Category Archives: Research

ECU kicks off Research and Creative Achievement Week

A line of posters, students and judges in Mendenhall Student Center kicked off East Carolina University’s 2018 Research and Creative Achievement Week on March 26.

The 12th annual event features more than 440 research posters and presentations, giving undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students an opportunity to share their work with their peers and mentors.

Student Andra Glover (left) discusses her research poster with judges at the 2018 Research and Creative Achievement Week. The event began Monday at Mendenhall Student Center and runs through April 2. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Student Andra Glover (left) discusses her research poster with judges at the 2018 Research and Creative Achievement Week. The event began Monday at Mendenhall Student Center and runs through April 2. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

RCAW allows students from all disciplines – from biomedical sciences to visual arts and design – to practice their presentation skills and interact with other creative scholars on campus. Judges, made up of ECU faculty, staff and graduate students, provide a balanced evaluation of the students’ work, grading them on subject knowledge, effective medium use, clarity and question response, and originality and creativity. Awards are presented at the end of the week to both poster and oral presenters.

Left to right, guest panelists Bridget Todd, Allison Mathews and Suzanne Lazorick discuss how they have used research and creative achievement to change the world at RCAW’s opening session and discussion panel. (Photo by Matt Smith)

Left to right, guest panelists Bridget Todd, Allison Mathews and Suzanne Lazorick discuss how they have used research and creative achievement to change the world at RCAW’s opening session and discussion panel. (Photos by Matt Smith)

For the first time, RCAW held an opening session and panel discussion. The event featured digital strategist Bridget Todd, MATCH Wellness co-director Suzanne Lazorick and 2BeatHIV director and Community Expert Solutions CEO Allison Mathews. The trio hosted the panel “Run with New Ideas: Using Research and Creative Achievement to Effect Real World Change.” Todd, Lazorick and Mathews discussed their work with underserved communities – including women, children and minorities – and took questions from the crowd.

Katina Hilliard, a graduate student in the College of Health and Human Performance, said she wanted to go through the learning experience of presenting her research to others. Hilliard and her co-researcher’s study focused on the relationship between staff practices in an after-school service program and school connectedness.

“Presenting at RCAW gives you a lot of practice in public speaking,” Hilliard said. “Presenting your research to others is a big part of the research process and this gives you an opportunity to share in a safe setting. In the future when I present at conferences, I’ll be able to use this experience to guide me.

Research posters line the halls of Mendenhall Student Center for the opening of RCAW.

Research posters line the halls of Mendenhall Student Center for the opening of RCAW.

“Every one of the judges and students that come through RCAW are here to help you,” she said. “They’re not here to criticize or put your work down; they’re here to build you up and make your work better.”

RCAW Chairman and Associate Dean of Graduate Studies Tom McConnell agreed with Hilliard, emphasizing the importance of students dipping their research toes into public speaking.

“RCAW is all centered around our students,” McConnell said. “We want to give them a number of learning opportunities. These presentations are often the first presentations ECU students give and they gain valuable communication skills in the process. They also learn how to work with teammates and mentors – important skills to master if they plan to continue their research initiatives in the future.”

RCAW will run until April 2. More information is at https://blog.ecu.edu/sites/rcaw/.

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

New USDA report provides trend data analysis about U.S. biobased economy

The United States Department of Agriculture today released its first-of-its-kind report that documents indicators of the United States’ biobased economy.

The biobased economy refers to all economic activity derived from scientific and research action focused on understanding how things work at a genetic and molecular level. These activities are then applied to processes to improve products and technologies in sectors including health, energy and agriculture.

The new report – “Indicators of the U.S. Biobased Economy” – includes an analysis of trends in the biobased economy from 2011-16, including trends in agriculture, renewable chemicals, biobased products, energy and government policy.

A report released today by the United States Department of Agriculture, written by researchers at East Carolina University and NC State University, details indicators of the nation’s biobased economy. IECU Photo by Cliff Hollis)

A report released today by the United States Department of Agriculture, written by researchers at East Carolina University and NC State University, details indicators of the nation’s biobased economy. (ECU Photo by Cliff Hollis)

According to the report, the renewable chemicals and biobased product sectors contributed 4.2 million jobs to the American economy in 2014, with a value-added contribution totaling $393 billion. Under the USDA BioPreferred Program, which facilitates the development and expansion of markets for biobased products, the number of renewable chemicals and biobased products that are USDA-certified has rapidly increased from 1,800 in 2014 to 2,900 in 2016.

