Author Archives: ECU News Services

Huo reviews Nobel Prize winner

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 Shouquan Huo

Shouquan Huo

An article written by chemistry professor Shouquan Huo with graduate students Rob Mroz and Jeff Carroll, “Negishi coupling in the synthesis of advanced electronic, optical, electrochemical, and magnetic materials,” is available at http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2015/qo/c4qo00322e#!divAbstract.

The Royal Society of Chemistry invited Huo to submit the review article of work done by his mentor, Nobel Prize winner Ei-ichi Negishi of Purdue University. The work was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Organic Chemistry Frontiers.

McCrory budget to support Brody School

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North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, far right, toured the East Carolina Heart Institute March 2 with N.C. Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos, seated at the da Vinci surgical system console. ECU physician Dr. Wiley Nifong, center, explained how surgeons are trained on the system. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, far right, toured the East Carolina Heart Institute March 2 with N.C. Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos, seated at the da Vinci surgical system console. ECU physician Dr. Wiley Nifong, center, explained how surgeons are trained on the system. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

 

By Amy Ellis
ECU News Services

Gov. Pat McCrory announced during his March 2 visit to the East Carolina Heart Institute at East Carolina University that his budget will allocate $16 million over the next two years to stabilize the financial challenges at the Brody School of Medicine.

“With those funds, my goal is for all of us to use the next two years to develop a long-term plan for a sustainable economic model that will allow the school to continue producing the doctors North Carolina needs for generations to come,” said McCrory.

Following a private meeting with ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Rick Niswander and Brody administrators, the governor toured the heart center’s Robotics Lab and tried his hand at a robotic surgery simulation.

Also in attendance were Dr. Aldona Wos, secretary for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, N.C. Sen. Louise Pate and N.C. Rep. Brian Brown.

N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, left, and Dr. Wiley Nifong examine an interactive display illustrating that ECU has trained surgeons from 33 states in the use of the robotic da Vinci Surgical System.

N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, left, and Dr. Wiley Nifong examine an interactive display illustrating that ECU has trained surgeons from 33 states in the use of the robotic da Vinci Surgical System.

At a press conference following the tour the governor said, “The Brody School has continued to deliver on the mission our state legislature set forth for it. Now we need to find a way to build upon those successes and expand them.

“I don’t see ECU as being only for eastern North Carolina. I see it as being for all of North Carolina,” he added.

Wos said, “It’s critical that we continue to fulfill the promise of 1974 – to provide access to care for the citizens of this region. The only way to do that is to have a viable medical community here that’s training the next generation of providers. The majority of physicians who train here, stay here. And I want to thank Brody for that.”

Ballard told McCrory, “I assure you that ECU will do our part. We’ll continue to spruce up the long-term plan we’ve been working on. It focuses on increasing efficiencies and continuing the excellent relationship we have with Vidant Medical Center, who is instrumental to our long-term plan.

“This funding means a flagship program of ours will be sustained,” he said, “and we’ll be able to continue impacting health care and economic development in the east.”

The governor’s recommended budget will soon be delivered to the legislature for consideration.

Theater professor finds magic in new book

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ECU theater professor Gregory Funaro, pictured above, is receiving rave reviews for his new children's book, "Alistair Grim's Odditorium." (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU theater professor Gregory Funaro, pictured above, is receiving rave reviews for his new children’s book, “Alistair Grim’s Odditorium.” (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

 

 

By Kelly Setzer
ECU News Services

In writing about the enchanting adventures of a 12-year-old boy in 19th century London, an East Carolina University theater professor has discovered a magical world of his own.

Gregory Funaro is earning glowing reviews for his whimsical story “Alistair Grim’s Odditorium,” published last month by Disney.

“It’s a book about family. It’s a book about friendship, and ultimately – it sounds corny, but – it’s about how love conquers all,” Funaro said.

Although trained in theater and not writing, Funaro began channeling excess creativity into composing screenplays and books as a hobby while part of an acting troupe nearly 15 years ago.

bookcover1“I didn’t exactly plan on being a writer; it just happened,” he said. “I wish I had a revelatory moment where I was inspired to do it, but it was a fun time-killer for me initially.”

It was this casual pastime that led him to explore the inventive and otherworldly plot of “Alistair Grim’s Odditorium,” the first in a planned series.

After an orphan named Grubb, the central character and narrator, is whisked away to a strange world called the Odditorium, he is allowed to stay as an apprentice as long as he doesn’t share any secrets about his new home with the public.

“The Odditorium is powered by a mysterious glowing blue energy called ‘animus,’ but the animus has to stay within the walls of the Odditorium,” Funaro explained. Through a series of events, Grubb accidentally lets some of the animus escape, which sets off a heroic adventure of discovery.

Amazon.com editors quickly selected Funaro’s “Odditorium” for their Best Book of the Month list during January, while Bookish.com chose it for their Winter’s Best Children’s and Middle Grade Books list. It’s currently rated with 4.5 stars on Amazon and 3.93 on GoodReads, and has received positive features on websites like Hypable and the Publishers Weekly Review.

The book is targeted to ages 8-12, but readers of all ages are enjoying Grubb’s adventure.

“I’m thrilled that it’s getting such positive reviews, but what means the most to me is that kids love it,” Funaro said. “I get notes about it from kids, and then parents tell me ‘my child doesn’t like to read but couldn’t put your book down.’ All the reviews in the world don’t compare to that.”

Funaro said he has found his niche, although his earlier writings were part of a darker genre. His first two published books were thrillers featuring characters that were quite different than young Grubb and Mr. Grim. The birth of his daughter led him to shift focus.

“You spend so much time doing research, getting into the minds of horrible characters (as a thriller writer) – and then you have to turn that off and play with your new child,” he said. “It just felt uncomfortable.”

But he feels extremely comfortable in the children’s literature arena and, especially, at ECU.

“This is the best department and best colleagues, and I’m sorry, but we have the very best students,” he said. “They’re just so supportive and so positive; the rapport here is just great. Everything I write is about family or loss of family, and this is sort of my family.”

Funaro dedicated “Odditorium” to his daughter and to Jack, the child of a family friend whose enthusiasm urged him to see it through.

His second book in the series, “Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum,” is scheduled for release in spring 2016.

ECU selects Ron Mitchelson as provost

Ron Mitchelson
(Photo by Jay Clark)

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Ron Mitchelson has been named provost at East Carolina University after serving in the role on an interim basis since last year.

The ECU Board of Trustees made Mitchelson’s position permanent at their meeting Feb. 20. After a national search, Chancellor Steve Ballard selected Mitchelson from what he described as “an excellent pool of candidates.”

Ron Mitchelson (Photo by Jay Clark)

Ron Mitchelson
(Photo by Jay Clark)

After the board’s unanimous vote to approve Mitchelson for the position, the decision was greeted with a round of applause from the audience. Asked if he had any further comments on Mitchelson’s appointment, Ballard said, “I believe the applause speaks for itself.”

A geographer, Mitchelson has been at ECU since 1999. He chaired the geography department and served as interim chair of the English department. In 2011 he was appointed to chair ECU’s Program Prioritization Committee, which evaluated programs campus wide and examined the university’s academic structure.

