Monthly Archives: May 2014

Capstone projects provide a way to give back to the community

As part of their capstone project, ECU students assist with technology at the Greenville Boys and Girls Club. (Contributed photo)

As part of their capstone project, ECU students assist with technology at the Boys and Girls Club of Pitt County. (Contributed photo)

By Margaret Turner
College of Engineering and Technology

Students in East Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology helped revamp information technology systems and make process improvements for two Pitt County agencies dedicated to improving the lives of children.

The Boys and Girls Club of Pitt County, and the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center in the Brody School of Medicine hosted senior capstone teams in the 2013-2014 year.

A capstone project is an assignment that serves as a student’s culminating academic experience, resulting in a final product, presentation or performance. The term means “high point” or “crowning achievement.”

The projects are designed to encourage students to think critically, solve problems, conduct research and develop oral communication, public speaking, teamwork and planning skills. At ECU, the capstone project often has been a way to connect and support the university’s strategic initiatives of leadership, service and economic prosperity in eastern North Carolina.

Senior information and computer technology students Richard Everhart, Ben McKinzie, Trevor Dildy, Daniel Pennington and Lindsey Esslinger worked at the Boys and Girls Club in Winterville. Misty Marston, director of the Boys and Girls Club, identified technological areas that needed improvement to help the organization continue to grow and provide services to more Pitt County children.

Some of the technology needs included faster infrastructure, increased reliability, secure access to files and remote access for leaders who may be traveling or working from another site. The upgrades allow for a more stable information technology platform.

“Knowing the project was going to benefit such a worthy cause gave it more of a purpose than just completing a job,” Everhart said. “We got a chance to see how hard the staff at the club works and how passionate they are about improving the lives of children they work with.”

Engineering students Bobby Cox, William Gurkin, and Patricia Pigg completed another community project at the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center, which provides child-centered and comprehensive services by experts in the field of child abuse.

Many parents scheduled for initial evaluation failed to show up, thus missing out on the help they needed and filling appointment slots other patients might have taken. The students developed new reminder systems and processes designed to decrease the number of missed appointments. As a result, there has been a significant drop in missed appointments, which will allow more children to be seen on an annual basis.

“The engineering students were the best group of student learners I have supervised in my ten years at ECU,” said Julie Gill, TEDI BEAR director and capstone supervisor. “I have no doubt of the significant positive impact this project will have for improving our ability to serve abused children in our region.”

Dr. Charles Lesko, assistant professor of information and computer technology, mentors each capstone team in his department. “One of the biggest challenges to any capstone program is finding projects with meaning and value,” he said. “I challenge the students to find projects to work on that will add value both to their education as well as to others. It’s a tremendous feeling when you can take the skills you have learned at the college and impact the lives of others.”

In 2007, information and computer technology and engineering began requiring yearlong capstone projects for senior students. The information and computer technology program is housed within the technology systems department. Both departments reside in the College of Engineering and Technology. Most departments in the college require an internship or capstone project, or provide opportunities for both.




Brody School of Medicine dean speaks at Vidant health conference

By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, was one of four health care professionals to present Monday, May 19 during the Vidant 2014 Health Care Conference.


Dr. Paul Cunningham

The conference encouraged leaders from across the community to “join the conversation” about improving health care for the county and region. Other speakers were Dr. Sanne Magnan, CEO of the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement; Mark Benton, COO for Community Care of North Carolina; and Vidant Health CEO Dr. Dave Herman.

Cunningham’s talk focused on the health challenges facing the region and how Brody is building partnerships to sustain operations and better serve the population of eastern North Carolina.

“The mission has not changed but our form must change,” he said. “We must focus on the future in a meaningful way. More and new partnerships are needed.”

Those include both partnerships across the health sciences at ECU, he added, as well as with leaders in all sectors of the community.

Eastern North Carolina still faces many challenges to improving access to health care, Cunningham said. Poverty persists in much of the region – particularly in rural areas – and individuals can be isolated, hard to reach and may be distrustful of health care providers.

There are about 12 chronic diseases that plague the region, he said. Those include obesity, diabetes, STDs, hypertension, asthma and cancer. More than 32 percent of the population is obese, he added.

“If we were expert at just this list alone, we could improve the health outcomes of eastern North Carolina,” Cunningham told attendees.

Brody continues to meet its mission to produce doctors who will work in primary care, he reported. And by keeping the cost of attending the medical school at ECU relatively low, students graduating from Brody can begin careers in primary care without “dealing with a mountain of debt.”

At the end of the individual presentations, Cunningham and Herman fielded questions from attendees.

View Cunningham’s entire presentation here:



Four ECU students sworn in as Student Government officers


An East Carolina University junior and three sophomores will lead the university’s Student Government Association for the 2014-2015 school year.

Junior Michael King of Prince George, Virginia; sophomore Jake Srednicki of Mahopac, New York; sophomore Kaitlyn Dutton of Greenville; and sophomore Katie Swanner of Huntersville all said they are excited to get started in their new positions.

