Category Archives: Health and Human Performance

ECU Club Baseball’s Tanner Duncan signs contract with MLB’s Houston Astros

Tanner Duncan has been on a whirlwind ride during the month of June. The ECU Pirate has experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

On June 1, Tanner led the ECU Club Baseball team to a World Series National Championship, winning 1-0 in ten innings over Central Florida. He was almost perfect in the World Series, surrendering no runs and only five hits in 18 innings pitched. He won both games and was named the NCBA World Series Most Valuable Player.

“I can’t describe the feeling of winning that championship,” said Duncan. “These coaches, my teammates and the ECU Club baseball program just came together and worked so hard to make this dream come true.”

ECU Club Baseball won the Club Baseball World Series. (Contributed photos)

ECU Club Baseball won the Club Baseball World Series. (Contributed photos)

Tanner Duncan rode that wave for about 10 days while he waited for the Major League Baseball draft on June 12-14. Like hundreds of baseball players around the country, he hoped his phone would ring and a professional baseball organization wanted him.

But the phone didn’t ring any of the three days.

“I was sitting on my couch thinking the dream was over. I had completed all my course work for my kinesiology degree and was trying to figure what in the world I was going to do with my life. I just kept thinking, I am a baseball player. I want to play baseball.”

Then, the game changed. His phone rang.


Lifelong Dream

At three years of age, Tanner Duncan knew what he was going to be when he grew up.

“I was going to be a professional baseball player,” Duncan said. “I always thought I was good enough even when others didn’t agree.”

Duncan started playing t-ball in his hometown of Tabor City, North Carolina. His parents, Greg and Wendy Duncan, spent the next 15 years taking Tanner from ball field to ball field, from Little League and Summer Travel Leagues to the high school diamonds.

Tanner found success at pretty much every level as a hitter and fielder. He received a few offers to play college baseball from some Division III schools, but chose to attend East Carolina University and try his best to walk on and make the team.

Duncan was named Player of the game.

Duncan was named Player of the game.

“I tried out as a shortstop during my first year at ECU, but I just didn’t make the cut,” Duncan said. “I just knew that I was good enough if I could just get a chance to prove it.”

Tanner Duncan had heard about ECU’s club baseball team and thought it would be a great way to keep his dream alive. He converted from shortstop to pitcher during that first season. Duncan’s goal was to work as hard as he could and try out again the next season.

“The guys on our club team were just special. They work their tails off in every practice and every game and wanted to win a championship.”

A championship didn’t come and neither did a spot on the team after trying out again the following season. But Tanner wasn’t going to stop.

“My parents always believed in me,” said Duncan. “They told me anything was possible if you were willing to work at it. So, I kept working.”

During his junior year, Tanner Duncan and the ECU Club baseball team made it to the World Series but lost in the championship game to Nevada. In 2017, the team was back in the World Series and entered as the number one ranked team in the country.

Tanner had an amazing season on the mound. He won nine games, only losing one. He pitched 75 innings, striking out 132 batters and garnered a stunning 0.84 earned run average. That means every time he pitched the opposing team averaged less than one run per game.

“The ECU Club Baseball program was a blessing for me,” Duncan said. “I am so appreciative to the folks in Campus Recreation and Wellness, the club sports organizers and everyone that helped this team win a championship.”

And so after the MLB draft, Tanner Duncan thought the end of his baseball career may be here. Then, while sitting on his couch contemplating his future, the phone rang and he was offered a chance to pitch in front of professional scouts.


Three Days of Craziness

Tanner hopped in his car and drove to Richmond, Virginia to showcase his talents for pro scouts. It was his one true chance to demonstrate his skills, his passion and his desire to become a professional baseball player.

Tanner Duncan signs with the Astros. (contributed photos)

Tanner Duncan signs with the Astros. (contributed photos)

“It was a lot of pressure, but I just believed that I could do it. When I was done, I just didn’t know if it would be enough.”

