Dr. Desportes departs: Celebrating a legacy of educational advocacy and community engagement

College of Education

SUMMARY: Retiring COE professor, Dr. Laura Desportes receives an award for service to JMU's Professor-in-Residence Program. (L-R): Dr. Mark L'Esperance, Dr. Laura Desportes, Dr. David Owusu-Ansah

Dr. Laura Desportes has dedicated her life and her career to improving educational outcomes for and supporting individuals with disabilities. She has worked with various local and state agencies to ensure that there are appropriate educational, vocational, and social opportunities available for children and adults who need extra supports. At times those supports were delivered in a hands-on approach through direct classroom and real-world interactions, and at other times she has been in college classrooms preparing other students who have a similar vocation.

As part of her role at JMU, she actively participated in the Professor-in-Residence program, which was established in 2003. This program aims to enhance educational opportunities for middle and high school students from underserved and underrepresented school systems in Virginia.

Dr. Desportes started her service with the Professor-in-Residence program at William Fleming High School, but due to pressing departmental needs, she had to step back to fulfill obligations at JMU. She was next assigned to Thomas Harrison Middle School. She worked with a variety of school personnel including the reading teachers, the AVID program director, and the principal. She spent a good deal of time assessing the specific strengths and needs of the population she was working with.

As a result of observing the direct impact that COVID-19 had on students, especially on English Language Learners, Dr. Desportes paired 22 College of Education students with 35 of the neediest THMS students for personalized intervention and support.

Dr. David Owusu-Ansah, Executive Director of Faculty Access & Inclusion recently presented Dr. Desportes with an award recognizing her outstanding contributions to the Professor-in-Residence Program. “When I talk to colleagues about the impact of our PIR faculty, Laura Desportes’ innovative approach to making our work relevant to the needs of our schools is the one I cite. As Dr. Desportes retires from JMU and therefore the PIR program, it was only appropriate that we recognized her dedicated service to our students and community,” he commented.

Dr. Desportes says that she firmly believes in the Professor-in-Residence Program and our responsibility to be a part of the communities around us. Though she is retiring and hanging up her faculty hat, she hopes to continue supporting local schools as a volunteer and connecting her current colleagues to similar endeavors in the area.

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Published: Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Last Updated: Monday, April 22, 2024

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