Author Archives: Morgan Tilton

Brody School of Medicine names vice dean of operations

East Carolina University (ECU) has named a new vice dean of operations for the Brody School of Medicine.

Dr. Peter Schmidt will begin serving as Brody’s second in command on May 29, supporting Dean Dr. Mark Stacy in the operational aspects of the school’s activities – financial, academic, clinical, strategic and administrative – as well as in faculty affairs and institutional programs.

The position was held by Dr. Nicholas Benson from 2007 until his retirement in December 2017.

Schmidt comes to ECU from the Parkinson’s Foundation where – as the senior vice president and chief research and clinical officer – he oversaw research, education, and outreach initiatives. He led a redesign of the foundation’s Centers of Excellence program, managed scientific grant programs, and served as principal investigator for the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project. That project is the largest clinical study ever conducted in Parkinson’s disease and aims to establish optimal standards of care and actively researches diverse clinical areas in the disease.

Dr. Peter Schmidt (contributed photo)

Dr. Peter Schmidt (Contributed photo)

In addition to his work in Parkinson’s, Schmidt has recent or current advisory engagements in Huntington’s disease, Glut1 deficiency syndrome, cystic fibrosis, inpatient rehabilitation, wearable sensors and telemedicine.

“Dr. Schmidt brings an exceptional level of clinical, administrative, research and outreach experience to the role of vice dean of operations,” Stacy said. “His experience and keen problem-solving abilities will be invaluable as we work to expand the impact Brody has on our region’s health status, our state’s physician workforce, and the world’s knowledge base about certain diseases.”

Schmidt serves as an advisor to several government, industry and foundation initiatives, as well as a member of the Neurology Steering Committee of the National Quality Forum and U.S. Department of Defense’s Parkinson’s Research Program, both of which are national committees based in Washington, D.C.

He completed his master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering at Cornell University’s Sibley School of Mechanical Engineering in Ithaca, New York, in 1995 and 1999, respectively. He received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1992.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to join the team at the Brody School of Medicine under the leadership of Dean Stacy,” Schmidt said. “Through the Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence program, I focused on how the academic medical center can lead and coordinate the care for everyone in a community. I hope to work with the excellent Brody faculty to drive health care improvement for the people of eastern North Carolina, while training the next generation of physicians.”


-by Rob Spahr, University Communications

ECU Foundation purchases home to be used as chancellor’s residence

The ECU Foundation has completed the purchase of a home to be used as the chancellor’s residence at 3100 Kariblue Lane in Star Hill Farm neighborhood, Greenville.

The purchase amount was at the previously reported price of $1.3 million. The home, designed by noted architect, William Harvey, is approximately 8,500 square feet and sits on 5.2 acres of land.

“The ECU Foundation is excited to have acquired this wonderful property,” said Chris Dyba, vice chancellor for University Advancement and president of the ECU Foundation. “We are very grateful to the owner, because he allowed us to purchase his home at a price significantly below its appraised and replacement value. We believe this purchase will provide ECU a wonderful residence for its chancellor and a great venue to host functions for alumni, donors, students, corporate leaders and top candidates for ECU leadership.”

David Fisher, chair of the ECU Foundation added, “I am pleased that the ECU
Foundation is in a position to help our university by purchasing this house. This has been a multi-year plan that is best for ECU and Greenville.”

No date for move-in for the Chancellor has been set.

The ECU Board of Trustees, which has endorsed the Foundation’s purchase, has begun a review of the Dail House on Fifth Street (and surrounding properties) and will make a recommendation about its best use for the university and the surrounding community at a later date.


Contact: Chris Dyba, vice chancellor for University Advancement,

ECU internship opportunity prepares students for real world

East Carolina University graduate Rachel Isaac knew she had a passion.

The Claremont native loves children’s theatre. The energy, excitement and frenzy that come from directing and producing a play for young actors are the emotions that drive Isaac, but the question remained of how to turn that affection into a job.

