Category Archives: Honors College

ECU alumna named NC Presidential Scholar

East Carolina University alumna Katie Stanley is one of four recent graduates from across the state named a Presidential Scholar for the 2017-18 school year by the University of North Carolina General Administration.

UNC President Margaret Spellings announced the appointment July 20.

Presidential Scholars provide a range of professional functions for the UNC General Administration. Scholars have regular interaction with senior leadership and members of the system’s Board of Governors and help research, write and implement policy.

 Left to right, Honors College Dean David White, Katie Stanley and EC Scholars director Todd Fraley celebrate during the Honors College graduation ceremony in May. Stanley has been named a NC Presidential Scholar at the UNC General Administration. (contributed photo)

Left to right, Honors College Dean David White, Katie Stanley and EC Scholars director Todd Fraley celebrate during the Honors College graduation ceremony in May. Stanley has been named a NC Presidential Scholar at the UNC General Administration.
(contributed photo)

A political science major and Greenville native, Stanley’17 was a member of the Honors College and Pi Sigma Alpha Honor Society at ECU. Stanley plans to pursue a master’s degree in public policy with the goal of working in state government. Stanley previously interned for Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Representative Dean Arp (R-Union).

“We were thrilled to learn about Katie’s appointment as a Presidential Scholar and look forward to hearing about all the great work she will accomplish in this role,” said Dr. David White, dean of the ECU Honors College. “Katie’s story is an example of how successful our Honors College students are, and how often they make us proud with their personal and professional achievements after graduating.”

The Presidential Scholars were selected among May 2017 UNC system graduates who demonstrated leadership skills, strong motivation, intellectual curiosity and ability to take risks, according to a news release. Previous scholars have worked on assignments from General Administration departments including legal, advancement, academic affairs and communications.

“The Presidential Scholars program allows some of our most talented graduates to hone professional skills and gain real working experience in higher education,” Spellings said. “Scholars also have the unique opportunity to explore and understand the inner workings of an institution that has helped transform our great state.”


-by Cole Dittmer, University Communications

ECU Honors College alumnus to work with National Weather Service

This fall, East Carolina University Honors College alumnus Thomas Vaughan ’15 will join the National Weather Service in Wichita, Kansas as one of 31 new hires by the federal agency that is responsible for providing weather, water and climate data, forecasts and warnings across the country.

ECU Honors College alumnus Thomas Vaughan ’15 stands in front of the National Weather Service Station. Vaughan will start his career with the NWS this September. (Contributed photos courtesy of Thomas Vaughan)

ECU Honors College alumnus Thomas Vaughan ’15 stands in front of the National Weather Service Station. Vaughan will start his career with the NWS this September. (Contributed photos courtesy of Thomas Vaughan)

Vaughan, who has nearly completed his master’s degree in meteorology from Florida State University, said he had his choice of going to the NWS offices in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Michigan. Vaughan ultimately chose Wichita.

“I picked Wichita because I knew I would get a lot of severe weather experience there,” Vaughan said. “I knew Wichita would be more beneficial in the long run to my career because they have severe weather all the time, and I’ll get to experience all four seasons.”

Vaughan gives a weather briefing at the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Vaughan gives a weather briefing at the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Vaughan was one of 31 hired out of 850 applicants. After not being referred to the final pool of applicants the first time he applied, Vaughan said he was relieved to have his choice of four stations this time.

“It is pretty competitive to get into and I knew I would have better chance to get in with a masters, so that is why I went to Florida State,” he said. “This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time.”

While the official title for Vaughan’s position is meteorologist intern, it is the entry level staff position for the NWS. In his first couple years, Vaughan said he will be learning how to complete NWS forecasts, train on the NWS computer systems and radar, launch weather balloons and help manage his office’s social media accounts.

Vaughan after graduation from ECU in May 2015.

Vaughan after graduation from ECU in May 2015.

Vaughan hopes to move through the ranks of the NWS and eventually make it back to the NWS station in Honolulu, Hawaii where he completed a summer internship while at ECU. Other “dream” stations for Vaughan include Guam, or one of the stations in Florida.

