Soccer, Scholarship, and Stories: Gwendolyn Oxenham

By: Maggie Marshall, EC Scholar and Honors College Freshman

The following is a reflection from the Honors College Leadership Lecture featuring Gwendolyn Oxenham

The word that comes to mind when I think of Gwendolyn Oxenham is “courage.” It wasn’t enough that she was the youngest Division I athlete in NCAA history or a starter and lead goal-scorer at Duke University. Most people would feel pretty accomplished and content with this, but she was not satisfied with living off of past achievements for the rest of her life after graduation.

She felt like there was so much more to soccer and that she almost owed the sport for providing her with so much, so she put herself out there and ended up traveling the world in search of pickup games of soccer. After receiving a grant to make a documentary film on the sport and how it is incorporated into other cultures, she packed up her bags and began a journey that would not only impact her entire life, but also those like me who are inspired by her story. She was able to find the sport in its rawest form in back alleys, side streets, and rural fields all across the globe.

I have played soccer from a young age, so having a soccer legend like her in front of me was huge in itself. However, I got so much more out of talking to her than old soccer game stories from college–I was provided with inspiration and excitement for all the world has to offer. She helped to remind us that there is so much more going on than we realize, and sometimes we have to remember to step out of our little bubble here on a college campus. Gwendolyn showed us that having dreams is great, but they do not mean anything if we don’t find some courage to make sure they happen. This definitely applies to students here in the Honors College.  I know we all have dreams, so we should keep her in mind the next time a goal seems unattainable.

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Adventure is for Everyone

By: Taylor Locklear, EC Scholar and Honors College Junior

taylor 2Sleeping in the cold is a challenge for even the most passionate cold weather aficionado.  It is even more of a challenge when you break most of the rules about sleeping in the cold (like putting only two people in a spacious four person tent).  Sleep is then nearly impossible when the night reaches a temperature at a record low, frigid enough to force the trip to be cut short.

My first night on the Roanoke River was not the most abundant in sleep; my thin sleeping bag (a personal bag of my own) was not exactly designed for the cold weather.  Once the sun rose over the horizon, I made my way to the beginnings of a morning fire.  The first night had gone poorly for most, as I learned from the grumblings around our fire pit.  The majority of my fellow Honors College students were also not quite prepared for the commitments of a Wilderness Writing course.  Apparently the definition of the word ‘wilderness’ was a little elusive, and didn’t involve the idea of cold in April.

taylor 1This was a weekend full of first-time experiences.  Our fleet of canoes and kayaks was full of students who, like me, didn’t have much paddling experience.  Even fewer (myself included), had any notable camping experience.

But when I awoke after that chilly first night, it was not discontent that I felt.  I felt inspired by two powerful forces that worked at the core of this trip.  The first was the irresistible pull of quiet nature; the comfort that comes with being nestled in the trees, far away from the hustle of daily life.  As the sun rose, it brought the warmth of the sunlight and chased away the cold.  We were essentially alone, save for the occasional fishing boat on the search for rockfish (one of the Roanoke River’s biggest attractants was rockfish season).

The second was a far more human appeal:  the intrepid trio running this trip.  Their positivity was unrelenting in the face of cold, grumpy Honors students, matched by their ability to make the outdoors accessible to even the most unexperienced of groups.  Their skills to make really good food in the backcountry helped.  Our trip was put together by the ECU Adventure Program, a hidden gem nestled in the back of the Student Recreation Center.

I felt an immediate connection with the Adventure staff.  They presented an amazing blend of outdoor knowledge and people skills, far surpassing my expectations of a primarily student-run organization.

Months later, after an unusual interview where I told a dirty joke and rambled about venomous snakes, I was hired to join the ECU Adventure Program.  At first, I felt that I would be out of place; how would a pre-veterinary student fit with an outdoor program?  But Adventure has taught me that the outdoors is not only for RCLS majors and adrenaline seekers.  I work with majors off all types–engineering, psychology, political science, tourism, and nursing students to name only a few.  Adventure has opportunities for everyone.  Offering free climbing and paddling clinics, guided trips to rivers and mountains, as well as gear rentals for those who want to strike off on their own.  Everyone involved with Adventure is united by a similar love for new experiences and an appreciation for the nature.

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My favorite part of Adventure is the atmosphere.  The staff has a passion for teaching others, yet they are always seeking to learn.  Through rock climbing at Adventure, I have discovered one of my greatest limitations is self-doubt,  a crippling force that I failed to notice until it began to limit my advancement through climbing.  Adventure is a community of constant personal growth driven by constructive feedback.  I am learning to work through my limitations, motivated to refine my leadership skills.

Remember those hardworking Adventure employees from my Wilderness Writing paddle trip?  I will be a bridesmaid for the wedding of one of those staff, who graduated last year and served as my mentor for my first year at Adventure.  For me, Adventure has been much more than an awesome job.  I have met some of my dearest friends through this program, and have greatly advanced in my own skills as a student and a leader.  Give the outdoors a try–no prior experience required.

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War on Cancer or War on Drugs?