The report also found that the biobased economy is playing an increasingly important role in the U.S. economy. For example, it found that ethanol production in the United States surpassed 14.7 billion in 2015, accounting for 270,000 jobs. Additionally, the production of biodiesel has risen 367 percent from 2010, now accounting for 1.26 billion gallons. Soybeans, which are used in the production of biodiesel, have also seen a rise in production, more than quadrupling from 670 million pounds grown to 4.1 billion pounds from 2005-12.

Golden (ECU Photo by Rhett Butler)

Golden (ECU Photo by Rhett Butler)

Commissioned by the USDA under contract from the Office of the Chief Economist, the report is a joint publication of the Energy and Natural Resource Research Cluster at East Carolina University and the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC) at the North Carolina State University Poole College of Management. It was co-authored by Jay Golden, professor in the Department of Engineering and vice chancellor of research, economic development and engagement at ECU, and Robert Handfield, Bank of America University Distinguished Professor and SCRC director at NC State University. A second volume of this report is already in development.

“I applaud the Department of Agriculture for commissioning this important work,” Golden said. “Globally, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization and many countries are developing metrics to track the rapid growth being witnessed in biobased chemicals, energy and products. More than any other nation, the United States has an incredible opportunity to revitalize manufacturing via biobased products and chemicals, especially in rural regions of our country. This report will serve as a platform for policy makers and entrepreneurs to identify where we need to make investments and opportunities for new businesses.”

As part of the project, a new web-based tool that pulls together big data and analytics of the biobased economy will be hosted by ECU and will be available this spring. The tool will host visualized data for agriculture, energy and bioproduct indicators, with individual data analysis for categories in each grouping.

Hanfield (Contributed photo)

Handfield (Contributed photo)

“This is the first initiative to combine multiple indicators of the biobased economy from multiple sources into a single unified dashboard,” Handfield said. “More than ever, the United States needs to invest in biobased innovation and create metrics that span interdependent and complex value chains across a wide range of products and sectors. For the first time, public and private actors can monitor the progress towards these goals in an integrated fashion.”

Golden and Handfield previously co-authored the inaugural “Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry” report, published in 2015. That report is currently being updated for release later this year.

ECU and NC State are working together to develop a strong biobased products and renewable chemicals industrial base in eastern North Carolina. ECU, led by Chancellor Cecil Staton, has made a commitment to supporting biobased production and manufacturing through its Rural Prosperity Initiative. The initiative is an unprecedented effort by ECU to grow its research enterprise while targeting its research to have the greatest positive impact on health, education and economic outcomes in eastern North Carolina.

Janire Pascual-Gonzalez, a postdoctoral scholar in the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement at ECU, has provided technical assistance with this report.

Additional research support was provided by Duke University graduate students Ben Agsten, Taylor Brennan, Lina Khan and Emily True, in Durham.

 

-by Matt Smith, ECU University Communications, and Anna Rzewnicki, NC State

Bus tour focuses on research

East Carolina University faculty and staff returned home March 6 after traveling more than 400 miles across 14 North Carolina counties as part of the inaugural Purple and Golden Bus Tour.

The tour, hosted by the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, took 42 participants to 13 stops over two days.

oParticipants of East Carolina University’s Purple and Golden Bus Tour visited 14 North Carolina counties over two days, including stops at the Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Elizabeth City State University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute.

Participants of East Carolina University’s Purple and Golden Bus Tour visited 14 North Carolina counties over two days, including stops at the Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Elizabeth City State University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute. (Photos by Paige Middleton/REDE Visual Arts Specialist)

“The tour was designed to introduce ECU faculty with identified research plans to the culture, geography, heritage, economy and assets of eastern North Carolina,” said Jay Golden, vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement. “This program is designed to encourage partnerships and research that can have long-

term benefits for the people and communities of eastern North Carolina. Already, the faculty participants have started to create new projects and collaborations – and we expect that will continue.”

The tour ties into ECU’s Rural Prosperity Initiative by creating connections between researchers and regional partners that can affect health, economic development and health disparities in eastern North Carolina. Additionally, participants met with five university-wide research cluster co-directors who were members of the tour.

Mike Lubbock (center), executive director of the Sylvan Heights Bird Park, shares research opportunities with ECU faculty members.

Mike Lubbock (center), executive director of the Sylvan Heights Bird Park, shares research opportunities with ECU faculty members.

