She’s the First

By: Keerthana Velappan, EC Scholar and Honors College Sophomore


The following blog post is about the East Carolina University chapter of She’s the First.  The chapter was founded by Keerthana and her Honors College peers to give girls around the world the chance to obtain an education. 

She’s the First*{East Carolina} is the East Carolina University chapter of She’s the First (STF), a non-profit organization that sponsors girls’ education in low-income countries.  This newly founded organization gives girls the chance to become the first in their families to graduate from secondary school. To fulfill this mission, STF mobilizes supporters to fund scholarships and provides a clearer understanding on complex global issues related to poverty. Harnessing technology and social media, STF is committed to connecting sponsors and scholars around the world in innovative, mutually beneficial ways to foster mentorship, philanthropy, equality, and leadership. Ultimately, their student leaders and scholars become the change agents who break cycles of generational poverty and transform the world.


She’s the First’s educational philosophy is that quality always trumps quantity, and they partner with organizations who believe the same. I actually heard about She’s the First through Shanti Bhavan, their partner school in India, and their very first one at that! Shanti Bhavan, founded by Dr. Abraham George in 1996, is a home and exceptional school located in rural Tamil Nadu, India, for the region’s most socially and economically disadvantaged children. These first-generation students, primarily from the “untouchable” (Dalit) caste, are selected at the age of 4 and remain at the school until the completion of high school. Once in college, Shanti Bhavan continues to support them financially and oversees their progress through a careful mentoring program. One of Shanti Bhavan’s blog posts mentioned She’s the First, as STF recently produced an original documentary called “Magho” (“Daughter”) featuring Maheshwari, one of the girls studying at Shanti Bhavan, on her graduation day. Just last week, Maheshwari and Jancy (the very first STF scholar) walked across stage to receive their college diplomas! I hope to intern/teach at Shanti Bhavan during the summer of 2016, after my study abroad experience.

stf 2She’s the First has 125+ high school and college/campus chapters across the nation and have sponsored 450+ girls since initiation in 2009. North Carolina has two preexisting STF chapters: Elon and UNC-Asheville, and ECU and UNC-Chapel Hill have just started theirs this semester. Every chapter is responsible for hosting one awareness event and one theme-appropriate fundraiser each semester, a fitness one in the spring (Sweat for STF) and a tie-dye cupcake bake-off in the fall (Bake a Change). STF*{ECU} just hosted a Documentaries & Discussion event (showed “Magho” and “To Educate a Girl”) and will be hosting a donation-based Zumba class on April 19th from 2-3 p.m. in Mendenhall Student Center room 244.  We hope to put on a “Day of the Girl” event and sell tie-dye cupcakes in the fall! Please help us raise our fundraising goal of $720 this semester so we can be matched with two girls from Nepal or Uganda (currently at $672) by visiting our fundraising page  (  Also, like our Facebook page to stay updated on all things related to She’s the First and She’s the First*{East Carolina} (!

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Honors Students Receive Alumni Association Awards

By: Erika Dietrick, Undergraduate Director of Marketing and Communications

alumni picAs the days become longer and the academic year draws to a close, award and scholarship committees are proudly presenting deserving students with prestigious accolades. Perhaps some of the most well-known awards on ECU’s campus are the Robert H. Wright Awards and the Alumni Association Scholarships.

The Robert H. Wright Alumni Leadership Award is the most prestigious award presented by the East Carolina Alumni Association to undergraduate seniors. The award recognizes academic achievement, service, and leadership qualities. Of the five Wright Awards announced this spring, four of them were awarded to EC Scholars. Congratulations to Ajay Ajmera, Ryan Baucom, Jessica Jewell, and Shayna Mooney on a successful and celebrated college career at ECU!

Likewise, the Alumni Association Scholarships recognize demonstrated leadership and service to the community. These competitive scholarship awards may be given to any class of undergraduate students. Of the 27 ECU students who received an Alumni Scholarship this spring, 9 of them were Honors College students. Congratulations to Keith Dunbar, Zach Evans, Annaliese Gillette, Kristi Robertson, Emma Shirley, Katie Stanley, Jordan Thomas, Erika Dietrick, and Aenia Amin!

We are thrilled to have such talented, ambitious, and service-oriented students in the Honors College at East Carolina University and look forward to all they will accomplish in the future.

If you’re interested in joining or renewing your membership with the ECU Alumni Association, click here.

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My Pirate Life: Engineering

By: Virginia Melton, Honors College Sophomore

In an Honors Ambassadors meeting, members were asked to create a video that defines their life as an ECU pirate.  Virginia’s video illustrates how studying mechanical engineering and being an Honors College student has defined her pirate life.

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More Than Just Puppy Love: Training, Competing, Serving

 By: Morgan Harvey, EC Scholar and Honors College Junior

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As a dog lover, trainer, and agility competitor, I have dedicated years to learning everything I can about training dogs in a variety of skill sets.  When I was 15, I started training my first dog, Bear, in obedience and agility and quickly got into competing in agility at the local level.  After a couple of years, I made it to a national agility competition with Bear and started teaching obedience and agility classes in the area.  It was then I realized that not only did I enjoy training my own dogs, but I liked to help others learn how to work with their dogs as well.