Isaac arrived at ECU in 2015, joining one of only two undergraduate children’s theatre programs in the state. Fast forward two years, and Isaac found the answer to her pressing job question – an internship with ECU’s SECU Public Service Fellows program.

The program, founded in 2015, connects ECU and communities through projects that address community-identified priorities. Isaac’s internship connected her to Arts of the Pamlico in Washington. The organization provides cultural opportunities through initiation, support and presentation of artistic programs in Beaufort County.

East Carolina University graduate Rachel Isaac reads from “The Polar Express” to a group of children at an event hosted by Arts of the Pamlico. Isaac interned with the organization as part of East Carolina’s SECU Public Service Fellows Internship program. (contributed Photos)

East Carolina University graduate Rachel Isaac reads from “The Polar Express” to a group of children at an event hosted by Arts of the Pamlico. Isaac interned with the organization as part of East Carolina’s SECU Public Service Fellows Internship program. (contributed Photos)

Isaac said at first she was hesitant of taking on the internship.

“During my senior year, professor Patricia Clark asked everyone in our Theatre for Youth department to apply for the internship,” Isaac said. “I was on the fence about it because I was already so busy. Theater is time consuming and the internship would total 350 hours throughout the year.

“A short time later no one had applied, so I applied just for fun,” she said. “I went through the application process, found a facility to work with, and then interviewed. I ended up getting the internship, and it has shaped my life moving forward.”

Despite classes, participating in a play and the 30-minute drive from campus to Washington, Isaac was able to complete the internship, picking up valuable work-related skills along the way.

“My internship was originally focused on the original Turnage Theater, built in 1913,” Isaac said. “It was a vaudeville theater that was shuttered in 2011. However, due to my focus in children’s theatre, we reshaped my internship goals to help build up a children’s theatre program in the region.”


New experiences

Isaac said that through her internship she was exposed to new experiences and leadership opportunities that weren’t available in the classroom.

She created brochures and pamphlets for both the Turnage Theater and for children’s theatre history; created a map of historic theaters in North Carolina; developed funding resources for the theater; and hosted and curated event listings for the Arts of the Pamlico.

Isaac’s largest undertakings included interviewing Washington residents about the Turnage Theater and documenting children’s theatre history in North Carolina and beyond.

“For the internship I interviewed different people in the Washington area to get background information on the Turnage Theater, including board members, city council members and even a relative of the theater’s original builder, Cat Turnage,” Isaac said. “I then interviewed people who had a history or knowledge of children’s theatre to learn how they became involved in the discipline and what tools you need to start up a children’s theatre. I wanted to preserve and document a history that wasn’t readily available.”

Isaac also developed a monthly playwriting workshop for young children, guiding the children in writing a story with their own characters, settings, conflicts and resolutions. Isaac participated in the 2017 Early Childhood Education Conference held in Raleigh, where she discussed the Play Outside N.C. program for pre-K students. The program aims to get students more involved in learning outside with a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics learning. Isaac helped develop two STEAM modules for the program on art and literacy and on engineering and math.


Not reading out of a textbook

After her internship ended, Isaac was extended a job offer by Arts of the Pamlico. She now serves as the organization’s children’s programming coordinator; a job she believes would not have been possible without the SECU Public Service Fellows Internship.

“While I was in school, I basically learned how to be a teacher of children’s theatre,” Isaac said. “With the internship, I was able to put what I learned into practice. I got a better understanding of the administration and leadership skills needed to be successful as a children’s theatre leader.

“I gained a lot more professionalism and understanding of what it’s like to be in charge,” she said. “My work provided real-life scenarios that gave me a lot of knowledge that I wouldn’t have just gotten from the classroom. I felt I was prepared for the real world by combining school with my internship.”

Dr. Sharon Paynter, assistant vice chancellor of community engagement and research, said that Isaac’s experience is the goal of every partnership created by the internship.

“The experience that Rachel had with Arts of the Pamlico is exactly the kind that we hoped for when this program was created,” Paynter said. “A high-quality student was able to test the professional waters in a supportive and challenging internship in a small town in eastern North Carolina. We are thrilled that the relationship will continue since Rachel joined as a full-time staff member while she does her graduate work.”