Faculty members connected with experts and representatives from various agencies, including Sylvan Heights Bird Park, the Roanoke Cashie River Center, Elizabeth City State University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute. Participants also interacted with town officials from Bethel, Princeville, Windsor and Kinston during the tour.

First-day tour stops included the CHE Community Food Hub in Bethel; a windshield tour of Edgecombe, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford, Chowan, Perquimans and Pasquotank counties; the Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck; the Roanoke Cashie River Center in Windsor; Elizabeth City State University; and the ECU School of Dental Medicine’s Elizabeth City Community Service Learning Center. Second-day tour stops included the UNC Coastal Studies Institute; the Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge; the Kinston Arts District; and windshield tours of Beaufort, Craven and Lenoir counties.

Tour impact

ECU professor and Theatre for Youth/Theatre Education Coordinator Patricia Clark said the tour provided “valuable connections” that will help her align her research with areas of need in eastern North Carolina.

oECU faculty members visited the Coalition for Healthier Eating Food Hub in Bethel, N.C., as part of the Purple and Golden Bus Tour. The CHE Food Hub is a nonprofit organization that works to connect local, sustainable growers with consumers.

ECU faculty members visited the Coalition for Healthier Eating Food Hub in Bethel, N.C., as part of the Purple and Golden Bus Tour. The CHE Food Hub is a nonprofit organization that works to connect local, sustainable growers with consumers.

“I had the opportunity to discuss STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education ideas for K-2 learning, including incorporating theatre and creative dramatics techniques to teach science,” Clark said.  “This idea developed over a lunch conversation at Lake Mattamuskeet with Hyde and Tyrrell County Extension Director Natalie Wayne. She expressed a need for students to have hands-on science education activities.

“We also talked about offering teacher development programs during the regular school year,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how other researchers and myself might work together to combine theatre arts and the sciences in early learning.”

Dan Dickerson, associate professor and STEAM cluster co-director, said the trip provided an opportunity to shape the goals of the research cluster he oversees.

“The bus tour certainly helped me continue to broaden my network throughout the east by providing an opportunity to listen to, speak with and problem solve with locals who are actively pursuing sustained rural prosperity for their communities,” Dickerson said. “I also learned a lot during conversations from my ECU colleagues while on the bus. Shawn Moore, STEM Center Director and STEAM cluster co-director, and I were able to gather significant input regarding cluster direction and opportunities and are appreciative of their insights.”

REDE plans to host additional bus tours, providing future opportunities for unique collaborations between researchers.

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

ECU, RTI International explore partnership

East Carolina University and RTI International are exploring opportunities to jointly combat health, economic and educational disparities in eastern North Carolina.

As part of ECU’s Rural Prosperity Initiative announced by Chancellor Cecil Staton in 2017, the university has challenged itself to become a national model of how a major research university can lead regional transformation and create a new generation of technologies, micro-businesses and innovative solutions.

By developing a partnership with RTI, an independent, globally-engaged nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition, ECU can better serve the needs of rural residents in eastern North Carolina. RTI delivers reliable data thorough analysis, innovative methods, novel technologies and sustainable programs that help partners, like ECU, inform public policy and ground practice in evidence.

“ECU is excited to develop this important partnership,” said Dr. Jay Golden, vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement at ECU. “RTI is an internationally recognized leader for developing and implementing impactful research programs. Its long history of collaborating with research universities and institutions like ECU will allow our faculty and students to benefit from those experiences and be able to extend our research and engagement capabilities both in North Carolina and around the globe.”

Last fall, ECU launched seven research clusters, with an eighth planned later this year. Research clusters are part of a formal university strategy to connect interdisciplinary faculty and researchers who might not have met through traditional means. With the clusters, faculty from across ECU can establish partnerships and combine their talents to advance the Rural Prosperity Initiative.

Representatives from RTI met with ECU research cluster co-directors Feb. 21 to discuss collaboration opportunities such as having RTI staff on external advisory boards; offering lectures between ECU and RTI research leaders; creating student internship and mentorship opportunities; and establishing partnerships with ECU faculty members and RTI on research projects.

“By joining forces with ECU, we have the opportunity to further alleviate health, economic and educational disparities in our community,” said Jacqueline Olich, senior director of University Collaborations at RTI.

The company has a long record of working with research universities, institutions, faculty, scholars, staff and students to advance scientific scholarship. In 2014, the RTI University Scholars Program was launched, bringing academic researchers from the 16 University of North Carolina campuses and Duke University to work alongside RTI’s scientists and researchers.

