Category Archives: Innovations

Student startup helps veterans with transition to college

Matt McCall has been there. He knows what it’s like.

Now, with help from GreenvilleSEED@ECU, he’s working to help other veterans make the transition from the military to college.

McCall, who joined the Marines in 2007, deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and was honorably discharged in 2013, said he spent a lot of time in the tutoring lab after enrolling in Coastal Carolina Community College’s pre-engineering program.

“I had a lot of knowledge gaps, especially in math, chemistry and physics,” he said. “A tutor told me I could get some of the tutoring cost reimbursed through the G.I. Bill.”

With the tutoring help, his grades improved, and he began tutoring other vets who needed help.

“I also helped them file their reimbursement paperwork,” McCall said. “Word spread, and within a couple months I had five students, so I started looking for other veterans and veteran spouses at the school who wanted to be tutors.”

With help from GreenvilleSEED@ECU, Matt McCall (right) has started a company that helps veterans like Michael Kohn transition to college. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

With help from GreenvilleSEED@ECU, Matt McCall (right) has started a company that helps veterans like Michael Kohn transition to college. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Now enrolled in East Carolina University’s biomedical engineering program, McCall has started Beyond Tutoring, a company centered on veterans tutoring other vets. He enlisted the help of Katie Thomas, a fellow Marine and tutor.

“Since the tutors are veterans and spouses, they’re able to relate to the students’ struggles well, especially relocating, anxiety and feeling out of place,” he said. “Our common ground helps break down barriers to learning.”

Student Michael Kohn, an undergraduate business management student at ECU, said the difference in lifestyle coming from the military to college can present a challenge, and it can be intimidating working with other students who haven’t had the same experiences.

“You’re not used to the mentality, the way of thinking and working though problems, the homework,” he said. “So having someone who’s been through what I’m going through, telling me how to work through the system, was a big help.”

Kohn said McCall showed him how to organize papers and manage his time.

“Working in the Army, every day is the same thing,” he said. “Matt helped show me how I could take the discipline I learned in the Army and be disciplined in a new way, apply it to the new area.”

McCall joined GreenvilleSEED@ECU to get help refining his business plan and his pitch, and to learn how to scale up the business. GreenvilleSEED@ECU is a partnership between the City of Greenville, the Greenville-Pitt Chamber of Commerce and ECU providing flexible operating space, business expertise and other resources to entrepreneurs.

“As a student entrepreneur, he is juggling the demands of classwork and building a business,” said John Ciannamea of ECU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development. “Our staff has assisted Matthew with business introductions, vetting ideas and evaluating corporate development issues. His base platform is now well positioned for expansion in the market.”

Beyond Tutoring now has eight tutors and has assisted more than 60 students, 23 of whom are disabled veterans. McCall has also received assistance and advice from ECU’s Miller School of Entrepreneurship, the Office of Technology Transfer and the Pitt County Small Business and Technology Development Center.

McCall said his next goal is to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to streamline the reimbursement process. It can take months for a student to get reimbursement for the cost of tutoring. One possibility is to create an online form to speed up the process.

“If we can figure out how to get them their money back in a few days instead of five months,” he said, “they’d be more free to get the help they need. … We’ve already gone through the tough parts of transitioning into college, and we can help our students navigate the education system and get the most out of the benefits they earned.

For more information visit


-by Jules Norwood


The University’s College of Engineering and Technology and the College’s Center for Sustainability will hold its first Sustainability Symposium Feb. 20, 2017. The event’s goal is to discuss ways sustainability can be integrated into research and industry practices,

Dr. Tarek Abdel-Salam, event organizer and associate dean of research and graduate studies for the College of Engineering and Technology. (Contributed photo)

Dr. Tarek Abdel-Salam, event organizer and associate dean of research and graduate studies for the College of Engineering and Technology. (contributed photo)

especially those that will benefit eastern North Carolina. It will also promote approaches that adopt and implement inclusive views of the key dimensions of sustainability: environmental, economic and social.

The symposium will be held at the University’s Murphy Center from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

“We want to present thought-provoking examples of sustainability ideas, analyses and practices that are available to our region’s farmers and agricultural organizations so they can maintain and grow their businesses and be good stewards of the environment, as

well,” said Dr. Tarek Abdel-Salam, event organizer and associate dean of research and graduate studies for the College of Engineering and Technology.

Pam Swingle of the Environmental Protection Agency will be the keynote speaker. She is the agency’s pollution prevention program manager for the Region 4 Office of Environmental Justice and Sustainability. She is responsible

Pam Swingle, Environmental Protection Agency’s pollution prevention program manager for the Region 4 Office of Environmental Justice and Sustainability. (contributed photo)

Pam Swingle, Environmental Protection Agency’s pollution prevention program manager for the Region 4 Office of Environmental Justice and Sustainability. (contributed photo)

for administering pollution prevention and sustainability programs and providing technical assistance within Region 4’s eight, southeastern states.

