Author Archives: baxterk

Move-in Madness

Denver_HollingsworthOnce I graduated high school, I was incredibly excited to begin my college experience. I was thrilled to be enrolled in the Honors College, but I was anxious to begin my living experience at ECU with a lot of people I did not know. I come from a very small town with a high school senior class of less than one hundred, so I was not used to being in a room—much less living in a room—with people I had not known my whole life.

The night before move-in day, my stomach was full of butterflies. Would I like my roommate? Would we get along? Questions circled through my mind all night, but I was still pumped to be living away on my own.

The morning of the move, my family packed up our car, and we drove to Garrett Hall. My first impression of the process was chaos: students running to and fro with parents in tow, all carrying various dorm room essentials.  I was certainly nervous, but it was a nervous excitement that I enjoyed. All of the Garrett Hall staff members were incredibly nice, and I was surprised to find my random roommate and I got along very well. The first night in the dorm was a bit nerve-racking, but I enjoyed the experience tremendously. Every moment living in the dorm was hectic, chaotic, and crazy, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Move-in day for me was 2 years ago now, and it seems like a lifetime ago. I made so many friends within those halls and even more memories that will stay with me forever.

Literary Homecoming Opportunity

Zach_EvansThanks to the Honors College, nine fellow students and I just had the privilege of attending an intimate literary discussion with the extraordinarily fascinating author, Wiley Cash. Mr. Cash covered everything from his Western North Carolinian childhood to his inspiration for his New York Times Bestseller A Land More Kind Than Home. Not only was Mr. Cash personable and approachable- he was outgoing, funny and an all-around genuine character. His proclivity to turn subjects that are tough to handle such as race and religion into lighthearted discussion was really something special. Most importantly, Mr. Cash presented himself as a genuine, kindhearted writer who simply got a big break.

Wiley Cash told us at the beginning of our discussion that he was born and raised in Gastonia, North Carolina (just outside of Charlotte). Growing up in Gastonia, he frequently took trips westward toward the mountains and streams of beautiful Western North Carolina. The mountains grew on Cash and left a monumental influence on his definition of home. Upon completing his undergraduate studies, Cash traveled to Lafayette, Louisiana. I, being born in New Orleans, was immediately engulfed in his story and his inspiration for moving South. Cash said the primary reason he chose Louisiana was because it truly embodied the essence of Southern America. He said that although Florida may be the southernmost state, it does not embody the true South. Claiming that Texas was “not to be messed with”, he had no other choice than Louisiana. The secondary reason Cash chose the University of Louisiana-Lafayette was to study fiction writing under Ernest J. Gaines. Gaines’ most famous work is The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman– a novel told from the perspective of a slave woman in the civil war. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman was eventually adapted into a miniseries and aired on CBS in 1974. Having worked under such a distinguished mentor, Cash developed a rich, full writing style which is simply a joy to read.

About halfway through the discussion, Mr. Cash performed an eye opening exercise with us on the way to set up a story. He started by reading the first two pages of his book; this is an excerpt told from the perspective of Adelaide Lyle, a middle to old aged woman who grew up in Marshall, NC. Marshall is in Madison County; growing up in Asheville we referred to Madison County as “redneck territory” and believe me, Madison County is about the closest thing to West Virginia you’ll find in North Carolina. What I mean by this is that the archaic confederate flags are strewn about the town, the mindset of the people is set almost by default to only respect white people, and lastly the inbred references/jokes come in abundance. That being said, Madison County is a perfect setting for this story of struggle in a Southern region. Cash’s exercise focused exclusively on setting. The point of this exercise was to show us how easily readers are told a story through context clues. With this excerpt, Mr. Cash walked us through the entire setup of the narrative which we subconsciously pulled from these mere two pages. The gender, age, race, nationality, region of the country, era, season of the year, social class of the character, the education level, political bias AND religious faith were all made clear in the first two pages! Cash believes that a great writer must fill the reader in with an abundance of details as soon as possible within the story. Through this exercise, it was made apparent to all of us that Mr. Cash has the potential to go down in history as one of the most renowned Southern fiction authors of the twenty first century.

This discussion with Mr. Cash was intellectually stimulating, all the while being casual and fun. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Mr. Cash and to get to know him on a personal level. This is just another one of the amazing opportunities the Honors College has provided me with and a reminder of how lucky we all are to be in such an awesome program.

