Category Archives: In the news

ECU’s Heidi Bonner receives 2017 Harriot College Dean’s Early Career Award

East Carolina University’s Dr. Heidi Bonner, assistant professor of criminal justice, is the recipient of the 2017 Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Early Career Award. The award, which recognizes and rewards exceptional performance by tenure-track assistant professors, was announced at a special reception in Bonner’s honor, hosted at the home of Dr. William M. Downs, dean of Harriot College.

“I was incredibly flattered to be selected,” said Bonner. “I know many people in the college who do incredible work and it was an honor to be this year’s recipient.”

Bonner, who received her Ph.D. in criminal justice from the University at Albany, SUNY in 2012, just finished her fifth year at ECU and loves the people.

“I have met so many great colleagues in and out of my department,” said Bonner. “I especially enjoy research collaborations that cross disciplines, and [I] have had the opportunity to engage in more of those relationships now that we are part of Harriot College.”

As a researcher, Bonner’s interests lie in criminal justice decision making behavior, offender behavior while incarcerated, evaluation of criminal justice policy and practice, job stress and satisfaction, and the effectiveness of instructional strategy in the classroom. She engages in researcher-practitioner partnerships and currently is participating in several projects with local agencies, including evaluating policies pertaining to response to violence against women.

Bonner teaches predominantly in the criminal justice graduate program and focuses on policing, courts and research methods.

“We have great students, and I enjoy interacting with them in the classroom and through research mentoring opportunities,” said Bonner. “Getting to know students over four years and then reading their names at graduation is always bittersweet.”

This year, Bonner also received the Founders Award from the North Carolina Criminal Justice Association. At ECU, Bonner was honored with the Chair’s Faculty Excellence Award in 2013 and 2016, and she has participated in both the BB&T Faculty Leadership Fellows Program and the Chancellor’s Leadership Academy.

Because she enjoys working with agencies, Bonner is a proud member of the Board of Trustees for the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety and a member of the Board of Directors for the Center for Family Violence and Prevention in Greenville. This year, she also was selected for one of the National Institute of Justice’s Standing Review Panels.

The Dean’s Early Career Award represents the college’s breadth of faculty excellence in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics. It is made possible through the generosity of the Harriot College Advancement Council. In addition to her recognition at Downs’ home, Bonner will be acknowledged at Harriot College’s fall convocation in August.

“The award’s primary focus is on the faculty member’s productivity in research and creative discovery, which must be judged to be of such high quality and impact that it exceeds expectations,” said Downs. “Outstanding performance in professional development must be complemented by demonstrated excellence in instructional effectiveness and service, and I am extremely pleased to say Dr. Bonner exceeded these qualifications.”


-by Lacey Gray, Univeristy Communication

ECU’s Maritime Studies Program Accepted into International Network

East Carolina University’s Program in Maritime Studies recently was named a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNITWIN Network for Underwater Archaeology. ECU joins as a full member with other universities including Texas A&M University, Southampton University, University of Southern Denmark and Alexandria University.

Associate Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies Dr. Jennifer McKinnon travelled to Paris, France, the last week of May to attend the network’s annual meeting and present ECU’s application.

McKinnon (center-right, turquoise pants) poses with a group of UNESCO UNITWIN Network members and meeting attendees. (Photo by Jonathan Benjamin.)

McKinnon (center-right, turquoise pants) poses with a group of UNESCO UNITWIN Network members and meeting attendees. (Photo by Jonathan Benjamin.)

“Joining this network has the potential to further the program’s existing international contacts and partnerships, providing both faculty and students with opportunities to collaborate, research and study abroad,” said McKinnon. “It also speaks to our Chancellor’s vision for global impact and becoming a national model.”

Established in 2012, the objective of the cooperative program is to promote research, training, information and documentation in the field of archaeology related to underwater cultural heritage.

