Mar 262015


By Dana Hedgpeth March 26 at 8:50 AM

A University of Maryland student who was a member of the school’s Kappa Sigma fraternity and sent an e-mail that contained “vulgar language” will not return to the campus this semester, according to a top university official.

According to an e-mail from Linda Clement, vice president for student affairs at the university, “by mutual consent between the student involved, his family and the University” the student would not come back to the school for the year.

It was not exactly clear whom she sent the e-mail to.

The story was first reported by the Diamondback, the university’s student newspaper.

The student is involved in an incident from a January 2014 e-mail that was posted to the Internet recently. That e-mail contained a racist, sexist message indicating that he wanted to have sex with women during rush week but didn’t want people to invite women of certain races. The note also contains a line using an expletive to indicate that “above all else” to forget about “consent.”

The student newspaper also reported that Clement and other university officials have met with student group leaders to discuss the issue and how to make improvements at the school.

Clement’s e-mail also said the Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life will begin mandatory training programs on sexual assault and hazing prevention and drug and alcohol education.

University of Maryland President Wallace Loh has said the school became aware of the message on March 10. He has said in a previous statement that the “vulgar language in the email expresses views that are reprehensible to our campus community.”

Loh said the university was “deeply saddened by the impact this email is having on our community.”

The Maryland case comes at a time of increased scrutiny of Greek life following a viral video that showed members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma chapter singing a song with a derogatory word for African Americans. Two students at that school have been expelled, and officials there shut down the chapter’s house at the campus.

The fraternity has said that the student was “immediately suspended” from its chapter pending an investigation.

The student’s parents have declined to comment.

In an earlier statement, the fraternity said “the language and views expressed in the email were inexcusable and are in stark contrast to the values of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.”

“They are counter to everything Kappa Sigma stands for.”

The group called the incident “clearly unfortunate,” but said it was pleased to see the “swift and decisive action” taken by its chapter at Maryland.

Mar 262015


By T. Rees Shapiro March 26 at 8:00 AM

A black student at the University of Virginia whose bloody arrest by white police officers ignited a debate on campus about race relations is scheduled to appear in court Thursday in Charlottesville.

Martese Johnson, a 20-year-old junior from Chicago, is expected to plead not guilty to charges of misdemeanor profane swearing and/or public intoxication and obstruction of justice without force.

Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control officers arrested Johnson in the early morning hours of March 18, after Johnson attempted to gain entry to a popular Irish bar adjacent to campus.

Johnson’s face hit the ground during the arrest, and he received 10 stitches to his head. Videos and images of the arrest — with white officers pinning Johnson to the ground as blood streamed down his face — spread wildly on social media, sparking demonstrations on campus by black students amid simmering racial tensions in Charlottesville.

Johnson’s lawyer, Daniel Watkins, has said that he intends “to fight the criminal charges against him with the utmost vigor.”

The case has sparked scrutiny of ABC’s enforcement wing, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Wednesday issued an executive order directing the agency to re-train its officers on use of force and cultural sensitivity, and he is requiring agents in the field to coordinate with local police and sheriffs in the state’s college towns to ensure enforcement operations are appropriate.

Mar 252015


By Jane Dail
Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Alex Scott found himself at a crossroads a few years ago, leading him to complete something he started more than 25 years prior.

Scott, of Trent Woods, completed an associate’s degree from Craven Community College in 1985 then began attending the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, taking classes during the day and working part time at a grocery store.

“As classes got harder and harder, the money got shorter and shorter,” Scott said.

He soon left UNCC, moved back to the New Bern area and worked as a meat cutter. After working several years, he took a 50 percent paycut to work at the Bosch plant in the area but knew there were more opportunities there.

When the plant closed in 2011, he was among those who lost a job.

“All 100 employees were laid off at Bosch, except the ones with a four-year degree,” he said. “If that doesn’t tell you education is important, I don’t know what does.”

He said those who had four-year degrees transferred their jobs to a plant next door that manufactures dishwashers.

“I knew right then I had to finish that degree I started way back in 1985,” he said.

He attended Craven Community again for a semester, then transferred to East Carolina University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology in 2013. He now works as a quality manager for Spinrite in Washington, N.C.

Officials from seven community colleges and East Carolina University echoed Scott’s sentiments, which were also backed up by a recent statewide study.

A recent analysis of higher education institutions in the state — including 16 universities in the UNC system, 36 independent college and universities and 58 community colleges — showed the collective economic impact from 2012-13. The study also included hospitals and clinics associated with those institutions.

The study by Economic Modeling Specialists International showed those institutions spent $22 billion in payroll and operations spending and the state saw $63.5 billion added to state income.

It also showed those institutions increased employability and potential of students, facilitated new research and entrepreneurship, and generated new dollars and opportunities for the state.

ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said the university always has been mission-driven, and a key part of that is economic development and regional transformation.

The study showed ECU created a $2.8 billion impact to the state, equaling to about 42,798 jobs. Ballard said ECU’s impact on eastern North Carolina alone was $1.8 billion.

“We’re very proud of and serious about our community impacts and community problem-solving,” he said.

