Most Gratefully: Sophomore Scholars Visit Washington, D.C.

By: Trey Cook, EC Scholar and Honors College Sophomore

16917646125_149eb4e171_zBeing a part of the ECU Honors College is a unique privilege, one I am reminded of on a daily basis. I have the honor of being part of a tight-knit team within the College that has afforded me incredible opportunities and, more importantly, relationships with fellow Pirates because I am an EC Scholar. I am consistently reminded that I have been given an amazing gift by ECU and by the Honors College. Trips like the EC Scholar sophomore spring break trip to Washington D.C. remind me the opportunities available to me are a gift; the unique relationships I have with faculty like Dr. O’Connor and Dr. Fraley are gifts; and most importantly, the incredible relationships I have with my fellow adventurers in the program are each their own individual gift.

16891771786_62588d0541_zThis is why I sign my emails, “most gratefully.” The trip to D.C. prompted me to think afresh on the grand scale of the blessings in my life. Enjoying amazing food at unique restaurants and nighttime tours of downtown Alexandria and the great national memorials afforded me ample opportunities to engage my fellow scholars and friends in conversation (and pelt them with snowballs), glean from their knowledge, better understand their passions, and feed off their joy. The Holocaust Museum, wow, what an intense display of history but also of a challenge. Like few I have entered before, that museum portrayed history so vividly I could almost feel it, but it left me sobered, asking the question, “How will you respond?” I think the Holocaust Museum is there as a memorial yes, but it is also a call to action, a call to the Americans of the now not to allow the events of the past to repeat themselves, whether that be in how we view race in America or in how we react to ISIS’ persecution of Christians, innocents, and others in the Middle East. A behind-the-scenes tour of the Pentagon and a feast at the prestigious Army and Navy Club hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Kathy Shubert, Lt. Col. Vincent Smith, and Mr. Chris Owens again reminded me of the unique benefits and vast connections provided for me by the EC Scholars program and the Honors College. Perhaps the most meaningful event of the trip was a couple hours spent in Arlington National Cemetery hosted by Miss Nancy Summers who also directed us on a tour.

I have a long history with the military. My father has been a member of the Army National Guard for over twenty years. My family has experienced only one deployment, but multiple stateside mobilizations. While I will never be classified as a “military brat,” I have had a hybrid experience of sorts as a military kid. My glimpse into the world of a soldier’s family has inspired again, gratefulness, not only for the sacrifices of Soldiers, but also for the willingness of countless others that sacrifice alongside every single soldier as they release him or her to serve our country. This prompted my small team of Honors students to choose to spend our time supporting Operation Re-entry NC during our freshman Honors Leadership and Service Colloquium (HNRS 2000). We had the unique opportunity to take part in the ideation and design process of their innovative Rover van. This passion is also the drive behind my work in ECU’s biofeedback lab working with a virtual reality simulator in support of Dr. Russoniello and Dr. Fish’s work with Soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and minor Traumatic Brain Injuries.


It is this passion that brought me to my knees upon entering Arlington National Cemetery. I lagged behind a lot that day, partially because there was really no desire to joke around with my friends while traversing that hallowed ground, but mainly because I was overcome with passion, the passion of the silent bodies underground. It was their passion for a flag with some stars and some stripes on it, it was their passion for their brothers-in-arms, it was their passion for those they loved at home that has ultimately brought our country to its current state and paved the way for me to enjoy the education, the relationships, and even a trip to their memorial in such freedom. Just like the tears of gratefulness welling up from within me that day kept flowing, so my thankfulness keeps flowing for my country’s Soldiers and their families, my thankfulness for my scholarship and the Honors College.

Sometimes people ask me why I’m so energetic all the time, or why I’m constantly smiling. Sometimes I respond, “I have a lot of be thankful for.” Maybe that statement makes a little more sense now. Thanks for reading.

Most gratefully.

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Between the Lens: Photography and Writing Seminar

By: Kayla Thompson, Honors College Sophomore

As a student majoring in Multidisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Neuroscience, everything about an Honors College seminar with a fine arts credit made me uneasy. The lecture took place on the opposite end of campus away from my comfort of the Science and Technology building. I trudged to the other side of campus every Tuesday and Thursday morning. Navigating through the Jenkins Fine Art building was a tough task in its own. Then, they suggested I hop in a rusty, white van and go to Duke University to look at art. This would need some convincing.

