Category Archives: SOC News

Thomson receives Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award

Deborah Thomson

Dr. Deborah Thomson (pictured with SOC director Dr. Linda Kean) was presented a UNC Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award at the fourth annual Founders Day and University Awards Celebration recognizing “the best of East Carolina University” on May 1 in Hendrix Theatre.

Thomson, an associate professor in the School of Communication, was one of six ECU recipients of the award that recognizes and supports excellent teaching at each of the 16 constituent universities in the UNC system.

Also at the ECU Annual Awards Celebration, Dr. Rebecca J. Dumlao received the Scholarship of Engagement Award, which recognizes a faculty member for achievement in scholarship of engagement and a sustained commitment to partnered scholarly endeavors with communities. Read more about Rulifson, Herron, Zhang and Dumlao’s research at Dr. Pamela Hopkins and part-time instructor Josh Copenhaver were inducted into the 2013 Servire Society. The Servire Society members have contributed 100 or more hours of volunteer service – without compensation and outside their normal realm of duties – to the community at large within the previous year. Dr. Cindy Elmore was a College of Fine Arts and Communication grant recipient.

School of Communication alum receives Distinguished Alumni Award at CommCrew’s Seventh Annual Spring Reception

Valeria Lassite

Valeria Lassiter, who earned her Communication degree at East Carolina University in 1990, was presented the School of Communication’s Distinguished Alumni Award at a reception on April 20, hosted by the School’s alumni organization, CommCrew.

Lassiter is the founder and president of Lassiter & Associates, LLC, a company specializing in strategic partnerships, development, fundraising, communications, marketing, event management and planning. The firm is based in Chevy Chase, Md.

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes alumni with a minimum of four years of work history, outstanding and uncommon achievement in one’s profession, in civic affairs, and/or politics.

“It is an honor for me to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Communication. I am deeply appreciative of my experience at ECU,” Lassiter said.

The award was presented at the School of Communication’s Seventh Annual Spring Reception organized by CommCrew, the School’s alumni and supporters’ organization.

School of Communication professor honored for excellence in service-learning

North Carolina Campus Compact, a coalition of 38 public and private colleges and universities, has named an East Carolina University professor as the recipient of the 2013 Robert L. Sigmon Service-Learning Award.

Dr. Rebecca Dumlao, an associate professor in ECU’s School of Communication, is the first from ECU to receive the award.

The Sigmon Award recognizes a faculty member for significant contributions to the practice of service-learning, a teaching strategy that links community service to classroom study and reflection. The award is named for North Carolina native Robert Sigmon, who helped pioneer the approach in the 1970s.

“I believe that service-learning is one of the most important ways we can equip students to be leaders and actively engaged as citizens in their communities after they graduate,” Dumlao said. Students pair academic coursework with community-based experiences, and articulate what they learn. “It’s a way to bring student service and community engagement into the classroom,” she said.

Dumlao has led service-learning efforts at ECU and beyond for more than a decade, chairing the university’s service-learning committee to support course design and faculty development, serving as editor of book reviews for Partnerships:  A Journal of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, and integrating service-learning into the communication curriculum.

The School of Communication’s required capstone course now includes a service-learning project. Since 2001, more than 1,600 students have completed the course, contributing over 18,000 hours of service locally. Dumlao is working to develop a global service-learning program in Trinidad, West Indies, in conjunction with Amizade, a non-profit organization that provides service-learning and volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups.

One nominator said Dumlao is the “go-to person” for service-learning topics in the school, and a former student declared the capstone project “one of the most rewarding classes” at ECU.

Dumlao has worked at ECU for 15 years. She received her bachelor’s degree in home economics and early childhood education from Penn State University, a master’s in scientific and technical communication from Oregon State and a doctorate in mass communication from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Dumlao received the award Feb. 13 at the compact’s annual Pathways to Achieving Civic Engagement Conference at Elon University. More than 275 faculty, staff, students, and community partners across the state participated in the event.

Started in 2002, North Carolina Campus Compact builds the capacity of colleges and universities to produce civically-engaged graduates and strengthen communities.