“Maritime Studies’ membership in the UNESCO UNITWIN Network for Underwater Archaeology is a prime example of the university’s commitment to expanding its global impact in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the field,” said ECU Executive Director of Global Affairs Dr. Jon Rezek.

ECU’s Program in Maritime Studies, established in 1982 and housed in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Department of History, is the second oldest and one of the largest of a few graduate programs in the United States that teach students in underwater archaeology. It has a national and international reputation working in areas around the world from Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean, Africa and Latin America.

“The Department of History is committed to expanding our international footprint,” said Dr. Christopher Oakley, chair of the department of history. “We look forward to partnering with UNESCO UNITWIN to enhance our research collaboration with other prestigious universities across the globe.”

For additional information about the UNESCO UNITWIN Network, visit



-by Lacey Gray, University Communication

ECU professor of medicine named administrator for federal agency HRSA

A professor of medicine in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has been appointed by President Donald Trump as the new administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

On May 1, Dr. George Sigounas assumed oversight of HRSA, the primary federal agency for improving health care to people who are geographically isolated, or economically or medically vulnerable. HRSA’s $10.5 billion annual budget expands access to quality health care through an array of grants to state and local governments, health care providers and health professions training programs.

Dr. George Sigounas (Contributed photo)

Dr. George Sigounas (Contributed photo)

Sigounas has served for 23 years as a professor of medicine at Brody, where he helped establish the Bone Marrow Transplantation Program. His work with this program gave him extensive experience in designing and conducting clinical trials, preparing patient treatment protocols and performing fiscal management. He also directed the Cellular Therapies Clinical Unit which provided the Bone Marrow Transplantation Program with the cells used to transplant cancer patients.

“One of my primary reasons for coming to the Brody School of Medicine was to have the opportunity to participate in developing and operating a cellular therapies program that would provide service to the patients of eastern North Carolina,” Sigounas said. “The purpose of the program was for patients to remain close to home and not have to travel more than 100 miles to receive necessary treatment.

“Through the bone marrow program and by serving as faculty at a school focused on primary care for 23 years,” Sigounas added, “I developed a unique perspective on treating the undeserved and rural medicine as a whole, as well as on the providers who make this their professional objective… it was an eye-opening experience regarding the commitment and sacrifice which must be made to improve health care for those who need it most.”

In her recent announcement about Sigounas’ appointment, Diana Espinosa, deputy administrator for HRSA, said, “His involvement in the establishment and operation of a bone marrow transplantation program, clinical trials, and patient committees have provided Dr. Sigounas with extensive understanding of the various aspects involved in patient treatment, including treatment processes, and financial issues.”

From 1987 to 1994, Sigounas was a researcher at the National Institutes of Health and the Naval Medical Center. Through the years, his research efforts have resulted in several U.S. and international patents.

Sigounas earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from the University of Patras in Greece, a master’s in physiology and biology from Northeastern University, and a Ph.D. in cell biology and physiology from Boston University.

Sigounas is on an approved leave of absence from Brody and expected to return in January 2020.



-by Amy Ellis, University Communication

O’Halloran presents results for Washington Boutique Hotel study

The Hotel Louise in downtown Washington, North Carolina. (Contributed photos)

The Hotel Louise in downtown Washington, North Carolina. (Contributed photos)

Dr. Bob O’Halloran, chair of the College of Business’ School of Hospitality Leadership, presented composite results of a preliminary feasibility study, which included a summary of possible concepts that could bring the Hotel Louise back to life in downtown Washington, North Carolina. The presentation was made during a recent public event held at the Arts of the Pamlico’s (AOP) historic Turnage Theatre.

As part of course requirements, School students created concepts that would turn the historic building into a 60-room, boutique hotel. According to an article in the Washington Daily News, O’Halloran said that a hotel of this nature would generate revenue and growth for the downtown area and would give customers the opportunity to both visit Washington and stay in the heart of the city.