Mitchelson also spent two years as interim associate vice chancellor for research and chief research officer in the Division of Research and Graduate Studies.

“Ron Mitchelson has proven himself as department chair, associate vice chancellor and now interim vice chancellor,” said Ballard. “He has excellent experience with the Program Prioritization Committee and the Committee on Fiscal Sustainability. He has earned the respect of his colleagues. We had a competitive national search, and Ron was easily the choice, in large part because of his proven leadership qualities and values.”

As provost, Mitchelson will serve as ECU’s chief academic officer with oversight of academic programming, enrollment management, institutional planning and research, and equity and diversity. His salary of $297,000 must be approved by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

Newly appointed Provost Ron Mitchelson stands to receive congratulations from the audience at the Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 20. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Newly appointed Provost Ron Mitchelson stands to receive congratulations from the audience at the Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 20. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

During his six months as interim provost, Mitchelson guided the development of ECU’s new strategic plan, which sets the course for the university for the next five years. He said he’s “honored and will work tirelessly” to achieve the school’s mission and the priorities set out in the strategic plan, primarily student success, regional transformation and public service.

The time as interim provost has provided valuable training, he said.

“I think I’ve learned a lot more about some of the parts and pieces of the university I was less familiar with,” he said. “Those experiences really have helped me come to a deeper understanding of ECU and the university system as a whole.”

Mitchelson graduated from the State University of New York in Buffalo in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in geography. He holds master’s and doctoral degrees in geography from The Ohio State University. Before coming to ECU, he held faculty and administrative positions at the University of Georgia and Morehead State University in Kentucky.

Events mark progress in medical education

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First-year medical students and third-semester nursing students from ECU's Quality Improvement Olympics hold their protected raw egg that will be dropped from a stepladder. The protection was created during a timed teamwork exercise. Team members, from left, are Skyler Cauley, Isaiah Dunnaville, Jennifer Okpala, Dan-Thanh Nguyen, Staci Allgood, Sam Olsen. (Photos by Gretchen Baugh)

First-year medical students and third-semester nursing students from ECU’s Quality Improvement Olympics hold their protected raw egg that will be dropped from a stepladder. The protection was created during a timed teamwork exercise. Team members, from left, are Skyler Cauley, Isaiah Dunnaville, Jennifer Okpala, Dan-Thanh Nguyen, Staci Allgood, Sam Olsen. (Photos by Gretchen Baugh)


By Amy Ellis

ECU News Services

When East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine was awarded a $1 million grant by the American Medical Association in 2013 to help shape how future doctors are trained, AMA leaders cited the school’s reputation for bold innovation.

That spirit of innovation was the guest of honor at two recent grant-related events: a faculty-driven Quality Improvement Symposium and a Quality Improvement Olympics involving nursing and medical students.

The Quality Improvement Symposium, held at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU on Jan. 21, showcased 25 projects by faculty members across the health sciences. All are inaugural fellows in Brody’s Teachers of Quality Academy (TQA) who spent the past year pioneering ways to better meet the demands of a changing health care delivery system.

At the TQA Quality Symposium are, from left, Dr. Chelley Alexander, chair of the Department of Family Medicine; Dr. Patricia Crane, associate dean for research and creative activities, College of Nursing; Dr. Sylvia Brown, dean of the College of Nursing; Dr. Pamela Reis, assistant professor, College of Nursing.

At the TQA Quality Symposium are, from left, Dr. Chelley Alexander, chair of the Department of Family Medicine; Dr. Patricia Crane, associate dean for research and creative activities, College of Nursing; Dr. Sylvia Brown, dean of the College of Nursing; Dr. Pamela Reis, assistant professor, College of Nursing.

“Health systems today need every physician to be an expert in patient safety, quality improvement and systems-based practice, “ said Dr. Elizabeth Baxley, senior associate dean for academic affairs at Brody. “At the same time, every physician is required to embody the highest values of professionalism and be equipped to thrive in an environment of inter-professional, team-based care.”

Baxley said that’s why Brody established the academy shortly after being named one of only 11 medical schools to receive the five-year REACH (Redesigning Education to Accelerate Change in Healthcare) grant.

“Clinical teachers today face complex challenges not encountered by their predecessors,” she said. “They have to teach, while simultaneously delivering care in expanded inter-professional teams, while simultaneously learning about redesigning clinical delivery systems.

“This 18-month faculty development program is designed to ‘teach the teachers,’ to equip them with the skills they’ll need to practice and teach a new curriculum more focused on issues like patient safety, quality improvement and team-based care,” she said.

Poster and presentation topics at the symposium ranged from reducing clinical no-show rates to accelerating collaboration between medical and nursing students.

“This energetic, passionate, creative group of TQA fellows has been so inspiring,” Baxley said, “and they have already made major impacts, in just 12 months, in the way we provide patient care and educate future physicians.”

The academy has produced 20 new curricular components and student experiences that are already being infused into medical, allied health and nursing education across ECU, Baxley said.

One example is the Quality Improvement Olympics held Jan. 23 at Brody. The event, organized by the College of Nursing’s Dr. Gina Woody and Dr. Luan Lawson, assistant dean for curriculum, assessment and clinical academic affairs at Brody, involved about 80 first-year medical students, 116 third-semester nursing students and more than 130 raw eggs.

Organizers divided the students into groups of six, with a mixture of nursing and medical students in each group. At each table was an assortment of packing peanuts, straws, plastic bags, sponges, rubber bands, gauze and newspaper.

Using these materials, each group was asked to construct an egg “vehicle” that would protect their egg as it was dropped from the top of a stepladder. Along with egg “safety,” timeliness and cost-effectiveness were factored in to determine each team’s success.

Lawson said the purpose of the activity was to introduce nursing and medical students to the concepts of patient safety and quality improvement through experiential learning in inter-professional teams. She said it allowed students to apply their knowledge to a game-based activity before transferring the experience to a clinical scenario.

“Well-functioning teams are necessary to improve patient care and health,” she said. “We want our graduates to have the skills and confidence to transform our healthcare system and work collaboratively to serve our patients and their families.”

Medical student Taras Grinchak was on a team whose egg was unscathed by the drop. “If we hadn’t worked as a team with our individual contributions, we wouldn’t have been able to complete the task in five minutes,” he said.

“Focusing on each other’s strengths and assigning specific roles to each person is what enabled us to get this outcome.”

Nursing student Alexandra Simkus agreed. “We learned the importance of working together as a team; everyone’s input was valuable,” she said.

When one team’s egg did not survive the drop, organizers commended the students for their creativity and risk-taking – attributes that landed Brody the REACH grant in the first place.

Foundation welcomes new leadership

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East Carolina University recently named a new president for its Medical & Health Sciences Foundation – the organization which seeks and manages charitable giving for the Division of Health Sciences.

Notestine

Notestine

Dr. Mark A. Notestine began his tenure as foundation president and associate vice chancellor for health sciences development and alumni affairs in December.

His responsibilities include serving as the foundation’s chief operating officer and leading all fundraising activities for the Division of Health Sciences, including The Brody School of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Allied Health Sciences, the School of Dental Medicine, William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library and affiliated entities. He works in close collaboration with ECU Advancement leadership to engage, cultivate, solicit and steward alumni and friends for philanthropic support for the university, its programs and strategic priorities.

