Graduate programs rated among nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report

ECU's graduate programs have been nationally recognized.

ECU’s graduate programs have been nationally recognized. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

East Carolina University’s graduate programs in education, medicine, nursing, public administration, physician assistant studies, rehabilitation counseling and social work are rated among the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report.

The new 2020 Best Graduate Schools were announced March 12.

ECU’s Brody School of Medicine was ranked 31st in primary care, up one spot from last year. Brody also ranked 13th in both family medicine and OB-GYN.

The College of Allied Health Sciences’ rehabilitation counseling program ranked 15th. The college’s physician assistant studies program ranked 64th.

Nursing ranked 83rd for its master’s degree program, and 67th for its doctor of nursing practice program. Both moved up in the rankings since last year.

Education was ranked 163rd. ECU’s master of public administration, listed under public affairs in the annual guide, ranked 165th. Social work ranked 137th, up from the previous year.

The ranking methodology varies by discipline but considers a variety of factors including peer assessment, acceptance rates, standardized test scores and grade point averages of incoming students, as well as faculty resources and funded research.

Also included in the listings are ECU graduate programs that were published in previous years but are not new rankings:

Audiology, 53rd; biology, 175th; clinical psychology, 143rd; fine arts, 104th; library science, 43rd; nursing-anesthesia, 29th; nursing-midwifery, 15th; occupational therapy, 88th; physical therapy, 46th; and speech-language pathology, 92nd.

For more information, visit


-by ECU News Services,, 252-328-6481

Research cluster co-director featured in The Washington Post

East Carolina University associate professor Alex Manda (right) conducts a direct current electrical resistivity survey on a farm in Hyde County as part of his research on saltwater intrusion in the region.

ECU associate professor Alex Manda (right) conducts a direct current electrical resistivity survey on a farm in Hyde County as part of his research on saltwater intrusion in the region. (Contributed by Diana Rashash)

A recent article in The Washington Post highlights research by an East Carolina University faculty member on the challenges facing farmland in eastern North Carolina.

Alex Manda, associate professor of geological sciences and co-director of the ECU Natural Resources and the Environment Research Cluster, is studying how saltwater intrusion negatively affects soil in the region.

Saltwater intrusion happens when salt water moves into freshwater sources, introducing saltwater to areas where a high salt content could be problematic. The article notes that a mixture of “rising seas, sinking earth and extreme weather are conspiring to cause salt from the ocean to contaminate aquifers and turn formerly fertile fields barren.”

Dawson Pugh, whose Hyde County farm is featured in the Post’s article, said that flooding and salinization on his property cost him $2 million in crops over the past five years. Now, Pugh is working with Manda to find a solution.

“Our research group is collaborating with scientists and agricultural agents from North Carolina State University to address a multifaceted problem that involves crop science, geology and hydrology,” Manda said.

Manda and his team are monitoring salt levels in soil, groundwater and surface water. Saltwater intrusion has been linked to sea level rise caused by climate change, but the article states that scientists aren’t sure how the salt winds up in fields like Pugh’s. There are a few hypotheses, including wind pushing salt water from the area’s canals and ditches into farmland or storm surge events dumping salty water on agricultural land.

Manda’s work is part of a concerted effort by ECU faculty members to put their research into practice. The university has sought to increase partnerships between researchers and the community, ensuring that the work being conducted by faculty members provides real-world benefits and applications for those in the region.

“This work is important because it highlights how ECU can engage with various stakeholders to tackle projects that are of mutual benefit in eastern North Carolina,” Manda said. “For example, farmers may benefit by finding solutions to the saltwater problem, whereas ECU may benefit by offering its students opportunities to take part in authentic research experiences.”

Learn more about the Natural Resources and the Environment Research Cluster online. Manda’s research can be found on his university blog.


-by Matt Smith, University Communications

Hunter Whittington named 2019-2020 Newman Civic Fellow

Hunter Whittington

Hunter Whittington

Hunter Whittington, a sophomore at East Carolina University, is one of 262 students nationwide selected as a 2019-2020 Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education.

