Category Archives: Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences

Global Living-Learning Community broadens students’ cultural perspectives

Fall 2017 marked the official beginning of East Carolina University’s Global Living-Learning Community, consisting of a tight-knit group of seven first-year students from diverse backgrounds who live in the same residence hall on campus. The students’ interests range from anthropology, biology and health care to Hispanic studies and Japanese culture.

The Global LLC is a joint effort between the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, and ECU’s Division of Campus Living. Global LLC students take classes and workshops together, as well as participate in activities and events that highlight diverse cultural practices, worldviews and linguistic diversity.

Students stand with professor during crepe-making event

Global Living-Learning Community students Genesis Henderson, Maia Slonaker and Ella Dogbe-Tsogbe appear here with Dr. Nicolas Médevielle (left), teaching assistant professor of French, who led a crêpe-making event on campus Feb. 1, celebrating the French holiday, la Chandeleur. (Photos courtesy of Dr. Jennifer M. Valko and Dr. Larkin Murphy)

“Students live in an environment that supports academic achievement and are exposed to cultures and worldviews that will enhance their personal and professional development,” said Dr. Jennifer M. Valko, associate professor of Spanish and director of the Global LLC.

“One of the departmental goals for the Global LLC is to organize workshops, speakers and programs that will permit our majors and minors to mingle with Global LLC students,” Valko said. “The idea is to enhance their relationship within the department, encourage friendships between students who share interests and experiences and continue to help Global LLC students make a smooth transition into the university life at ECU.”

Emmanuella “Ella” Dogbe-Tsogbe, a Global LLC student whose family is from Togo, West Africa, said the Global LLC offers many important benefits.

“The Global LLC is a community for students to be close together,” said Dogbe-Tsogbe.

Students in the Global LLC are not necessarily international students. Many are from the United States and are interested in the world around them, while some students’ families, like Dogbe-Tsogbe’s, are from different parts of the world. Other students’ families are from Korea and Costa Rica.

“We get to interact with each other and share our cultures,” said Dogbe-Tsogbe.

On Feb. 1, the group had the opportunity to learn a bit about the French culture at an event that included a discussion about the history and significance of the French festival, la Chandeleur, with active crêpe-making stations. Hosted by the French studies program in Harriot College’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, the event was one of several this spring that are open to all majors at ECU.

“I liked that we were all interacting with each other, not just people from the Global LLC, but also from French classes and other LLCs,” said Dogbe-Tsogbe. “And it was great to make crêpes.”

Dr. Nicholas Médevielle (left) discusses the significance and history of the French holiday, la Chandeleur

Dr. Nicholas Médevielle (left) discusses the significance and history of the French holiday, la Chandeleur, with a group of students before assisting them at a crêpe-making station.

Dr. Nicolas Médevielle, teaching assistant professor of French, who led the event, said, “One of the best ways to interact with students and introduce them to the culture is to prepare food for and with them, and crêpes is a simple enough dish for students to try.”

Médevielle is from the northwestern region of France known as Bretagne or Brittany, where crêpes are embraced as the regional dish.

“I love to show students how they are made, but also to give students some information about the background of this festival,” he said. “As language teachers, we not only want to teach the language but also present some aspects of the cultures and history of the countries associated with these languages.”

According to Médevielle, in contemporary France, la Chandeleur (the festival of candles) is largely seen as a secular festival – an occasion to make and eat crêpes in the middle of the winter, which happens around the time of Carnival and “Mardi Gras” (aka Fat Tuesday).

In reality, la Chandeleur is a very old tradition. It has been celebrated as a Catholic feast for more than 1,500 years, replacing two previously established pagan festivals. La Chandeleur takes place 40 days after Christmas, on Feb. 2, and is a celebration of the presentation of Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem.

Global Living-Learning Community students Genesis Henderson and Maia Slonaker make their own crêpes at the interactive academic and cultural event.

Global Living-Learning Community students Genesis Henderson and Maia Slonaker make their own crêpes at the interactive academic and cultural event.

At the beginning of the event, students learned the significance of the holiday. Then, they were able to view crêpes recipes and instructions in French and English and could sample crêpes made by faculty at two crêpe stations, or work at an interactive station where students were taught how to make their own crêpes.

Global LLC students also participate in a number of academic events that assist them with their transition into university life.