Paynter said that applications for the 2018 SECU Public Service Fellow Internships are being accepted until March 15. Students can find information online through the Office of Community Engagement’s website.

While Isaac is now out of the classroom and into the “real world,” she knows her transition would not have been as successful without the program. She encourages others to give it a shot.

“Internships will help you in any profession – with me it just happened to be theater,” she said. “I believe getting out and doing the work helps you way more than just sitting and learning about it.

“With me, it ended up leading to a job; that same possibility is out there for other students. What do you think is going to help you more, only reading a textbook or actually doing the work?”


-by Matt Smith, University Communications

Grammy-nominated musician visits ECU

Renowned Grammy-nominated musician and ethnomusicologist Dr. Tim Eriksen will speak and perform in classes and other venues at East Carolina University during the week of Feb. 19-23. During the week, Eriksen will lead a film-screening and discussion, present an academic talk and perform a musical concert that are free and open to the public.

“Eriksen is acclaimed for transforming American tradition with his startling interpretations of old ballads, love songs, shape-note gospel and dance tunes from New England and Southern Appalachia,” his online biography reads. “He combines hair-raising vocals with inventive accompaniment on banjo, fiddle, guitar and bajo sexton – a twelve string Mexican acoustic bass – creating a distinctive hardcore Americana sound.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 20, from 7-8 p.m. in the Science and Technology building, room C-307, Eriksen will screen and discuss two films about the venerable sacred music tradition of shape-note singing, a unique and haunting genre of sacred music that reflects the complexities of identity in the multi-cultural history of the United States.

First, he will show Landon McCrary’s1979 independent film “Dewey Williams, 81st Birthday Singing,” about black shape-note singers in Alabama, followed by an excerpt from Matt and Erica Hinton’s film, “Awake My Soul,” about their white counterparts.

Tim Eriksen, Grammy-nominated musician, will visit ECU the week of Feb. 19-23.

Tim Eriksen, Grammy-nominated musician, will visit ECU the week of Feb. 19-23. (contributed photo)

After the screenings, Eriksen will discuss the history and contemporary practice of shape-note singing and what it has to say about religion, civil rights and racial identity in American history and the present day. Also, he may perform a little singing of his own for the audience.

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, Eriksen will lead a lunchtime academic talk on “Old Folks Singing in Utopia: How Antebellum Musical Antiquarianism and Calvinist Eschatology Gave Birth to Science Fiction on the Banks of the Connecticut River.” The discussion will be held from noon to 1 p.m. in the Bate building, room 1006.

On Thursday, Feb. 22, the public has the opportunity to hear Eriksen perform live. A concert of “Hardcore Americana: Secular and Sacred Songs,” will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Science and Technology building, room C-307.

Eriksen received his doctoral degree in enthomusicology from Wesleyan University. He specializes in shape-note music – specifically the sacred harp – “Old Time” music, American folk, Bosnian vocal and Indian classical music. He has performed and consulted on the soundtrack for the film, “Cold Mountain,” and he has released numerous recordings in genres from folk to jazz to punk.

The events are co-sponsored by the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, David Julian and Virginia Suther Whichard Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities and Harriot College’s Religious Studies Program. All are free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

For more information about Eriksen, visit For questions about Eriksen’s visit to ECU, contact Dr. Joseph Hellweg, Whichard Distinguished Professor, at


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

ECU faculty introduced to research cluster

Fourteen East Carolina University faculty members were introduced to the Health Behavior pan-university research cluster Feb.8, offering opportunities for research collaborations to address health behaviors in the region.

In the fall of 2017, ECU launched seven pan-university research clusters, with an eighth planned for launch in 2018. Research clusters are part of a formal university strategy to connect interdisciplinary faculty and researchers who might not have connected through traditional means. With the clusters, faculty from across ECU can harness their partnerships and talent to advance Chancellor Cecil Staton’s Rural Prosperity Initiative and address pressing human health, education and economic disparities in our region and around the globe.