Whittington is an ECU Honors College student from Clayton majoring in political science and economics. He has been involved with the Student Government Association, the Pre-Law Society and the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.

He became interested in politics while still in high school, when he started working on voter outreach during the 2016 election. Since then, he has conducted research on millennial voter turnout, organized voter registration drives, worked to keep polling places open on campus and advocated for student voter rights, according to his personal statement on the Newman Civic Fellows website.

Whittington “is a student leader, exhaustive in his efforts to raise awareness for and increase the level of civic engagement on our campus,” said ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton. “Currently, he is working to create a coalition of college students and local residents to foster a spirit of civic engagement in our community and raise awareness for local issues by giving constituents the tools to fight for the issues they care about.”

The Newman Civic Fellowship, named for Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, is a one-year experience emphasizing personal, professional and civic growth for students who have demonstrated a capacity for leadership and an investment in solving public problems.

Through the fellowship, Campus Compact provides a variety of learning and networking opportunities, including a national conference of Newman Civic Fellows in partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate. The fellowship also provides participants with access to apply for exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.

“We are proud to recognize each of these extraordinary student leaders and thrilled to have the opportunity to engage with them,” said Campus Compact President Andrew Seligsohn. “The stories of this year’s Newman Civic Fellows make clear that they are committed to finding solutions to pressing problems in their communities and beyond. That is what Campus Compact is about, and it’s what our country and our world desperately need.”

The Newman Civic Fellowship is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.

For more information, visit Campus Compact’s website.


-by Crystal Baity, ECU News Services

ECU to host 2019 Spring Career Fair and Education Fair

East Carolina University’s Career Services will host two career fairs on March 13 at the Greenville Convention Center. The Education Career Fair will be held from 8 to 10 a.m., followed by the Spring Career Fair for all majors from 1 to 4 p.m.

The Education Career Fair is required for all ECU education majors graduating this spring and is open to all majors or students interested in pursuing an educational career. During the Education Career Fair, students will have the opportunity to network with more than 100 employers, including school systems in North Carolina from Pitt, New Hanover, Wake, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Johnston Counties as well as ECU College of Education Graduate Studies, and employers from Virginia Beach and Prince William (Va.) Public Schools.

“The job market remains very strong, and students who are prepared for the career fair have a significant opportunity to land the job or internship they desire,” said Tom Halasz, the director of ECU Career Services.

That afternoon, the Spring Career Fair is for students and ECU alumni of all majors and academic backgrounds. This event will connect attendees with the opportunity to seek both on- and off-campus employment, internships and full-time positions.

Students and alumni will connect with employers across industries that include recruiting, construction, law enforcement, business, government, nonprofit, and many more. Employers will have assigned booths and provide information on their organization’s career opportunities as well as conduct interviews following the event.

Participating companies include Allscripts, Brasfield & Gorrie, Collins Aerospace, Enterprise, Greenville Utilities Commission, Grifols, Honda, Mayne Pharma, Motion Industries, NetApp, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Northwestern Mutual, Peter Millar, QVC, The Clorox Company, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Varonis.

Attendees at both events can learn about the transition into the working world as they adjust from college and about desired qualifications to secure employment after graduation. Students and alumni in attendance can also receive a free professional photo for social media profiles, such as LinkedIn for online networking.

“Having nearly 200 employers recruiting our students and alumni, this is a great time to be searching for a job or internship,” said Halasz.

Career Services reported that 95 percent of students reported they met at least one employer that was a strong match to their interests during the Fall Career Fair.

Halasz also mentioned that students can learn about the organizations attending and the positions they are hiring for by going to Handshake, the ECU job and internship posting system. “We encourage students to take advantage of the Career Services resume reviews, interview coaching, and job search preparation,” he said.