“Our missions are similar in that we are focused on improving the human condition,” Golden said. “Our new university-wide research clusters align with RTI’s priority practice areas of human health; energy and environmental sciences; education and workforce development; food security and agriculture; and innovation ecosystems.”

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

Could a poll boost ECU’s national reputation?

The next presidential election may be two years away, but East Carolina University’s Center for Survey Research has its focus set on Nov. 3, 2020.

•Peter Francia is the new director of ECU’s Center for Survey Research.

Peter Francia is the new director of ECU’s Center for Survey Research. (Contributed photo)

By then, Director Peter Francia hopes to have established a university polling center capable of accurately predicting the voting margins.

If successful, the university could join other polling powerhouses like Quinnipiac University, Monmouth University and Marist College, who regularly find themselves in the national spotlight come campaign season – an otherwise rare occurrence.

“They have a national reputation because of the polling they do. Why not ECU?” Francia said.

Becoming well-known for political polling extends beyond simple name recognition. The president of Monmouth University has estimated the value of free media exposure to be close to $1 billion. When John Lahey started Quinnipiac’s poll in the late ’80s, the school was a small commuter college with fewer than 2,000 students. A coordinated effort to build a polling facility helped turn it into a nationally known university with more than 10,000 students today.

“If you were to follow our admissions and our growth, you could follow the poll,” Lahey told Politico last year.

ECU plans to set up its poll beginning with a call center that will be built with the help of a $100,000 donation from alumni Wayne and Sherry Holloman. The Hollomans have annually supported a political science scholarship, Honors College student programming and the Voyages of Discovery lecture series.

Wayne and Sherry Holloman donated $100,000 to the Center for Survey Research to establish an ECU polling center.

Wayne and Sherry Holloman donated $100,000 to the Center for Survey Research to establish an ECU polling center. (Contributed photos)

“Imagine learning the results of the election and hearing people say, ‘ECU was dead on it,’” Wayne Holloman said. “It could be big.”

Housed in the Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, the Center for Survey Research currently assists the university as well as private clients and public agencies in public opinion and community assessment research. That includes survey design, questionnaire development, data collection and focus group research.

“We’ve seen across the country that university-based opinion polls can capture the pulse of the electorate and catapult their institutions to prominence,” said Dr. William Downs, Dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. “Wayne and Sherry Holloman are great friends of ECU and of the Arts and Sciences, and their generous investment in our Center for Survey Research will ensure that Pirate polling has a successful launch and an impactful future.”

Francia, who is also a political science professor, said a polling center makes sense at ECU because North Carolina is an exciting state to be in politically.

“On the presidential map, North Carolina is not a red state or a blue state. It is a purple state. There is also a history of very competitive statewide contests for governor and for the U.S. Senate,” he said. “Moreover, partisan control of the U.S. Senate could potentially hinge on a single seat in 2020. If so, North Carolina’s U.S. Senate election will have national implications.”

The ECU Poll will involve students by giving them opportunities to work in the call center, develop questionnaires and conduct data analysis. Francia said he hopes the polling center can be worked into the political science curriculum so more students can learn how polling and random sampling works.

In addition to political polling, the university would be capable of polling on other topics that affect the area, like opioid use and immigrant labor.

“Expanding services and missions is important,” Holloman said. “That’s what this is. Making ECU a part of the community, the state and the nation.”

 

-by Erin Shaw, University Communications

Research clusters share goals

Directors of East Carolina University’s university-wide research clusters shared their goals and expected outcomes Feb. 21 at Eastern AHEC.

The research groups are intended to enlist faculty and researchers from across the university to work on common interest areas.

Representatives from all seven clusters met to share their short and long-term goals with each other and associate deans of research. The meeting allowed directors to pinpoint research areas each cluster was interested in pursuing, while combining resources with other groups.

Dr. Brandon Morrison, director of strategic initiatives for the division of research, economic development and engagement, said the unique challenges eastern North Carolina faces require an innovative problem-solving approach.

“Innovation seldom originates from isolation,” Morrison said. “By bringing together a network of faculty and researchers with diverse backgrounds and interests, this meeting was the first step in fostering collaboration across clusters and academic disciplines, with the goal of catalyzing joint research projects in the future.”

Cluster goals

Big data and analytics cluster directors Leonard Annetta and Huigang Liang said their near-term priorities included research into bioproducts and bioenergy, health sciences, machine learning and innovative visualization. The cluster intends to house and analyze data that supports rural-based companies in conjunction with ECU’s recently announced partnership with analytics leader SAS.