As president, King will also serve on the ECU Board of Trustees as an ex-officio member and said he is looking forward to the leadership experience. He will join the Board of Trustees in July.

“I love this university and I love all of the opportunities that East Carolina has given me,” said King. “I figured this is the least I could do to try to give back and this is the best way I could have that opportunity.”

Srednicki, vice president, said he would use his former role with SGA as a foundation for his new role.

“I want students to be more engaged in what’s going on, what decisions are being made at the faculty, staff and Board of Trustees levels and come to SGA with their concerns,” said Srednicki.

Dutton said as treasurer she will work on improving efficiency in the allocation of student funding.

“I want to look at allocating funds to club sports and to Greek life. Because they get (additional) outside funds, they don’t usually get approved for (SGA) funding as often or as quickly as they need it,” said Dutton.

Swanner, secretary, was previously involved with Student Senate and wants to use her role as secretary to increase student involvement.

Collectively, the students said they would strive to complete their campaign goals, which included improving campus safety and implementing a house of representatives within SGA.

All four students are pursuing degrees in the ECU College of Business.

ECU pediatrician certified as physician executive

By Amy Ellis
ECU News Services

Dr. John M. Olsson, division chief for general pediatrics at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine, was recently named a certified physician executive by the American College of Physician Executives. Olsson was formally recognized for this achievement at the group’s annual meeting April 25 in Chicago.


Dr. John Olsson

The nationally recognized credential requires physicians to pass a minimum of 150 hours of  “live” and online coursework followed by nearly four days of formal certification activities.

“The credential is becoming the benchmark for CEOs and executive recruiters seeking the most accomplished and influential health care leaders,” according to the website for the Certifying Commission in Medical Management, the national certifying body for physicians specializing in medical management. The CCMM is a not-for-profit corporation chartered by the ACPE, the association for physicians in health care leadership.

“This education gives me the medical essentials of an MBA,” Olsson said. “The skills I have gained will help my department and the Brody School of Medicine as we navigate the changing healthcare environment.”

Olsson came to ECU in 1998 from Phoenix, Arizona, where he was residency director for pediatrics at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. He earned his medical degree from the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine and completed his pediatrics residency at Emory University Affiliated Hospitals. Olsson served as chief of staff for Vidant Medical Center in 2011.

“Dr. Olsson was already recognized as an excellent leader, and this training will only improve that ability,” said Dr. Ron Perkin, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Brody. “All of us in this department are very fond of John and very proud of this accomplishment.”


Business faculty report publications

Faculty in the ECU College of Business have reported the following publications:

  • Articles by April Reed (Management Information Systems), “Exploring the Role of Communication Media in the Informing Science Model – An Information Technology Project Management Perspective,“ in Informing Science, the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline; and “Technology Related Risks on Virtual Software Development Projects,“ in the International Journal of Information Technology Project Management.
  • Article by Jack Karns (Finance), “Calculating ‘Actual Injury’ for Purposes of Determining ‘Standing’ and Fiduciary Responsibilities in Class Action Stock-Drop Cases,” in the Journal of Pension Planning & Compliance.
  • Articles by Oneil Harris (Finance), “The impact of mispricing and asymmetric information on the price discount of private placements of common stock,“ in Financial Review; “The impact of TARP on bank efficiency,“ in the Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions & Money; “On the sensitivity of the Black CAPM to the market portfolio,“ in Risk and Decision Analysis; and “Governance, type of blockholder, and takeovers,“ in Managerial Finance.

Hurricane workshop set for May 28

East Carolina University and the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management are hosting a hurricane workshop, focusing on preparation and resilience. The fifth annual event will be held 9 a.m.–3 p.m. May 28 in the Murphy Center at ECU’s Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The free workshop is open to anyone interested or involved in disaster mitigation related primarily to hurricanes. In order to attend, registration must be completed at

The event will feature a 60th anniversary retrospective of Hurricane Hazel, the devastating storm that slammed the North Carolina coast in 1954.

North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry will lead the event, beginning with an update on North Carolina’s Coastal Regional Evacuation and Sheltering plan.

Speakers from local, state, and national agencies, the media and academia will include:

  • Jason Glazener, community planner with the Wilmington District US Army Corps of Engineers, speaking about projects related to evacuation.
  • Jamie Rhome, unit leader of the National Hurricane Center Storm Surge, demonstrating hurricane forecasting improvement projects.
  • Anuradha Mukherji, ECU assistant professor of geography, discussing results of her recent research on building local resilience.
  • John Cole, National Weather Service (NWS) Warning Coordination meteorologist at the forecast office in Newport, and Steve Pfaff of NOAA and the NWS Storm Ready Program, presenting the Hurricane Hazel retrospective, part of a series of events leading up to the Oct. 15 anniversary of the storm.
  • Skip Waters, chief meteorologist at WCTI, and Nate Johnson, meteorologist and executive producer for WRAL, discussing the roles of traditional and social media in forecasting and informing the public about weather hazards.
  • John Dorman, director, and Ken Ashe, assistant director, of the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping program highlighting impacts of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.