Honors College Charlotte Adventures

Tim_RunyanIt was a warm and sunny July day at the U.S. National Whitewater Center near Charlotte where incoming Honors College students gathered to test their courage against the rapids at the Olympic whitewater rafting training site. Their concerns were justified. Several of the 45 students and seven college staff members, were catapulted from their rafts into the raging waters. It was great fun! Student Joy Taylor’s raft turned up on its side and she was launched into the water along with the raft’s guide!  Both were hauled back aboard to complete the course. Joy declared it was “a thrilling experience. I had a blast.”

The Center also offered ropes courses, bike trails, zip lines, rock climbing and canoeing.

A change of pace was provided that evening at a minor league baseball game where the Charlotte Knights lost a close one to the Gwinnett Braves. Honors College Advancement Council member Bill Langley provided tickets and a ballpark buffet including franks and burgers for the hungry students. ECU Board of Trustees chair Robert Brinkley and his wife Amy also attended. Mr. Brinkley congratulated the Honors College staff, led by Dean Marianna Walker, for bringing talented students to ECU and offering them an array of rich programs and opportunities.

Megan Daniel declared that the day was “so much fun. I now know so many of my classmates, and we have shared such great experiences. I can’t wait to start classes.” Charlotte was the site of the third kickoff event offered to incoming Honors College students. The objective is to build social and academic relationships that will assist their success at ECU.

Honoring the Parks

Tim_RunyanStudents admitted to East Carolina University’s Honors College will begin classes this fall, but they began a commitment to service July 16 as volunteers at Umstead State Park in Raleigh. They raked fire lanes, closed social trails, collected litter, and assisted park rangers to improve the experience for the park’s 1.7 million annual visitors. Umstead has the highest visitation figure for North Carolina state parks although cared for by a small staff.

Umstead State Park in Raleigh is situated off interstate highways and near the RDU airport. It is a sylvan retreat in the state capital. With campsites and several man-made lakes for boating and fishing, Umstead is a testament to the economic recovery efforts to address the Great Depression following the stock market crash in 1929.  The park was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project. It provided jobs when there were few to be had.

Students worked in teams under the guidance of veteran Park Ranger Billy Hartness, the recent father of twins. He remarked that he rarely had volunteers who showed up in such numbers— 41 students, plus 5 staff. He was also impressed with their enthusiasm for work. The tasks were finished in less time than expected.

The ECU Honors College values public service as principal component of its mission, embodied in the ECU Latin motto, Servire—to serve.

And there was levity! Students held a skit competition that had everyone in stitches. The day concluded with a picnic of pizza provided by Mellow Mushroom in Cary. Owner Robert Greczyn, a former ECU trustee and board chair, provided the pizza with the assistance of Will Greczyn. Honors College dean Marianna Walker welcomed Honors College Advancement Council member Laura Brinn and her family, who supported the event.

Honors Pirates on the Pamlico

Tim_RunyanIt was a dark and stormy 15th of June!  But fifty students newly admitted to the East Carolina University Honors College, boarded the 72-foot schooner Jeanie B at Washington, NC for a cruise down the Pamlico River. The first band sailed in the morning in fair conditions. On return they were treated to lunch with the second group of sailors at On the Waterfront restaurant, hosted by owner and Pirate alum Billy Dunn.

The Jeanie B has two masts, a blue hull, white sails, and is a floating educational platform. Students serve as crew, raising and lowering sails, commanding the helm and handling lines. Most climbed the ratlines to reach the top of the main mast. Instructions for the landlubbers are provided by Captain Paul Del Rio and Mate Charles, also a licensed captain. Students busied themselves trimming sail, tacking ship due to blustery weather, while the afternoon crew heaved to and enjoyed a swim on calmer waters.

The students signed up for this event from across the state and beyond, as part of the kick off events that bring incoming Honors college students together before fall classes begin. The day before, they participated in the first Honors College orientation day. The Jeanie B has become the adopted “official vessel” of the Honors College. Students find her an ideal place to help smooth the transition to ECU so that when classes begin they can “hit the decks running.”  What better introduction to the Pirate Nation. Arrgghh!!

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