The study also showed Pitt Community College and its students added $230.9 million to the area’s economy, about 3 percent of the region’s gross regional product. Also, for every dollar put into the college, $5.40 is returned as benefits to taxpayers, about a 16.7 return on investment, the study shows.

John Chaffee, NCEast Alliance CEO and president, said articulation agreements among the state’s community college system and public universities will ease the transition for students.

“We sometimes talk about those transfer students that’s diluting the impact of the community college,” he said. “I really don’t think it is because of the breadth of programs that are now available.”

Chaffee said this can help the eastern part of the state because high school students can attend an area community college, then transfer to ECU and never leave eastern North Carolina.

“That’s monumental,” he said.

He also said every community college in the state has placed a transfer student at ECU in the past six years.

ECU Provost Ron Mitchelson said a collaborative spirit is key to economic development.

“ECU has a $2.8 billion payback for the state of North Carolina … but there’s a lot more to the story,” he said. “I would expect that.”

He said going beyond that includes starting pharmaceutical development and manufacturing partnerships with the community colleges and millennial campuses that increase partnerships with the private and public sector.

“That’s what we need,” he said. “That won’t show up in the bottom line, but it will show up in the attractiveness of the region’s ability to bring new employers or existing employers to expand, and that’s what we’re all about.”

Scott said his family now recognizes the importance of higher education. His daughter is graduating from ECU in May and will attend graduate school there, and his son will be in his last year at an early college high school in Havelock with plans to attend ECU.

”ECU has played a huge role in getting me prepared for the workforce,” he said. “I’ll always be grateful for their educational opportunities to make circumstances better for my family.”

Mar 252015


Posted 6:40 pm, March 24, 2015, by Sarah Krueger

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Students describe Aycock Auditorium as one of the biggest and most prominently-positioned buildings on campus.

“It’s a large building and it’s very nice,” said freshman Destiny Villalobos. “But the name on it — it makes it not as pretty.”

The auditorium is named after Charles Aycock, who was governor of North Carolina from 1901-1905. He’s known for being a strong advocate for public education, but also for being a white supremacist.

Today UNCG held a public forum to discuss potentially changing the name of the auditorium. The university also created a committee that will look into arguments for and against a name change and report back to UNCG’s Board of Trustees that will ultimately make the final decision.

Students who attended the forum said the name Aycock contradicts what campus is really like.

“I am constantly reminded that this man was for segregated schools,” Villalobos said. “How can I be comfortable in a diverse school when I have a building that was named for a person that didn’t even support black people being here?”

Duke University decided last year to change the name of its freshman residence hall named after Aycock. A spokesperson for East Carolina University said ECU is in the process of phasing out the name Aycock on one of its buildings. The Board of Trustees for UNC Chapel Hill plans to meet tomorrow to continue the discussion on renaming its Aycock dorm.

For more information about UNCG’s Aycock Auditorium, or to provide input on a name change, visit

Mar 252015


By Brian Haines


“System quarterback.” It’s a label that spreads quickly this time of year and sticks to anything caught in its path like an oil spill.

Despite how hard former East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden tries, he has not been able to shed the stigma that comes attached to the phrase.

Carden, the 2014 American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year who in three years as a starter broke every major passing record at ECU, said those who feel his success is a product of the Pirates’ spread offense should think again.

“As far as reads, I would just say watch the film,” Carden told reporters during the NFL combine. “Watch the film. There’s plenty of times when I got to my second or third read or checked it down to a back. … I feel confident about the offense I ran. I was given that offense and I mastered that offense. I can’t help that it wasn’t pro-style.

“There have been plenty of people that ran pro-style offenses that have had trouble in the NFL. For me, I’m just looking forward to getting a new offense and trying to master that.”

Last season, Carden, 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds, threw for 4,736 yards and 30 touchdowns. He was intercepted 10 times, leading the AAC with 359 passing yards per game.

He guided ECU to an 8-5 record and since the season ended has been invited to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, where hoped to dispel the notion that he was a plug-in-and-play quarterback for the Pirates.

“For whatever reason, ECU’s offense has gotten some kind of thought as being a single-read offense, which is very far from the truth,” Carden said. “We have certain play-actions that are quick reads, but there are a lot of progression reads. There are safety reads.

“… It is simple at times, and based on speed and getting to the line and no-huddle and all that, but being down at the Senior Bowl and seeing those concepts and how similar they are to mine gave me some confidence.”

At the Senior Bowl, Carden completed four of nine passes for 70 yards. His play at the combine was adequate, not stellar.

“I performed well,” he said when asked about his performance. “I missed a couple throws, but was able to come back and make the next one. The process is all about dealing with adversity, and I handled it well.”

Carden is widely projected as a late-round draft pick or possibly a free-agent signee. He has been hailed for his heady play, but knocked for the system he plays in. There is also speculation that his arm may not Sunday-caliber, which is another notion he will look to disprove at ECU’s pro day on Thursday.

While there are plenty of questions surrounding Carden, there’s no doubt he believes in himself.