During their first semester at ECU, students in the Global LLC took the “Introduction to Global Studies” course together, taught by Médevielle and assistant professor of Russian studies Dr. Justin Wilmes. They participated in academic workshops on time management, learning styles, study skills and test-taking strategies; attended a business etiquette and networking dinner with an international focus; and engaged in a Skype discussion on the subject of happiness with university students at the Faculdade Max Planck in Indaiatuba, Brazil.

The students are exposed to a variety of support services around campus, including Joyner Library, the Pirate Academic Success Center, Office of Global Affairs, Global Academic Initiatives and Career Services. They interact with faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students from various academic units across ECU.

Michelle Giron Morales, a student in the Global LLC whose family is from Cali, Colombia, said the Global LLC has impacted her the most through the etiquette dinner, Pirate Academic Success Center workshops and the Skype conversation with students in Brazil.

“You can learn anything, from anyone, anywhere,” said Giron Morales.

She also said it is important that the Global LLC continue to emphasize cultural awareness.

“Employers are looking for someone who is willing to interact with people who are different than them,” Giron Morales said. “You learn a little bit more about yourself, too.”

This semester, the Global LLC will offer students the ability to participate in Salsa, Bachata and Merengue dance lessons at Crave Restaurant on Feb. 16, and attend a presentation about Jewish culture and Passover with a traditional Seder Dinner on April 7. A community service event also is in the planning process. For more information, visit


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

Revisiting a legacy: Dr. C.Q. Brown’s influence continues today

The Department of Geological Sciences in East Carolina University’s Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. However, one could say that the department’s foundation was cemented not in 1967, but 1965. In that year, Dr. Charles Q. Brown, a Clemson University professor at the time, kept hearing how ECC – East Carolina College – was the fastest growing college in the state. He was curious, paid a visit to the college and met some of the deans.

“I actually wrote them a response to my visit about the things they probably ought to do; some plans for the geology department,” Brown said. “We started a dialogue at that point.

“That brought me to East Carolina.”

In 1966, Brown joined ECU as a professor. In 1967, he formed the Department of Geological Sciences and became its first chairman.

Dr. C.Q. Brown

Dr. C.Q. Brown joined ECU as a professor in 1966. A year later, he founded the Department of Geological Sciences. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

The father of the department

A 2017 department newsletter states the following from geology department chairman Dr. Stephen Culver: “I cannot end without mention of our founding father, Dr. Charles Q. Brown, who planned, initiated and ran the department for the first four years (1967-1971). C.Q. returned from higher administration in 1979 and ran the department for another decade. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to C.Q. for his vision, his energy and his leadership.”

During a recent visit to ECU, Brown toured the department that he started. Day after day, students walk by the department’s glass cases that house fossils and minerals. Some are aware of Brown’s legacy with the department. Some are also aware of his other legacies that benefit those that walk the department’s hallways.

“It is absolutely unbelievable that it has grown so far (sic),” Brown said. “Fifty years seems like a long time, but that’s rapid growth. That is fantastic growth, and it’s to the credit of this faculty and administration.”

A legacy that endures

The late Elizabeth Brown Sledge

Dr. Brown endowed a scholarship for the College of Engineering and Technology to honor his late daughter, Elizabeth Brown Sledge.

In 2000, students, colleagues and alumni recognized Brown’s legacy by establishing the C.Q. Brown Scholarship. It recognizes and awards rising seniors who are studying in the department of geological sciences. Additionally, ECU’s Epsilon Phi Chapter of Sigma Gamma Epsilon raises money that goes toward this scholarship.

In December 2015, Brown established the Elizabeth Brown Sledge (EBS) Scholarship Endowment. This College of Engineering and Technology scholarship is in memory of his daughter, who received her degrees from ECU in 1984 and 1991. It will aid those technology systems students who are underrepresented and demonstrate a financial need, which represents Sledge’s championing of the underdog.

Brian Stanford is a recipient of the EBS Scholarship Endowment. His major is in information computer technology with a networking concentration. He graduates this spring, and said he appreciates the value these scholarships bring to students’ lives.

The late Barbara Brown

Dr. C.Q. Brown’s influence in the Department of Geological Sciences continues today thanks to a scholarship in his name and an endowment he made in memory of his late wife, Barbara. (submitted photo)

“I feel much respect for and am very grateful to Dr. C.Q. Brown and any contributors of the Elizabeth Brown Sledge Scholarship,” Stanford said. “They not only have provided me with financial help for my degree, but they also showed me that we have kind people in this world who do selfless things that can have a great impact on people’s lives.”