“I’d say my dream job would be to be the meteorologist in charge at one of those stations, but that is a long time away,” he said, laughing.

For now, Vaughan is focusing on defending his master’s thesis on historical rainfall variability in the Sahel and Guinea coasts of Africa before moving to Kansas in September.



-by Cole Dittmer, University Communications

Special education major receives Bassman Honors Thesis Award

Sarah Bonin, an East Carolina University College of Education student majoring in special education from Cary, has received the 2016-2017 Michael F. Bassman Honors Thesis Award.

Sarah Bonin received a 2016-2017 Thesis Award. (contributed photo)

Sarah Bonin received a 2016-2017 Thesis Award. (contributed photo)

One student is selected each year for the outstanding senior Honors College thesis or project and a $500 award. Bonin created a reading and math curriculum for students in third through fifth grades, and is believed to be the first education student to win the award, said Dr. Guili Zhang, professor and interim chair of the Department of Special Education, Foundations and Research.

“Your personal achievements and accomplishments exemplify the very best of the Honors College and ECU,” said Bryna Coonin, coordinator of the award, in an email announcing Bonin’s selection.

Bonin was nominated by Dr. Melissa Hudson, her senior project mentor, in collaboration with Dr. Linda Patriarca, who has been Bonin’s instructor and internship supervisor this year. Faculty member Debbie Metcalf also provided a support letter.

Bonin will be recognized at the Honors College departmental graduation ceremony on May 3 at Rock Springs Center in Greenville. Bonin will be moving to Durham to begin her career as a kindergarten through fifth grade resource teacher at Glenn Elementary School in the Durham Public Schools system.



-by Crystal Baity

Amin attends national student entrepreneur program

East Carolina University’s Mona Amin is one of 19 students from across the country selected for a prestigious student entrepreneur program.

Amin, an Honors College student from Charlotte, is participating in the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Student Entrepreneurship Program held June 19-24 in Orlando.

Mona Amin (contributed photo)

Mona Amin (contributed photo)

“I am most excited about meeting other young female entrepreneurs as well as meeting my mentors from Kroger and Ragozzino Foods,” said Amin before leaving for the conference.

Amin is part of a team developing an app called FreshSpire, a mobile application and text system that notifies consumers, including low-income shoppers, about discounts on near-expiring foods at local grocery stores, allowing them to take advantage of healthy foods at lower prices.

Amin, a biology major set to graduate in 2017, plans to continue work on FreshSpire before attending the Brody School of Medicine as an Early Assurance Scholar.

ECU and North Carolina A&T State University are the only colleges in North Carolina with a student at the conference. Sixteen colleges or universities are represented.

The program aims to foster growth for the next generation of women-owned businesses through a tailored entrepreneur curriculum, a live pitch competition awarding $10,000 in seed capital and mentoring from successful Women’s Business Enterprises and Fortune 500 companies.

Students also participate in experiential learning through off-site visits to WBE and corporate campuses and accelerators. Since 2008, more than 150 students from 40 colleges and universities across the country have graduated from the program.

Women-owned businesses are growing at one and a half times the U.S. national average and contribute more than $1.5 trillion dollars to the national economy and employ about 7.9 million people. An average of 887 new businesses opened every day in 2015, according to the WBENC.

For more information, visit

–Crystal Baity

Bassman Honors Thesis Award winner announced

Hannah G. Woolard is the winner of the 2015-2016 Michael F. Bassman Honors Thesis Award, which recognizes students in East Carolina University’s Honors College for excellence in research and writing.

“Finishing off my senior year at ECU by receiving the Michael F. Bassman Honors College Thesis Award was a very special and rewarding moment,” Woolard said. “I am most overjoyed to receive this award because it honors the most knowledgeable advisor, exceptional role model, and caring professor, Dr. Bassman.”

Woolard poses with Dr. Michael F. Bassman, for whom the award is named. (Contributed photo)

Woolard poses with Dr. Michael F. Bassman, for whom the award is named. (Contributed photo)

Woolard’s research involved studying the different steps, or mechanism, of a new type of rare and highly selective reaction. The reaction converts cycloplatinated complexes (platinum-based compounds) into products that can be utilized for things like biological imaging and cancer research.