Burrell Montz and Alex Manda, directors of the energy and natural resources cluster, are focusing their research priorities on biogas and off-shore energy, including wave and wind-powered energy. Faculty will also investigate water quality in eastern North Carolina, surface and groundwater management, wastewater management and storm water management.

ECU’s health behavior cluster will align its goals with human health behaviors and how those behaviors create patterns that can be used to influence patients’ health decisions. Directors Sam Sears and Kim Larson said that their near-term focus is on adolescent risk behaviors, especially those that affect sexual risk, mental health and physical activity.

Reide Corbett (right) works with J.P. Walsh on a project at the Coastal Studies Institute. Corbett, one of two directors of East Carolina University’s marine and coastal research cluster, introduced the cluster’s goals to other directors at a presentation meeting on Feb. 21.

Reide Corbett (right) works with J.P. Walsh on a project at the Coastal Studies Institute. Corbett, one of two directors of East Carolina University’s marine and coastal research cluster, introduced the cluster’s goals to other directors at a presentation meeting on Feb. 21. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Marine and coastal cluster directors Reide Corbett and David Griffith believe their initial work will be placed in three broad areas – continental margin resources including non-renewable and renewable energy, cultural resources and biological resources; natural hazards including storms, saltwater intrusion and human vulnerability; and marine and coastal health including environmental and human health, health disparities and toxicology.

Mark Mannie, co-director of the human health and disease cluster along with Espen Spangenburg, said his group would focus on increasing understanding of acute and chronic disease in the region, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancers that affect rural residents. Long-term priorities include educating health care workers and patients about these diseases along with new therapies and treatments.

The precision medicine cluster, which focuses on tailoring medical treatment to individual patients, is led by Keith Kenne and David Collier. The group plans to determine how health care professionals can classify individuals into subgroups while providing optimal treatment options based on a patient’s susceptibility to a particular disease and their response to treatments.

STEAM directors Shawn Moore and Daniel Dickerson rounded out the presentations, offering three main areas of interest for their cluster. The group will focus their research efforts on teacher preparation and enhancement, college workforce readiness and public understanding of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) content. They plan to accomplish this by creating educational materials, using and introducing others to research-based innovative technologies and tools, and offering faculty engagement outreach opportunities.

The directors said that forming interdisciplinary relationships with faculty members whose research interests align with their goals is a top priority. Faculty members are encouraged to reach out to cluster co-directors for more information.

Last fall, ECU launched seven research clusters, with an eighth planned later this year. Research clusters are part of a formal university strategy to connect interdisciplinary faculty and researchers who might not have met through traditional means. With the clusters, faculty from across ECU can establish partnerships and combine their talents to advance Chancellor Cecil Staton’s Rural Prosperity Initiative and address pressing health, education and economic disparities.

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

ECU to host Live/Virtual Technology Showcase

East Carolina University will present a Live/Virtual Technology Showcase at the East Carolina Heart Institute on Friday, Feb. 23 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

ECU students and faculty can learn about ongoing federal research and existing intellectual property and interact with principal investigators representing more than 90 federal laboratories and more than 300 federal facilities from the Southeast and Midwest regions of the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC).

These federal labs include the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, NASA, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Agriculture and more, representing billions of dollars in funded research and opportunities for students in the areas of scholarships, internships, funded research, access to federal research and intellectual property, and mentorships with world-class researchers.

“Students and faculty will have the opportunity to interact live or virtually with these principal investigators,” said Joe Gaines, director of industry and economic development for ECU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development. “Also, we hope students and regional entrepreneurs can use this technology infusion to form teams for our i6 Regional Innovation Strategies grant starting next semester.”

Those teams will have the chance to pursue funded commercialization activity and be part of a U.S. Department of Commerce grant.

Held in collaboration with the FLC and sponsored by ECU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development, N.C. IDEA and the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, the showcase will include a panel discussion on small business technology transfer and innovation research funding opportunities. There will also be seminars on how to work with federal labs and grant opportunities, and student/faculty research, scholarship and internship opportunities at federal labs.

For event details and agenda, visit http://www.ecu.edu/oeied/techshowcase.cfm. Lunch will be provided. Admission is free; for tickets visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ecu-livevirtual-technology-showcase-tickets-41470574605?aff=ehomecard.

 

ECU internship opportunity prepares students for real world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New experiences

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

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

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

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

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

 

Not reading out of a textbook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

ECU faculty introduced to research cluster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications 

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