“My plan is continue to get better and feel that I have completely dominated my pro day when it is over.”

Mar 252015


By Mechelle Hankerson


An online campaign has raised more than $46,000 to help the Wake Forest Police Department’s newest officer, whose wife died unexpectedly March 19.

Dave Cohen, 29, started his job with the Wake Forest police last week. Cohen’s wife, 30-year-old Jamie, became ill during his first shift and died the next day. The couple have two children, 4-year-old Asher and 2-year-old Mason.

Jamie Cohen contracted a bacterial infection that traveled into her bloodstream, said Denise Jackson, a former Asheville police officer who helped create a fundraiser for the Cohen family on the website

Cohen previously worked as an officer for the Asheville Police Department in western North Carolina. The Cohens moved to Wake Forest to be closer to Jamie’s family in the eastern part of the state, Jackson said.

About 20 Wake Forest police officers attended Jamie’s funeral in Edgecombe County on Sunday. Chaplains from the department helped perform the funeral ceremony and the motorcycle unit led the precession, Jackson said.

“The Wake Forest Police Department is a family, and any time we lose one of our members, we all mourn,” Wake Forest Police Chief Jeff Leonard said in an email.

Members of the Asheville Police Department also attended the funeral.

“It was very moving to see Wake Forest Police come out the way they did,” said Jackson, who attended a police academy with Dave Cohen in 2012. “They came out like he was already family.”

Dave and Jamie Cohen attended East Carolina University at the same time. Jackson said they met while working at a sports bar in Greenville.

They married in 2011 and had a celebration – Jamie’s dream wedding – in 2014.

“Everyone just loved Jamie,” Jackson said. “She was so vibrant and fun and happy.”

Cohen hasn’t worked for Wake Forest police long enough to receive paid time off. Money raised through Give Forward will allow him to take time off work and to figure out logistics for caring for his children alone, Jackson said.

“He was just starting a career, he doesn’t have the wife at home to take care of the kids,” Jackson said. “We wanted to provide the opportunity to mourn and be with his boys and use the money to do whatever he needs to do to get through this.”

Cohen posted a message on the fundraising site on Sunday. He recalled Jamie as his rock and biggest fan.

“She supported me and my law enforcement career to the fullest,” he wrote. “She was always there for me after a hard night at work. She knew even if I didn’t want to talk about the calls I had been on just a simple hug, kiss and ‘It’s going to be alright,’ would somehow make everything better.”

Mar 252015


By T. Rees Shapiro March 24 at 5:20 PM

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. — When the Charlottesville Police Department issued its independent investigation of an alleged fraternity gang-rape here on Monday, it did more than discredit a Rolling Stone article’s version of the events: The police report also showed that University of Virginia officials made efforts to bring the allegations to police six months before the article published.

Police Chief Timothy J. Longo told reporters on Monday that detectives were “not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any other fraternity house, for that matter.” Longo also noted that investigators concluded that the fraternity did not host a party the night of the alleged attack in 2012 nor were they able to find anyone matching the magazine’s description of the alleged attackers.

The police investigation was initiated at the behest of U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan immediately after the article was published online in November, an account that described a junior named Jackie who survived a vicious attack at a fraternity during the first weeks of her freshman year. The Rolling Stone account focused partly on what Jackie called a lackluster response from U-Va. officials regarding her alleged gang rape, and the article criticized the university for not alerting campus to the allegations.

But the police report shows that university officials were aware of the allegations at least six months before the story published and that associate dean Nicole Eramo had proactively sought police assistance after learning of the gang-rape claim from Jackie in the spring of 2014. Rolling Stone’s account portrayed Eramo as indifferent to Jackie’s allegations; campus sexual assault prevention advocates reacted negatively to that characterization, saying that they believe Eramo is a force for good on campus.

Eramo has declined requests for comment, and university officials did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

On Monday, Palma Pustilnik, an attorney for Jackie, declined to comment. The Washington Post generally does not identify victims of sexual assaults and has used Jackie’s nickname at her request. In multiple interviews with The Post, Jackie said that she never expected that a police investigation would result in charges related to her case.

The new Charlottesville police report for the first time outlines the steps U-Va. officials took after learning of the allegations from Jackie, steps that appear to show U-Va. officials were not trying to hide from the allegations but rather wanted police to get involved.

The report says that Eramo met Jackie in May 2013, after the student was referred to the dean’s office for academic concerns. It was then that Jackie disclosed she had been to a fraternity — she did not identify which one — and that she had been sexually assaulted there. But police say that Jackie’s description of the attack differed significantly from what was later published in Rolling Stone.

In that meeting, Eramo told Jackie that she had a number of options available to her as a student if she wanted to pursue the allegations further.

Eramo then met Jackie again almost a year later, on April 21, 2014, when Jackie identified Phi Kappa Psi as the fraternity where her assault occurred. The next day, Eramo joined Jackie at a meeting with both Charlottesville police and University of Virginia police, which Longo said was the first time his department became aware of the allegations. On May 1, 2014, Eramo and Jackie met with a Charlottesville detective to discuss the alleged sexual assault.