When I first learned about the service internship I would be completing as part of my HNRS 4100 seminar, I immediately knew that I wanted to somehow incorporate my passion for helping dogs and their owners into my project.  I quickly got in touch with Michele Whaley, the director of the Pitt County Animal Shelter, and arranged a meeting to discuss what needs the shelter had and how my knowledge and experience with dog training could be of service to them.  She explained to me that many of the dogs that come in are owner surrenders, a lot of which are abandoned at the shelter due to simple training problems such as having accidents in the house or pulling too hard on the leash.  Some dogs come back only a few days after adoption because their new owners do not know how to train them and get frustrated by simple behavior problems.  During our first meeting together, I figured out many different ways in which I could help reduce the number of owner surrenders at the shelter.  Next, I narrowed down my ideas to the three projects that I thought would be most beneficial now and long-term.  It was then that the Pitt County Animal Shelter Dog Training Program was developed and set in motion.

The first line of defense in reducing the number of owner surrenders was to develop a phone service that recent adopters could use to get training questions answered.  Every week, volunteers and I call the new owners of recently adopted dogs. We answer any training questions they may have in an effort to combat training problems before they become more than the owner can handle and the dog is returned.  My second project is writing an extensive training guide that can be sent home with adopters and put online, giving new dog owners a set of instructions on how to train different behaviors and manners using only positive reinforcement methods.  This guide will be a great asset to the shelter because it can be distributed for years to come and does not require any more resources or time from shelter employees and volunteers.


With the training phone help and guides being focused on recent Pitt County Animal Shelter adopters, I also wanted to find a way to make a greater community impact and get help to those who needed training help for dogs from other shelters, rescues, or breeders.  Many owners want to help their dogs but simply do not have the funds to take expensive training classes…they end up surrendering their dogs as a result.  In response to this problem, I have started teaching a series of dog training classes at the Pitt County Animal Shelter that cover a variety of different training problems and only cost $5 per class.  From house breaking and crate training to leash walking and basic obedience, owners can sign up online for the sessions they need most.  They are given the personalized help they need in order to keep their dog in their home and out of the shelter.  When I teach the classes, I focus not only on training the dogs, but teaching the owners how to continue training at home and how these methods can used to train other behaviors as well.  The participants also get a handout to take home that reviews everything covered in class.

The feedback we have received about the new classes, training guides, and phone help has been incredible.  It is still too early to know how much of a difference the dog training program has made in reducing the number of owner surrenders, but we at least know that we have helped make a difference in the lives of the dogs and owners who have participated in the new program.  I have really enjoyed getting to work with others who are just as passionate about dogs as I am–it has been really rewarding to help owners train their dogs and see the difference an hour-long training class can make in the bond that they have.  I will continue to keep teaching the dog training classes through the rest of the semester and am discussing plans to keep the classes going long-term.  This internship has been an incredible experience, and I am thankful to everyone who has helped to support me along the way.

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The Experiences of a Philosophy Major

By: James Patrick A. Twisdale, EC Scholar and Honors College Sophomore 

It all started the summer before my freshmen year. I had received my schedule for my first semester of college, and my parents and I were at my Mema’s house talking about my future college plans. I remember seeing that I was registered for a class called Professional Ethics with Dr. James Leroy Smith, and I was commenting about why in the world I was put into this class as an incoming biology major. I still remember my mother looking at me and saying, “You know, your father loves philosophy, and you never know, you may love it too.” At the time, I could not have imagined how accurate she was.

You know that feeling of when you grow up with one of your parents constantly discussing a topic? At the time, you shrug it off, but then once you hear it from a different source you realize that you love it. That is exactly what happened to me. I sat down in that first philosophy class, and by the third class, I knew I wanted to major in philosophy.

That next semester, I took two more philosophy classes: another one with Dr. Smith called Healthcare Ethics and one with Dr. Henry Jacoby called Introduction to Ethics. After the first class with Dr. Jacoby, I talked to him after class and told him about my intent to major in philosophy. Immediately, he took me to the office of Dr. Collins, the philosophy advisor, and I was officially signed up to be a philosophy major.

Currently, I am the Dean’s Student Leadership Council’s representative for the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department, and I am taking my fifth and sixth philosophy classes about Critical Reasoning and Legal Punishment. I am also in the process of creating my own personal philosophy class about Kantian Ethics through the directed readings option of the philosophy department.

I am so glad that I was put into that first philosophy class my freshmen year by the Honors College. It has enriched my life immeasurably and provided me with a passion for the rest of my life.

 Image featured on ECU Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies home page.  Featured caption: “Dr. Raymond Moody, a psychiatrist and philosopher who coined the term and initiated the conversation about “near-death experiences,” discusses the distinction between intelligible texts, nonsensical texts, and meaningful text in a meeting with students, philosophy and religious studies faculty members and others on February 24th 2015 at East Carolina University. Here, Dr. Moody is talking with Patrick Twisdale, a philosophy major and the department’s representative on the Harriot College Dean’s Student Leadership Council.”

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