Dr. Harry Ploehn, College of Engineering and Technology dean, had the opportunity to meet Brown while he was on campus. During the meeting, Ploehn learned more about Sledge and Brown’s wishes for the scholarship.

“With the EBS Scholarship Endowment, we want to capitalize on Elizabeth’s passion for helping at-risk students, her passion for helping the underdog,” Ploehn said. “This scholarship helps students who are at risk of not being able to continue with their studies.”

While on campus, Brown talked about how important guest lecturers were during his education. In memory of his wife, who died in 1999, Brown established the C.Q. and Barbara Hedgepeth Brown Endowment.

“I already have a scholarship that the students are supporting in my name,” Brown said. “I wanted to memorialize her life also with something different. I thought having outstanding lecturers coming to the campus and to the department would be great.

“That’s the beauty of the endowment. It goes on and on.”


-by Michael Rudd, University Communications

ECU hosts 3-day symposium on central-eastern European politics

East Carolina University students and the local community recently had the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of foreign affairs and contribute to the international exchange of ideas and perceptions during a three-day symposium on central and eastern European politics.

The event, “Visegrad in the 21st Century,” sponsored by a grant from the International Visegrad Fund, was hosted Nov. 13-15 by the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Department of Political Science and the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Dr. Adam Eberhardt visited ECU through a grant awarded to professors in the THCAS Department of Political Science to increase student and public awareness about foreign affairs.<br /> (Contributed photos.)

Dr. Adam Eberhardt visited ECU through a grant awarded to professors in the THCAS Department of Political Science to increase student and public awareness about foreign affairs.
(Contributed photos.)

Two guest speakers from Poland and Czechia – two of the four central European states that make up the Visegrád group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), or Visegrád Four as they are also known – visited campus during the event.

The researchers presented on topics ranging from Polish-Russian relations and Russia’s foreign policy towards central-eastern Europe, to the Visegrád States in a broader context and the Czech people’s exile during the Cold War.

“Our overall goal was for ECU students to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and transformations the east-central European states have experienced in the last 25 years of democratic transitions, European Union and NATO membership, as well as these states’ changing foreign relations with Russia,” said Dr. Magda Giurcanu, teaching assistant professor of political science, who helped organize the event.

On Monday, Dr. Adam Eberhardt, director of the Center for Eastern Studies, a Polish think tank that undertakes independent research on the political, economic and social situation in central and eastern Europe, predominantly discussed Russia’s economy and foreign policy as well as Polish-Russian relations.

Eberhardt argued that Russia perceives the western European countries to be weak. However, Russia challenges the security of neighboring countries by asking for concessions without offering anything in return.

He also said there is little to no modernization because of the “law of the ruler,” and after 17 years in power, President Putin has no desire to tackle the challenges to the Russian state.

Dr. Martin Nekola visited ECU.

Dr. Martin Nekola visited ECU.

“Russia is not the Soviet Union of the Cold War,” said Eberhardt.

A roundtable discussion was held Tuesday afternoon with Eberhardt; ECU political science faculty Drs. Armin Krishnan and Giurcanu; and Dr. Martin Nekola, an independent scholar from Prague, whose research focuses on non-democratic regimes, the era of Communism, Czech communities abroad and the east-European, anti-communist exiles to the United States during the Cold War.

On Wednesday, Nekola gave a presentation on his research pertaining to the Czech migration, which began Feb. 20, 1948 and lasted until 1989. Many researchers disagree on the total number of Czech citizens who fled Czechia, but Nekola said 250,000 seems to be a realistic number. Many of the citizens traveled to refugee camps in Germany, Austria, Italy and France.

“The atmosphere was tense,” said Nekola, referring to the fear and frustration felt immediately following WWII.

As time passed, the people also began emigrating to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the United States. Nekola’s research has traced a number of Czechian descendants to cities in the U.S. that have strong Czech communities, including Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, New York, St. Louis, and possibly Charlotte and New Salem, North Carolina.

Closing out the three-day symposium, students in the course presented research posters on topics that were covered throughout the semester. Attendees voted on the two best posters. First place and a $100 award went to Josiah Thornton, India Peele and Dwayne Lewis Jr. for “The Transition of Central Europe: The Fate of Visegrad,” and the second place award of $50 went to Natalie Best, Kaitlyn Rose and Josh Ziegler for “Slovakia and Hungary’s Case brought to the European Court of Justice: Legality of the Challenge.”