It was enough. Less than an hour later, as he was heading back home to North Carolina, his phone rang. He was being offered a spot with the Houston Astros organization.

“There wasn’t much time to celebrate. I was on a plane the next morning at 6 a.m., headed to West Palm Beach, Florida to join the Gulf Coast League Astros.”

On June 23, he officially signed a contract with the Astros organization and was assigned to the Rookie League. He pitched two innings of shutout relief on June 27 and is expected to see his first action as a starting pitcher on July 3.

And while you can’t wipe the smile off his face right now, he hasn’t forgotten there is still more to accomplish.

“Becoming a pro baseball player is great, but it’s only step one. Now I have to work hard enough to move up. Level by level, I will keep working. And even if I make it to the big leagues (Major League Baseball), I will not quit working.”

Tanner said he learned that from playing Club Baseball at ECU.

“Resilience, persistence and relentless. That’s what I learned at East Carolina and those same words are going to keep the fire in me burning.”



-by Chris Stansbury, Student Affairs 

ECU professor to chair national NIH study section

Dr. Joseph Houmard, the LeRoy T. Walker Distinguished Professor in kinesiology at East Carolina University, will serve as chairperson of the Clinical and Integrative Diabetes and Obesity study section for the Center for Scientific Review.

The Center for Scientific Review is the central point for all research and training grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research agency. The center helps to ensure that NIH grant applications receive fair, independent, expert and timely reviews that are free from inappropriate influences to provide funding for the most promising research, according to the website.

The Clinical and Integrative Diabetes and Obesity study section primarily reviews clinical or patient-oriented research applications related to the prevention, development and treatment of diabetes and/or obesity. Interventions could include diet, exercise, lifestyle, surgery or medications.

Dr. Joseph Houmard. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Dr. Joseph Houmard. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Houmard’s two-year term begins July 1 and will end on June 30, 2019.

Members are selected based on demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline including research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals and other activities and honors. Service requires the ability to work effectively in a group as well as mature judgment and objectivity, according to the center.

Houmard is the director of the ECU Human Performance Lab in the College of Health and Human Performance and his areas of expertise include exercise and obesity. He is helping lead a groundbreaking national, six-year study to better understand the body’s response to exercise in conjunction with scientists at Duke University and Wake Forest University.



-by Crystal Baity

Graduate student receives national kinesiology award

Daniel Kuhman is the 2017 American Kinesiology Association National Master’s Scholar Award Winner. (contributed photo)

Daniel Kuhman is the 2017 American Kinesiology Association National Master’s Scholar Award Winner. (contributed photo)

East Carolina University graduate student Daniel Kuhman has received the 2017 American Kinesiology Association National Master’s Scholar Award.

Kuhman is a graduate assistant in ECU’s Biomechanics Laboratory in the Department of Kinesiology in the College of Health and Human Performance. He will graduate on May 6 from ECU. He received his bachelor’s degree in health and human performance from the University of Memphis in 2015.

“This student was selected from all of the local American Kinesiology Association master’s scholars nationwide as the master’s student with the most distinguished academic and leadership record,” said Dr. Christopher M. Hearon, chair of the AKA awards committee, in an email announcing the award. “This is the fourth year that AKA has recognized the top master’s kinesiology student in the nation with this award.”

For more information, go to



-by Crystal Baity 

ECU health fitness specialists in high demand

Helping people get healthier is paying off for health fitness specialists who graduate from East Carolina University.

Wendy Mastin ’03 is the director of operations for fitness company Aquila. (Contributed photo)

Wendy Mastin ’03 is the director of operations for fitness company Aquila. (Contributed photo)

Wendy Mastin is a 2003 graduate of the program and the director of operations at Aquila, which is a management and consultant company for corporate fitness and well-being programs. She likes to hire fellow Pirates.

“I know what I had to go through to complete the program; it’s very well rounded,” Mastin said. “You’re not just learning about exercise prescription. You’re also going to learn how to teach class, which is something that a lot of other programs don’t offer. They don’t have that extra leadership component.”