But during both meetings with police and Eramo, Jackie would not provide information about the attack, police said. Longo said Monday that Jackie did not cooperate with their investigation into the case.

U-Va. officials, including Sullivan, met with members of Phi Kappa Psi prior to the Rolling Stone account’s publication, and members of the house said they were stunned to learn of the allegations and knew almost immediately that they were false.

In the days after the article appeared online in November, U-Va. officials said that privacy laws prevented them from commenting on Jackie’s case. In a November 2014 statement in response to the magazine story, Sullivan wrote that the Rolling Stone account included “many details that were previously not disclosed to University officials.”

Sullivan at the time also called on members of the university community with knowledge of the attack described in the account to step forward.

“There are individuals in our community who know what happened that night, and I am calling on them to come forward to the police to report the facts,” Sullivan said. “Only you can shed light on the truth, and it is your responsibility to do so.”

In a statement after Longo’s press conference Monday, Sullivan said the police investigation validated the university’s efforts to help Jackie seek assistance.

“The investigation confirms what federal privacy law prohibited the University from sharing last fall: that the University provided support and care to a student in need, including assistance in reporting potential criminal conduct to law enforcement,” Sullivan said. “Chief Longo’s report underscores what I have known since well before the publication of the Rolling Stone article: that we at the University are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all of our students.”

Longo said Monday that university administrators, including Eramo, played a crucial role in their investigation.

Mar 252015


By Nick Anderson
March 24 at 10:30 PM

The home-state price of entry to the University of Virginia will rise 11 percent next fall — one of the highest tuition-and-fee increases in the nation — under a plan approved Tuesday that will simultaneously slash the debt burden for students in need.

The university’s governing Board of Visitors voted overwhelmingly for an initiative kept under wraps until its members met in an afternoon session in Charlottesville.

Key details of the tuition increase and the debt-reduction plan were not posted on the board’s Web site in advance.

One of the 17 voting members opposed the plan, two were absent and there was one abstention, according to member John A. Griffin.

The action means that tuition and fees for Virginians who enter their public flagship university as freshmen in the next school year will total $14,468, up from the current charge of $12,998. That doesn’t include room and board.

For current undergraduates from within the state, however, the increase will be lower: 3.6 percent. That is more in line with other increases at U-Va. in recent years.

The plan envisions a bold trade-off: Virginians who can afford it will pay a higher sticker price, while those who are in need will have to borrow less than previously required to pay for their education. Those needy students would get larger grants.

The price hike will take place in two stages. There will be a $1,000 special increase for freshmen in the coming school year, on top of the $470 increase in tuition and fees for all in-state undergraduates. That means U-Va.’s incoming class will pay 11 percent more than those who started in fall 2014.

Then there will be another $1,000 increase phased in for freshmen in 2016, also on top of normal tuition growth. Since 2012, that growth has hovered at around 4 percent. By fall 2016, in-state tuition and fees at U-Va. for entering freshmen could be nearly $16,000.

Griffin, who spearheaded the plan, said the two-step tuition increase will help U-Va. raise money for need-based grants. That will reduce by $10,000 the amount some students would have to borrow over four years.

Previously, Virginia students from qualified low-income families were expected to borrow up to $14,000. That total will be lowered to $4,000. Other Virginians from middle-income families, who had a four-year debt ceiling of $28,000, will have a cap of $18,000.

“We’re trying to do the right thing for the right groups,” Griffin said in a telephone interview. “When you look at the benefits, they clearly outweigh the costs.”

Board member Helen E. Dragas, the lone opposing vote, said the board was acting too quickly on a plan that raises many questions. She said she fears that the university could veer from its public mission if its tuition rises too high. She also said she wonders whether the board is penalizing families from Virginia who have diligently saved for college. “In some respects, I feel like we’re watching the slow-motion privatization of the University of Virginia,” she said.

Board member Allison Cryor DiNardo abstained. “This is very important,” she said, “one of the most important votes we’re going to take all year, and we’re kind of rushing.”

Absent from the meeting, Griffin said, were board members L.D. Britt and Edward D. Miller.

Some students who track tuition issues were enraged.

“It’s disgraceful,” said Greg Lewis, of Chesapeake, Va., a senior active in a group called U-Va. Students United. “There was not opportunity for the public to see the proposal, comment on the proposal, give any feedback at all.”

Abraham Axler, a sophomore from New York and the incoming president of the student council, said he was upset at what he viewed as a decision by the board and the administration to forgo meaningful student consultation. “I’m fired up,” he said. “I am frustrated.”

The board’s action comes nearly two years after U-Va. drew criticism for deciding to scale back the amount of scholarship and grant funds it provided to low- and middle-income students through a program known as AccessUVa.

University officials said that they still offer one of the most generous financial aid packages in the country and that their admissions policy remains “needs-blind.” But the 2013 decision to require students in need to take on certain levels of debt posed a potential recruiting hurdle for a university seeking to diversify its student body.

The university lowered that hurdle in part through philanthropy — including a $4 million donation for financial aid announced last year from Griffin himself. Now, it is moving to lower, but not eliminate, the borrowing requirements.