“I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to work closely with East Carolina University and foundation leadership to provide essential resources to ensure student and faculty success, and to work with our community partners to transform health care in our region and state,” Notestine said.

Prior to his arrival in Greenville, he served as the associate dean of advancement at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and the associate vice president of development at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

He earned his bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Tennessee and his PhD at Ohio University.

The East Carolina University Medical & Health Sciences Foundation Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization whose purpose is to seek and acquire charitable gift support from individuals, businesses, organizations, corporations, and foundations to support ECU’s Division of Health Sciences. Funds received and managed by the Medical & Health Sciences Foundation are designed to enhance education, teaching, research and service.

 

NCLR receives Phoenix Award

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The North Carolina Literary Review has been recognized with the 2014 Phoenix Award for Significant Editorial Achievement by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. The award was announced during the Modern Language Association conference in Vancouver on Jan. 8.

This is the journal’s fifth award from this allied organization of the Modern Language Association. CELJ’s membership includes more than 450 editors of scholarly journals.

NCLR is published by East Carolina University and the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

Margaret Bauer

Margaret Bauer

According to the CELJ award guidelines, the Phoenix Award is given to a journal that has “launched an overall effort of revitalization or transformation within the previous three years.”

ECU English professor Margaret Bauer, who serves as NCLR editor, said she submitted to this category to call attention to NCLR’s expansion in 2012 to add a second issue each year, an open-access electronic issue titled NCLR Online. Book reviews are now published in these issues “to reach as broad an audience as possible, our mission being to promote North Carolina writers,” said Bauer, who is the Rives Chair of Southern Literature at ECU.

One of the CELJ judges said of NCLR: “What’s most impressive about the recent changes is . . . using online publishing to increase dissemination and take advantage of various digital affordances, while also preserving the gorgeous printed volume.”

Another of the competition’s judges praised NCLR’s “immediate accessibility to a general audience with a high level of substantive writing.” This judge also remarked upon the appearance of the journal: “A particular appealing aspect of the journal is the enlargement of the verbal texts through photographic illustrations that are placed appropriately with the fictional works, the poems and the interviews.” Bauer said that she credits NCLR Art Editor Diane Rodman for the quality of the art featured inside and Art Director Dana Ezzell Gay and the other graphic designers for “the beautiful layout” of the issues.

The additional online issues also allow the editors to publish more of the finalists in the poetry and fiction competitions that the journal manages. Many of these finalists are new writers, according to Bauer, and they are therefore introduced to an even larger audience than the print issues reach.

“One of my missions as editor has always been to give new writers a chance, even in ‘the writingest state,’” Bauer said. Using this descriptor, coined by the late Doris Betts, Bauer points out that with the number of established, talented writers in North Carolina, it would be easy to fill every issue without taking a chance on new talent. “But I enjoy reading and meeting new writers as much as I have enjoyed the opportunity to develop relationships with many of North Carolina’s literary stars,” she said.

The newest issue of NCLR Online will be available in late January. The print issues are published in July. Find subscription information on NCLR’s website, www.nclr.ecu.edu.

Research makes journal cover

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An article authored by East Carolina University accounting professor Rebecca Fay made the front page of the Journal of Accountancy, the leading journal published by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The magazine reaches 500,000 accounting and finance professionals each month, more than all other accounting publications combined.

Rebecca Fay

Rebecca Fay

The article, “I’m not biased, am I?” was published as the Journal of Accountancy’s cover story on Feb. 1, 2015. Norma R. Montague, assistant professor of accounting at Wake Forest University, served as co-author.

In the report, the authors explored five common judgment biases that can affect accounting and auditing decisions, concluding that learning how to spot and short-circuit these biases can help CPAs maintain their objectivity. The authors also included a decision-making quiz so that readers can learn about their decision-making process and how it relates to their accounting work.

Fay explained, “The first step toward enhancing our decisions is recognizing the specific problems that may occur. In 60 seconds the quiz provides readers with an opportunity to determine whether common types of bias are affecting their decisions. It shifts the topic of bias from merely a textbook concept to something that is relevant to the reader personally. Hopefully the article will pique interest and point readers to the wealth of literature available.”

Click here for the full article: http://journalofaccountancy.com/issues/2015/feb/auditing-judgment-bias.html.

Fay joined the ECU College of Business as an assistant professor of accounting in Fall 2011. Originally from Virginia, she earned her Ph.D. from Virginia Tech and holds both a B.S. and an M.B.A. from Liberty University. She is s a licensed CPA and has seven years of experience in public accounting. She worked as an audit manager with Cherry, Bekaert & Holland before returning to academia.

Retired ECU dean honored for service

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Dr. Stephen Thomas, dean emeritus of the College of Allied Health Sciences at East Carolina University, pictured with his wife Melodie, recently received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award. Dr. Johnny Williams (far right), is president of the Old North State Medical Society, which nominated Thomas for the honor.

Dr. Stephen Thomas, dean emeritus of the College of Allied Health Sciences at East Carolina University, pictured with his wife Melodie, recently received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award. Dr. Johnny Williams (far right), is president of the Old North State Medical Society, which nominated Thomas for the honor.

The dean emeritus of the College of Allied Health Sciences at East Carolina University was recently honored with one of North Carolina’s most prestigious civilian awards for his outstanding service to the state in the area of health equity.

Dr. Stephen Thomas, who retired in October, was presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award Feb. 6 during the 11th annual Jean Mills Symposium, an event aimed at generating awareness and solutions for health problems that plague North Carolinians and especially minorities. Thomas has been instrumental in organizing the event over the past decade.

Although the honor was conferred by the governor, the surprise presentation was made by Dr. Johnny Williams, president of the Old North State Medical Society; Amos T. Mills, founder of the Mills Symposium; Dr. Don Ensley, professor emeritus of health services and information management; and Dr. Julius Mallette, president of the Andrew A. Best Medical Society.

Thomas served the university for 34 years. He joined ECU in 1980 as a faculty member in the rehabilitation studies department, tasked to start and direct the vocational evaluation master’s degree program. He was named chair of the department in 1998 and interim dean of the former School of Allied Health Sciences in April 2001.

After his promotion to dean in 2003, Thomas led the school through several new endeavors including a move from its former location in the Belk Building to the new Health Sciences Building in 2006, and a name change from the School of Allied Health Sciences to the College of Allied Health Sciences in 2007.

Frost awarded for dissertation

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Frost

Frost

ECU English professor Dr. Erin Frost won the 2015 College Composition and Communication Outstanding Dissertation Award in Technical Communication for her dissertation,“Theorizing an Apparent Feminism in Technical Communication.”

The Conference on College Composition and Communication is a constituent organization within the National Council of Teachers of English.

Dissertations for this award are evaluated according to five criteria: originality of research, contribution the research makes to the field, methodological soundness of the approach used, awareness of the existing research in the area studied, and overall quality of the writing.

Frost will be announced as the recipient of the CCCC Outstanding Dissertation Award in Technical Communication on March 20, during the 2015 CCCC Annual Convention in Tampa, Florida.