Aquila works with companies and government agencies to help their employees live healthier and happier lives. They have offices across the country including Miami and Los Angeles.

Mastin’s “collection of Pirates”, as she calls them, began when she was in charge of interns at Aquila. At that time, she said, the internship program wasn’t as strong as it could have been, so she went back to her advisors at ECU to get interns.

“That really started to get us traction in terms of having more people specifically from ECU,” said Mastin. “Once these relationships were established, we often received suggested candidates directly from them, or candidates would reach out to us directly.”

Over the past seven years, Mastin estimated they have employed or taken through internship programs 30 ECU graduates. She said they would often hire an intern after their internship, and in some cases, they would have liked to have hired an ECU intern, but there weren’t any openings available at the time.

“In comparison to other team members that we have we worked with from other universities, ECU grads are well equipped to join the health and fitness work force as soon as they graduate,” Mastin said.

Kristin Carbonara ‘10 (left) and Kindal Smith ‘12 are health fitness specialists who once took classes together at ECU and now work together with Aquila in Washington, D.C. (Contributed photo)

Kristin Carbonara ‘10 (left) and Kindal Smith ‘12 are health fitness specialists who once took classes together at ECU and now work together with Aquila in Washington, D.C. (Contributed photo)

Kristin Carbonara ’10 and Kindal Smith ’12 are two ECU graduates who work for Aquila and are based in Washington, D.C. Carbonara is a program coordinator of incentives and personal training, and Smith is the assistant program manager and group exercise coordinator for one of the larger government agencies in the nation’s capitol. While at ECU they had some classes together, and both credit ECU for where they are now.

“I definitely remember being in awe of the teachers and how they motivated me to want to do well. They also were willing to help if need be and give extra guidance,” Carbonara said.

“I probably wouldn’t have the job I do now without an ECU connection. I would say it’s pretty important,” Smith said.

Smith’s comment is something that those in the College of Health and Human Performance have heard before. Rhonda Kenny is a teaching instructor and the health fitness specialist program director. She said the health fitness specialist program provides opportunities that set ECU students apart from their peers at other universities, such as incorporating a personal fitness training course and an exercise leadership course.

“When our students leave, they’ve already had an entire semester on how to be an effective personal trainer to really change people’s lives and how to be an effective group exercise leader,” said Kenny.

However, Kenny believes the program’s biggest strength is the faculty’s interaction with students.

“Even though we’re a large program, our faculty is dedicated to helping them improve as professionals,” Kenny said. “We are dedicated to getting to know our students. We are very active in promoting and attending professional conferences with them.”

Becoming a health fitness specialist is a growing industry. Kenny said during the economic downturn a few years back, they did not lose one internship position, even though companies were scaling back. She credited this to it being more cost effective for companies to have healthier employees.

“If you look at the trends over the next 13 years, our job outlook will increase 28 percent,” she said.

If those numbers increase as Kenny projected, Mastin could be collecting even more ECU alumni as the years go on.

“I enjoy and take pride in being able to employ and mentor fellow Pirates,” Mastin said. “From a professional standpoint, when I’m able to work with ECU grads, I know and trust that I am employing a highly qualified solid candidate. On a personal level, I view it as a way to give back to the university and the health and human performance program.”


–by Rich Klindworth 

Chicago Cubs head athletic trainer and ECU alum reflects on career

As head athletic trainer for the 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs, East Carolina University alumnus PJ Mainville ’97 recommends that students understand the value of service.

“I am always looking for something new or different to help the players,” Mainville said. “Athletic training is a perfect blend of athletics and the medical field.”

In his fifth season with the Cubs, Mainville is responsible for the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of sports injuries for the team, where he oversees 23 staff members in athletic training and strength and conditioning. He said establishing relationships with his team and players is the best part of his job.