Tuition increases are risky, too, because sticker prices affect public perception of the cost of college. Among all state flagship universities, U-Va. in 2014-20115 had the ninth-highest in-state rate for tuition and fees, according to the College Board. Its rate of $12,998 is slightly more than what the University of California at Berkeley charges ($12,972), according to the College Board, and slightly less than what the University of Massachusetts at Amherst charges ($13,602).

The highest percentage increase last year in in-state tuition and fees among the flagships, the College Board said, was at Louisiana State University. Its increase was 11 percent.

Mar 242015


Posted: Mon 8:06 PM, Mar 23, 2015

Want to get the best education for your money? A new book says go to ECU!

An annual book entitled “The Other College Guide: A Road Map to the Right School for You” says East Carolina University gives you the most bang for your buck among colleges and universities in the southeast.

The publication gave ECU a bunch of other recognitions and accolades, adding that the university is #1 in the southeast based on outcomes and the degree of opportunity afforded students.

Washington Monthly has been publishing this annual book of college rankings since 2005.

Mar 242015


March 16, 2015

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Think about the ocean, and visions of whales, shellfish and the occasional starfish might pop to mind, not medical therapeutics and advancements in drug delivery. But with new research, the waves that crash on North Carolina’s coast are bringing innovative strategies and tools for improving health.

Together, researchers from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine are investigating how microorganisms found in ocean waters could improve the performance of existing medications, such as drugs for diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

“There’s a new class of compounds based on marine life that can get inside cells and show the cell’s permeability,” said David Brown, an ECU cardiac physiologist and associate physiology professor involved in the partnership.

Brown said UNCW researchers know the ocean side of the equation, whereas his group has studied compounds that can potentially be used to create designer medicines that get into cells and function better.

“Where UNCW’s expertise stops … is where we pick up,” he said.

The partnership, which still awaits final funding approval, formed in response to a call from the University of North Carolina Board of Governors for game-changing research between UNC system institutions that could spawn new approaches to treating disease.

Sharing work & benefits

Any research successes borne from North Carolina’s 300 miles of coastline and estuaries would likely be further supported by the UNCW-based Marine Biotechnology in North Carolina program and the nonprofit Wilmington-based Marine Bio-Technologies Center of Innovation. The Bio-Technologies Center, bolstered by a $2.5 million grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center, is charged with helping shepherd discoveries into products and processes.

UNCW Center for Marine Science Director Dan Baden, Ph.D., with some of the more than 750 cloned samples from more than 500 microorganisms collected from the waters off North Carolina’s coast.

The marine life component of this collaboration comes from the lab work of UNCW Center for Marine Science director Dan Baden, who has studied red tide, the algae bloom known for killing large fish populations by paralyzing their central nervous systems.

Baden’s team identified a microorganism capable of crossing a cell’s outer protective layer – the membrane that acts as a gatekeeper, only letting select substances in and out of cells.

His team dubbed these microorganisms “escortins” because they can escort materials through that natural cellular fence, depositing them at a specific target. Escortin™ is already on the market as a cancer-drug delivery tool. Test results showed it delivers cancer medications to cells within minutes, compared to other drug-delivery systems that can take up to a day to be effective.

Work is underway for additional safety and efficacy trials, as well as clinical trials, to test whether Escortin can be used in other ways, Baden said.

Escortin could be given alongside other drugs, said Baden, who is also a UNCW marine sciences professor.

“If we can bind the escortins to a drug of interest at ECU, then we have the potential to develop a pairing where our molecules carry medications across the membrane efficiently,” he explained. He called escortin “a molecular carrier that could potentially have ubiquitous importance well past the end of all our careers.”

Delivering a guarantee

At ECU, Brown’s research has focused on mitochondria, the structures in cells that convert food into energy. He calls mitochondria the key to medication success.

Brown has focused on the mitochondria inside heart cells, how they affect heart disease and irregular heartbeats and how they repair other malfunctioning mitochondria. When cells are diseased, he said, mitochondria don’t work well.

Because of the cell’s outer membrane, there hasn’t yet been a definitive way to get drugs to the mitochondria in order for them to heal and return to normal functioning.

“Many times, there’s no guarantee a medicine will get into the cell that can benefit from it,” Brown said. “There’s no way to be absolutely sure [a medicine] gets to the right place.”

Escortins create that guarantee for mitochondria, Baden said, taking medications through the cell’s outer membrane.

North Carolina waters bring healing

That targeted drug delivery could have a significant impact on adults living near both institutions.

According to 2010 data from the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics, nearly 13 percent of adults in eastern North Carolina – the highest rate in the state – live with Type 2 diabetes. Data from the Eat Smart Move More NC initiative also revealed between 63 and 68 percent of adults in the same area are overweight or obese.

“Mitochondria in diabetics aren’t good at burning fuel for many reasons,” ECU’s Brown said. “If we can use the ocean to help design treatments, then there’s huge potential for treating the disproportionately high population of diabetics and people with metabolic illness.”