For more information about the CCCC Outstanding Dissertation Award in Technical Communication, including past winners, see http://www.ncte.org/cccc/awards/techcommdissertation.

The Conference on College Composition and Communication, with more than 5,000 members and subscribers, supports and promotes the teaching and study of composition, rhetoric, and communication skills at the college level, both in undergraduate and graduate programs. College Composition and Communication is the group’s journal. For more information, visit http://www.ncte.org/cccc.

Surgeon honored for teaching, mentoring

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Dr. Mark Iannettoni, professor and chief of general thoracic surgery for East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and director of the new thoracic surgery residency program at Vidant Medical Center, has been honored nationally for his work with resident physicians.

Iannettoni

Iannettoni

The 2015 Socrates Award was presented to Iannettoni by the Thoracic Surgery Residents Association during the annual Society of Thoracic Surgeons conference in January. The award recognizes, “an outstanding cardiothoracic surgery faculty member for his or her commitment to resident education and mentorship.”

Residents are physicians who are receiving additional training in specific areas of medicine; thoracic surgery refers to operations done on organs within the chest, such as the lungs.

Iannettoni joined the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences and the East Carolina Heart Institute in 2014. He is professor and chief of general thoracic surgery and organized the thoracic surgery residency program here. His clinical areas of expertise include benign and malignant esophageal disease and new therapies for lung cancer.

“We congratulate Dr. Iannettoni on this very prestigious award. We are extremely pleased to have him here in Greenville to direct our new thoracic surgery residency program,” said Dr. Herb Garrison, associate dean for graduate medical education at VMC and ECU and an ECU professor of emergency medicine. “We are already hearing great things about him from our resident physicians, providers and patients.”

“This was a complete surprise to receive this award,” said Iannettoni. “It is a true honor for me to be recognized by the residents as well as the STS and program directors for something I love to do.

“The key to the success of the new thoracic surgery residency program here at ECU/Vidant Medical Center will be the faculty participation in educating the next generation of thoracic surgeons,” Iannettoni added. “We have a great group of surgeons here ready to participate, and I am fortunate to have the support from Vidant to make this happen here in eastern North Carolina where the need is so great.”

Mills Symposium peddles partnerships

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Dr. L. Allen Dobson, keynote speaker and current president and CEO of Community Care of North Carolina, was the keynote speaker at the 11th annual Jean Mills Health Symposium held Feb. 6 at East Carolina University.

Dr. L. Allen Dobson, keynote speaker and current president and CEO of Community Care of North Carolina, was the keynote speaker at the 11th annual Jean Mills Health Symposium held Feb. 6 at East Carolina University.

 

By Lauren Harrell Edmondson
For ECU News Services

Innovative community health care driven by patient needs, and tailoring local resources to cooperatively address those needs was the focus of the 11th annual Jean Mills Health Symposium held Feb. 6 at East Carolina University.

“North Carolina’s strength in health care comes from putting the needs of patients and community first,” said Dr. L. Allen Dobson, keynote speaker and current president and CEO of Community Care of North Carolina, the comprehensive network that manages health care delivery for the state’s Medicaid recipients and low-income insured residents.

Dobson told the audience – an assortment of health care providers, community and faith leaders, faculty, students and community residents – that eastern North Carolina has pioneered a successful model of collaborative efforts that put patient needs before health care industry needs.

He outlined a “state of the union” for the current health care system, noting the high costs of providing care and the lack of sustainability. As a result of these conditions, Dobson said, patients are absorbing more of the costs, insurers are narrowing their networks and providers are being consolidated – actions that aren’t adequately addressing the issues at hand.

Dobson highlighted consolidation in particular, noting how unsuccessful the shift from physician-owned practices to health-system-owned practices can be.

“Consolidation, practice purchasing and this type of activity is actually driving up costs,” he said.

The higher costs associated with ownership consolidation often result from more care being delivered in high-cost hospital settings and hospital based ambulatory surgical centers, Dobson explained. While he noted that increased coordination of care and less duplication of tests and treatments help decrease costs for consolidated practices, he said physician-owned practices provide lower cost care.

He cited a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that care at a physician-owned practice costs $743 less per patient per year than care at a health-system owned establishment. Dobson went on to say that larger practices tend to prevent fewer hospital admissions and re-admissions and often focus on “sick care” more than preventative medicine.

Amos T. Mills III, pictured above, was recognized at the ceremony. He created the event in honor of his sister, an ECU alumna.

Amos T. Mills III, pictured above, was recognized at the ceremony. He created the event in honor of his sister, an ECU alumna.

North Carolina’s effectiveness in addressing such issues lies with the state’s collaborative efforts across disciplines and a knack for tailoring approaches to local resources, according to Dobson. Through these efforts Community Care ensures health care is focused at the community level and ensures patients’ needs are met, no matter their location, he said.

“Health care, just like politics, is local. You can’t take something that worked in Durham or Charlotte and make it work in little Washington,” he said.

The daylong symposium also featured panels and breakout sessions on ways community partnerships can address issues around obesity, diabetes and mental health, especially in minority populations.

The Mills Symposium was created by Amos T. Mills III in memory of his sister, an ECU alumna with a passion for community health and health equity. Presented by the College of Allied Health Sciences in collaboration with the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation, the annual event is aimed at generating awareness and solutions for health problems that plague North Carolinians and minorities in particular.

Hundreds of African art pieces displayed

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Nearly 600 pieces of African art are on display at six different sites on ECU's campus during the month of February. Above, Laura Frye from the School of Art and Design attaches a label to a mask from the Kuba ethnic region. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Nearly 600 pieces of African art were on display at six different sites on ECU’s campus during the month of February. Above, Laura Frye from the School of Art and Design attaches a label to a mask from the Kuba ethnic region. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

 

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

For the first time ever, most of East Carolina University’s extensive African art collection was exhibited simultaneously at six different sites during February.

With close to 600 pieces, ECU has one of the most important university-held teaching collections in the United States, said Ken Wilburn, history professor at ECU.

The functional and ceremonial African art – mainly from central, western and southern Africa – includes headdresses, sculptures, vessels, jewelry, weapons, musical instruments and rare examples of figures and masks.

Maps were available at each of the exhibit sites: Erwin Gallery in the College of Fine Arts and Communication, the Honors College in the Mamie Jenkins Building, Joyner Library, the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center and the School of Art and Design’s Jenkins Fine Art Center Wellington B. Gray and Burroughs Wellcome galleries.

“This collaboration will showcase the best of the collection,” said Dr. Chris Buddo, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication. “This is the first time we’ll be able to get a significant portion out for people to see.”

ECU amassed the pieces over the past 25 years from three individuals: Winston-Salem physician James L. Lankton, Wilmington collector and dealer Charles Jones and an anonymous donor.

Wilburn, who uses the collection as part of his History of Africa class, said viewers should be mindful that the pieces were created for function, not admiration. “Each piece was created to fulfil a purpose in its village of origin,” he said.

For instance, African masks are often used in coming-of-age initiation ceremonies. Traditional African art is also used for religious rituals, Wilburn said.

The African art on display throughout campus during February aims to bring awareness to traditional African societies and cultures.