Drs. Nekola, Giurcanu, Eberhardt and Krishnan

Drs. Nekola, Giurcanu, Eberhardt and Krishnan.

One more guest lecturer associated with the International Visegrad Fund grant will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, in Howell, room N107. The presentation will feature Dr. Bartosz Rydlinski of Poland.


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

Harriot College Collecting Items for Pitt County Angel Closet

Harriot College’s Staff Council is holding a donation drive for the Pitt County Angel Closet. Each department and the dean’s office has a box where contributions may be dropped off before Dec. 8. (contributed photo)

Harriot College’s Staff Council is holding a donation drive for the Pitt County Angel Closet. Each department and the dean’s office has a box where contributions may be dropped off before Dec. 8 (contributed photo)

In this season of thanks and giving, East Carolina University’s Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences is dedicated to helping the community’s youngest citizens. The THCAS Staff Council is hosting a donation drive, Nov. 13 – Dec. 8, with proceeds going to the Pitt County Angel Closet.

Each of the 16 departments in the college was given a box to decorate and place near their office, where individuals can donate new bibs, baby bottles, pacifiers, diapers, wipes, pull-ups, underwear, socks and winter clothes for children of all ages.

“We thought a donation drive would be a great way to get people involved with a local organization,” said Amelia Thompson, chair of the council’s planning subcommittee. “The Angel Closet was in need of several items, and we thought that we could really make a difference for them this year.”

The goal of the council is to collect 500 items for the organization.

Dr. William M. Downs, dean of Harriot College, is particularly drawn to helping children.

On Nov. 28, at the half-way point for donations, Downs and members of the staff council will walk around to the departments and collect the items donated up to that point. Then, they will deliver those items to the Pitt County Angel Closet, with the final collection and drop-off occuring on Dec. 8.


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

ECU administrator recognized by state and nation

Ellen Hilgoe, associate director of the N.C. Early Mathematics Placement Testing Program (N.C. EMPT) housed at East Carolina University, is receiving local and national attention for her work in preparing high school students for college-level mathematics courses.

“N.C. EMPT helps strengthen ECU’s mission to reach out and offer early intervention to not only the high school students in the eastern part of the state, but statewide and across state lines,” said Hilgoe.

•Ellen Hilgoe, pictured here with ECU Mathematics Chair Johannes Hattingh, is the 2017 recipient of the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics Innovator Award. (contributed photos.)

Ellen Hilgoe, pictured here with ECU Mathematics Chair Johannes Hattingh, is the 2017 recipient of the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics Innovator Award. (contributed photos.)

In October, Hilgoe received national recognition for the program, when she was selected to present a session on “N.C. Early Mathematics Placement Testing Program: A Looking Glass into College Math Readiness,” at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference held in Orlando, Florida.

Organizers of the conference mentioned in opening sessions that they received hundreds of applications to present.

•Hilgoe presented information about the N.C. EMPT Program during the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference in Orlando, Florida, in October.

Hilgoe presented information about the N.C. EMPT Program during the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference in Orlando, Florida, in October.

“I was so fortunate to be chosen,” said Hilgoe. “Spreading the word about N.C. EMPT in my presentation to mathematics educators from more than 10 southern states, as well as others across our nation, was an opportunity to share N.C. EMPT’s accomplishments, highlight ECU’s name, emphasize North Carolina’s dedication to mathematically preparing its youth for their futures and to proudly assert that N.C. EMPT is the largest EMPT program in the nation.”

Since the conference, Hilgoe also has received local acknowledgement and honors.

On Nov. 2, she was presented with the 2017 North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics Innovator Award. Hilgoe received the award at the council’s 47th annual conference celebration in Greensboro.

During the event, the council stated, “North Carolina mathematics education is fortunate to call this innovator one of our own.”

“It was wonderful to be recognized at the state level by the N.C. Council of Teachers of Mathematics,” said Hilgoe. “With more than three-quarters of a million students served, we continue to strive to provide each participant with a reality check of readiness for college-level math and the motivation to maintain strong math skills.”

The N.C. EMPT Program recently completed its 20th year of service to all North Carolina public and non-public high schools. For more information visit


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

ECU students to participate in National Model UN

Ten East Carolina University students are participating in the National Model United Nations competition in Washington, D.C. this Nov. 3-5. ECU’s Model UN Club attended two conferences last year in Atlanta and Charlotte, where the group won delegation awards, sparking their interest in attending this year’s national competition.