ECU Career Services offers the following suggestions to attendees:

  • Dress in business professional attire and bring your ECU OneCard to this event
  • Research the employers who will be attending the event by visiting and prioritize what organizations to target for employment
  • Develop and practice your introduction to employers
  • Create or update your resume after it has been critiqued by a career counselor
  • Bring multiple copies of your resume to the fair
  • Remember to smile, initiate a handshake, and look the employers in the eye when greeting them at the event
  • Take advantage of the free professional photo services while attending the event

For more information and suggestions on how to prepare for the career fairs, visit the Career Services website at or contact Tom Halasz at 252-328-6050.

ECU Physicians earns Gold Status from American Heart Association

ECU Physicians has been honored for its dedication to improving patients’ blood pressures.

The practice’s Adult Medicine and Pediatrics Clinic recently earned a Gold Status designation from the Target: BP initiative for achieving blood pressure control rates at or above 70 percent within its patient population.

Dr. Lacy Hobgood and Erica Turner, nurse, of ECU Physicians Adult Medicine and Pediatrics Clinic, check patient Lewanda Jones’ blood pressure during a routine office visit.

Dr. Lacy Hobgood and Erica Turner, nurse, of ECU Physicians Adult Medicine and Pediatrics Clinic, check patient Lewanda Jones’ blood pressure during a routine office visit. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Target: BP is a joint effort between the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Medical Association that’s aimed at reducing the number of Americans who have heart attacks and strokes by urging medical practices, health service organizations and patients to prioritize blood pressure control.

“We at ECU Physicians are passionate about providing high quality care to our patients,” said Dr. Jason Foltz, medical director for ECU Physicians. “Helping our patients achieve their blood pressure goals is a top priority for us that has direct impact on the health outcomes of each individual patient.”

Target: BP supports physicians and care teams by offering access to the latest research, tools and resources to successfully achieve blood pressure goals in patients.

“East Carolina University’s dedication to helping eastern North Carolinians better manage high blood pressure is critical to the American Heart Association’s mission to create a world of longer, healthier lives,” said Rachel Urban, vice president of development for the AHA. “We are proud to recognize their efforts through Target: BP, efforts that will ensure more people in this community will have the gift of more time with loved ones and friends.”

To help improve patient blood pressure outcomes through Target: BP, participating health care organizations and medical practices first create a plan for improving patient blood pressure rates, including establishing correct protocol for taking readings with the least margin of error. The plan also includes education to help patients understand the importance of maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.

High blood pressure is one of the most prevalent health issues in eastern North Carolina; several counties in the region rank near the top nationally for heart attack, stroke and hypertension.

“We’re doing a lot of things here at the school to try to change that,” said Dr. Paul Bolin, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the ECU Brody School of Medicine, adding that many local patients take part in national hypertension studies through ECU.

“That’s the reason this school was built,” Bolin said, “to try to improve the health of this region.”

ECU Physicians’ Adult Medicine and Pediatrics Clinic was honored for achieving blood pressure control goals in its patients.

ECU Physicians’ Adult Medicine and Pediatrics Clinic was honored for achieving blood pressure control goals in its patients. (ECU file photo)

While the Adult Medicine and Pediatrics Clinic was highlighted for its compliance with AHA standards of measuring and treating blood pressure, Bolin said all ECU Physicians clinics are focused on educating patients about the importance of maintaining a healthy blood pressure and on using proper methods of taking blood pressure and reporting numbers, making it likely that all ECU clinics will achieve Gold Status in the near future.

The focus on education is key, Bolin said. Not only is it important that patients understand how blood pressure affects overall health, but it’s vital that they know the factors that play into hypertension. Patients, he said, have been overall receptive to even minor changes in lifestyle that contribute to better health. For example, one patient altered his go-to breakfast from crackers to pecans and noticed significant changes in his health and well-being.

“I am blown away by how many people really want to change their lives,” he said. “The biggest thing we can do is try to educate them about the importance of lifestyle, and we have to reach people where they are.”


