Category Archives: Spotlight

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.

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.

Program supports new teachers’ growth

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Eppes Middle School teacher Kirsten Coleman, left, works with Aujahanna Davis at C.M. Eppes Middle School in Greenville. Coleman is part of a collaboration with ECU to support new teachers. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Eppes Middle School teacher Kirsten Coleman, left, works with Aujahanna Davis at C.M. Eppes Middle School in Greenville. Coleman is part of a collaboration with ECU to support new teachers. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

 

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

East Carolina University wants to entice new teachers in Pitt County to become students again.

ECU’s College of Education has received a $60,000 grant from the BelleJar Foundation that will help pay for 12 first-year teachers in high-need schools to get their master’s degrees in a collaborative effort with Pitt County Schools.

Seven teachers have enrolled in graduate school at ECU, and officials are recruiting to fill the remaining slots at Belvoir Elementary, C.M. Eppes Middle, HB Sugg/SD Bundy Elementary and North Pitt High.

High-need schools typically have more beginning teachers, double-digit teacher turnover rates, and a large number of students who receive free and reduced lunch.

“We want to touch as many teachers as we can,” said Dr. Judy Smith, ECU associate professor of elementary education and middle grades education. “We are preparing effective teachers and we want to retain those teachers in eastern North Carolina.”

The program, Collaborative Teaching Communities, is aimed at giving new teachers “the time and support necessary to gain skills and confidence required to teach successfully, particularly in high need settings,” according to the grant summary.

Those in the program will be part of professional teaching teams. The teams will include one master teacher, two ECU undergraduate co-teaching student interns and two novice teachers (first to third year teachers). The program builds on a successful co-teaching model piloted in the ECU College of Education.

“The benefit for us is that we’ve got our master teachers in the schools working directly with beginning teachers and interns in a more comprehensive way,” said Seth Brown, teacher support coordinator with Pitt County Schools.

He explained that “like co-teaching, two ECU undergraduate student interns are placed in a master teacher’s classroom, where teaching and learning is maximized through collaboration, co-instruction and co-assessment. In this expanded model, two novice teachers and their classrooms are assigned to the same master teacher.

“The master teacher and the two novice teachers are still responsible for delivering lessons to their classroom daily, but with this extension of co-teaching, five teachers (instead of three) are sharing in the planning, organization, delivery, and assessment of instruction for three classrooms (instead of one),” Brown said.

 Left to right at Eppes Middle School are ECU intern Alexandra Arsenault, Eppes teacher Kirsten Coleman and ECU intern Allie Smith, who are all working together on the same team to enhance teacher preparation.


Left to right at Eppes Middle School are ECU intern Alexandra Arsenault, Eppes teacher Kirsten Coleman and ECU intern Allie Smith, who are all working together on the same team to enhance teacher preparation.

Jennifer Stalls, an ECU alumna and sixth-grade science teacher at Eppes, is working toward a master’s degree in middle grades education with a concentration in science through the grant program at ECU. She expects to graduate in 2016.

“Going back to school and working at the same time is an incredible challenge,” said Stalls, who is in her second year of teaching and still experimenting with techniques and instructional methods to see what works best for her students.

Because of the support provided to beginning teachers at Eppes, Stalls said she had a phenomenal first year. “The experience I gained as a beginning teacher helped me tremendously as a graduate student,” she said. The co-teaching team helps Stalls in planning and practice. “As a cohort, we are able to plan together to improve instruction for our diverse group of learners,” she said.

Interning at Eppes has been one of the best experiences of ECU senior Lexie Arsenault’s college career, she said. Arsenault is a middle grades mathematics and science education major and ECU Maynard Scholar.

“I enjoy working with the students, helping them grasp concepts, and seeing that light bulb go off above their heads when it finally clicks,” Arsenault said. “My internship has given me the opportunity to work with some amazing professionals who are always willing to help ensure that I am comfortable in my school setting.”

Research shows that co-teaching models improve student performance. “That part is important because it’s not worth doing if it doesn’t positively impact the kids,” Brown said.

Up to $5,000 is available for graduate school through the grant, which some participants have said is the only way they could pursue an advanced degree.

“The money is important, but to deliberately create that collaboration and support is more important in the early years,” Brown said. “If we’re not deliberate about how we recruit, retain and reward teachers, then we’re not going to have teachers to teach our kids.”

Mentoring and advising is crucial because the highest attrition comes in the first four years of teaching, Brown said. “If we provide them support, they will know that if they can get through this, they can get through anything,” he said.

Research also shows it can take up to three years for a new teacher to feel comfortable in the classroom. “Our goal is to prepare teachers to positively impact student achievement their first year out in the field,” Smith said.