The African art that was on display throughout campus during February was aimed at bringing awareness to traditional African societies and cultures.

“ECU’s African art collection is an extraordinary teaching collection that can be used to facilitate discussions of traditional lives in African societies and cultures,” Wilburn said.

More than 250 pieces come from the central African Kuba region and may be the largest collection in the country, Wilburn said. “When the Kuba section was first exhibited at ECU about 20 years ago, a member of the Kuba royal family was present,” he said.

Wilburn was hoping the exhibit would bring awareness to traditional African societies and cultures.

“As they view and study the many provenances of ECU’s African art collection, our students will increase their global identity, respect for diversity and knowledge of their origins,” Wilburn said. “Ultimately, (the) collection will help our students become more civilized and more human.”

The African Student Organization and Invisible Children helped plan the reception and had student hosts at each site.

“I hope that students will gain a greater appreciation for Africa,” said Rejoice C. Asomugha, a nursing major and vice president of the ECU African Student Organization. “I hope that they realize how richly Africa is blessed in culture and in talent.”

The exhibition is an outgrowth of ongoing efforts to establish permanent display space for the African art collection at ECU, Buddo said.

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Course links students across continents

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ECU student Jill Collins enjoys interacting with students from Algeria during a global understanding class held in the university's global classroom. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU student Jill Collins enjoys interacting with students from Algeria during a global understanding class held in the university’s global classroom. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

 

By Steve Tuttle
ECU News Services

Freshman Payton Miller said she’s often dreamed of traveling overseas and studying abroad but she never really believed that was an attainable goal. Until now.

“After just a few weeks in this class seeing and talking with college students in Algeria, the whole idea of going to a foreign country isn’t scary to me like it once was,” Miller said. “I’ve learned that they dress differently than we do and they have different customs but there are more ways we’re alike than there are ways we’re different.”

Miller, who is from Wilkesboro, is a student in one of 20 class sections of a global understanding course offered this semester. Linked by live video conferencing, Internet chat software and social media, the classes connect ECU students with their counterparts in different countries. Several academic departments, including English, sociology and foreign languages, offer the course.

ECU student Kaitlyn Burley shares an icon of American culture with fellow students in Algeria.

ECU student Kaitlyn Burley shares an icon of American culture with fellow students in Algeria.

Ten years after it launched, the program is broadening the horizons of a growing number of ECU students like Miller and attracting international attention. The program recently was recognized for its innovative approach to helping students learn more about cultures around the world.

It captured third place in the “Presence Learning” category at the 2014 Wharton-QS Stars Awards: Reimagine Education conference. The event was held Dec. 8-10 at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. ECU was one of 21 award recipients chosen from initiatives at 427 universities and enterprises in 43 countries.

ECU offers its global understanding course in partnership with 58 institutions in 30 countries on five continents, said program director Jami Leibowitz. She said language is not a barrier because most of the foreign students speak English.

The more than 300 ECU students who are enrolled in the global understanding course this semester are focusing on four topics—college life, family and cultural traditions, religion and the meaning of life, and stereotypes, said Jennifer Sisk, a teaching instructor in the English department who leads the English 1000 Global Understanding class.

ECU anthropology professor Dr. Blakely Brooks leads an ECU Global Understanding class.

ECU anthropology professor Dr. Blakely Brooks leads an ECU Global Understanding class.

On one recent morning, Miller and her classmates in Anthropology 1050 Global Understanding are acquainting the Algerian students with everyday aspects of American culture. One has brought a model car and tells the Algerian students how Americans love and rely on automobiles. Another holds up a clock to demonstrate Americans’ obsession with working long hours. A third brings an athletic shoe and talks about how Americans love sports.

Watching intently is a class of male and female students at the University of Abou Bekr Belkaïd in Tiemcen, Algeria.

Then it’s their turn for show and tell.

One student stands and points to a traditional Algerian hat he is wearing. He explains to the ECU students that it helps keep him warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Then he demonstrates that the hat really is a scarf wrapped carefully around his head.

The ECU students seem impressed by the scarf-that-becomes-a-hat. Some who have scarves around their necks on this chilly morning begin winding them around their heads, which the Algerian students applaud.

Teaching Assistant Professor Blakely Brooks, who is leading the class, chuckles. “The stereotypes our students have, they find out they just aren’t correct. And the foreign students find out their ideas of Americans often aren’t correct.”

ECU student Seanta Baker interacts with students in Algeria in ECU's Global Classroom.

ECU student Seanta Baker interacts with students in Algeria in ECU’s Global Classroom.

“Students love this class,” said Sisk. “And it’s benefitted me, too. I used to consider myself a worldly person but now I have learned so much more.”

Miller said the Algerian students seem genuinely interested in the everyday lives of American college students. “They ask about college life here – how we live, what we do, what campus is like.”

She said she’s learned that many notions she had about foreign students were wrong. “Most of the kids we talk to are in engineering-related fields and it seems sometimes they are more educated than we are.”

The lasting benefit of the course is that ECU students learn “to develop essential skills necessary to succeed in a global, multicultural society,” Leibowitz said.

Leibowitz said she believes the global understanding course is valuable because most ECU students cannot afford to travel overseas or study abroad. “Our goal,” she said, “is to give everyone the opportunity to have some sort of real-time international experience.”

More details about the global understanding course is available at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/globalinitiatives/course.cfm.

 

Pictured below, a screen at the ECU Global Classroom shows the students from Algeria, with the ECU class shown in the upper left.

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Scientists study septic systems for chemicals

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ECU geology graduate student Adam Trevisan heads to a research site carrying an electromagnetic induction profiler, used to trace water impurities so ECU researchers can follow where groundwater is flowing underground. The work is part of a collaborative effort to examine water contaminants that may migrate from home septic systems. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU geology graduate student Adam Trevisan heads to a research site carrying an electromagnetic induction profiler, used to trace water impurities so ECU researchers can follow where groundwater is flowing underground. The work is part of a collaborative effort to examine water contaminants that may migrate from home septic systems. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

 

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

In rural eastern North Carolina, septic systems are the primary way sewage is treated. While the systems are simple yet effective, some experts now wonder if the systems and the rules governing their installation are sufficient to keep ground and surface water clean from the modern synthetic chemicals found in common products and medicines.

That’s what a group of 10 East Carolina University researchers is working to find out. Geologists, toxicologists, engineers and others are studying “emerging contaminants” in coastal waters, particularly pharmaceutical and personal care product pollutants, or PPCPs, how they move from septic systems and what health risks they might present to humans and other organisms.

PPCPs range from prescription drugs such as birth control pills to some of the ingredients in soap and shampoo – even coffee and soft drinks get included since they contain caffeine. While the environmental effects of caffeine aren’t known, other PPCPs contain endocrine disrupters and other compounds that are known to adversely affect aquatic life once they reach surface water.

ECU geologist Mike O’Driscoll checks water for contaminants.

ECU geologist Mike O’Driscoll checks water for contaminants.