The escortin-medication relationship could also improve the efficacy of heart medications, Baden said. Being able to deliver heart medications to patients who’ve had a heart attack or stroke in a timely manner can potentially decrease avoidable deaths, an important goal in eastern North Carolina, a region known as the “buckle” of the “stroke belt.”

Economic impact

The state’s 300-mile coastline presents the universities with a wealth of discovery opportunities, said Deb Mosca, the Bio-Technologies Center’s chief executive and a microbial geneticist who studies the genetics of microorganisms.

UNCW researchers are already deeply involved in culling the ocean for plants and animals that could benefit human health. Once they find a new organism with intriguing characteristics, they clone it, eliminating the need to harvest more and potentially disrupt the ocean’s ecosystem.

In doing so, Baden said, investigators are looking for new aspects of genetics and chemistry that haven’t been seen before.
Workers in Jeffrey Wright’s lab at UNC Wilmington’s Center for Marine Science examine culturable marine organisms as possible sources of new and important compounds for creating new pharmaceuticals. Photo courtesy: UNC-Wilmington/Jamie Moncrief

“If you combine ECU’s drugs with our molecules, we’ve created new intellectual property that can extend the life of patents and add new value. It’s a scaffold for us to build upon,” UNCW’s Baden said. “Translational science – applying research in a real-world way – earns money from tax dollars and gives back to the American people.”

The process can also work in reverse, he said. If researchers know there’s a need for a certain type of medication that functions in a particular way, they can work toward finding a marine biotechnology solution to the problem. And that could create greater economic stability in the region by bringing new tools, collaborations and science jobs to eastern North Carolina, fueling further economic development.

UNCW is already on that path with its new translational science building, funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce and National Institute of Standards and Technology. The 69,000-square-foot space is the first of its type in the region, and it brings together, under one roof, researchers from a variety of scientific fields, making professional cooperations even easier.

“It’s a resource for North Carolina biotechnology, the UNC system and the state that goes beyond just the faculty and institutions working together – it includes students,” Baden said. “It’s about coming into a multidisciplinary, collaborative environment and developing relationships through big science, business and working with the right people to combine expertise and experiences to do things that weren’t possible before.“

Mar 242015


By Margaret Fisher / Night Editor
Published: Saturday, March 21, 2015

Which came first — allergies or sinus infections?

That’s how Dr. Barbara Goheen, an otolaryngologist with Kinston Head & Neck, describes some of the complexities of nasal problems all too common in Eastern North Carolina.

Spring’s breezes carry tiny pollen particles causing histamines to be released in the sinuses, which create an allergic reaction in many people.

“But some people go on with allergies and have more problems where they get sinus infections,” Goheen said, “and that’s where your nose gets congested and swells and the sinus cavities themselves become blocked off.”

That can lead to a bacterial infection, which for some people just won’t clear up.

On the other hand, other people suffer with sinus infections, making them more susceptible to allergies.

The increasing numbers of allergies, especially for women and in the South, could be due to a number of factors, including chemicals in the air, pesticides in food and sporadic weather patterns, Goheen said.

“In the agricultural area,” she said, “(researchers) think it has more to do with the chemicals we’re using to treat our crops that we’re seeing more asthma and allergies.”

David Chalcraft, an ECU associate professor of biology and director of the North Carolina Center for Biodiversity, said he could make an educated guess that there may be a connection between climate change and allergies.

He said climate change could alter when and how long a flower blooms, as well as increase the production of pollen in some plants.

“I don’t know that this would mean that more people would develop allergies,” he said, “but it would likely increase the duration over which people that already have allergies would be suffering from them.”

Goheen said processed foods cause inflamation, which causes the immune system to react and worsen allergy symptoms.

Reducing sinus symptoms

There are numerous ways to reduce allergy symptoms — sprays, drops, shots and neti pots (saline washes) — and infection can be halted with antibiotics.

But when those don’t work and symptoms such as blockage from swelling and drainage are chronic or recurring, there is a procedure that can be performed in a doctor’s office that opens up the sinus cavities.

It’s called balloon sinuplasty and was developed in the early 2000s, said Goheen, who began doing the procedure in the operating room in 2008.

“In 2011, it got approved to do in the office,” she said, “and that’s when I started doing it in the office.”

Today, most health insurances cover it, and many physicians are now doing the procedure for mild to moderate sinusitis, Goheen said.

“The balloon actually microfractures the bone,” she said.

It sounds a bit creepy, but it’s not intolerable and takes about 15 or so minutes.

Earl Wilson, 71, of La Grange, had the sinuplasty done about six months ago by Goheen.

“It was not uncomfortable one bit,” he said. “… I talked to (the staff) the whole time they were doing it.”

Robert McCain, 80, of Kinston said he had the procedure about a year ago and didn’t feel a thing.

Success for most people

There is about a 10 percent failure rate.

“So about 10 percent of the people we do it on,” Goheen said, “they have to go and have traditional sinus surgery, which is the procedure in the operating room.”