I continued to steer to the far end of campus and attend this class that discussed a connection between photography and writing. Dr. Charles Twardy, a professor of the School of Communication, and Dr. Daniel Kariko, a professor of the School of Art and Design, displayed concerns about many different issues including things. We explored many series of pictures that conveyed messages about the terrain located near and far from Greenville, North Carolina. Before I knew it, they asked my peers and I to do the same thing in Eastern North Carolina. Anything east of I-95 would suffice.

Dr. Twardy prepared us through writing exercises and lectures on how to interview people. He had us talk in class using the same words that he wanted us to write with: concrete nouns and verbs. Dr. Kariko plunged into efficiently handling cameras and adjusting settings along with some modern and historical examples of popular photographs. They both taught me a new perspective of art portrayed through not only pictures, but also writing.

On a Saturday morning, I jumped into the van and headed to Durham where the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University awaited. I had the opportunity to explore black rooms for developing photographs along with seeing a real example of what our projects aspired to resemble. Lynsey Addario, a woman of many talents including blogdocumentary photography, had an exhibit on display that we explored. She called it “Veiled Rebellion: Women in Afghanistan.” It was a rather silent reveal due to the emotion that flowed through the words and pictures on display. I felt for these women and had the opportunity to recognize a different culture thousands of miles away. These emotions were interpreted by looking a photograph and then reading the story behind each woman. For example, a young girl had marks all over her face. After reading, I learned that this particular girl had acid sprayed onto her when walking to school because some men in their country do not encourage getting an education. The pictures were all interesting subjects but you developed an emotional attachment after reading Addario’s words that told exactly what was happening.

In America, we are not exposed to women trapped under the claws of the Taliban. But, we do have other issues, even in Eastern North Carolina. I discovered this when I was asked to go explore and talk to people in the community. I have initiated interviews and captured photographs of these people five minutes after meeting them. Being enrolled in a fine art seminar through the Honors College has stretched my confidence in many areas of my education. Interacting with Drs. Kariko and Twardy has also allowed me to comfortably adjust to unknown areas of my surroundings. In short, I have been given the opportunity, along with many other students, to convey passion through a camera lens and write about relevant issues.

To see some of the pictures taken in Greenville by the class, click here.

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ARGH 5K: EC Scholars Give Back

By: Patrick Twisdale, EC Scholar and Honors College Sophomore

Greenville Harvest is a non-profit organization that educates Greenville residents on the importance of healthy eating and sustaining the environment through gardens. This year, the EC Scholars decided to help this local organization by hosting a 5K and donating all of the proceeds. As an EC Scholar, I was already assisting with the 5K, but I thought why not run in it too?  Several of my EC Scholars peers and I participated in the run with other members of the community.

This was my very first 5K, and I had no idea what to expect. But I wasn’t disappointed! As soon as the whistle sounded, I started at a good pace and was able to run the 5K in its entirety in 27 minutes and 4 seconds.

I feel that the 5K was a really successful fundraising event for Greenville Harvest. My participation in the 5K was very gratifying, and if given the option to participate in a 5K for this organization again, I would eagerly volunteer all over again.

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Alumni Profile: Laura Brinn ’99

Laura BrinnGraduation Year and Majors: 1999 – BA in Communication and BS in German

Current Position and Work History: Executive Director of Global Communications, Duke University. I have worked at Duke since 2001 in media relations and marketing roles at our Health System, Fuqua School of Business, and for the past 4.5 years leading global communications for the university. Before that I was an account executive in the health and medical practice at Ogilvy PR in New York City.

Professional Organizations and Service: Academic advisor for pre-major students at Duke and HC Advancement Council

Awards and Scholarships: University Scholars Award recipient, Rivers Scholarship for study abroad, CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) Gold Award for Excellence in Research Writing (2008) and General News Writing (2011)

What were some of your most memorable experiences as a communication major and University Scholar at ECU?

When I was at ECU, communication was a department, not a school as it is now, and Honors was a program, not a college, so it’s been great to watch both of these areas grow and evolve into their current forms. I would have to say the opportunities I was given through both programs shaped my ECU experience, and who I am today. As a communication major I had the chance to learn the fundamental skills that I still use every day, and to put those skills into practice both in classroom situations and assignments, but also during summer internships in Raleigh and Washington DC. And the University Scholars award, and Rivers scholarship, allowed me to spend my junior year studying at the University of Mannheim in Germany. That was an incredible experience that broadened my understanding of the world and really began to shape my understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.