“The research I completed for my senior honors project investigating cycloplatinated complexes is extremely valuable to many fields of science,” Woolard said. “The discovery of the mechanism behind this reaction provides synthetic chemists with an important tool.”

Until now, the details of the mechanism had never been reported in literature. Her award-winning work was completed under the direction of Dr. Shouquan Huo, a chemistry professor in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences.

Woolard graduated from ECU in May with a B.S. in Public Health and a B.A. in chemistry and is preparing to apply to medical school. She attended D.H. Conley High School and is the daughter of John and Gray Woolard of Greenville.

The award is sponsored by ECU’s Joyner Library and honors Dr. Michael F. Bassman, associate professor of Foreign Languages & Literatures, former associate vice chancellor of the Honors Program and its first Distinguished Honors Professor.

ECU awards inaugural Humanities Scholarship

East Carolina University sophomore Garrett Yarbrough, a soon-to-be 18-year-old from LaGrange, NC, is the inaugural recipient of the Humanities Scholar Program and will receive an annual $3,000 scholarship through his senior year.

“I am deeply honored to have been selected as a Humanities Scholar. I am elated to illustrate the significance of the understanding of the humanities, of what intrinsically defines us as human and how this essence and ambition is coupled with sciences and other fields to usher in progress,” said Yarbrough. “I eagerly anticipate my role as a representative of the humanities within the student body; to further the awareness of the importance of the accomplishments and exploration of the human spirit.”

Garrett Yarbrough (contributed photo)

Garrett Yarbrough (contributed photo)

Yarbrough, co-creator of the ECU Creative Writing Club, is pursuing duel majors in English and history. He aspires to be a creative writer and a published travel journalist, tackling international topics.

“I intend to use my background in English and history in order to bring awareness to global issues and to bring new perspectives to readers and those that would not have been exposed to differing views originally,” said Yarbrough.

The Humanities Scholar Program, established by the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences and the Honors College, is a way to acknowledge and increase awareness around the importance that the humanities play at ECU and in creating well-rounded students that are equipped to excel in the changing world.

Dr. Katherine Ford, Humanities Scholar Program coordinator and associate professor of Hispanic studies, said the humanities help people understand who they are and how they may connect with others; whether similar or not, and that the humanities attempt to answer the question, “Why?”

“Garrett Yarbrough, without a doubt, embodies the ideals of the humanities through his studies in English and history and is a perfect inaugural Humanities Scholar,” said Ford. “Garrett has a curiosity about the world around him and aims to help others understand this world better through writing.”

Garrett Yarbrough

Garrett Yarbrough and fellow students at the induction ceremony for Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society. (contributed photo)

In addition to his Humanities Scholar award, Yarbrough is an EC Scholar and a member of the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society. He served as vice president of the ECU Creative Writing Club for the 2015 academic year and will serve as president for the 2016 academic year.

Eligible applicants to the Humanities Scholar Program are students who are admitted to the Honors College and plan to major in a humanities discipline. A student who is awarded a position in the Humanities Scholars Program, and maintains annual eligibility requirements, receives a scholarship of $3,000 a year through the recipient’s senior year. The Humanities Scholar Program is in addition to the Honors College Scholarship, which is equal to in-state tuition.

“ECU’s College of Arts and Sciences values its partnership with the Honors College, and I’m so very pleased that together we have successfully launched the new Humanities Scholars program,” said Dr. William M. Downs, dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. “This scholarship helps us attract and retain high-ability students, such as Garrett Yarbrough, who will be ambassadors for learning in the disciplines of English, philosophy, foreign languages and literatures, religious studies and classical studies.”

For more information about the Humanities Scholars Program, visit

ECU honors student receives Fulbright Award

An ECU Honors College student and triple major Daniel Franch has been named a recipient of an English teaching assistant award from the highly-competitive Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Franch, who is graduating in May with a degree in history, history education and German, is one of 140 students in the United States to receive a $30,000 grant that will support his international experience in East Germany teaching English for a year.