The grant provides an instructional coach with years of teaching experience to work with the co-teaching teams as well. “The coaches are really valuable,” Smith said. “They’re not evaluating but observing and giving assistance and support to the entire team through mentoring and professional development.”

Success will be measured by student achievement, teacher performance and satisfaction and increased teacher retention.

“When a teacher starts working toward a higher degree, they get more invested,” Smith said. “It’s that domino effect.”

If the program proves successful, ECU’s College of Education wants to apply for additional grant funding to expand to more of the 39 public school systems with whom they work in eastern North Carolina.

To learn more, contact Dr. Judy Smith at smithjud@ecu.edu or 252-737-2486 or Dr. Christina Tschida at tschidac@ecu.edu or 252-737-4161. Applications are available through Pitt County Schools by contacting Seth Brown at brownse@pitt.k12.nc.us or 252-558-6831.

Pictured below ECU intern Alexandra Arsenault, right, works with Eppes middle schooler Daceion Sander.

Pictured below ECU intern Alexandra Arsenault, right, works with Eppes middle schooler Daceion Sander.

Honor society celebrates 40 years

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A panel of the organization's past presidents spoke at ECU's  chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing 40th anniversary banquet Nov. 13.

A panel of the organization’s past presidents spoke at ECU’s chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing 40th anniversary banquet Nov. 13.



By Elizabeth Willy
ECU College of Nursing

Like a traditional honor society, East Carolina University’s Beta Nu chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing requires incoming members to meet certain academic and professional achievement requirements. But the organization, which celebrated its 40th anniversary with a banquet Nov. 13, does much more than recognize scholarly excellence.

The group is one of only two of Sigma Theta Tau’s 500 global chapters to have earned 11 Chapter Key Awards. Sigma Theta Tau bestows the honor on chapters that successfully recruit and retain members, generate publicity and programming, support scholarly activities, provide leadership development and foster international collaboration.

Beta Nu chapter has more than 500 active members — including undergraduate students, graduate students and nurse leaders who work to advance the profession through scholarship, leadership and a variety of service projects.

medals“Beta Nu has been the most influential nursing organization in my career,” said College of Nursing Dean Dr. Sylvia Brown. “It allowed me to engage with nurse leaders nationally and internationally and refine my own personal leadership skills.”

Brown, a past president, said that providing leadership opportunities for career growth is one of Beta Nu’s greatest contributions. Several of the College of Nursing’s senior faculty members were founding or early members of the organization, and ECU’s Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences Dr. Phyllis Horns was a charter member.

Former President Dr. Lou Everett explained that Beta Nu consistently sends students and faculty to research and leadership academies organized through Sigma Theta Tau and its partners. Over the past 40 years, she said, members have served in numerous official capacities at regional and national levels.

“It was truly through Beta Nu Chapter that many of our faculty began to see the contributions that the College of Nursing made to a global society and the world at large,” said Everett, who also works at ECU as assistant to the dean for the undergraduate program. “We became mentors to other chapters in our state and continued more involvement on an international level by serving on the ballot for various positions.”

Many members routinely attend Sigma Theta Tau’s biennial convention, where they can network with 2,000 other attendees, hear plenary speakers and present their work through oral and poster presentations.

“You meet the people who write the textbooks and research articles,” Karen Krupa, past Beta Nu president and an ECU clinical assistant professor of nursing, said of the conference. “You’re kind of in awe that you’re in the presence of all these people who are so important in the profession. You bring back that enthusiasm and you share that with a few other people who get excited and want to get involved.”

Beta Nu also stands out for its record of giving back to the profession. It provides grants to support members’ research, and has given $11,000 in student scholarships since 2005. The organization also co-sponsors Collaborative Nursing Research Day, a joint venture between Beta Nu, the ECU College of Nursing, Vidant Medical Center and the Eastern Area Health Education Consortium. The event provides a venue for continuing education and gives nurses an opportunity to showcase their research and creative projects.

The community at large is another beneficiary of Beta Nu’s outreach. Scout Out Nursing Day, held biannually at the College of Nursing, has introduced more than 500 Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to the profession since its inception in 2007.

Asked what Beta Nu’s future holds, President Dr. Donna Roberson said the group is working to be member focused with a global perspective. This direction matches ECU’s strategic goals and that of Beta Nu’s parent organization, which has 135,000 members in 85 countries. Sigma Theta Tau’s president, Hester Klopper of South Africa, has issued a call for chapters to “serve locally, transform regionally, lead globally.”

“I see us having a wider base of influence, beyond our community, and having an international impact,” said Roberson, an associate professor of nursing.

Existing international projects include providing nursing student scholarships and mentorship to the Faculty of Nursing Science of the Episcopal University of Haiti. Beta Nu also makes donations to a clean water initiative that has provided water filters to more than 70 families in Guatemala since 2008.