Symposium discussions will include:

  1. We know how to do this: Sustainability and Energy: Ged Moody, Appalachian State University, special assistant to the Chancellor for Sustainability
  2. What does food have to do with sustainability?: Rebecca Dunning, North Carolina State University, Department of Horticultural Science
  3. Strategies to protect water resources in agricultural watersheds: Mike Burchell, North Carolina State University, Biological and Agricultural Engineering
  4. The vulnerable food, energy, and water system in the Caribbean: Scott Curtis, East Carolina University, Geography
  5. Soil Conservation and Organic Farming: Kristi Hocutt, sales manager, Triple J Produce
  6. Organic Feasibility: Thomas Moore, food systems coordinator, Carolina Farm Stewards

The symposium will also include a student/faculty poster session, which will cover all areas of sustainability-related research including tourism, water, energy, agriculture and buildings.

This event is supported by the Pitt County Development Commission, College of Engineering and Technology, the Center for Innovation in Technology and Engineering Outreach (CITE), and Phi Kappa Phi.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

The registration fee is $35 per person.

To register for the event visit: or call (252) 328-9198



-by Michael Rudd, College of Engineering & Technology

Innovators Academy expands to Edgecombe County

Teaching assistant Amy Schlosser works with student Mandi Bass to develop a product for the Innovators Academy. (Contributed photo)


East Carolina University took a popular on-campus summer program on the road this summer. The Middle School Innovators Academy, which teaches innovation and creative thinking through design, debuted at West Edgecombe Elementary in Edgecombe County June 25 through July 9.

Eight students attended the two-week academy, where they learned practical sketching techniques, 2-D and 3-D digital imaging, model building, presentation, marketing and patent research. Supported by faculty and students in ECU’s School of Art and Design and NCSU’s College of the Design, academy participants developed ideas for innovative patent-worthy products.

Dr. J. Ted Morris, associate vice chancellor of the Office of Engagement, Innovation and Economic Development at ECU, said the expansion into a neighboring school district was aimed at introducing “a culture of creativity and entrepreneurship” to the county with an ultimate goal of boosting the economy.

“It was a positive experience for the faculty and teaching assistants working with the talented middle school students of Edgecombe County,” said Wayne Godwin, co-director of the academy.

The academy is a collaboration between art and design programs at ECU and NCSU, ECU’s Innovation Design Lab, and Pitt and Wake County public schools. The North Carolina Upper Coastal Plains Learning Council coordinated the Edgecombe County public schools connection with the academy.

The award-winning academy took first place last year at the University Economic Development Association’s 2011 Awards for Excellence national competition, acknowledging excellence in talent development. For additional information about the academy, or ECU’s Office of Engagement, Innovation and Economic Development, contact Dee D. Harper at or visit

Virtual Classes

School of Communication instructor Charles Twardy finds that Centra software helps him connect with his distance education students. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Centra Software Enables Virtual Classes in Comfort

Announcements of cancelled classes due to wintry weather might some day give way to a much more positive message, perhaps one that reads, “Pajamas Permitted: Faculty and students may attend classes today from home.”

The technology to support this scenario is already in place and popular with thousands of East Carolina University faculty and students.

Saba Centra, ECU’s Web conferencing software, allows ECU faculty to present a live virtual class from any location with an Internet connection and a web browser. From their homes, apartments or residence halls, students may log in and attend.

John Southworth, ECU Centra administrator, said approximately 8,000 people are actively using Centra on campus. In addition to online class meetings, the software is used at ECU for project presentations, office hours, guest lecturers, faculty meetings, streamed online recordings, software demonstrations, student meetings, international exchanges, conference sessions, research collaboration, dissertation defense and hybrid courses, he said.

ECU began using Centra on a limited basis in August 2003, and the program was released campus wide in January 2006, Southworth said. He estimated that as many as 20,000 users have used the program since its release.

The software integrates audio and chat, and allows users to load PowerPoint, mp3, images and video files. Faculty users may share with students any applications running on their own computer, such as Web browsers, Blackboard, Word or Excel.

The program provides features that imitate a face-to-face classroom. Students raise their hands to ask a question; the instructor transfers microphone access, allowing the student to speak. Laugh and applause buttons add a touch of reality as well.

Communications instructor Charles Twardy uses Centra to add a dose of energy and reality to his distance education classes.

“I try to engage students by being enthusiastic about what I am teaching, by using examples drawn from what I perceive to be their interests,” Twardy said. “In teaching online, I find it harder to be lively.” Centra’s features allow more interaction with distance education students, he said.

Twardy encourages students to nurture their curiosity and “take the time to stay informed about the world.” He said he provokes students to “think about why things are the way they are.”

Technology like Centra helps him implement this teaching philosophy with all students, not just those who attend classes face to face, he said.

Twardy shows his students images on his computer as part of an online class meeting using Centra software.

“We have to find ways to make the online environment more like the classroom – livelier and more interactive,” he said. His greatest satisfaction from teaching is when students “get it” and “in seeing that I have reached some of them and inspired them,” Twardy said. Centra helps him do that.

One of Twardy’s online students, Robin Daigle, said the software improved the course delivery. “This technology improves the rapport students have with the instructor,” she said.

Student Brittany Fish said that live teaching technology in online classes makes “a world of difference” to online students. “I think that every distance education course will one day be required to have live lectures,” she said.