Flags of the United Nations  (contributed photo)

Flags of the United Nations (contributed photo)

ECU’s team of eight undergraduate and two graduate students from the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences will represent the country of Poland. Two students are assigned to one of five committees, where they debate issues amongst other teams representing various countries. The overall goal is to create feasible solutions to real-world issues.

“I am very excited for this conference,” said Haley Creef, ECU Model UN Club president and sophomore majoring in economics, finance and political science. “This conference will be made up of students from all over the country. So it will be extremely exciting to be around so many like-minded, yet diverse individuals.”

Dr. Marie Olson Lounsbery, associate professor of political science, is serving as the club’s faculty advisor.

“Students learn the process of negotiation and conflict resolution,” said Lounsbery. “They find the interaction with other students on these issues very valuable.”

Prior to attending the competition, the students are researching and writing about the issues, and learning ways to defend their positions.

“There are numerous ways in which these conferences are beneficial to those who attend,” said Braxton Smallwood, former club president who now serves as the club’s graduate assistant and will participate in the competition.

“It helps with your writing skills in that you are constantly writing things ranging from position papers to draft resolutions,” said Smallwood. “Secondly, it helps to build a better understanding of global politics, and helps to show how other political systems work outside of the United States.”

In addition to the events of the competition, the ECU students have been invited to visit Poland’s embassy during their stay in D.C.

The United Nations Flag (contributed photo)

The United Nations Flag (contributed photo)

“This will be a fantastic way to enhance the educational experience for our group, and it is an overall honor to have been invited,” said Creef.

During the competition, committees and issues to be addressed will include:

  • General Assembly, which will deal with the issues of cybersecurity/cyberwarfare, and small arms trafficking;
  • UN Environmental Assembly, dealing with protection of the environment in areas of armed conflict, and safeguarding the Oceans;
  • UN Conference on Trade and Development, which will examine minimizing the negative impacts of globalization, and the social responsibility of multinational corporations;
  • International Atomic Energy Agency, that will debate nuclear technology and water security, and improving the effectiveness of safeguards and verifications mechanisms; and
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, to address the needs of the internally displaced, and discuss improving housing and food security for urban refugees.

Dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Dr. William Downs believes participation in academic teams such as Model UN can be an invaluable enhancement of student learning.

“The research students pour into their preparations is considerable and it fosters understanding – even empathy – of the countries they represent. This kind of active learning, with simulations taking place in the heart of the nation’s capital, cannot be matched in a classroom,” said Downs. “Additionally, we’d like nothing more than for ECU’s delegation to outperform those from Brown University, Wake Forest, UC-Irvine, Syracuse and others attending this year’s D.C. competition. That would be quite a statement.”

Immersing an increasing number of ECU students in the world of Washington politics and policy is one of Harriot College’s goals, and National Model UN fits within that goal.

According to Downs, “We are in active discussions with friends and alumni in the D.C. area to build a semester program for ECU students, giving them structured opportunities to take courses and secure internships. Every chance we get to expand our presence in Washington is a positive step toward that aspiration.”

For additional information about the National Model UN conference, visit or contact Lounsbery at 252-328-2349 or To discuss support of the ECU/Washington D.C. connection, contact Jessica Nottingham, Harriot College director of alumni relations and outreach, at 252-737-1753 or


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communication 

Popular courses give students a way to examine various issues

Two courses at East Carolina University are giving students a way to examine and discuss diverse issues in a safe environment. Race, Gender, Class and the LGBT Identity, Society and Politics courses have increased in popularity since they were first established.

“I think ECU benefits from having courses like this. I know for me, institutions that have this type of coursework signal to the larger public, potential students and potential faculty that this is an institution that treats these issues seriously,” said Dr. Melinda Kane, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences associate professor of sociology, who developed and teaches the courses.

“For students that are interested, it really helps them learn correct information as opposed to something they get from a social media site or personal experience, which may not reflect a larger pattern,” said Kane.

Race, Gender, Class is a 1000-level course that was first offered in fall 2012. It has grown from one section per semester to three sections per semester and one in the summer, which fill to capacity with 88-90 students each. In addition to Kane, the course is now taught by three other sociology faculty; Drs. Lori Heald, Arunas Juska and Rebecca Powers.

