” says Corey Root, director, Orange County Housing.


Emmerling stands in front of a sprawling oak tree. He wears a denim shirt and has round stylistic glasses with amber-color flakes in them. His hair is short and curls in the front. He has a light beard on his face.Dane Emmerling, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Health Behavior at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, for his outstanding community engagement over four years of teaching in the M.P.H. capstone course in the Gilling’s School of Global Public Health and engaged research evaluating trainings with the Racial Equity Institute.

In Emmerling’s four years serving as a capstone teaching assistant, he has helped recruit, vet and match 39 North Carolina-based organizations to student teams. He has coached 18 teams–each comprised of four to five students, a community partner and a faculty adviser– on work plans that balance contributions to the capstone partner organizations and their constituents with learning opportunities for students. He has supported, advised and problem-solved with 176 students who collectively provided more than 31,680 hours of in-kind service to Capstone partner organizations, and provided technical assistance to the development of more than 70 deliverables created for Capstone partner organizations’ use and benefit, and has facilitated 16 reflection sessions to support students’ growth and learning.

In addition, Emmerling has exemplified engagement in his own community-based participatory research, working in close partnership with the Racial Equity Institute to evaluate their training programs, which address critical public health and societal issues. Earlier this year, he presented on this work with partner Deena Hayes-Greene of REI at the University’s fifth Race, Racism and Racial Equity (R3) Symposium.


Constance has a white background. She has straight brown hair and pearl earrings. Her blazer is black and shirt is white.Allison Constance, JD, director, Pro Bono Initiative, School of Law is recognized for her leadership and direction of the Pro Bono Initiative at UNC Law. Constance advises the student-led Pro Bono Board and coordinates and supervises students working on pro bono projects. Under her supervision, 93% of law students enrolled for the 2020-2021 academic year participated in pro bono work. All told, current law students have logged more than 22,000 of service during their time at Carolina.

Constance’s projects reach across North Carolina and focus on low-income and rural areas that historically lack access to legal representation. One example is the Expunction Project in collaboration with Legal Aid of North Carolina. This initiative assists clients from every county in the state. Additionally, Constance has coordinated trips for students to engage in pro bono projects across the state, including drafting wills and power of attorney documents in Morganton, Hickory, and Lenoir; working on housing and evictions issues in Charlotte; and helping veterans in Asheville with discharge upgrades get better medical benefits.

Constance also provides pro bono assistance with Driver’s License Restoration, where she writes monthly advice letters to people who have requested information about the status of their licenses. She also coordinates the Juvenile Justice Project, a collaboration with NC Prisoner Legal Services, where she acts as the supervising attorney to students while representing clients who have been convicted of serious offenses for their parole reviews.

One nominator wrote “Allison’s projects always focus on current community needs, and she instills in us a sense of consciousness for how we may best serve our communities based on their own material circumstances and the gaps that we as burgeoning lawyers may fill.”


Jordan has long brown hair and earrings on. She has necklace with an elephant charm. Her shirt is dark blue. She is standing in front of a tree and bushes.Robyn Jordan, MD, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry within the School of Medicine, is recognized for her partnership in creating a network of addiction clinics in North Carolina that will accept patients suffering from addiction.

Overdose deaths in North Carolina reached record levels in 2021. Jordan is leading multiple efforts to increase access to life-saving addiction care across the state. To better meet the addiction care needs of patients, Jordan created a hospital-based addiction consult service, the first of its kind at UNC, to provide specialized service these patients and connect them with clinics outside of the hospital.

Jordan also helped develop UNC ECHO, a telehealth education program that trains primary care providers in rural parts of N.C. to deliver high-quality addiction care. She’s helped create addiction treatment where none existed before across the state. In part as recognition of her leadership, she was recently elected president of the North Carolina Addiction Medicine Society.

Jordan secured external funding to start the first-ever Addiction Medicine Fellowship program at UNC in order to train addiction medicine physicians to address the overdose crisis that is devastating the state. The program is training physicians who will continue to serve the state for decades to come.


Dr. Sturkey stands in front of a brick wall on UNC campus. He has round dark glasses with patterns. Some stubble and short dark curly hair. He has a dark blue blazer, white and blue pinstripe shirt and blue and white stripe tie. There is a small lapel on the blazer.

William Sturkey, Ph.D., associate professor in History in the College of Arts and Sciences, is recognized for his outstanding scholarship on the history of race in the American South and his service to the state of North Carolina, where he shared state history through public lectures, insightful interviews and writings and in the training of K-12 public school teachers.

A nominator and colleague described his scholarship as “characterized by brilliant, nuanced, and powerful analysis of people whose stories have been marginalized within standard historical narratives.”

Sturkey created awareness about the life and accomplishments of the late Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, a remarkable yet overlooked Black poet, lawyer, priest and more in the 20th century. William partnered with Carolina K-12 and the Orange County Human Rights Coalition to host a workshop for K-12 teachers on teaching the struggles and contributions of Murray. This one event, of the many he has done, served over 100 teachers from North Carolina, with several hundred accessing an on-demand module after. He also worked with a team to produce “On the Books,” an online digitization of North Carolina’s Jim Crow laws, that picks up Murray’s work on Jim Crow laws and extends it for today’s scholars and K-12 teachers.

One nominator referred to Sturkey as a “highly prolific and important scholar in modern U.S. and African American history,” writing a book illuminating the lived experience of those who lived during segregation, co-editing a volume about Mississippi Freedom Schools, and so much more.


Two dental workers pose for a selfie. Both are wearing dark blue scrubs and surgical masks. The person on the left is wearing a UNC branded bandana. Behind them on the wall is a stylistic hand that swirls into a heart shape on the palm. Next to it are the words vidas de esperanza.Hispanic Student Dental Association in the UNC Adams School of Dentistry. Dental students who currently or previously served as co-presidents of HSDA Alret Montes Sanchez, Stephanie Wangerin, Gabriella Gallo and Virginia Montes-Aviles will accept the award on behalf of the organization.

The Hispanic Student Dental Association (HSDA) works alongside the non-profit, Vidas de Esperanza, in Siler City, N.C. to provide dental services twice per month to a largely Hispanic/Latinx population in need of dental treatment. The dental treatment that HSDA provides at Vidas de Esperanza is filling a need in this community for culturally competent and Spanish-speaking dental providers. Over the past few years, HSDA students have expanded the clinic to meet growing demand and to attempt to become the dental home for many of these patients in need of care. From January 2021 to December 2021, HSDA provided over $47,500 of no-cost dental care to patients. Relieving peoples’ pain and helping patients to regain their smiles and confidence has a lasting impact in not only each individual patient’s life, but in the life of volunteers, and in the health and wellbeing of the community.

The dental clinic at Vidas de Esperanza has existed for five years, and each year a new group of HSDA student leaders ensure that the clinic continues to function and impact the community in positive ways. HSDA leaders dedicate numerous hours each week preparing for clinics, in addition to dedicating their entire
Saturday to operate the clinic.

A nominator said that by relieving people’s pain and helping them to regain their smiles, they have a lasting impact in not only each individual patient’s life, but in the life of volunteers, and in the health and wellbeing of the community.

CCPS is a pan-University unit that engages and supports the faculty, students and staff of UNC-Chapel Hill in meeting the needs of North Carolina and beyond. For the past 21 years, the Center has strengthened the University’s public service commitment by promoting scholarship and service that are responsive to the concerns of the state and contribute to the common good.

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