Chicago Cubs head athletic trainer examines a baseball player’s elbow. (Photo by David Durochik)

Chicago Cubs head athletic trainer examines a baseball player’s elbow. (Photo by David Durochik)

The Warrenton, Virginia native wanted to attend college out of state and said his visit to ECU sold him. “The people were welcoming and I settled into the community well,” Mainville said.

Head athletic trainer for the Chicago Cubs holds the 2016 World Series Trophy. (Contributed photo)

Head athletic trainer for the Chicago Cubs holds the 2016 World Series Trophy. (Contributed photo)

Although the athletic training degree had not been established, the curriculum to prepare students for the Board of Certification exam to become nationally certified was offered through the exercise and sport science degree, which is the path Mainville chose.

“The expectations of the curriculum that Dr. Katie Flanagan developed helped prepare students for the real world,” he said.

Now that Mainville has reached his goal of being a head athletic trainer, he said his perspective has changed. And he eventually wants to teach in a university setting once his time is finished in baseball.

“I am helping to prepare those under me to take my job one day,” he said.

Mainville worked more than 13 years in the minor leagues with the Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks while entering his seventh season in major league baseball.  He earned a master’s degree in 2005 in performance enhancement from California University of Pennsylvania.


–Kathy Muse

Politics and kids: Explaining a contentious election

The 2016 election season has come to a close, but the polarized attitudes surrounding the campaigns may still continue to impact our children. The amount of negative campaigning, especially in swing states like North Carolina, has been difficult to conceal from our youngest citizens, according to two child development experts at East Carolina University.

Amanda Blakley works with students at the Nancy Darden Child Development Center on campus. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Amanda Blakley works with students at the Nancy Darden Child Development Center on campus. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

“Children in elementary schools were talking about the candidates and what they have heard on television or from parents. I’ve had to answer questions from my own school-age children about topics they discussed in school,” said Dr. Sheresa Blanchard, assistant professor of human development and family science at ECU.

Blanchard and her colleague, Melissa Nolan, director of the Nancy Darden Child Development Center at ECU, offers tips for discussing the outcome of the election with children.

Display good sportsmanship

Whether your candidate wins or loses, it’s an opportunity for adults to display good sportsmanship. Children mirror the emotions and attitudes of their parents, and the emotions this election year have run high.

“Remain calm. It’s a fact that children respond to how we react and will feed into it. If parents are frustrated, angry or happy about the outcome, it’s OK to identify those feelings and calmly put them into words,” said Blanchard.


Choose your words carefully

Try to remain as neutral as possible when talking about the outcome of the election.

“Children do not have the cognitive ability to rationalize exaggerated comments. If they overhear an adult say, ‘the world will end’ if their candidate loses, children believe the world will end,” said Blanchard.

These kinds of statements can lead to fear and uncertainty. Nolan encourages parents to reassure their children that they are still safe and will be taken care of no matter the outcome.

Be honest 

Blanchard and Nolan agree that it’s OK to be honest with your children and share what you are feeling. Give them the space and the opportunity to share their emotions too and ask questions. Ask them how they feel about what they’ve seen and heard.

“Don’t give children more information than what they want,” said Nolan. She suggests encouraging children to ask questions and for adults to stick with short honest answers.

“Adults tend to give too much information,” she added.


Recognize teachable moments

Use opportunities that arise to teach and model, tolerance.

“Parents can explain that even though they may not agree with the person in office, we should still respect them and find a way to move on,” said Nolan.

Blanchard said parents can try to find optimism in the situation.


Jessica Pate, Collier Taylor, Finley Charles, and Marai Blanchard play at ECU's Darden Center.

Jessica Pate, Collier Taylor, Finley Charles, and Marai Blanchard play at ECU’s Darden Center.

Meet our experts:

Dr. Sheresa Blanchard is an assistant professor of human development and family science at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. Her research interests include early childhood education, parenting and family-centered practices.

Melissa Nolan, M.S. is the director of East Carolina University’s Nancy Darden Child Development Center, part of the Department of Human Development and Family Science. Her expertise includes best practices in early childhood education and child care administration.