Aided by the AOP, 64 students and 11 community groups worked on the project, which culminated with the students, as part of a final exam, making a presentation to members of the Washington (North Carolina) Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Tourism Development Authority, and Beaufort County Economic Development.

“This type of engaged learning shows our students are playing an integral part in the sustainability of Eastern North Carolina,” said O’Halloran. “I’m excited for the potential, positive impact these recommendations could have in downtown Washington.”

Dr. Bob O’Halloran presents feasibility study findings on Hotel Louise in Washington, North Carolina.

Dr. Bob O’Halloran presents feasibility study findings on Hotel Louise in Washington, North Carolina.


-by Michael Rudd, University Communication

COE alum Principal of the Year for NC

East Carolina University alumnus Jason Griffin has been named the Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year for 2017.

Griffin is principal of Hertford Grammar School in Perquimans County, one of the smallest counties in the state.

ECU alumnus Jason Griffin. (contributed photo)

ECU alumnus Jason Griffin. (contributed photo)

Griffin received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in middle grades mathematics from ECU, a master’s in school administration from Elizabeth City State University and an education specialist degree from ECU.

At the awards ceremony on May 12, State Superintendent Mark Johnson said Griffin exemplifies the qualities of leadership essential for helping teachers excel and students to achieve.

“Hertford Grammar School’s strong progress is clear evidence of Jason’s leadership,” Johnson said. “He makes smart use of data to work with his teachers to personalize learning for all students. He delegates to help his teachers grow as leaders themselves, and he works to provide them with innovative strategies to improve teaching and learning for students.”

The Title I school, where nearly two thirds of the 400-plus students in third through fifth-grade are from low-income families, achieved a school grade of B for the first time last year. The school also was just one of six elementary schools in the state’s northeast education region to earn at least a B while also exceeding their targets for academic growth.

In naming Griffin Principal of the Year, Wells Fargo Senior Community Relations Manager Juan Austin said, “Our education system has never been at a more critical juncture than now, and with administrators like Jason, we can see how dedication and effort connects with students, staff and parents on so many levels at Hertford Grammar School.

“So I’m pleased that we have the opportunity to reward his outstanding work and hold up Jason’s example for others to hopefully follow.”

Griffin was one of eight regional finalists chosen earlier this year following interviews and school visits by the selection committee.

Griffin joined Hertford Grammar in 2011 as a third-grade teacher and served as dean of students before being named principal. He previously was a second-grade teacher at Perquimans Central School and started his education career as a third-grade teacher at E.J. Hayes Elementary School in Martin County.

He was teacher of the year for Perquimans County Schools in 2012 and participates in numerous leadership activities in the district. In his submission for the award, Griffin said his greatest accomplishment as principal was leading Hertford Grammar to its performance grade of B – noting that five years earlier, the school was facing “corrective action” from the state.

“I believe my leadership style, collaboration with our district personnel, hiring effective teachers and my understanding of schoolwide data has helped Hertford Grammar School become one of the most improved schools in Region I and in North Carolina,” he wrote.

As Wells Fargo Principal of the Year, Griffin will receive $3,000 for personal use and $3,000 for his school. He also will receive professional development and resources supporting global awareness in the curriculum for his staff thanks to Education First Tours, and a custom­made NC Principal of the Year signet ring and pendant from Jostens Inc.

Wells Fargo also will provide Griffin with a stipend to travel across the state as an ambassador for education. He will serve as a member of the State Superintendent’s Principals’ Advisory Committee, as an advisor to the State Board of Education and also to the board of directors for the NC Public School Forum. In addition, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction will sponsor Griffin’s enrollment and completion of the Education Policy Fellowship Program and he will compete for national recognition through the NC Principals and Assistant Principals Association. He also will chair the 2018 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year Selection Committee.

(Information provided by State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction news release).



-by Crystal Baity 

ECU faculty receive national funding to work with veterans and their families

Three East Carolina University faculty members have been awarded almost $98,000 in grant funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities to work with veterans and their families.