-by Spaine Stephens, University Communications

ECU designated as a ‘Voter-Friendly Campus’

ECU has been designed as a Voter-Friendly Campus for 2019-20.ECU was designated today as a “Voter-Friendly Campus.”

The initiative, led by national nonpartisan organizations Campus Vote Project and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, held participating institutions accountable for planning and implementing practices that encourage their students to register and vote in the 2018 elections and in the coming years.

The mission of the Voter Friendly Campus designation is to bolster efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process.

“All of us are members of our democracy. To make democracy work, everyone needs to participate, everyone needs to be informed, everyone needs to be engaged,” said Dennis McCunney, director of intercultural affairs at ECU.

ECU was evaluated based on a campus plan about how the university would engage student voters in 2018 and facilitate democratic engagement efforts on campus, as well as a final analysis of those efforts. The designation is valid through December 2020.

“The Voter Friendly Campus designation recognizes our efforts at ECU to encourage students to be informed and active voters, and that ECU is a place where active citizenship is encouraged and expected,” McCunney said.

The institutions designated Voter Friendly Campuses represent a wide range of two-year, four-year, public, private, rural and urban campuses.


-by ECU News Services

Thirteenth-generation descendent of Thomas Harriot speaks with Harriot College Dean’s Advancement Council

Georgia Dunn Belk, who has traced her lineage to Thomas Harriot – the namesake of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences at East Carolina University – spoke with the Dean’s Advancement Council at their spring meeting on Feb. 22 in the main Student Center.

Although there is no record of Harriot getting married, Dunn Belk is related to Harriot through a son born out of wedlock to Margaret Grimditch, who, in records, is said to have moved to Ireland with Harriot as “his family.”

William “Bill” Irwin Belk introduces Georgia Dunn Belk to the THCAS Advancement Council Friday, Feb. 22. Dunn Belk, a descendent of Thomas Harriot, spoke to the group about her family history.

William “Bill” Irwin Belk introduces Georgia Dunn Belk to the THCAS Advancement Council Friday, Feb. 22. Dunn Belk, a descendent of Thomas Harriot, spoke to the group about her family history. (Contributed photos)

Dunn Belk says she is part of the 13th-generation of Harriot (or Harriott) descendants and is actively involved in preserving history related to the Harriot legacy.

“Thomas Harriot played a key role in England’s ‘Age of Exploration,’ but his contributions are not contained to his advancement of math and science, nor to the service to the queen in the mid-Atlantic region of the 16th century world,” said Dunn Belk.

Dunn Belk stands next to the college banner depicting Thomas Harriot.

Dunn Belk stands next to the college banner depicting Thomas Harriot.

Harriot’s son Thomas (the younger) was among the first settlers to colonize Bermuda in the early 1600s, and with his family, eventually settled at Salt Cay Island, a small island in the southeast Turks and Caicos.

The Salt Islands – Grand Turk, Salt Cay and South Caicos – are known for their export of sea salt, an important preservative during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Harriot family cultivated the salt trade, which continues today under the name of Morton’s Salt. Harriot’s “White House,” which Dunn Belk and her brother inherited after their father’s passing, still stands on the island and is said to be the largest remaining relic of the salt industry.

She said the Harriot family was known to produce “salt so pure you can see through it like a piece of glass.”

However, with the decline of the salt industry in the late 19th century, Dunn Belk said Salt Cay became like Colonial Williamsburg.

“It is a land that time forgot,” she said.

Later, the house was used as a setting for the 1941 movie “Bahama Passage.”

In 1585, during the exploration of the New World and Britain’s preparation for settlement of Jamestown, Virginia, Harriot (senior) took ginger from the Caribbean to Great Britain. He developed and popularized fermented ginger beer, the first of the British to make beer in the Western Hemisphere.

Dunn Belk, after learning of the connection to ginger beer, began the process of re-popularizing the local product by changing the formula to allow for greater shelf life and commercial viability. She is President and CEO of the British West Indies Trading Company Ltd., which makes the fermented low alcohol ginger beer she re-formulated under the name of Islander Ginger Beer.