People with severe sinus problems will invaribly skip the in-office procedure and have the traditional sinus surgery. Patients are anesthetized, some bone is removed, a complete sinus cleaning is performed and it takes about a week to recover, Goheen said.

With the office procedure, patients can go back to work the next day. Some of them stop having sinus problems.

Rufus Allen, 88, of Jackson Heights said his sinuses were never right and he shouldn’t have waited so long to have the sinuplasty done.

“It worked for me great,” he said. “I could hardly breathe. It opened up my sinuses.”

Wilson said he had allergy and sinus problems all his life and he had to clear his throat so often, it was “embarrassing.”

“I’ve done well with it myself,” he said about the procedure. “It’s really helped me.”

Not everyone has dramatic results. There was a chance the sinuplasty would improve McCain’s hearing, but it didn’t. His nose still gives him trouble, depending on the weather and going in and out of air conditioning. But he said overall his condition is better.

“The main thing, I haven’t been sick this year,” McCain said.

All three patients continue to use saline spray for allergies. But the good news is there is more room for breathing and drainage once the sinuses are expanded by the balloon device.

Goheen suggests patients irrigate nasal passages with a neti pot or use mists or sprays, use hypoallergenic bedding and wash it in hot water every couple of days, remove wall-to-wall carpeting in the bedroom and don’t let pets sleep in the bed.

She also recommends keeping windows repaired and closed and using a HEPA filter, a humidifier in the winter and dehumidifier in the summer, as well as making sure to clean the filters often to prevent mold.

Goheen is a graduate of the University of Washington-Seattle and trained at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., where she met her husband, Dr. Brian Brodish, an ear, nose and throat physician in Greenville. She began practicing in 2002.

Mar 242015


By Dannye Romine Powell
03/23/2015 10:35 AM

In Liza Wieland’s provocative fourth novel, “Land of Enchantment,” we meet Brigid Long Night, a half-Navajo, half-German painter. Young, single and ambitious in 1985 in Taos, N.M., she gives away her day-old daughter Sasha and apprentices herself to Georgia O’Keeffe, whose white hair is “like a moon pierced and leaking out around a face.”

Brigid also longs to fight INERTIA, the brand-name of her Navajo father’s favorite beer.

With O’Keeffe’s encouragement, Brigid develops her own style: using bold, black words like INERTIA with her images of Native American life. O’Keeffe leaves Brigid enough money for art school in New York.

Now it’s 1996, and we meet 17-year-old Nancy Diamond, a budding playwright. When she discovers the can’t-look-can’t-look-away paintings of Brigid’s, she’s able to acknowledge that she’s the daughter of her mother’s affair with a black artist.

Sasha Hernandez, the daughter Brigid gave away, is studying film at Columbia University in New York, where she discovers that her birth mother is a famous painter and sculptor. On a sunny September day in 2001, Sasha heads into Lower Manhattan as the jet planes blaze into the World Trade Center. With her camera, she “catches” the bodies as they fall.

Falling is a major theme here. How we fall into and away from those we love. How we catch and are caught. Or not.

Wieland, who teaches at East Carolina University, is a master of description: “She had a wonderful laugh, complicated, spoons in pottery bowls and glasses touching at the rims.”

In the beautifully entangled “Land of Enchantment,” events unfold on the surface but the novel’s nutrients lie below, in the powerful pulse of art that runs through, and in the connections and disconnections between the characters.

Liza Wieland’s novel is one no serious artist should be without.

Mar 242015



It might be called “starting somewhere.” At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a voluntary initiative dubbed “Carolina Conversations” will invite students to participate in forums for discussion, some of their own formation, others helped along by the university, on race and diversity.

And for their part, the university’s trustees will be considering the different viewpoints regarding the naming of buildings and artwork on campus tied to figures in the university’s history who have some decidedly troublesome history of their own, linking them to racially divisive organizations. It is possible some buildings will wind up with new names.

Those who object to such actions say such proposals amount to the “rewriting” of history, to bows to political correctness beyond reason. But proponents of name changes counter that taking a name off a building (recently done at East Carolina University) isn’t rewriting anything, but recognizing that the feelings of minority students, who once couldn’t attend many UNC branches, should be respected.

One thing is certain: In the wake of Ferguson and the racist slogans shouted on a fraternity jaunt in Oklahoma and claims by women of sexual attacks, it’s long since time to talk. Conversation alone won’t end racism or sexism or worse, but it might help students understand the issues and one another better. And having these talks when these students are young, with decades ahead of them in a society that’s heading toward more racial diversity, may shape a better and more understanding future.

If there is a place where these discussions should happen, and should be open, and should be showcases for free speech of all positions, it is a university campus.

Mar 242015


March 24, 2015

For all the Pirate fans in Pitt County and the surrounding areas, do you not know that sports can be played by males and females?

We start children as early as 4 years of age to play the games? Football, basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, tennis, swimming, golf, cheerleading, dance, volleyball, lacrosse and gymnastics. The list could go on. The average person can see where this is going, but sometimes reading about the idea helps put things in place. It’s true that boy’s and men’s sports always get the first spot on TV and the news. They are big names and big money makers, which is exciting. On the flip side, the girl’s and ladies’ sports events always take a back seat. This has been talked about in past years. The question is, Why?