What does it mean to be recognized by your Alma Mater in the inaugural 40 Under 40 awards ceremony?

It is a tremendous honor to be included among ECU’s 40 under 40. The other honorees are such an impressive and diverse group of Pirates who are making important contributions through their careers in public service, business and education, and I was delighted to meet many of them and learn more about their work and interests. Although many of us were at ECU at different times, it is clear that our experiences at ECU shaped all of us into the people we are now.


The inaugural 2015 40 Under 40 inductees, an award and ceremony hosted by ECU’s Division of Student Affairs.

Why do you enjoy being on the Honors College Advisory Council?

I love being a member of the Honors College Advancement Committee. When I learned that an Honors College had been created, and the many ways the Honors College was providing incredible learning experiences for its students, I couldn’t wait to become more involved. Spending time with the students and faculty members, and learning how the students’ experiences at ECU have helped them grow not only as scholars, but also as citizens with a commitment to service, is really inspiring. The Honors College is providing tremendous opportunities for these students, and it is delightful to see the students soak it all up.

What led you to your current position and tell me about your passion for this work.

I’m passionate about education and its power to transform people’s lives, and am really grateful to have a career that allows me to combine my skills and expertise with that passion every day. At Duke I’ve had the opportunity to work in several different settings, doing different types of marketing and communications, and that has allowed me to develop a broad view of how we can combine and apply a variety communications tools to advance the university’s mission. For the past five years, I’ve been leading our efforts to expand Duke’s reputation around the world, calling on all of the approaches I’ve learned over the years to adapt and apply them in a global setting.

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Dr. Michael Bassman, Distinguished Honors Professor Emeritus

By: Erika Dietrick, Undergraduate Director of Marketing and Communications

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Respected by students and faculty alike, distinguished honors professor Dr. Michael Bassman has had a profound impact on ECU and the Honors College.  As a tribute to all he has given to what is now an outstanding Honors College, Dr. Bassman’s many achievements are showcased in the remainder of this blog post.  It merely scratches the surface of his revered teaching style, ambitions, and awards, but we are honored to have had him as an integral part of our College’s founding.

Michael Bassman was named the first distinguished honors professor in February 2010 after most recently serving as associate vice chancellor and director of the Honors Program.  He received the Bachelor of Arts in French and Latin from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, the Master of Arts degree from Brown University, and the Master of Arts and Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut.  Dr. Bassman is an associate professor of Foreign Languages and Literatures.  Dr. Bassman was awarded the 1998-1999 UNC Board of Governors Distinguished Professors Teaching Award.

Throughout 2013-2014, Dr. Bassman served as the primary reviewer for the revision of “The Holocaust: A North Carolina Teacher’s Resource.” Dr. Bassman served as an external reviewer for submissions in Humanities in “Explorations.” He was active in the National Council on Undergraduate Research and served as a judge for the ECU Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity week.

Dr. Bassman served as a mentor and advisor to many Honors College students, especially in relation to study abroad opportunities, graduate school, and course selection. He also assisted in mentoring and advising Honors College students in their application for external fellowships, scholarships, and other awards. Other advising responsibilities included coordination of “Fellowships, Scholarships, & Awards for the Honors College.” Dr. Bassman’s seminars on the Holocaust were popular among the students, which included writing intensive components and a trip to Duke University to view Holocaust artifacts and documents. Dr. Bassman is know as an expert in this area both nationally and regionally.

Dr. Bassman retired in June 2014 as the Distinguished Honors Professor Emeritus.  As a way to recognize excellence in research and writing, endeavors both highly admired and pursued by Dr. Bassman, the Michael F. Bassman Honors College Thesis Award was established in 2010.

The Honors College is also proud to announce the recent establishment of the Michael F. Bassman Fund for Study Abroad.  An international experience expands our horizons and challenges us to think in new ways, and we hope to grant this incredible opportunity to all of our current and future Honors College students.  If you’re interested in making a donation to this fund, you may contact Associate Dean Kevin Baxter by calling (252) 737-4079 or by e-mailing him at We welcome any and all contributions!

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