“What is great about the class is it introduces students to sociology around topics that really interest them, and I’ve found there is always something current event-wise that you can tie to the class,” said Kane. “We focus on three key areas that sociologists study all the time, helping the students see what sociologists do and the timeliness of topics. I think the students find the material more engaging.”

One subject examined was how students raised in families of different class-levels may be affected when it comes to student success.

“This resonated with me, especially because I was raised in a middle-class family,” said Tyrone Dupree, who took the course last year as a sophomore. He said he lacked access to tutors and other material that would have made him a better student. “This makes me want to raise my future child to be better academically,” he said.

“What I enjoyed most about the class was learning the factors that can lead to inequality because of race, gender, etc. People need to take these courses to truly understand how inequality works, and then we can have discussions on how we can fix these issues,” said Dupree.

Kane also designed LGBT Identity, Society and Politics as a special topic in fall 2011. It became its own 3000-level course in fall 2014. Although the course currently is offered only every other year, it fills with 40 students, and was taught online for the first time this past summer.

“The thing I enjoyed most about this course was that it challenged the typical heteronormative approach to LGBT issues we typically see in courses,” said Janae Somerville, a senior who took the course over the summer. “We are living during a time where issues of gender identity, expression and sexuality are becoming as fluid as ever. This course challenged me to look past my preconceptions of LGBT community and learn and hear different opinions that might not match my own. Overall, this course was extremely eye opening and embodied every bit of diversity this institution claims to have.”

Initially, Kane said several students took the special topic because they were committed to making sure it succeeded and to demonstrate the need for such a class.

“They wanted the special topic to do really well, so they took it even if they didn’t need it for their degree plan. Now, you get all types of majors and people who take the class because they are interested, as opposed to seeing it as a political statement,” said Kane.

“I think these types of courses are important for ECU as a community because it teaches you to do more than just empathize,” said Somerville. “These types of courses give you knowledge on topics we as a society often tiptoe around. As the saying goes, ‘knowledge is power,’ and without it we cannot grow. Empathizing with minority groups has never been enough, and will never be enough, but courses like these allow you to use resources on this campus to make a change.”


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications 

Invasive species exhibit opens at N.C. Estuarium

East Carolina University biologist April Blakeslee and students in her lab have created a new exhibit on invasive species at the North Carolina Estuarium in Washington. The exhibit will be unveiled Thursday, Oct. 26 at 4:30 p.m.

ECU biologist April Blakeslee and art and design student Kayla Clark have created a display about invasive species at the N.C. Estuarium in Washington. The exhibit opens Thursday, Oct. 26. (contributed photos)

ECU biologist April Blakeslee and art and design student Kayla Clark have created a display about invasive species at the N.C. Estuarium in Washington. The exhibit opens Thursday, Oct. 26. (contributed photos)

Funded by N.C. Sea Grant with additional contributions from the N.C. Estuarium and ECU’s Department of Biology, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, and Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, the exhibit highlights Blakeslee’s research on zombie crabs — mud crabs infected with a parasite that takes over their reproductive systems — as well as notable invaders such as lionfish and hydrilla.

“We hope that visitors will come away with a better understanding about invasive species and will be fascinated by this host-parasite system and also the important role that parasites can have in ecosystems” said Blakeslee. “They will also learn more about how each person can make a difference in preventing the spread of invaders by not releasing unwanted pets; cleaning boats of attached algae, plants and animals; cleaning boots — essentially, the message that every person can make a difference in conservation-related efforts.”

ECU art and design graduate student Kayla Clark was instrumental in the design of the exhibit, Blakeslee said. “The exhibit is truly interdisciplinary, bringing art and science together for educating about an important conservation issue.”

The zombie crab parasite is a kind of barnacle, called Loxothylacus panopaei or Loxo for short, that is native to the Gulf of Mexico but is now being found along the east coast as far north as Long Island Sound. Blakeslee and her students dubbed the infected crabs zombie crabs because they continue living but are reproductively dead. The parasite also affects the crab’s behavior, causing it to protect the egg sac as if it were the crab’s own young. The protective behavior is found not only in female crabs, but also in males, which would not normally exhibit such tendencies.

By hijacking the mud crabs’ reproductive system, Blakeslee said the parasite could have a dramatic impact on the population. She and a team of researchers are monitoring mud crab populations in eastern North Carolina to assess and track the spread of the parasite.

