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Senior Viraga Perera Named Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact

viraga perera

Senior Viraga Perera has been named a Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact.

Campus Compact has honored 201 students from colleges and universities nationwide as 2015 Newman Civic Fellows. Among the honorees is Widener University senior Viraga Perera of Colombo, Sri Lanka, who currently resides in Chester, Pa. The Newman Civic Fellows Awards recognize inspiring college student leaders who have worked to find solutions for challenges facing their communities.

As a member of the Presidential Service Corps/Bonner Leaders Program at Widener, Perera annually commits to at least 300 hours of community service in the city of Chester. He has dedicated much of his time to leading recruitment and coordination of volunteers at The College Access Center in Chester, an initiative of the Chester Higher Education Council that provides free college preparation services to high school students and adults. He also volunteers at the center as a tutor.

“Viraga advocates for education, social change and in making a difference in the lives of those who live in the Chester community,” wrote Widener University President James T. Harris III in his nomination of Perera as a Newman Civic Fellow. “To aid him in his efforts, he effectively builds relationships with students, community partners and with the staff and faculty at Widener with his humble charismatic demeanor. He regularly offers his peers examples of positive leadership.”

Perera, a dual electrical engineering and physics major, is also enrolled in the Oskin Leadership Program at Widener, which offers a select group of students leadership training and one-on-one coaching that guides them through identifying and developing a project that has the potential to change the world. For his project, Perera is developing a diversity certificate program for students offered through Widener’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Perera consistently shows a dedication to service while balancing additional responsibilities, including those of founding president of the debate society and member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society, Sigma Pi Sigma National Physics Honor Society, Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, LOGOS-Christian Ministries, the Widener Chorale and Widener Men’s Rugby. He has also performed in six different plays with the Widener FreshBaked Theatre Company, which puts on inventive dramas for young audiences. All proceeds from the performances support food pantries in Chester.

Newman Civic Fellow Awards are made in memory of Dr. Frank Newman, a founder of Campus Compact. At the core of Dr. Newman's leadership was a belief in the power of individuals to make a difference and in the power of connection with others.

“Dr. Frank Newman had a tremendous impact on American education and its role in the development of citizens who are eager and prepared to make a difference,” explained Campus Compact President Andrew J. Seligsohn. “He dedicated his life to creating systemic change through education reform, and this new group of Newman Civic Fellows would have inspired him. They are reflections and affirmations of his life’s work.”

As these students tackle community challenges, they provide fresh energy and perspective, inspire and mobilize others, and develop their own skills and potential. This year’s record number of Fellows will leverage an even greater capacity for engagement and change through online networking. In keeping with their generation’s emphasis on networks over hierarchies, Newman Civic Fellows will share ideas and materials to further their work through an exclusive online community especially for Fellows. 

The Newman Civic Fellows Awards are made possible through the generous support of the KPMG Foundation.

Campus Compact is a national coalition of nearly 1,100 college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility. For more information about the organization and the award, visit

Widener University is a metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,000 students. Widener is proud to be a tobacco-free university. Visit the university’s website,