Dunn Belk described how Harriot brought ginger back to Great Britain and was the first person to make beer in the New World.

Dunn Belk described how Harriot brought ginger back to Great Britain and was the first person to make beer in the New World.

She concluded her talk by re-emphasizing Harriot’s multi-faceted intellect and mentioned how important one’s family is to future generations.

“Everything that I shared with you today illustrates his [Harriot’s] keen intellect and pioneering spirt that continue to live on through the centuries. These enterprises, and the brilliant mind behind them, are also part of his enduring legacy.”

Every family has an amazing history behind it. We are all, in our own way, standing on the shoulders of giants, all of whom faced great risk, hardship and sacrifice, which made our lives possible today,” she said.

Dunn Belk is married to William “Bill” Irwin Belk, descendant of the Belk department store founder, and daughter-in-law of Irwin “Ike” and Carol Belk. The Belk name is a familiar one at ECU, found on the former Belk Residence Hall, now Gateway, and the Carol G. Belk Building.

Dunn Belk’s career has led her to positions on both the west and east coasts. She now resides in Charlotte, where she helps manage her family farm and supports open space preservation. With dual citizenship in the United States and the Turks and Caicos Islands, Dunn Belk continues to research and preserve her Harriot family story.


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

Spring URCA Awards announced

East Carolina University’s Office of Undergraduate Research announced that 32 students will receive spring Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity awards.

The award provides support for faculty-mentored research and creative projects led by undergraduates in four disciplines: biomedical science, STEM, social science, and the arts and humanities.

Awards are given twice during the academic year. Students apply for the award with a defined project narrative and budget justification summary that they’ve developed in collaboration with a mentor.

Awards range from $1,500-2,000 for each project. Honors College recipients can receive up to $2,500 with support from the college. The award may go toward project materials and cost, a stipend for the student, or used for travel to conduct field or archival research. Award recipients are required to present their findings at venues including Undergraduate Day during ECU’s Research and Creative Achievement Week and the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium held in November.

This spring’s URCA award recipients are:

  • Kirtan Amin, exercise physiology, “South Asian cancer survivors health study”
  • Rouzbeh Beig Heidari, engineering, “Using cellphone attachable microscope in identifying molds”
  • Glenesha Berryman, English and great books, “I made it up: Maps, essays, and other guides for the queer black girl”
  • Sarah Bradshaw, chemistry and public health, “Ozone inhalation impairs efferocytosis in the lung”
  • Jake Bruen, fine arts, “Untouchable”
  • Amber Chavis, biology, “The evolution of laying times in eastern bluebirds”
  • Emily Edmonds, biology, “Parasites as indicators of biodiversity in coastal shoreline habitats”
  • Claire Fabian-Bayola, biochemistry and chemistry, “Identifying key residues in 15-LOX-2 enzyme for interactions with allosteric effectors”
  • Nicholas Hill, electrical engineering, “An advanced control system for hand prosthesis for candidates with trans radial amputation”
  • Brooks Holt, nursing, “Evaluating the effect of community engagement on the impact and use of water filters in four villages in Guatemala”
  • Anan Islam, neuroscience and biology, “Protocols for evaluating enzymatic detergents”
  • Nicholas Kannarr, film and video production, “Our story”
  • Juliana Lane, film and video production, “Paranoid insomniac”
  • Nickolas Leach, film and video production, “A-L-I-E-N-S senior thesis film”
  • Jiahao Li, electrical and mechanical engineering, “Project peregrine”
  • Phoenix Little, psychology and neuroscience, “Barriers to higher education in the Latino population”
  • Olivia McBride, nutrition science and biology, “Patient interest in farm to clinic program”
  • Serena Mooney, public health studies and international studies, “Comprehensive assessment of mitochondrial energy fluxes of the flexor digitorum brevis”
  • Emma O’Brien, business management, “Eliminating barriers to youth sport in Pitt County”
  • Brooke Palmer, professional acting training and theatre for youth, “Performing in American Sign Language – ‘The magic of winter from around the world'”
  • Pujan Patel, biology and public health, “The role PGRMC1 plays in hormone metabolism”
  • Victoria Preston, chemistry, “Electrochemical analysis of methylated DNA in MS”
  • Katherine Ray, biochemistry, “Elucidation of 15-Lipoxygenase-2 and PEBP1 interactions implicated in acute renal failure”
  • Sydney Rossback, exercise physiology, “What is the significance of hand dominance in motor learning and motor control?”
  • Semiyah Sams, public health, “A qualitative analysis of health care provider roles and perspectives related to abnormal mammography results”
  • Mohammad Sarsour, chemistry, “Trace metal elements in extracted and exfoliated teeth – The ECU tooth fairy project”
  • Christopher Satterley, electrical engineering, “Design of a patient orientation monitoring system”
  • Jessica Schulte, social work, “Meals on Wheels and the well-being of seniors”
  • Haley Tailor, public health, “HPV vaccinations among black immigrants”
  • Alexander Turner, neuroscience and psychology, “Impact of prostatic radiation on bladder innervation and neuronal apoptosis”
  • Kristin Tyson, chemistry and biochemistry, “Development of novel tryptophan analogues to study and expand protein function”
  • Maddie Wells, dance performance and choreography, “Improving cardiovascular fitness in dancers through aquatic conditioning”