*Note to editors and reporters: If you’re interested in speaking to one of these two experts, contact ECU News Services at 252-328-6481. 


-by Jamie Smith

ECU’s medical family therapy receives first family oriented care award

Behavioral health support and collaboration between health care services were among the top concerns of local citizens according to a 2015 Pitt County Needs Assessment report. East Carolina University’s medical family therapy program is addressing this need with an integrated approach and its work has garnered national recognition.

ECU medical family therapy doctoral student Mary Moran meets with Drs. Jake Jensen, Jennifer Hodgson, director and Glenda Mutinda, fellow student.

ECU medical family therapy doctoral student Mary Moran meets with Drs. Jake Jensen, Jennifer Hodgson, director and Glenda Mutinda, fellow student. (Photos by Gretchen Baugh)

ECU’s medical family therapy program received the first-ever Family Oriented Care Award on Oct. 14 from the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association, a nationally recognized association for advancing the integration of behavioral health in medical settings.

The award recognizes ECU’s program, which trains graduates, behavioral health workforce providers and researchers to better meet the needs of communities like Pitt County through implementation of integrated behavioral health care models. Integrated behavioral health providers work side-by-side with medical health care teams to assess, diagnose and treat patients and their families using evidence-based approaches to behavioral health. Integrated family-oriented care focuses on a patient’s mind and body, while respecting that the patient interacts with a family/support system before and after each medical visit.

Faculty-initiated research grants provide behavioral health support and health coaching to five rural southeastern Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers.  These centers include Bernstein Medical Center, Snow Hill Medical Center, Kate B. Reynolds Medical Center, Walstonburg Medical Center, and Pamlico Community Health Center.

“Our students provide family centered care to an underserved population where they have the opportunity to receive health coaching and medical family therapy interventions while seeing their primary care provider,” said Dr. Jennifer Hodgson, professor and director of the program. “This is not only convenient for patients but communicates a new model of health that respects how closely the mind and body work together.”

ECU students Jessica Goodman, Eunicia Jones and David Haralson discuss integrated behavioral health care and medical family therapy at the Redditt House.

ECU students Jessica Goodman, Eunicia Jones and David Haralson discuss integrated behavioral health care and medical family therapy at the Redditt House.

During the past 10 years, the medical family therapy program has collaborated with Greene County Health Care, who funds more than 20 of the program’s student internships.

“The students are able to serve a great number of patients in all of our medical centers,” said Doug Smith, president and CEO of Greene County Health Care.

“We serve over 40,000 patients a year and are firm believers in an integrated care approach.  It makes an incredible difference in patients’ lives to be able to get the medical, dental and behavioral health care that they need at one place and have it affordable,” he said.

The program has grown from two students in 2006 to a team of 21 students today.  Training includes facilitating and encouraging communication among the providers, patients, and family members. Students can offer brief and long term individual, couple, and family therapy, as well as provide behavioral health services in each clinical setting.

“This is something that is gaining momentum nationally as research is showing time and time again that we can improve health outcomes better when we integrate services into the medical visit versus forcing patients to choose their medical health over behavioral health. To us, it is all health,” Hodgson said.

ECU master's and doctoral level students and faculty associated with the Greene Country Health Care Inc. Integrated Behavioral Health Care Project stand in front of ECU’s Redditt House.

ECU master’s and doctoral level students and faculty associated with the Greene Country Health Care Inc. Integrated Behavioral Health Care Project stand in front of ECU’s Redditt House. (Photo by Kathy Muse)

ECU’s program was the first of its kind in the nation and is one of two medical family therapy programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. It is housed in the Department of Human Development and Family Science in the College of Health and Human Performance.

–Kathy Muse

ECU department chair honored as outstanding educator

Dr. Sharon Ballard, associate professor and chair of East Carolina University’s Department of Human Development and Family Science in the College of Health and Human Performance has been recognized nationally for her work in family life education.

Sharon Ballard


Ballard is the 2016 Margaret E. Arcus Outstanding Family Life Educator Award recipient. The award recognizes her significant contributions to the field of family life education through research, theory, publication, practice, program development and training.