By: Kelly Forbis, EC Scholar and Honors College Freshman

ForbisIn 1971, President Richard Nixon and Congress declared a War on Cancer in the United States[i]. Ever since this war was established in the 70’s, Americans have put a spotlight on cancer and on funding for its treatment. To date, over $105 billion has been spent on cancer research by the federal government alone but with little progress to show; cancer rates are still increasing[ii]. Why has this funding failed? What can we do to make progress?

The most popular forms of cancer treatment, and subsequently the ones with the most funding, include different drugs that involve radiation treatment or chemotherapy. Radiation treatment uses high-energy waves and electron emission to blast through cancerous growths as well as any other cells in its path. Chemotherapy was discovered in the 50’s, and it essentially poisons cancerous cells while damaging healthy cells, too[iii]. The body can become fatigued fighting the cancer while replenishing healthy cells. Both treatments destroy benign cells in the body. After 45 years, hundreds of billions of dollars, and a war with little evidence to show that we are on the winning side, it may be time for Americans to try a different and more effective approach. Current treatment plans for cancer patients need to be altered adequately to ensure that cancer is no longer a leading cause of death in those under 85 in America.

In order to see how America and the rest of the world should reevaluate cancer treatments, it is important to look at the case study of Mr. James ‘Rhio’ O’Connor and the benefits of his treatment choices. Rhio was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a very serious and dangerous cancer. First of all, diagnosis of this cancer is difficult because the symptoms are similar to common diseases and ailments, like coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. The number one cause of mesothelioma is prolonged asbestos exposure. Although the cancer is not often diagnosed until its latter stages, there are many treatment options after diagnosis. Surgery, chemotherapy, and a variety of other medications are the most popular treatments, which are also common treatments for most cancers. To learn more about mesothelioma and its treatment options, visit

Mesothelioma in its most dangerous form is known to kill patients within months. Because there is no cure for cancer, patients are usually given a variety of treatment options best suited for their prognosis. Sometimes, when patients take the road less traveled, miraculous things can happen, like in Rhio’s case. By taking his own personalized treatment plan, Mr. O’Connor outlived his mesothelioma prognosis over six years, which was much longer than medical experts estimated with their treatment options. Through a combination of vitamins, minerals, vegetables, fruits, fatty acids, amino acids, enzymes, herbs, a healthy diet, and mind-body medicine, Rhio lived with an incurable cancer.

Many of the alternate treatments that Rhio used are conventionally used for cancer prevention. Why have they been proven for cancer prevention but not cancer treatment? Most patients do not want herbs, oranges or spinach to heal their ailments. They look for pills and scans and other treatments that appear more scientific or modern. In order for alternative cancer treatments to become mainstream, they must be marketable to the general public. The pharmaceutical world is a business. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are more marketable, which is why these treatments get more funding. When it costs over $400 million to bring a new cancer drug to the market, roadblocks are established to fund remedies like Rhio’s that are not as easily reimbursed but may be just as (or more) effective than traditional treatments.

In order for pharmaceutical companies to stay in business, they must produce marketable yet effective drugs. There is not a way to control or monopolize the vitamin and mineral market like what is done with drugs, so pharmaceutical companies will not capitalize on marketing such natural remedies because it would hurt their business. This ends up hurting the consumer because patients end up paying for expensive drugs that are FDA-approved but may not be as effective as the non-marketed treatments available. We do not need to point fingers and blame pharmaceutical companies for wanting to uphold and sustain their businesses or blame doctors for using the FDA-approved treatment plans because it is their job. However, it is the responsibility of those who know about alternative therapies to make sure that alternative therapies are well-known for those who could possibly benefit.

We will never know if alternative therapies are better treatments if they do not get the funding for research or the attention they need. The best way to introduce alternative therapies to the market is to give the options to patients. Pharmaceutical companies are not likely to help out with such funding to prove the effectiveness of alternative treatments that will compete with their business. However, the more alternative treatments are proven to be successful, the more the general public will want to use and fund their research. We will never win the war on cancer until we win the war against drugs that hook consumers with modern marketability yet are not proven to be more effective than other methods.

If multiple treatment options are available for patients, doctors and patients should be able to choose their own personalized treatment options. It is proven that those who are given choices tend to be happier with the outcome of their choice rather than not being in control. By not educating patients about alternative treatment options, they are stuck in a situation where they have no control over the ammunition to fight the war on cancer in their own bodies. After patients make their treatment choices, it is more likely that they will fully dedicate themselves to those choices because they chose what they have the most faith in. Also, by giving patients the education to make intelligent choices about treatment options, it gives them the idea that they are in control of a very uncontrollable disease. By allowing different treatment options for patients, it gives a greater patient satisfaction and quality of life, which can boost mood, decrease stress, and allow for potentially quicker healing. By educating patients about alternative treatment options, we are improving their health, giving them freedom of choice, and opening up the doors for others to follow in their footsteps and survive the war on cancer.

‘If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.’- Thomas Jefferson[v].


[i] Spector, Reynold. ‘The War on Cancer A Progress Report for Skeptics.’ CSI. January 1, 2010. Accessed December 19, 2014.