Dr. Jennifer McKinnon, associate professor of history in the Maritime Studies Program and project director, Dr. Anna Foula, associate professor of film studies in the Department of English, and Dr. Anne Ticknor, associate professor of literacy studies in the College of Education, comprise the interdisciplinary research team.

The faculty members will work with Saipanese veterans of contemporary wars, surviving civilian participants of World War II and families of military service personnel to learn more about war’s universal impact on humanity.

McKinnon has collaborated with the Saipan community for nearly 10 years on heritage sites on land and under water. Froula has published widely on the representations of war and service personnel in popular culture as well as advises student veterans at ECU. Ticknor, a literacy educator for 20 years, researches identities.

Two ECU proposals were among 15 projects to receive funding through the NEH Dialogues on the Experience of War grant program. Part of NEH’s Standing Together initiative, the grants provide opportunities for veterans, through the study and discussion of important humanities sources, to think more deeply about issues raised by war and military service.

The funding will allow ECU faculty to travel to Saipan for two weeks in July to prepare community members with interest in humanities, history, and veteran affairs to become discussion leaders.

The researchers will lead discussion groups with local, primarily Chamorro and Carolinian, veterans to develop an understanding of war as a shared human experience and the associated cultural heritage of war on Saipan. Discussion will center on the Spanish-Chamorro Wars of the 17th century and the World War II Battle of Saipan as bookends to the history of resistance and aggressions in the islands. These wars were chosen because they represent the complexities of all of the participants of war, combatant and non-combatant, in a colonial and post-colonial context.

Participants will gain an understanding of the meaning of war from different perspectives through the exploration of terrestrial and underwater cultural heritage, film, history, memoirs, children’s historical fiction, poetry, paintings and graphic novels.

“Underwater cultural heritage, just one of many humanities sources used in this project, is not typically thought of as an entry or gateway into discussing large societal issues like identity, conflict or even the potential for healing,” McKinnon said. “This is why I’m so excited to explore this possibility with my colleagues and the community.”

McKinnon, Froula and Ticknor anticipate that the personal interactions with the physical remains of heritage sites as well as humanities texts and films will provide a new or renewed sense of cultural value for both the veterans’ experiences and the local conflict heritage.

NEH panel reviewers commented that the project was distinct from other proposals with significant potential for intergenerational impact. Since launching the initiative in 2014, the NEH has awarded more than $7.7 million for humanities projects that serve veterans or chronicle their experiences.

For more information about maritime studies at ECU, visit

For more information about the English department, visit

For more information about literacy studies, visit



-by Crystal Baity 

Pirates team up with Vs. Cancer Foundation

ECU's Pirates Vs. Cancer Volunteers. (Photos by Dean Shore)

ECU’s Pirates Vs. Cancer volunteers (Photos by Dean Shore)

On May 8, ECU partnered with the Vs. Cancer Foundation to raise money for the fight against childhood cancer. Pirates Vs. Cancer encouraged students, faculty and staff to raise money and awareness to help children who are battling cancer in eastern North Carolina and throughout the country.

During the Pirates Vs. Cancer event at ECU’s Lake Laupus, fourteen men shaved their heads, five women donated at least eight inches of their hair to be made into wigs and at least ten others volunteered.

Trevor Hunt, ECU Brody School of Medicine M.D. Candidate.

Trevor Hunt, ECU Brody School of Medicine M.D. Candidate.

“We want to help kids who are battling deadly cancers right here in our community while also fighting to beat cancer on a national scale through research in treatments and cures,” said Trevor Hunt, first-year medical student at ECU and event organizer. “Many kids battling cancer lose their hair involuntarily, but the rest of us have a choice. We are choosing to go bald to stand beside them in this fight.”