“We congratulate Sharon on this prestigious award and are grateful for her leadership in this field,” said Dr. Glen Gilbert, dean of the College of Health and Human Performance.

Ballard has helped shaped family life education for decades joining the ECU faculty in 2000. She served as interim chair for the department before being named chair in 2013 and has taught courses at The University of Tennessee – Knoxville and Western Carolina University. She also taught family and consumer sciences in the public schools for six years.  Ballard has been a certified family life educator since 1998.

Ballard’s research interests include family life education programming, parent education, and sexuality education.  She has published more than 40 journal articles and book chapters, including her co-edited book Family Life Education with Diverse Populations.

In 2012, she received the Certified Family Life Education Service Award and is the past chair of the Certified Family Life Educator Advisory Committee with the National Council on Family Relations.

“As a family life educator, I am passionate about programming that strengthens and empowers families and I am thrilled to be recognized for my work,” said Sharon Ballard, associate professor and department chair. “In particular, to be the recipient for an award that bears the name of Margaret Arcus, who has long been a leader in family life education, is humbling and a great honor.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics education from the University of Maine.  She received both a master’s degree and doctorate in child and family studies from The University of Tennessee – Knoxville. Ballard is a Certified Family Life Educator, a trained provider of the Triple P Parenting Program and a licensed K-12 family and consumer sciences teacher.

Ballard will be honored for her achievements at the 2016 NCFR annual conference Nov. 2-5 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

–Kathy Muse

Alumnae Spotlights: An entrepreneur and a mobile crisis director

At the age of five, Dana McQueen knew that she wanted to become an interior designer and her passion has helped her continue a family legacy.

McQueen earned a degree in interior design in 1992 and decided to return to her family’s business at McQueen’s Interiors in Morehead City.  She admits a family business can sometimes be complex but said the knowledge gained from earning her degree helped with a successful ownership transition.

Dana McQueen

Dana McQueen

“My passion for my clients and interior design coupled with my staff have kept this long-standing business alive,” McQueen said.  Since taking the helm, McQueen has improved business practices including adding a barcode system for inventory and hiring additional designers. She has also expanded the showroom, adding 4,000 sq. ft. of space.

Named Business Women of the Year in 2014 by Crystal Magazine, McQueen said her favorite class at ECU was space planning.  “I still use this knowledge every day,” she said.  “I know the world of computers has opened up so many opportunities with computer-aided design, but it is always best to know the basics with a pencil, paper, and a scale.”

As a successful business owner, McQueen knows firsthand the time involved in building a clientele and communicating with them regarding their wants and needs.  The best part of her job is seeing a project completed and a happy client she said.

Another successful College of Health and Human Performance alumna is leading the largest mobile crisis management service in the state.

Mona Townes, who earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in social work, oversees mobile crisis services to 23 eastern North Carolina counties provided by Integrated Family Services, PLLC.

“My passion is intervening when people are at their worst and to help them see that things can get better,” Townes said. Her team delivers integrated crisis response, crisis intervention and prevention 24/7 to any location in the community, according to the website. Townes said crisis intervention is challenging.

Mona Townes

Mona Townes

“The reward is when you work with a person who admits that without our support, without our ability to provide them with hope, they had planned on taking their life,” she said.

It was Townes’ time at ECU that helped shape her leadership skills.  “I learned that no matter what my background is or where I came from, I could be successful,” said Townes.  “I saw several highly educated and experienced women that looked like me.”

Her favorite course was Human Behavior and Social Environment taught by Dr. Lessie Bass.

Among her many accolades, Townes received the ECU School of Social Work 2015 Rising Star Award.  She serves as a member of the National Association of Social Workers and assists as a training instructor for the local Crisis Intervention Team.  She is a licensed clinical additions specialist associate and is certified by the National Council on Behavioral Health as a facilitator for Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid.

–Kathy Muse

1 2 3 8