The Health Behavior cluster is co-directed by Dr. Sam Sears, professor of psychology and cardiovascular sciences, and Dr. Kim Larson, associate professor of nursing science.

This cluster aims to improve the health of those residing in rural regions in North Carolina by fostering direction and collaboration of scientists at ECU to combat negative health behaviors. These behaviors including smoking and lack of physical activity, as well as factors that lead to depression and stress. Members of rural communities are more likely to die of heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke and unintentional injury than those living in urban regions.

“The identification and treatment of health behaviors in rural eastern North Carolina is a perfect arena for ECU to showcase the power of interdisciplinary research,” Sears said. “The challenge we have as a university is that we need to define the targets and the talent to solve these problems – that is what we are accomplishing today.”

Dr. Jeannine Golden (left), associate professor of psychology at East Carolina University, leads a small group in analyzing adolescent physical activity behaviors at the Health Behavior Research Cluster meeting Thursday. The meeting introduced the cluster –one of seven current pan-university research clusters at ECU – to faculty members.

Dr. Jeannine Golden (left), associate professor of psychology at East Carolina University, leads a small group in analyzing adolescent physical activity behaviors at the Health Behavior Research Cluster meeting Thursday. The meeting introduced the cluster –one of seven current pan-university research clusters at ECU – to faculty members. (contributed photo)

The research clusters are the vision of Vice Chancellor Jay Golden and are being supported by the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement.  “Our division is working closely with the cluster co-directors and associate deans of research from all of our colleges and schools to ensure the faculty and student researchers in the clusters have all the tools and institutional support they need to be successful moving forward,” Golden said.

“I hope that our participants today recognize the mobilization of ECU’s support for helping our faculty to address these health behavior challenges through research and community engagement — it is a tremendous opportunity for ECU,” Sears said.

The cluster’s first objective focuses on affecting the health behavior of children by designing community intervention trails targeting birth-kindergarten and school-age populations. These interventions will address mental, heart and behavioral health. Faculty members broke into small groups at the meeting and discussed possible strategies to impact sexual behavior – with a focus on teenage pregnancy – and how to increase the physical activity levels of children.

Sears and Larson believe that through these small groups, faculty members will be able to connect with other ECU faculty members that have an interest in affecting health behaviors, growing the cluster and raising its impact and national prominence.

Dr. Christine M. Kowalczyk, assistant professor of marketing and supply chain management, said she was encouraged by the variety of ideas, experiences and resources that were shared at the event.

“I’ve done related research in the health behaviors field, and it felt like the research clusters provide an opportunity to increase the impact of my research – it’s a natural fit,” Kowalczyk said. “We don’t really cross over to the health sciences campus very much, so having the opportunity to meet potential collaborators and see how your research as part of a larger collaborative effort could make a difference was important.

“Now I have the opportunity to go back to my own department and share my experience today and try to connect other faculty members. We’re able to share these opportunities with colleagues now and encourage them to get involved in the cluster.”

Along with the Health Behavior Research Cluster, ECU has launched research clusters for Big Data and Analytics, Energy and Natural Resources, Marine and Coastal Systems, Human Health and Disease, Precision Health, and STEAM Education. The university will launch its Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Research Cluster prior to the fall of 2018.


-by Matt Smith, University Communications 

UnitedHealthcare donates to ECU College of Nursing

UnitedHealthcare Community & State of North Carolina presented East Carolina University’s College of Nursing with $25,000 on Friday, Feb. 12 to fund scholarships for students enrolled in the Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses (RIBN) program.

A new grant from UnitedHealthcare will help students, especially those in rural parts of the state, earn both an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in nursing. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

A new grant from UnitedHealthcare will help students, especially those in rural parts of the state, earn both an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in nursing. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

The RIBN program helps students, especially those in rural parts of the state, earn both an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The program operates through an innovative partnership with seven local community colleges and ECU. The scholarships funded by UnitedHealthcare will support access to education for aspiring nurses and allow them to better serve the health care needs of North Carolinians.