“The reason they’re ending up in the waste stream is our bodies excreting them after we use the pharmaceutical or consumer product,” said Siddhartha Mitra, associate professor of geology and one of the leaders of the research group. “You don’t want endocrine disrupters, even at low levels, in the environment. Even at the low levels we’re seeing in the environment, those endocrine disruptors can have drastic effects on the ecosystem.”

Many municipal water treatment facilities, such as Greenville Utilities’ complex off Old River Road, have advanced processes to remove these products from wastewater. But home septic systems do not. With approximately 40 septic systems per square mile in eastern North Carolina – more in densely populated areas, such as waterfronts – that’s a lot of potentially undertreated sewage.

“It’s not like an oil spill where there’s a huge amount that comes in at once,” Mitra said. “It’s actually quite the opposite. We’re just getting to the point we’re realizing this is a big problem with septic systems.”

He and two other researchers working on this project, environmental health specialist Charlie Humphrey and geologist Mike O’Driscoll, published an article in July describing the detection of PPCPs in groundwater (“Detection of pharmaceuticals and other personal care products in groundwater beneath and adjacent to onsite wastewater treatment systems in a coastal plain shallow aquifer,” published in Science of the Total Environment).

In that study, which involved home septic systems in the Eastern Pines area of Pitt County, caffeine, the insecticide DEET, homosalate, which is found in sunscreen products, and the painkiller ibuprofen were the PPCPs most frequently detected across all study sites in August and November 2012. Thirty-two of 37 samples, or 87 percent, had detectable levels of at least one of the target PPCPs. DEET was the compound most frequently detected (78 percent) in groundwater, tank and stream samples combined, followed by ibuprofen (38 percent), caffeine (35 percent) and homosalate (19 percent).

Geology graduate student Adam Trevisan, left, and environmental health specialist Charlie Humphrey carry tools to a site for research.

Geology graduate student Adam Trevisan, left, and environmental health specialist Charlie Humphrey carry tools to a site for research.

Concentrations of these PPCPs were detected most frequently in the tank samples followed by up-gradient samples, drainfield samples and down-gradient samples. Due to the presence of these PPCPs and the movement of ibuprofen 15-18 meters from the drainfield to a nearby stream, the scientists said setback distance regulations might not be adequate.

“One system might not be a problem, but if you look at all of them, there could be issues,” O’Driscoll said.

The aim now is to better gauge the pervasiveness of PCPPs moving from septic systems, also known as onsite wastewater treatment systems, to surface water, how to determine if the PCPPs are entering aquatic organisms and what rules might be necessary to prevent PCPPs from reaching waters.

“Everything you put down your drain could potentially end up in our environment,” said Jamie DeWitt, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. “It’s what we eat, it’s what we drink, it’s what we wash with. We don’t know what chronic or long-term exposure to low concentrations of these products does.

“This is an important concern for coastal North Carolina as the density of septic systems is quite high and because our coastal resources are critically important to many aspects of our state’s well-being,” she said.

Burrell Montz, professor and chair of geography, is working on mapping the density and type of septic systems. She predicts the group’s findings might not please developers and municipal leaders but will provide facts to base future decisions on.

“You need good science to get good policy,” she said. “If we know what to anticipate, then maybe we can make better decisions. My hunch is it’s not going to be pretty, which means we have to be careful how we present it.”

Among the potential solutions for more comprehensive sewage treatment are advanced septic systems, such as those with permeable reactive barriers, which could serve a single residence or a group of houses. But they aren’t cheap.

“It could cost you $40,000 to get a new advanced system,” said O’Driscoll. “It would start to turn the little septic system in your backyard into something like the municipal treatment system.”

The group has received funding from the ECU Division of Research and Graduate Studies program to foster scientific collaboration between the main and health sciences campuses. They are working to generate data to submit with proposals for external grants.

Traditionally, it’s been unusual for this many researchers from so many departments to work together on a single issue. But this issue covers a lot of ground.

“We consider ourselves a truly transdisciplinary team as we have to work together to understand this problem,” DeWitt said. “One piece of the puzzle isn’t enough.

“I love working with this team. It forces me to think outside my own scientific box.”

 

Endocrine Disruption a Growing Threat

Exposure to low-levels of some contaminants can cause disruption of endocrine functions, such as reproduction, in animals.

This disruption occurs when the contaminants modulate, mimic or interfere with normal hormonal activity. Examples of endocrine-active contaminants are chemicals such as synthetic hormones, certain pesticides, some pharmaceuticals, detergent degradation products such as nonylphenol, and many others.

Among aquatic life, one example of endocrine disruption is intersex, or the presence of male and female characteristics within the same fish. Experts are observing this abnormality in fish in streams across the nation, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Endocrine disruption can result in adverse effects on the development of the brain and nervous system, the growth and function of the reproductive system and the response to stressors in the environment. These disruptions can have ruinous impacts on fish populations.

For example, a 2008 Colorado study showed the population of fish downstream of wastewater discharge from a sewage treatment plant was dominated by females, and 18 to 22 percent of fish exhibited intersex.

Another 2008 study documented complex effects of fish exposure to nonylphenol, a degradation product used in large quantities in commercial and household detergents. Scientists reported in the journal Aquatic Toxicology that low doses of nonyphenol “primed” the males for breeding competition, whereas higher exposures inhibited their breeding behavior.

Another product found in ground and surface water, bisphenol A, has been linked to the early onset of puberty in laboratory animals, according to a 2009 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives. BPA is commonly found in plastic bottles, containers and even the linings of metal and infant formula food cans, though it was banned from baby bottles in 2012.

The ubiquitous presence of these synthetic compounds and their effects on life are one reason ECU researchers are taking a closer look at septic systems in eastern North Carolina.

“If (organisms) are exposed to these compounds from the time they are conceived to the time they are ready to reproduce, that’s their entire developmental process,” said Jamie DeWitt, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU.

ECU again recognized as StormReady university

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East Carolina University has been recognized again as StormReady, meaning that the university is prepared with infrastructure and communication systems to deal with episodes of severe weather, like the ice storm pictured above. (File photo)

East Carolina University has been recognized again as StormReady, meaning that the university is prepared with infrastructure and communication systems to deal with episodes of severe weather, like the ice storm pictured above. (File photo)

 

By Grace Haskin
ECU News Services

Whether a snowstorm emerges or a hurricane strikes, East Carolina University has a plan.

That’s one reason the National Weather Service has again recognized ECU as StormReady, a nationwide program that helps communities plan for severe weather through advanced planning, education and awareness.

“Receiving StormReady recognition does not mean that a community is storm proof, but it means we are prepared for severe weather,” said Lauren Gunter, ECU continuity and emergency planner.

A severe thunderstorm in July 2012 toppled trees along Fifth Street near campus. ECU's Facilities Services personnel responded quickly to clear away the damage. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

A severe thunderstorm in July 2012 toppled trees along Fifth Street near campus. ECU’s Facilities Services personnel responded quickly to clear away the damage. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Since Eastern North Carolina is prone to severe weather, including hurricanes, tornadoes, winter weather and flooding, it is important for ECU to be StormReady. “To keep our community safe before, during and after hazardous weather events, we use the StormReady standard and then go above and beyond to implement the infrastructure and communication systems to keep our folks safe,” said Gunter.