More access to live lectures in all ECU classes might mean fewer missed classes due to weather conditions. And a bit more pajama time.

Contributions by Kimberly Hayes, undergraduate in the ECU School of Communication.

For additional information about Centra, visit Training and support is available.

Responses to a Centra Survey

•       After using it for one semester, I think that any online professor should use it or a tool similar to it. It is simply that good.

•       I very much enjoyed Centra, versus the old way of having the instructor email presentations for us to look at on our own. It was nice to actually hear a presentation the way the presenters wanted it to be heard.

•       I really enjoyed the opportunity for office hours using the Centra chat. I felt like an on campus student with the opportunity to talk with my professor. Great tool!!

•       This course was challenging for me, but using Centra helped me a great deal. The real-time discussions brought a deeper level of understanding which was very helpful for me.

Pass Clinic

PASS Clinic Provides Low Cost Services

East Carolina University has opened a psychological training and clinic facility providing low cost treatments in cognitive behavioral psychotherapy, healthy weight management, smoking cessation and women’s health.

The new ECU Psychological Assessment and Specialty Services Clinic, directed by Tony Cellucci, will treat patients while at the same time training doctoral students under the supervision of licensed psychologists.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a treatment approach that helps patients manage issues with drugs and alcohol as well as dealing with emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Healthy weight services for all ages provide a focus on small lifestyle changes, while addressing thoughts, behaviors and emotional factors related to weight gain. Smoking cessation helps patients reduce or stop the use of tobacco and nicotene. Both the healthy weight services and smoking cessation services are NCFLEX approved.

Women’s health services provide therapy related to stress or mental health issues, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorders, or difficulty with relationships, fertility or chronic pain.

The clinic is in Room 311, Rawl Building on the ECU campus. For additional information about the clinic, contact the clinic office at (252) 737-4180.

Emerging Technology

ECU hospitality management student Erin Carson, left, checks out an Apple iPad from Pam Evans, head of service – circulation for ECU’s Joyner Library, as part of the library’s pilot program that allows patrons to test drive new technology. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Patrons queue up for new technology at Joyner Library

Response was immediate.

East Carolina University faculty, staff and students quickly snatched up 10 Apple iPads offered for checkout in a Jan. 31 e-mail announcement from Joyner Library. All available devices left the building within two hours; 30 people joined a waiting list.

A similar reaction greeted the library’s pre-Christmas offering of the e-readers Kindle and Nook.

The offers were made as part of a Joyner Library pilot program designed to provide both access and opportunity for patrons to test drive emerging technologies. Kindles and Nooks may be checked out for two weeks, while the iPad loan period is three days.

“Providing these devices to our users to gauge their use and acceptance is an important part of our ongoing efforts to meet the changing information access needs of our users,” said Larry Boyer, dean of Academic Library and Learning Resources.

Boyer said that publishing and information delivery industries have undergone drastic changes in the past decade, with even more rapid changes to come. “E-books and e-book readers will be an important part of that story,” he said.

During the 2010 holiday season, e-book downloads outstripped the sale of hardback bestsellers, Boyer said. A Kindle user himself, Boyer gave his wife and two daughters each a Kindle for Christmas. They were a “big, big hit,” he said, “although all of us continue to love and appreciate the printed book.”

While many readers have checked out a Kindle or Nook to investigate them prior to making a purchase, many faculty members are reserving the iPads with specific plans for academic use, said Pam Evans, head of service for Circulation at Joyner Library. “iPad technology has entered the classroom, with professors using the electronic devices for instruction,” she said.

The library has 10 iPads, six Kindles and six Nooks for checkout, and requests for the devices have been so overwhelming that circulation staff are reviewing alternative booking methods just to keep up, Evans said.

Users returning the devices have completed a survey about their experience, submitting comments such as “This gave me the opportunity to explore before buying”; “I used it at a conference. It was small and easy to pack”; and “I liked the iPad so much, I just bought one.”

College of Education professor Beth Fine checked out four iPads to use in a face-to-face course in educational technology as part of a discussion on incorporating emerging technologies to enhance the curriculum and improve teacher productivity.

Many of her students had never used iPads before and were excited to have the opportunity for some hands-on exploration. The library’s program is “an amazing idea,” she said.

“The power of this new technology with teacher education students is something that can be understood only when it is used,” Fine said. “Providing opportunities for new teachers and teachers in training to interact with emerging technologies is a key idea that we, as a university, can focus on in our attempt to provide them with a rich and diverse experience prior to their field experiences.”

Faculty, staff and students may also take a look at the electronic devices during an e-Book/e-Reader Education Exposition March 22, sponsored by Emerging Academic Initiatives, Joyner and Laupus libraries. The exposition will be held from 10 a.m. to noon in the Mendenhall Student Center Great Room and from 2 to 4 pm. in the College of Nursing and College of Allied Health lobbies.

For additional information, contact the Joyner Library circulation desk at (252) 328-6518.


A list of books pre-installed on the e-readers is available at Pre-loaded applications on the iPad are listed at[HTML3]

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