“The goal of the RIBN program is to help provide a pipeline of baccalaureate nurses to underserved and rural parts of the state by making it easier and more affordable for students from those communities to obtain their BSN,” Dr. Sylvia Brown, dean of ECU’s College of Nursing. “Through our partnership with UnitedHealthcare, we will be able to support the educational attainment of these aspiring nurses by helping them overcome economic barriers they may face.”

UnitedHealthcare Vice President of Business Development Brian Cresta spoke before presenting a check to the ECU College of Nursing for student scholarships in the RIBN program. (contributed photos)

UnitedHealthcare Vice President of Business Development Brian Cresta spoke before presenting a check to the ECU College of Nursing for student scholarships in the RIBN program. (contributed photos)

The community colleges participating in the RIBN program are Beaufort County Community College, Carteret Community College, College of the Albemarle, Craven Community College, Lenoir Community College, Pitt Community College and Roanoke-Chowan Community College.

Students in the RIBN program spend the first two years of their coursework at a community college campus while completing at least one online course per semester through ECU. They receive an associate degree in nursing at the end of their third year, and after passing the state licensure exam, they progress to the program’s fourth year with online coursework at ECU in preparation for their bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“By collaborating with partners like ECU’s College of Nursing, we hope to help increase access to quality healthcare throughout North Carolina, particularly in rural communities where there is a dire need,” said UnitedHealthcare Community & State of North Carolina CEO Anita Bachmann. “This program provides quality training to prepare a much-needed nursing workforce to meet the needs of the residents of North Carolina.”

UnitedHealthcare donated $25,000 for student scholarships in the ECU College of Nursing’s Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses (RIBN) program.

UnitedHealthcare donated $25,000 for student scholarships in the ECU College of Nursing’s Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses (RIBN) program.

Students may apply for the scholarships online at, and recipients will be announced in mid-April. The UnitedHealthcare RIBN Scholarships will cover the 2018-2019 school year. This scholarship program financially assists seniors in the RIBN program as the last year is the most expensive for these students. Preference will be given to students who excel academically, demonstrate financial need, and wish to begin or continue to work in rural underserved areas.


For more information on the RIBN program, visit


East Carolina researcher collaborates on study of tobacco policies, alcohol sponsorship at LGBT pride festivals

An East Carolina University researcher has found people attending LGBT pride events across the United States have little protection against secondhand smoke.

Dr. Joseph G.L. Lee, assistant professor of health education and promotion in ECU’s College of Health and Human Promotion, co-authored “Tobacco Policies and Alcohol Sponsorship at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Festivals: Time for Intervention,” which was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health. Jasmine D. Spivey, who graduated magna cum laude in December from ECU with a bachelor’s degree in health education and promotion, was the lead author. Dr. Stacy W. Smallwood, assistant professor at the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University, was a co-author for the study.

 Dr. Joseph G.L. Lee

Dr. Joseph G.L. Lee (contributed photo)

Members of LGBT communities have higher rates of tobacco use and alcohol abuse than their non-LGBT counterparts. Both alcohol and tobacco use represent forms of substance use with substantial costs to the U.S. economy, health care and LGBT lives. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption cause more than 500,000 premature deaths each year in the United States.

Corporate marketing can play a role in contributing to greater levels of smoking and alcohol use among LGBT populations, the researchers say. They reviewed tobacco policies and alcohol industry sponsorship at LGBT pride events in the 100 most populous cities in the U.S. They found that very few pride events have protections in place for secondhand smoke. Many have evidence of alcohol industry sponsorship. The limited number of protections from secondhand smoke were due to smoke- or tobacco-free park policies where the events were being held.

Based on the results, the authors are calling on researchers, practitioners and pride event organizers to enact policies that can reduce tobacco and alcohol use disparities. “We think these data show better engagement between state health departments and LGBT community organizations is needed,” Smallwood said.