ECU honors student receives Fulbright Award

ECU honors student and Fulbright scholar Daniel Franch

“For most countries, the competition is very stiff,” said Birgit Jensen, the Fulbright advisor at ECU. “In 2015, only eight applicants out of 98 for the Australia study grants were chosen. That same year, there were 381 applicants for English Teaching Assistantships in Germany and 127 were selected. Germany awards more grants than other countries because it funds additional stipends from its end.”

Franch, who worked in ECU’s University Writing Center for the past three years, will assist a lead teacher with English instruction in a German K–12 English classroom. In addition to teaching, he is also required to engage the local community as part of the Fulbright grant. He has proposed to join the local environmental organization and learn ways to increase sustainability practices.

“It seemed like an excellent opportunity to spend a year in Germany spreading goodwill between the United States and Germany,” said Franch, who is the ninth student from ECU selected as a Fulbright. “I had the choice to pick three federal states and I chose all former East German states, because the former East is still economically behind the rest of Germany.”


With ECU’s German Club, Franch spent nine days over spring break volunteering in Munich in conjunction with local organizations to assimilate displaced refugees.

“We taught basic German such as the alphabet, important survival phrases and traffic rules in addition to playing Frisbee and basketball with the refugees,” said Franch.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study and research projects or for English teaching assistant programs. A candidate will submit a Statement of Grant Purpose defining activities to take place during one academic year in a participating country outside the U.S., according to the program’s website.

 “We know that to be successful ECU graduates must be more globally aware, more globally competent, and more globally competitive,” said Dr. William M. Downs, dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. “We’re delighted that Danny Franch has earned a prestigious Fulbright award for study in Germany, as it will provide him with precisely the kind of extended immersion experience that can enrich his personal growth and enhance his professional prospects. Speaking from personal experience (Fulbright to Belgium, ’92-’93), I can safely say that this opportunity will give Danny a lifetime’s worth of important connections and lasting inspirations.”

–Jessica Nottingham

Honors College brings top finalists and admitted students to campus

By Jessica Nottingham
For ECU News Services

East Carolina University’s Honors College hosted its sixth annual Selection Sunday and Honors College Preview Day for top scholarship program finalists and admitted honors students Feb. 14-15.

Approximately 80 finalists were selected to interview during Selection Sunday for the EC Scholars, Early Assurance (in audiology, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy), Business Scholars, Humanities Scholars and Music Scholars award programs housed in the Honors College. In addition to the respective scholarship program benefits, recipients received the Honors College scholarship of in-state tuition valued at approximately $17,000 and are offered unique leadership, mentorship and community-engagement opportunities.


The EC Scholars Award Program is ECU’s most prestigious merit scholarship program valued at approximately $62,000 awarded over four years. The scholarship program includes a $5,000 study abroad stipend as well as the Honor College scholarship of in-state tuition. Setting a record, the program received 530 applications and interviewed 49 finalists. With 20 awards, the EC Scholars award is the largest scholarship program in the Honors College.

Faculty, alumni, donors and campus administrators volunteered to select and interview finalists on Selection Sunday.

“Being part of the EC Scholars Selection Sunday was quite a privilege,” said Margaret Turner, director of marketing and outreach for the College of Engineering and Technology, who served as an EC Scholars Award Program interviewer. “All of the candidates are extraordinary students and not only impressive on paper, but even more so in person. It’s exciting to be a part of selecting the next cohort of scholars that will represent ECU.”

Advocating and fundraising for the Honors College, the ECU Women’s Roundtable became a supporting partner this year. Shelby Strother, emerita Women’s Roundtable member and 2007 Incredible ECU Women honoree also served as an EC Scholars interviewer. “Some of [the students] have already accomplished more in their K-12 education than others do in a life time,” said Strother. “East Carolina University is very fortunate to have these outstanding students as part of the incoming freshmen class.”


The early assurance programs (EAP) guarantee admissions into the respective graduate or doctoral programs at ECU after completing an undergraduate degree as an honors student. The most competitive EAP is in medicine, which offers recipients guaranteed admittance to the Brody School of Medicine. The EAP in medicine received 176 applications, interviewed 23 finalists and will name four recipients and four alternates.