[ii] ‘Cancer Research Funding.’ National Cancer Institute. September 12, 2014. Accessed January 25, 2015.

[iii] ‘Treatment Types.’ Types of Cancer Treatment. January 1, 2015. Accessed January 21, 2015.

[iv] West, Jack. ‘Mesothelioma Cancer.’ Mesothelioma Cancer. January 1, 2015. Accessed January 25, 2015.

[v] Null, Gary. ‘War on Health.’ January 1, 2014. Accessed December 19, 2014.

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Home Away From Home: The ECU School of Music

By: Maggie Mullis, Honors College Junior

Maggie MullisIf you have never been inside Fletcher (The ECU School of Music), you have missed out on one of the most magical places on campus. Music fills the halls, echoing and colliding to create an atmosphere that I have grown so accustomed to that I even find it comforting.  From the melodic voices of the vocalists humming their repertoire to check their memory; to the percussionists finding surfaces everywhere to practice their impossible rhythms upon; to the classical guitarists hidden under the stairwell and in various corners impressively strumming at rapid rates, music follows you everywhere.  This haven of music is one of the few places I have come to call home.

Fletcher has not always felt this way for me.  Three years ago, when I walked through the heavy doors wearing my polka-dot rain boots with a professional skirt and sweater, this building seemed far from comforting.  This was the day of my audition.  The day I willingly stood in front of experts in my future field of study and vulnerably sang for their approval.  When I close my eyes and reflect on this memory, I cringe at everything about that day, from my song choice to my meticulously planned outfit (thankfully, I did bring a change of shoes).  Despite my complete lack of classical technique and confidence, the professors at my audition saw something in me and asked me to come back.  A few months later, I did it all again, implementing their suggestions of repertoire genre and key, and I was accepted.

As I began classes in the fall of the following year, Fletcher became my home.  I spent more time there than in my dorm, stumbling through piano, music theory, and a style of singing I had never before experienced.  There were many nights after late practice sessions that I would trek across campus and sneak into my room after my roommate was fast asleep.  Learning to manage my time so that these late nights became less and less frequent was one of the most valuable lessons I learned freshman year.  Now, two years later, I am rarely at Fletcher late, but the time I spent there early in my career cannot be forgotten.  Every now and then I will realize that it’s one a.m. and I’m still in a practice room.

Inside of this building, the people are amazing.  Every professor is supportive and extremely passionate about what they do.  Taking lessons from one of the most talented sopranos I have ever heard was intimidating at first.  However, after three years in my voice professor’s studio, I look forward to lessons and feel as though I can tell her anything.  I remember one time during my freshman year, I was on the way to my lesson I busted open my lip on the door to the stairwell.  When I came to my lesson crying, my professor ran around the school of music looking for ice, and when she couldn’t find any, she offered me her frozen dinner as an ice-pack.  Instances like these help me feel at home where I am.  All of my professors have been where I am and know all of the stress involved so they want to do anything they can to help.  It is a true blessing to feel supported by an entire faculty of professionals, and I am so glad that I get to call Fletcher home.

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Faculty Feature: The True Rewards of Teaching

Kindal_Shores_webBy: Dr. Kindal Shores, Honors College Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor of Recreation & Leisure Studies

It is 9 am on a Thursday in January. I am sitting in Joyner Library at ECU with ten other faculty members. We could be working on research in our labs, writing manuscripts at our desks or talking with students about the internship applications they are working on—but those are the tasks for “normal days.” Instead, this select group of faculty members has gathered to discuss the pool of applicants for East Carolina University’s top merit scholarship—the EC Scholar Award. We spend most of the day at this and from the animated discussion in our conference room I can see that each faculty member is excited to be here. For me, this is one of my favorite days of the spring semester. Reading about the talented future ECU students and their dreams to serve and lead at ECU makes this one of my favorite days of the spring.

As faculty members we do a lot varied tasks. When I decided to pursue a career as a professor, I envisioned myself developing meaningful research questions—and pursuing those “answers.” I imagined myself in classrooms, lecturing eager students and exciting them about the study of public parks and their purpose and management. After nine years as a faculty member I do these things everyday—and I love my job. What I didn’t picture in my future, however, are the “invisible things” that faculty members do each day. Writing a reference letter for a standout student and describing her previous work in Costa Rica to the Peace Corp review board. Brainstorming with Honors College students who are looking to develop and understand how to implement meaningful discussions about race relations on our college campuses. Introducing a sophomore Honors student to a faculty member in recreational therapy who is doing work with athletes with disabilities. I had no idea that these activities would fill the space around my research and teaching as a faculty member. But I should have known. After all, my Honors College professor during my undergraduate studies did this for me. And we—members of the ECU faculty—love doing this stuff everyday.

As I sit here reading and re-reading EC Scholar applications, I imagine the energy and ideas they will bring to campus. This morning at Joyner Library I am “meeting” the next cohort of scholars on paper. I am already staring to anticipate just what challenges the Honors class of 2015 will bring to me. I can’t wait.

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