2012 Visiting Scholar: Robin Bronk, CEO of The Creative Coalition

robin bronk

The School of Communication recently welcomed Robin Bronk, CEO of The Creative Coalition, as its fall 2012 Visiting Scholar.

Bronk was in Greenville from Oct. 23 – 26 as a guest of the School of Communication. She served as the keynote speaker for the School’s Annual High School Media Workshop on Oct. 25, as well as a guest presenter in select public relations classes. Bronk also spoke at a community event at Emerge Art Gallery in Greenville on Oct. 25.

Robin Bronk is Chief Executive Officer of The Creative Coalition–the leading national, nonprofit, nonpartisan social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment industry. As CEO, Bronk is dedicated to educating, mobilizing, and activating the entertainment industry and arts community on issues of public importance, particularly the First Amendment, arts advocacy, arts in education, and media literacy. Since being appointed to the position in April 2010, she has exponentially grown The Creative Coalition’s operating budget by designing and instituting corporate sponsorship programs and cause marketing opportunities.

To learn more about Robin Bronk and The Creative Coalition, visit

John Cooper ’89 Presented Distinguished Alumnus Award

John Cooper

John Cooper, who earned his Communication degree at East Carolina University in 1989, was given the School of Communication’s Distinguished Alumnus Award at a reception Saturday evening, April 21.

Cooper, Deputy Manager of the Live Desk at NBC News Channel in Charlotte, has worked at the NBC news service for more than 20 years. NBC News Channel distributes national and international video news stories to NBC stations around the country. At the Live Desk, Cooper acts as a producer for field reporters.

Last fall, Cooper visited ECU to be the keynote speaker for the fourth annual High School Media Workshop, which the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association co-sponsored.

“John Cooper has been an outstanding supporter of the School of Communication for a number of years, and we are delighted to recognize his significant contributions by giving him the Distinguished Alumnus Award,” said Dr. Linda Kean, director of the School of Communication.

The 6th Annual Spring Reception is organized by CommCrew, the School of Communication’s alumni and supporters’ organization.

Fulbright Scholar Reflects on Unique Experience in Berlin

Rachel Castro

By Lexi Taylor
School of Communication Intern Spring 2012

Danke. This simple word means “thank you” in German, but to East Carolina University senior Rachel Castro, it signifies a lifetime experience.

Castro was one of 15 young journalists chosen to participate in the German-American Fulbright Commission’s Berlin Capital Program in Berlin, Germany, in December. The Fulbright program is a chance for students and young professionals in the United States to earn merit-based scholarships to study in other countries.

As the only participant selected from the state of North Carolina, Castro jumped at the chance to pursue her dream of studying abroad.

“One of my greatest ambitions is to continue traveling,” Castro said.

Castro found out about this opportunity while taking a summer session journalism course in the School of Communication with ECU professor Dr. Cindy Elmore, who participated in a Fulbright during her career.

“Rachel is a truly amazing writer,” said Elmore. “I was happy to have the opportunity to recommend her.”

While in Berlin, Castro was given an in-depth look into German news and media. She participated in two to four seminars daily on topics such as “How to be a Good Journalist” and  “Germany’s Identity in European Media.” The group was given a tour of prominent political and news structures including the German Parliament and many publishing houses. These visits allowed Castro the opportunity to experience the difference in European and American news and media.

Along with the educational experiences, Castro got a closer look into Germany’s everyday culture. She was able to enjoy one of Germany’s favorite pastimes — eating bratwurst and schnitzel. She also had the opportunity to visit the Christmas markets that are only around for about a month during the holiday season. She was able try food there and buy small, handmade gifts, as well.

On the last day of the program, the group members were allowed a free day to tour the city on their own. This was Castro’s favorite day because she was able to walk the Berlin Wall.

“That was definitely my favorite part of the trip,” she said. “It was such an amazing experience to be able to walk along such a historic site.”

Even though Castro has returned home, she still keeps in contact with the other accomplished young professionals she shared her journey with. They talk frequently through emails and a Facebook group.