There are six requirements to become recognized as StormReady. One of them is to have a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center. The ECU Police Department serves as the primary warning point and operations center by receiving severe weather warnings and forecasts and sending alerts to the public.

Another requirement is to have more than one way to alert the public of severe weather. ECU has 10 notification methods, including ECU Alert, which is a collection of communication tools used by the university to transfer emergency information.

ECU was first recognized as StormReady in May 2009, then recognized again in March 2012 and again on Jan. 8. The designation lasts for three years before it needs to be reviewed. After six years, the application process and investigation must start over.

“The re-recognition process ensures that equipment is in place and updated, contact information is accurate, and allows for improvements to be made to the program using technological advancements in communications and warning dissemination,” said Gunter.

Being StormReady has helped ECU effectively respond to severe weather on multiple occasions. “We’ve had some winter, tornadic and hurricane events that have impacted our campuses and satellite facilities,” said Gunter. “These hazardous weather events prompt the university to work through our hazardous weather checklists to make decisions and prepare the campus. We also frequently utilize our emergency notification system, ECU Alert, for notices other than weather-related events.”

There are 154 universities, six of which are in North Carolina, that are designated StormReady.

To learn more about StormReady, go to www.stormready.noaa.gov.

Project catalogues items from outdoor theaters

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Ashley Williams, project librarian at ECU's Joyner Library, displays some of the materials being catalogued from hundreds of outdoor theaters for an online inventory. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Ashley Williams, project librarian at ECU’s Joyner Library, displays some of the materials being catalogued from hundreds of outdoor theaters for an online inventory. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

 

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

East Carolina University archivists are in the middle of a yearlong project to catalogue everything from film reels to financial statements from more than 600 outdoor theaters across the nation.

ECU’s Special Collections Division at Joyner Library is processing the records of the Institute of Outdoor Theatre with a $56,290 grant from the National Archives and Records Administration. The funds were matched by ECU, Joyner Library and the Institute to provide a total of $119,500 for the project, said Dr. Michael C. Hardy, director of the Institute of Outdoor Theatre, which is located at ECU.

A comprehensive online finding aid is being created to provide worldwide access to the inventory of the collection which includes photographs, video and audio recordings, publicity materials, audience surveys, blueprints, research and other items from hundreds of outdoor theaters dating to the 1920s.

“The materials will provide unparalleled insights into the challenges and successes experienced by outdoor theatres and the communities in which they operate,” said Janice S. Lewis, interim dean of Joyner Library.

Ashley Williams, project librarian, created a blog, “Bringing the Outdoors ‘Indoors,’ ” which provides regular online updates about the archivists’ work: http://blog.ecu.edu/sites/outdoortheatre/.

Williams has gotten positive feedback, including help in identifying some previously unknown materials.

Dale Sauter

Dale Sauter

“You get to see something new every day, there’s just so much information,” Williams said. “It definitely makes me want to go to some of these plays. It’s really a genre I never knew much about.”

The archivists have been tackling the massive project alphabetically by state one box at a time, one person starting with A and another with Z, working toward the middle of the alphabet.

“North Carolina is still to come,” Williams said, but photos and materials from the state’s outdoor productions including the well-known “Unto these Hills” and “The Lost Colony” will be a part of the online archives.

Two graduate assistants, Kate Clothier and Jeff O’Neill, have joined the project this semester. To protect the items, each wear nitrile gloves when working with audiovisual materials. For photos, the archivists make sure their hands are clean and pick up photos by their edges, Williams said.

The inventory so far indicates there was a boom of sorts for outdoor theater around America’s bicentennial. Many productions are related to history, such as the founding of a state or annual event, or an important historical figure. “If not history, the other major theme is passion plays – anything related to Christ’s birth, life or death,” Williams said.

One of those, Texas-based “The Promise,” was performed in Russia in 1992 and hailed as the first Christian production since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Another taken abroad was “My Old Kentucky,” a drama about Stephen Foster, known as “the father of American music.” It was performed in Japan in 1986 and a large poster shows the main sponsor was KFC.

The archival materials provide a “unique view of a distinct movement in American theater history,” Hardy said.

The archives will be a great resource for producers, directors, set designers, regional and local historians, folklorists, performing arts history majors, tourism history, Shakespeare and Renaissance festivals and anyone interested in the origin of outdoor drama, said Dale Sauter, the grant’s principal investigator and manuscript curator at Joyner Library.

The Institute of Outdoor Theatre, founded in 1963, was created to support outdoor theaters with technical assistance, documentation of best practices and management and feasibility studies. To learn more, visit http://www.outdoor-theatre.org/.

 

An historical poster featuring outdoor dramas of North Carolina is among the materials being inventoried at Joyner Library.

An historical poster featuring outdoor dramas of North Carolina is among the materials being inventoried at Joyner Library.

Project STEPP gets boost from statewide charitable trust

ECU students Emily Bosak, left, and Becca O'Hea, standing at right, assist Natilie Grey and Ryan Coan in their artwork.
Nick Dixon examines artwork he created with help from ECU student participants in the Eye to Eye afterschool mentoring program, which pairs college students with learning disabilities with local students who share the same obstacles. ECU's chapter of the nationwide program will benefit from a grant from William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Nick Dixon examines artwork he created with help from ECU student participants in the Eye to Eye afterschool mentoring program, which pairs college students with learning disabilities with local students who share the same obstacles. ECU’s chapter of the nationwide program will benefit from a grant from William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

 

ECU News Services

An East Carolina University program that assists college students with learning disabilities will get an important boost from a two-year grant recently awarded by the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust.

The $167,135 grant will support the work of ECU’s Walter and Marie Williams STEPP program (Supporting Transition and Education through Planning and Partnerships) to mentor, encourage and support students with learning differences in middle and high school.

“The STEPP Program at East Carolina University is an inspiration to students with learning challenges and their families,” said Douglas C. Zinn, executive director of the Kenan Charitable Trust. “The Program is entrepreneurial and steadfast in its commitment to excellence and is worthy of duplication at other educational institutions.”

Specifically, the funds will be used to further develop a student transition curriculum to include materials for middle-school students, and to create additional resources for high school families.

ECU student Patrick Young, standing, shows Nick Dixon how to make cuts to create a paper snowflake.

ECU student Patrick Young, standing, shows Nick Dixon how to make cuts to create a paper snowflake.

“Not only are high school seniors in transition (to collegiate life), but so are their families,” said Dr. Sarah Williams, director of the STEPP Program. “This is especially true when a student has a learning difference.

Families look to the public schools for advice, support and resources for this major change, and we hope to help address that need.”

The grant funding will also aid ECU’s chapter of the nationwide Eye to Eye afterschool mentoring program (Read more about Eye to Eye here). Eye to Eye pairs college students with learning disabilities with elementary and middle school students in the community facing the same obstacles. The ECU chapter was founded in 2011 and is a partnership with Building Hope Community Life Center and the Oakwood School in Greenville.

Only three universities in North Carolina offer Eye to Eye.

“Partnerships are at the core of our work,” Williams said. “We work not only with individuals on the ECU campus but also with our public school colleagues. This grant will help us contribute more broadly to the advancement of education for talented and capable students with learning differences and also help support role models and resources for students, teachers and families.”