-by Crystal Baity, ECU News Services

ECU faculty member to dance with New York Theatre Ballet in upcoming Tarboro performance

Dirk Lumbard, teaching instructor in the School of Theatre and Dance at East Carolina University, will perform with the New York Theatre Ballet when the company visits Tarboro for the Edgecombe Community College Performing Arts Series.

The New York Theatre Ballet (NYTB), which has performed in the series for the past five years, will bring a program of mixed repertoire at 7:30 p.m. on March 22 in Keihin Auditorium on the Tarboro campus of Edgecombe Community College.

Sponsored by the Furman-Mathewson Trust of Edgecombe County Memorial Library, the performance is free, but reservations are required. To reserve free tickets, call Eric Greene, cultural arts director, at 252-823-5166, ext. 187.

Dirk Lumbard

Dirk Lumbard (contributed photo)

Lumbard, a Tarboro resident and veteran of seven Broadway shows, is a master tap dancer and has performed leading roles at Barton College, Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences and the Edna Boykin Cultural Center. He will perform in David Parker’s “Two Timing,” a piece set to Steve Riech’s “Clapping Music,” with NYTB dancer Elena Zahlmann. Lombard will perform elaborate clapping music with Zahlmann tapping on pointe.

In a review of “Two Timing” in Dance Beat, Deborah Jowitt wrote, “In the score, a single twelve-count phrase of claps and pauses is methodically altered (the first note keeps becoming the last one). The two performers move close together, always in counterpoint, and eventually the sound-making includes smacks on the floor and other forms of body percussion. It’s a virtuosic number, executed at a good clip.”

Other works will include Jerome Robbins’ “Septet,” Petroushskates” by William Whitener, “The Flames of Paris” by Pas de Deux, Frederick Ashton’s “La Chatte,” and Antony Tudor’s “Dark Elegies.”

The mission of the Furman-Mathewson Trust is to provide programs of cultural, literary, educational or scientific presentations for Edgecombe County Memorial Library patrons. The trust has previously helped bring Maya Angelou, Nicholas Sparks and B.B. King to Edgecombe County, and has sponsored free performances of Jasmine Guy, the Avery Sharpe Trio and the Regina Carter Quintet.

About the New York Theatre Ballet

With its ever-expanding repertory, New York Theatre Ballet’s cutting-edge programming brings fresh insight to classic revivals paired with the modern sensibilities of both established and up-and-coming choreographers. Going strong after 38 years, the theatre ballet’s diversity in repertory explores the past while boldly taking risks on the future. Diana Byer is the founder and artistic director of New York Theatre Ballet and Ballet School NY.


-by Crystal Baity, ECU News Services

ECU hosts Veterans Writing Workshop

East Carolina University will help veterans develop the confidence to tell their stories during the Veterans Writing Workshop Feb. 16-17.

Dr. Robert Siegel, associate professor of English and organizer of the Veterans Writing Workshop, said the purpose of the two-day event is to help veterans and their families preserve their stories for future generations, record history, bridge the gap between veterans and civilians and place veteran concerns in the public consciousness.

The workshop begins with a reading and open discussion at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, in Joyner Library’s Faulkner Gallery.

On Saturday, Feb. 17, the workshop continues at 10 a.m. in Joyner Library, room 2409, with a special presentation by poet Hugh Martin. Martin, who spent six years in the Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2004, will read from his highly praised collection, “Stick Soldiers.”

Following Martin’s presentation, the event will continue with workshops on fiction, nonfiction and scriptwriting. All events are free and open to the public.

The Veterans Writing Workshop is co-sponsored by the ECU Division of Academic Affairs, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English, Joyner Library and Operation Re-entry. For more information visit

Martin is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, winner of the 11th annual A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize from BOA Editions, Ltd. and winner of the Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award from the Iowa Review. His work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Grantland, The American Poetry Review, The New Yorker and The New Republic. He was the 2014-15 Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College, and he now teaches at Ohio University where he is completing his Ph.D.


Contact: Robert Siegel, associate professor of English, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences,, 252-328-6581


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