Lunch will be provided to registered attendees.

The event is hosted by the N.C. Division of Emergency Management and ECU’s Center for Natural Hazards Research, and co-sponsored by North Carolina Sea Grant.

For more information about the event, contact Donna Kain at, or Christopher Jackson at For additional registration information, visit



Center for Sustainability Announces 2013-2014 Outstanding Affiliate Faculty Member

Dr. Scott Curtis, associate professor in the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, has been selected for the 2013-2014 Outstanding Affiliate Faculty Member of the Year Award for the Center for Sustainability. The Center for Sustainability is housed in the College of Engineering and Technology at ECU.



Since 2008, Curtis has contributed to both the Center’s research and outreach activities and to the learning experiences of the students pursuing the master’s in sustainable tourism.

As the faculty lead in the Climate, Weather and Tourism Initiative, Curtis co-hosted the first Southeast U.S. Regional workshop for tourism businesses, researchers and policy-makers, chaired a master’s thesis addressing information use in decision-making by tourism businesses and conducted a focus group of tourism business owners in Beaufort, North Carolina on the effects of weather on tourism products and services.

Curtis received his bachelor’s in environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and then received his master’s and doctorate in atmospheric and oceanic sciences from the University of Wisconsin. His research areas include climate variability and smallholder farming in the Caribbean, climate, weather, and tourism and coastal storms.

Curtis co-authored the “Climate, Weather and Tourism: Bridging Science and Practice” publication, has presented at six conferences on behalf of the Center, developed the Seasonal Weather and Tourism Dispatch and contributed to the National Climate Assessment- Southeast Climate Consortium report. He participates in a wide range of Center- and student-sponsored events.

– Margaret Turner

College of Business honors its founding dean

Mary Ann Browning, widow of the late Dr. Elmer R. Browning, and their son Robert R. Browning, unveil the portrait honoring Browning as the first dean of what is now ECU's College of Business. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Mary Ann Browning and Robert R. Browning unveil the portrait honoring the late Dr. Elmer R. Browning as the first dean of what is now ECU’s College of Business. Robert is the son of Elmer Browning and Mary Ann is Robert’s wife. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

By Steve Tuttle
ECU News Services

A classroom in the Bate Building was dedicated on Thursday to the memory of the late Dr. Elmer R. Browning, who served as the first dean of what is now the College of Business during a 32-year career on the faculty.

“We are extremely proud of where we are and where we are going,” said former College of Business Dean James Bearden, “but we have deep roots and that’s what we’re honoring today.”

“I’m pleased that you all came today to witness this, because (Browning) has a special legacy here,” Chancellor Steve Ballard said at the ceremony. “(Because of Browning), this is a college in ascendency.”

Browning and his wife, Marie, an English instructor, both taught at East Carolina from 1932 until 1968. The Brownings served under five presidents of the college. Browning also was faculty manager of the student store and the Y-Hut. He also served as the school’s postmaster for many years.

Browning’s son, former N.C. Superior Court Judge Robert R. “Bob” Browning of Greenville, said East Carolina’s business school “was the love of his life. East Carolina is a part of my heritage.”

He said seven family members have graduated from East Carolina, including his wife, Mary Ann, two of their children and their wives.

Elmer Browning was the first instructor hired in the new Department of Commerce. The department started with two instructors, 11 students and 25 typewriters. The curriculum was entirely a teacher education program with an emphasis on typing, shorthand and other office skills.

In 1960 the department was elevated to the School of Business with a curriculum that focused on professional business and management.

Beginning in the mid 1950s, Browning began a dogged effort to achieve accreditation for the School of Business from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

When that recognition finally came in 1967, East Carolina became just the third accredited school of business in North Carolina—the others were at UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University–and one of just 132 in the nation.

When Browning retired in 1968 the School of Business had grown to 1,800 students, 51 full-time faculty members and 20 graduate teaching fellows.

Today it has more than 3,000 undergraduate majors and nearly 1,000 graduate students.

In 1962, the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity and three other student groups raised money to commission an oil portrait of Browning. The portrait was hung in the lounge of Rawl, where the School of Business was centered until moving to the Bate Building in 1988.

That portrait, after cleaning and restoration work, will now hang in Room 1400 of Bate. A plaque will be mounted on a wall outside the classroom paying tribute to Browning as the first dean of the business school.

A native of Logan, W.Va., Browning received his undergraduate degree from Bowling Green College of Commerce. He received a master’s from Marshall University and a doctorate from Colorado State University. He came to East Carolina after serving as principal in West Virginia high schools.

He died in 1990 at age 86.

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