An estimated 3-9 percent of students on college campuses have some kind of learning difference, many of which are identified while the student is in grade school. Research also suggests that students with learning disabilities who aspire to attend college during middle school put that goal aside more often than their peers. College-bound students should begin researching postsecondary opportunities early in high school, allowing them ample time to find a campus and support resources that are a perfect fit for them.

The STEPP Program at ECU provides an innovative and comprehensive system of academic, social and life-skill supports to a targeted group of students. STEPP staff members provide a full transition year of support while incoming students are still in high school, enabling the program to learn about student experiences and support needs prior to and soon after graduation.

A prior grant from the Oak Foundation enabled the initial development of transition support materials for use beyond the students at ECU. These resources are available on-line at no cost to teachers throughout the country to use with their high school students. These early materials have been well-received, and the Kenan grant will enable the transition support team to expand, further refine and disseminate the materials to teachers and transition specialists nationally.

The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust was founded by William R. Kenan, Jr., a successful businessman and entrepreneur. A primary focus of the Kenan Charitable Trust is to support education, with an emphasis on enhancing excellence of teaching and access to high-quality education.

ECU students Emily Bosak, left, and Becca O'Hea, standing at right, assist Natilie Grey and Ryan Coan in their artwork.

ECU students Emily Bosak, left, and Becca O’Hea, standing at right, assist Natilie Grey and Ryan Coan in their artwork.

‘Topping out’ celebrates new residence hall

Dr. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, signs the
Dr. Lynn Roeder, dean of students; Dr. Andrew Morehead, chair of the Faculty Senate; and Dr. Rick Niswander, vice chancellor of administration and finance, sign a construction beam that will be part of the new Gateway Residence Hall on College Hill. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Dr. Lynn Roeder, dean of students; Dr. Andrew Morehead, chair of the Faculty Senate; and Dr. Rick Niswander, vice chancellor of administration and finance, sign a construction beam that will be part of the new Gateway Residence Hall on College Hill. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

 

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

Heavy downpours didn’t dampen the celebration of a construction milestone for Gateway Residence Hall at East Carolina University on Jan. 12.

At a rainy topping-out ceremony, representatives from ECU and construction contractors signed a beam that will be added to a truss on the roof of the new building.

Slated to open in August, Gateway will house 720 students and will include study spaces, meeting rooms, music practice rooms, lounges, outdoor courtyards, a sand volleyball court and a basketball court. It is the first new residence hall to open on campus in almost 10 years.

“We’re in the homestretch with this project,” said Dr. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for student affairs at ECU. “This really will be the crown jewel and capstone for College Hill.”

As its name describes, the hall will serve as a gateway from the campus’s College Hill area – bounded by 10th and 14th streets – to ECU athletic complexes across 14th Street. It replaces Belk Residence Hall, which was demolished last year.

Gateway will be home to several university living-learning communities, where students with the same major or interests live in the same hall, including biology and the Honors College.

Dr. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, signs the

Dr. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, signs the beam at the topping out ceremony for the new residence halls.

“We have a lot to be proud of here,” said Aaron Lucier, director of housing operations at ECU. “This is an amazing addition to College Hill. It truly will be a core part of campus.”

The Gateway East and Gateway West towers will be connected by an enclosed aerial bridge on the second floor, said Gina Shoemaker, the project manager and assistant director of facilities and architectural services at ECU.

“We have started putting up brick on the outside,” Shoemaker said. Windows will be installed soon and the roof will be attached. Once the building is dry, workers can begin installing interior sheetrock, fixtures and mechanical equipment.

If certified, it will be the first residence hall at ECU with Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification for building sustainability. “We do have other buildings on campus with that status but no residence halls,” Shoemaker said.

The $58 million building was designed by Davis Kane Architects of Raleigh. Barnhill Contracting Company of Rocky Mount and Raleigh is the construction manager. Contractors include Cooper Electrical Construction Company of Morrisville, Kirlin Mechanical Services of Raleigh, Southern Piping Company of Wilson and Manning Masonry of Williamston.

Approximately 250 people work every day at the site, which has a “construction cam” available at http://oxblue.com/open/ECUBelk to view progress online. “We still have a lot of hard work left,” said Brad Martin, Barnhill manager.

Gateway will be the first residence hall to open at ECU since College Hill Suites in 2006. Before that, no other newly constructed residence hall had opened since the 1960s, although many have had extensive renovations, Shoemaker said.

ECU receives Carnegie classification

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East Carolina University was recognized for community engagement that takes place campuswide with programs such as the ECU Honors College Day of Service, shown above. During the fall 2014 Day of Service, students and faculty planted a winter garden in Greenville's Dream Park Community Garden. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

East Carolina University was recognized for community engagement that takes place campuswide with programs such as the ECU Honors College Day of Service, shown above. During the fall 2014 Day of Service, students and faculty planted a winter garden in Greenville’s Dream Park Community Garden. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

 

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

East Carolina University has earned higher education’s top honor for community engagement.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching announced Jan. 7 that ECU received the 2015 Community Engagement Classification.

ECU first received the designation in 2008. The re-classification – the first offered by the foundation – is valid for 10 years.

“We do public service because it is our mission and it makes a positive difference for North Carolina,” said Chancellor Steve Ballard. “We don’t do it to gain recognition, but it is nice when our peers recognize our efforts.”

seal1Carnegie noted in their selection letter that ECU showed “excellent alignment among campus mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement.”

The classification “is a demonstration of ECU’s promise to the public to continue to work with our community partners to solve issues that are important to them,” said Dr. Beth Velde, former director of public service and community relations at ECU. “It demonstrates that community engagement is present across the entire campus.”

The work supports the university’s mission to be a national model for student success, public service and regional transformation, and ECU’s motto, Servire, she said.

From coordinating nutrition-focused programs to addressing health issues prevalent in eastern North Carolina to leading art projects at community local centers, ECU students and faculty members are working with community partners on a range of projects. The work advances scholarship by linking theory and practice across a wide range of academic disciplines through engagement and outreach, course work and service.

“University-community partnerships are important because of the mutual benefits that result,” said Dr. Sharon Paynter, interim director of public service and community relations at ECU. “The Carnegie classification recognizes the hard work and commitment of ECU faculty, staff, and students as well as our community partners.”

In 2013-14, more than 10,200 ECU students worked on projects through community-based learning, service-learning, internships and capstone courses.

As part of the application process, the university submitted documentation describing the nature and extent of its community engagement, Velde said.

Since 2008, ECU showed sustained growth in several key areas including student involvement in community-based learning and engagement through internships, fieldwork, cooperative education and practice-based experiences, Velde said.

“The importance of this elective classification is borne out by the response of so many campuses that have demonstrated their deep engagement with local, regional, national and global communities,” said John Saltmarsh, director of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education, Carnegie’s partner in administering the Community Engagement Classification process. “These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities, and revitalizing their civic and academic missions.”

More than a dozen universities in North Carolina were re-classified this year, and two were named community engagement classification institutions for the first time. ECU is one of 361 institutions in 33 states and U.S. territories that hold the designation. A listing can be found at http://www.nerche.org.

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