The EAP in nursing received 46 applications, selected six finalists and will award three recipients. The EAP in physical therapy received 45 applications, interviewed four finalists and will name two recipients. The EAP in occupational therapy received 9 applications, interviewed and will award two finalists. The EAP in audiology received four applications and selected one finalist to interview and award the scholarship.

The scholar program awards in business, humanities and music are valued at approximately $30,000 over four years including the Honors College in-state tuition scholarship. Applicants must articulate an interest and dedication to one of these respective fields on their Honors College application to be selected as a finalist.


After receiving 52 applications, the Business Scholars program interviewed six finalists and will award two recipients. This program also provides guaranteed entry to ECU’s MBA program upon completion of an undergraduate degree in business. The Humanities Scholars program received 13 applicants, interviewed and awarded one finalist. The Music Scholars program received 30 applicants, and the finalists are still participating in auditions.

The Honors College has partnered with ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, College of Allied Health, College of Business, College of Nursing, School of Music and Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences to deliver these award programs.

“Selection Sunday is a time for us to showcase ECU’s prestigious merit scholarship programs to some of the best students in our region and nation,” said Dr. Todd Fraley, director of the EC Scholars Award Program and interim associate dean of academic programs for the ECU Honors College. “Every year, I continue to be amazed by the students and how competitive these programs have become.”


Finalists had lunch with current recipients of the Honors College scholarship awards, university leaders and college constituents to learn more about ECU, the Honors College its scholarship programs. Following the lunch, finalists participated in their interviews and were invited to a reception at the East Carolina Heart Institute. At the reception, the prospective scholars and their families heard from Dr. David White, interim dean of the Honors College, Dr. Ron Mitchelson, the ECU provost, Dr. Liz Fogarty, an Honors College faculty fellow and associate professor in the College of Education and Chris Thaxton, a senior EC Scholar majoring in biology and chemistry.

On the Monday following Selection Sunday, the Honors College hosted Preview Day for accepted honors students who enter fall 2016 as freshmen. Designed to assist students in their college selection decision, the event featured campus administrators including Dr. Steve Ballard, ECU Chancellor, Dr. Dave Meredith, director of admissions, White, interim dean of the Honors College and Kevin Baxter, associate dean of the Honors College.

Prospective honors students heard from faculty, current students and parents, met with advisors from colleges across campus, participated in a campus and Gateway Residence Hall tour, and ate lunch at West End Dining Hall.

“East Carolina University and the Honors College have a lot to offer high-achieving students,” said White. “I am confident that the scholar program finalists and accepted honors students and their families left ECU knowing that we are a campus committed to scholarship, leadership, character and service.”

For more information about the Honors College and its special scholarship offerings, visit Photo galleries for Selection Sunday and Preview Day are available.

Phil Kirk to address Honors College students

Phil Kirk of Raleigh, who chaired the State Board of Education for six years and led the state chamber of commerce for 16 years, will address Honors College students on Tuesday, March 31. He is expected to speak about the role of leadership in industry, education and government.

Phil Kirk

Phil Kirk

The Leadership Lecture Series event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in room 1032 in the Bate Building.

Kirk, currently director of business and leadership for Brady, a Greensboro energy solutions company, served two terms on the ECU Board of Visitors and is a member of the ECU Educators Hall of Fame. A graduate of Catawba College, Kirk was named an honorary ECU alumnus in 2003.

Kirk was chief of staff to former governors Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin and U.S. Sen. Jim Broyhill. He twice served as secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

He currently serves on the boards of Meredith College, the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching Foundation, the VIF International Education program. He was co-chair of the Strategic Planning Working Team for the Wake County Public schools.

In 1999, he chaired the working committees for the largest successful bond issue in North Carolina history–$2.75 billion for schools and roads and $3.1 billion for the UNC System, community colleges and UNC TV.

ECU received about $200 million from the bond issue, which funded construction of the Sci-Tech Building, the Student Rec Center and a major expansion of Joyner Library.

A native of Salisbury, Kirk began his career as a middle school journalism and English teacher. Honors College Dean Marianna Walker was one of his students.

Former Gov. Jim Hunt has said of Kirk, “If there’s a single person in this state who is more involved and at the center of every issue, I don’t know who it is.”

— Steve Tuttle

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