Originally the group had hoped to raise $5,000 to be split evenly between the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant and the national pediatric oncology research effort. As of May 15, they had exceeded their expectations and raised $7,185 with an updated goal of $7,500!

To learn more about Pirates Vs. Cancer or to donate to this amazing cause, click here.



Pirates rally for day of giving back

Alumni and friends of East Carolina University proved that the Servire spirit is alive both on and off campus. Pirate Nation Gives Back, the first-ever stand-alone day of service and philanthropy at ECU, was an overwhelming success on March 22 with more than $273,000 raised and hundreds of hours of service reported.

Chancellor Cecil Staton and his wife, Catherine, charted the course with their $100,000 commitment to endow a fund supporting international travel and educational opportunities for ECU students.

“Thank you to Pirate Nation for your generosity in giving of your time, talent and treasure,” said Chris Dyba, vice chancellor for university advancement. “To start the day off with a leadership gift, in all senses of the phrase, was phenomenal. Donor support of ECU’s students, faculty and facilities is key as we strive to be recognized as America’s next great national university.”

Members from across ECU’s community came together not only to raise money but also to support many charitable service activities. Local organizations including the Food Bank of North Carolina, American Red Cross, ECU’s Campus Kitchen and Pirate P.A.L.S. (Peers Advocating for Learning and Success) opened their doors to volunteers and donors. The East Carolina Alumni Association’s Pitt County Chapter collaborated with the City of Greenville Public Works Department for Community Tree Day, planting nearly 100 trees on the new section of the Greenville Greenway. Additionally, the North Carolina Chapter of the ALS Association partnered with ECU Athletics to collect funds at the UNC vs. ECU baseball game that day.

Stand-alone days of giving have become a popular way for universities to gain donors’ attention and financial support. Combining service and philanthropy helps to set ECU apart in a crowded landscape.

“Since East Carolina’s founding, service has been at the heart of our mission, our teaching and how we continue our day-to-day relationship with the institution,” said Dr. Ron Mitchelson, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Pirate Nation Gives Back is the pinnacle of this philosophy as we seek to serve others, giving of our time, sharing our special gifts and supporting ECU through charitable contributions.”

To learn more about Pirate Nation Gives Back or to donate to East Carolina University, visit



-by Nicole Wood, ECU Advancement


ECU’s Joyner Library offers books of the human genre

Joyner Library at East Carolina University will host its fourth annual Human Library event on Tuesday, March 28, to allow students and community visitors a chance to check out human beings for a 10-15 minute conversation. The event serves to open more dialogue on campus and for participants to learn more about people of all beliefs, walks of life, abilities and backgrounds.

(Photos by Brooke Tolar)

(Photos by Brooke Tolar)

The preselected human books will be volunteers from diverse backgrounds with interesting life stories to share. From 1-4 p.m. in the Janice Hardison Faulkner Gallery, located on the library’s second floor, attendees can check out one of more than 30 human books based on their book titles and descriptions. They will have a conversation with that person including a chance to ask questions to clarify misconceptions and learn more about that topic.

At least two of this year’s human books will share their personal stories of living the life of a refugee.

“I feel like it is important for ECU students and people in the community to see the faces and speak directly to a few refugees,” said Katy Webb, Head of Research and Instructional Services for Joyner Library. “I believe they will hear the strength, resilience and hope from people who are often labeled and minimized.”

Webb brought the event to ECU in 2014 as part of her role on the university’s diversity committee with co-sponsorship from the Friends of Joyner Library.

Webb said the library’s diversity committee members contacted several organizations on campus, including the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Resource Office, many student organizations and a local synagogue for volunteers willing to share their stories.

All areas of diversity, defined by The Office for Equity and Diversity, will be represented at this year’s event. Human book titles offered this year include “A Tale of Two Moms,” “No Animal Products Included,” “Living Life as a Traveler” and more.

For more information about the event please contact Katy Webb at or (252) 328-0734.



-by Kelly Dilda, Joyner Library

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