To Castro, the program was more than just another item to add to her resume, it was a step closer in her pursuit of studying and writing abroad. Rachel currently works as a staff writer at the ECU News Bureau and recently acquired a position as an ESL teacher with the ECU Language Academy. This new job will prepare Castro for next fall, as she ventures back to Europe to teach English for the year.

“My top choice is Budapest, Hungary,” Castro said. “However, I am just thrilled to continue my travels.”

Pirate Alum Soaring in Germany

Joel Banjo-Johnson

Like a lot of basketball fans, Joel Banjo-Johnson was looking forward to the opening tipoff of the NCAA basketball season Nov. 9 when UCONN and Michigan State faced off at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. She was looking forward to it more than most however, as this 2009 East Carolina University Magna Cum Laude graduate, assisted with the planning of the game.

The game aired live on ESPN and ESPN2. Banjo-Johnson, currently the acting Chief of Public Affairs at the base, said it took five months to plan but the event was a success. She is pictured here, about an hour before Sports Center was going to air live.

“I definitely had a lot of fun and all the interviews and coverage turned out well. Everyone learned a little about what we do at Ramstein Air Base,” Banjo-Johnson said. “I’m grateful for these different experiences. I’m completely exhausted afterward but excited as it’s going on. I learned a lot about production behind the scenes and programming.”

Banjo-Johnson said now that her major is deployed she has taken over the position. “I now am the Chief of Public Affairs for the largest wing in the entire Air Force. It’s certainly a challenge but I’m doing well. Hope all is well in Pirate country!”

School of Communication Faculty Participate in Service-Learning ‘Immersion’

The School of Communication showed that students are not the only ones who live by the East Carolina University motto ‘servire.’ Dr. Rebecca Dumlao, associate professor of communication and chair of the University Service-Learning Committee, recently organized the 9th Annual ECU Conference on Service-Learning at ECU.

The event included a ‘Service-Learning Immersion’ at the Eastern North Carolina Food Bank in Greenville. Dumlao, along with fellow faculty member Mike Cavannagh, received a hands-on experience of what students do at the food bank, including sorting cans.

“We had to go through and sort the sweet potato cans and decide which ones needed to be thrown out,” Dumlao said. “We went through an entire flat.”

Following the event at the food bank, the group held a discussion on how to connect the work they did to classroom theories.

“Service-Learning is a chance for students to reflect on how they saw theories from class in action or how they saw them not working,” Dumlao said.

The three-day event featured key speakers: Dr. Patti Clayton, senior scholar with the Center for Service and Learning at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and visiting fellow with the New England Resource Center for Higher Education; Dr. Barbara Jacoby, faculty associate for Leadership Community Service-Learning at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union-Center for Campus Life at the University of Maryland, College Park.

ECU’s School of Communication Hosts Distinguished Health Communication Scholar

To help celebrate the school’s five-year anniversary of its master’s in health communication degree, Dr. Gary Kreps, an innovator in health communication and Visiting Scholar at the ECU School of Communication, spoke about the importance of scholarship in the growing field in a public lecture on October 26.

Kreps gave his lecture, “Communication and the Continuum of Care: A Mandate for Health Communication Scholarship,” at the East Carolina Heart Institute. The ECU School of Communication was presenting Kreps’ lecture in conjunction with the ECU Brody School of Medicine Department of Public Health Grand Rounds.

Kreps has been working in health communication since its early days in the 1970s. Health communication includes doctors discussing care with patients, governments advising the public on health issues and societies working to ensure that diverse populations learn about how to stay healthy.

“Increasingly my own work is focusing on reducing health disparities for vulnerable and at-risk populations both domestically and internationally,” said Kreps, whose research projects have earned external grant awards totaling more than $31 million.

In addition to his lecture, Kreps met with several School of Communication and Department of Health Education and Promotion classes over three days of his visit.

Kreps’ visit helped the School of Communication mark the fifth anniversary of the Master of Arts degree in Communication with an emphasis in health. A celebratory reception was held at the Heart Institute following the public lecture.

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