The N.C. Estuarium is located at 223 E. Water St. in Washington. For more information visit


-by Jules Norwood, ECU News Services

Harriot College honors scholarship recipients, donors

East Carolina University continues to thank its generous donors for providing financial gifts to students. This academic year, 175 Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences students will receive nearly $215,000 in scholarship support from 331 donors.

The donors were formally thanked at the college’s second annual scholarship luncheon held Sept. 22 in the Murphy Center’s Harvey Hall. Nearly 225 scholarship recipients, donors and department faculty attended the event.

Keynote speaker Retired Colonel Thomas Shubert. (Photos by Rob Taylor)

Keynote speaker Retired Colonel Thomas Shubert. (Photos by Rob Taylor)

“I am very proud of everybody in this room here today,” said Dr. William M. Downs, dean of the THCAS. “You are indispensable to this great national university.”

Downs said that for many students, scholarship support “makes the basic core difference” between attending college or not attending college, and that scholarship support increases the likelihood of success and the timely completion of a degree.

Opening remarks were continued by ECU provost Ron Mitchelson, Alumni Association president Heath Bowman and THCAS director of alumni relations and outreach Jessica Nottingham.

“I am absolutely inspired by the choices donors make to support the success of ECU students,” said Mitchelson. “It really is a remarkable thing. You are at the heart of those dreams; students’ dreams…We are the place where student’s lives are transformed.”

Retired United States Air Force Colonel Thomas Shubert, ECU ROTC and Harriot College political science alumnus, presented this year’s keynote address.

He told the students that it is necessary in one’s life to take risks and chances, not to be afraid to fail, to continue on and make an impact by serving as a mentor for others.

“The world does not end if you don’t get straight As,” said Shubert. “You have to take risks. Learn from failure and you are still going to succeed.”

Seth Sutton, senior geological sciences major, hugging his scholarship donor C.Q. Brown. Brown

Seth Sutton, senior geological sciences major, hugging his scholarship donor C.Q. Brown. Brown

Following Shubert’s remarks, three Harriot College scholarship recipients formally thanked their donors and expressed their sincere gratitude for the opportunities provided them.

Seth Sutton, senior geological sciences major and recipient of the C.Q. Brown Scholarship, plans to continue his education through graduate school. He wants to become a professor of paleontology, studying dinosaur fossils.

“Professors in our department connect with their students,” said Sutton. He gave credit to a number of geological sciences faculty, including department chair Dr. Steve Culver.

“He gave me the confidence to continue on my path,” said Sutton. “The fact that the chair of our department took the time and effort to meet with me is pretty cool and astonishing.”

Sutton reiterated that it was an honor to receive the C.Q. Brown Scholarship. He said it eased his financial burden so that he did not have to work, giving him more time to focus on his academics.

Stephen Hart, junior political science major and criminal justice minor, is the recipient of the Col. Louis & Mrs. Trudy Gomes Award and the John F. Minges III Scholarship. He mentioned his scholarship awards also alleviate the financial burden of attending college, allowing him to focus on his studies with the intention of attending law school in the future.

He said he was “determined to go to college, no matter what.”

“I am grateful for this opportunity the Minges and the Gomes families have given me,” said Hart. “I will represent the donors and the Political Science Department to the best of my ability – with hard work and dedication – to further my academic success.”

Shainah Andrews, junior English major and recipient of the Jim & Pam Mullen THCAS Study Abroad Scholarship, thanked all the individuals involved in the day’s event.

THCAS donors Sadie Oates and Charles Saunders.

THCAS donors Sadie Oates and Charles Saunders.

Ever since the age of six, Andrews dreamed of being a pediatrician, until she studied abroad in London this July.

She said that being able to travel down some of the same streets as the authors she read as a child, allowed her “to become one with my favorite fictional characters.”

This three-week-long experience changed her mind about her future.

“Life has a funny way of taking us down many paths. Some which we plan, or envision, and others that we don’t,” said Andrews. “Never did it really cross my mind that I would be changing my minor from science to linguistics the summer before my junior year, completely abandoning the idea of becoming a doctor.”

“Truth be told, I’m a terrified person,” said Andrews “I’m terrified, but here’s the catch. I don’t let that fear debilitate me. I use it as fuel to do the things I yearn to.”

She thanked the Mullens, saying that because of them the “desires of her heart are in fact tangible.”

Concluding the event, Downs again congratulated all the students and thanked the donors for their support.

“It’s all about the students, and those are three great testimonials,” he said.


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

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