Moms and dads of these female athletes spend the same time and money helping their child develop into the best they can be. Why the difference? ECU is right in our backyard, and when it is game time everyone thinks men. It’s a money maker for the community. Why not ladies’ games?

ECU lady Pirates are in the WNIT, and where is the community fan base? ECU students don’t even support the program. Why? If the truth be told, the male cheerleaders don’t even go to cheer. Why? Can you imagine only seeing male cheerleaders and dancers at all male games at ECU. That would make a statement. Heather Macy is an excellent coach, and the girls on the team are fun to watch and you get to know them personally. Why are the attendance numbers so low?

If only the female athletes and their families would come out for the games the house would be packed. If men’s sports can bring in money so can the ladies. Everyone would win.



Mar 242015


By Donna Jackel

Margaret Skoch of Cleveland felt a jumble of emotions as the day to leave for college neared. She was thrilled to be attending her dream school, Notre Dame University, but anxious about leaving home.

And then there was her mental health. Skoch had been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety in high school. Although she was feeling confident and healthy, she worried her symptoms might return.

That worry turned into a full-blown panic attack her first night in her dorm. It was the beginning of a rough few months.

“I was really homesick. I called home every day crying,” recalled Skoch, now a junior. “It was bizarre because I was so happy to be in this place that I loved and at the same time sometimes miserable.”

Due to better mental health care and campus services, more young adults with a mental health diagnosis are attending college than ever. According to a 2013 survey, 88 percent of college counseling directors reported a steady increase in students arriving on campus already on psychiatric medication.

But with strategies crafted in advance and monitored from afar, teens with a mental illness can thrive in college and beyond.

Advocate for yourself

Students who have been diagnosed with mental illness should know what they’ll need to maintain their recovery – before they leave for college.

But think about your daily routine, too, advised Beth Meier, the director of Meredith College’s Counseling Center.

“As a student, think about what you depend on your parents for – money, encouragement, clean laundry, waking you up in the morning or organizing your day,” she said. “Students often also need practice speaking up for themselves.”

That’s true for all students, but it’s imperative for a student who is living with mental illness. You’ve got to be able to advocate for yourself.

Students should get familiar with counseling and mental health services available at their colleges before or soon after they arrive on campus. Students with a diagnosed disability can register with their disability services offices to seek academic accommodations. Documentation from a health care provider is required.

Before heading to college, ask yourself if you’re ready for the big transition. Meier said to consider these questions: Can you live independently? Is your mental illness stable? Do you have a plan for your mental health care?

“You are good to go when your answers are yes,” she said.

A stressful transition

Mitch Prinstein, the John Van Seters Distinguished Professor of Psychology and director of clinical psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill, said students should “be prepared for a stressful transition and a lot of temptations from peers to engage in risky behavior.”

And part of preparing means being proactive. “Get in touch with the local student counseling center as soon you as get to campus, and make sure you know what resources are available if there is a crisis,” he said.

Be aware of the freedom that comes with independence – which can be a blessing and a curse. “With increased autonomy comes increased responsibility,” Prinstein said. “It’s best to create some structure in college – specific times for studying, working and fun, as well as classwork.”

“There are big temptations to conform to peers who want to go out and party a lot or skip out on studying,” he continued. “Everyone has different goals for college and different habits. Make a plan in advance for how to resist these temptations.”
Be prepared

Improving a child’s organizational and study skills should be a priority, said Rick Auger, a professor in the department of counseling and student personnel at Minnesota State University in Mankato.

“For almost all mental health issues, organization is so critical, especially ADHD, anxiety and autism spectrum disorder,” he said. “Binders, folders, assignment planners – all those things are helpful getting students into the habit of being organized.”

Parents who have been advocates, cheerleaders and anchors in their children’s lives must nurture independence in the months leading to college. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to let a child fail – modestly, according to Auger. It’s time to be a coach rather than a problem solver, he explained.

“Ask, ‘How are you going to go about solving this?’ Start with small, low-stakes problems. That’s where kids grow in confidence and self-advocacy.”

Parents can help

Parents are likely to have freshman jitters right along with the teen. Staying in regular touch can help both, but the terms of communication should be worked out beforehand, suggested Lauren Freise of San Francisco, a sophomore at Boston College who has battled depression and anxiety.

“While a parent understandably may want to ask their child how they are doing or steer a conversation toward their mental illness, sometimes just sending a text with a picture of where they are and a blurb about what they are doing will really make their kid’s day and lets them know that their mom or dad are thinking about them,” Freise said.

Also, parents should be aware of on-campus resources and encourage their child to make use of those support services.

“Parents can help students find a psychiatrist or psychologist that meets their child’s needs,” Prinstein said. “Make sure your child knows what insurance coverage is available to them and they have the phone numbers of any health care providers who may be able to provide help or resources while in college.”

And don’t forget: Counseling and mental health treatment work best when students voluntarily choose it.

Correspondent Page Leggett contributed.