Learn more about the URCA awards online. For more information on individual projects, view the 2019 Spring URCA spreadsheet.


-by Matt Smith, University Communications

ECU Physicians, UnitedHealthcare announce new network relationship

ECU Physicians and UnitedHealthcare have established a new network relationship, giving people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare employer and individual plans greater access to ECU Physicians.

The new relationship provides plan participants with access to primary care and specialist services from more than 500 ECU physicians and practitioners who share UnitedHealthcare’s commitment to improving access to quality care, enhancing clinical outcomes, lowering costs and creating an exceptional patient experience.

While patients enrolled in UnitedHealthcare plans previously had access to ECU Physicians, this new agreement offers that access at lower in-network prices.

ECU Physicians and UnitedHealthcare have established a new network relationship, giving people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare employer and individual plans greater access to ECU Physicians.

ECU Physicians and UnitedHealthcare have established a new network relationship, giving people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare employer and individual plans greater access to ECU Physicians. (ECU file photo)

“At ECU Physicians, we provide a host of state-of-the art and accessible health care options for the residents of eastern North Carolina,” said Brian Jowers, executive director of ECU Physicians. “This new relationship will enable us to further our mission to improve health care for more of our region’s residents while training the next generation of physicians to do the same.”

ECU Physicians – the physician practice plan for the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University – is primarily located in Greenville and has practices and outreach clinics across eastern North Carolina.

During the 2018 fiscal year, ECU medical providers treated more than 629,000 patients in its 24 outpatient clinics, Emergency Medicine Department, Med Direct Center and in its affiliated medical center, Vidant Medical Center.

The practice includes clinical departments in family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, Ob/Gyn, emergency medicine, psychiatry, surgery, cardiovascular sciences, physical medicine and rehabilitation, pathology and radiation oncology, as well as many subspecialties in each of these departments.

“ECU Physicians is an important community provider and offers the people served by UnitedHealthcare greater choice and access to quality, cost-effective care,” said Garland Scott, CEO of UnitedHealthcare North Carolina. “We are grateful for the collaborative relationships we share with care providers like ECU Physicians, who are committed to improving the quality and cost of care.”

In North Carolina, UnitedHealthcare serves nearly 1.4 million people enrolled in Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored and individual health plans with a network of 142 hospitals and more than 38,000 physicians and other care providers statewide.

With this agreement, UnitedHealthcare joins a host of insurance providers – including Aetna, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, CIGNA HealthCare and WellPath – whose patients have access to ECU Physicians at in-network prices. For more information about the insurance plans accepted at ECU Physicians, click here.


-by University Communications

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