 

Alumni discover WWII shipwrecks

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ECU alumni John Bright, left, and Joe Hoyt are shown with an image of the German submarine they discovered using location techniques Bright developed. (Photo by Brandi Carrier, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)

ECU alumni John Bright, left, and Joe Hoyt are shown with an image of the German submarine they discovered using location techniques Bright developed. (Photo by Brandi Carrier, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)

 

By Steve Tuttle
ECU News Services

Two East Carolina University alumni were the principal investigators in the Oct. 21 discovery of two shipwrecks from an important World War II naval battle off the North Carolina coast.

Joe Hoyt and John Bright led a team of divers and scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in identifying the remains of the freighter Bluefields and the German submarine that sank it. Hoyt and Bright are recent graduates of ECU’s master’s in underwater archaeology program.

The ships went down on July 15, 1942 about 30 miles off Cape Hatteras during the storied Battle of the Atlantic phase of the war. Their discovery culminated a five-year-long NOAA project to survey and document vessels lost during WWII off the North Carolina coast.

ECU and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute were partners in the project with NOAA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Dr. Nathan Richards, an associate professor in ECU’s maritime studies program, and other ECU students assisted Hoyt and Bright.

ECU alumnus John Bright prepares to dive during the search for the shipwrecks. (Photo by John McCord, Coastal Studies Institute)

ECU alumnus John Bright prepares to dive during the search for the shipwrecks. (Photo by John McCord, Coastal Studies Institute)

“It was pretty exciting,” Hoyt said about the discovery. “I was really happy for John because he had worked on (new mapping technology used to detect such underwater artifacts) as part of his master’s thesis. We have been working on this for five years and having all that work pay off is a great feeling – it’s hard to describe.”

The Bluefields was in a group of 19 merchant ships being escorted by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard from Norfolk, Virginia, to Key West, Florida, to deliver cargo to aid the war effort. The German submarine U-576 attacked the convoy, sinking the Bluefields and severely damaging two other ships. U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft then bombed the U-576.
The crew of the Bluefields was rescued without any casualties. The 45-man crew of U-576 was lost.

Efforts to locate the shipwrecks were the focus of a 2013 National Geographic TV documentary, “Hitler’s Secret Attack on America.”

“This is not just the discovery of a single shipwreck,” said Hoyt, a NOAA sanctuary scientist. “These two ships rest only a few hundred yards apart and together help us interpret and share their forgotten stories.”

The discovery is a window into the underwater battlefield landscape of WWII, said David Alberg, superintendent of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.

“Most people associate the Battle of the Atlantic with the cold, icy waters of the North Atlantic,” Alberg said. “But few people realize how close the war actually came to America’s shores.”

Hoyt said it should not be surprising that ECU played a key role in the discovery. “The ECU diving program is one of the best there is in the country, the world even.”

Grassroots Art Project Grant awarded

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Pictured above is a tea given for African-American Teachers, Oct. 19, 1954.  Attending were Pitt County School teachers including (third from right) Miss Sadie I. Saulter, former principal of the Fleming Street School now named Sadie Saulter School.  (Photo courtesy of Joyner Library Digital Collections "The Daily Reflector Image Collection.")

Pictured above is a tea given for African-American Teachers, Oct. 19, 1954. Attending were Pitt County School teachers including (third from right) Miss Sadie I. Saulter, former principal of the Fleming Street School now named Sadie Saulter School. (Photo courtesy of Joyner Library Digital Collections “The Daily Reflector Image Collection.”)

J.Y. Joyner Library at East Carolina University was awarded a $1,750 Grassroots Art Project Grant to support the planning and implementation of the upcoming project “African American Life in Eastern North Carolina.”

“The African-American Life in Eastern North Carolina” project will consist of an exhibition and community event to celebrate the art, culture, and living traditions of eastern North Carolina’s African-American community.

“We are excited about this opportunity to showcase the talent of local artists and musicians, along with our own unique collections, through this collaboration,” says Janice S. Lewis, interim dean of Joyner Library.

The project will include a physical exhibition combining the artwork of eastern North Carolina African American artists with images from Joyner Library’s extensive African-American History Collection within the Special Collections Division. The exhibition will open in the newly renovated Janice Hardison Faulkner Gallery in February 2015, coinciding with African-American History Month. The project will also include a free community celebration event honoring the opening of the exhibition and featuring performances by eastern North Carolina African-American musicians.

Heather White, director of library project development, said the event provides an opportunity to engage the campus, community and region. “Through visual arts, music, and our collections, our hope is to celebrate the rich African American tradition and experience,” she said.

Grassroots Arts Project Grants are made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council and dispersed to each county by their local arts council. Since 1977, the N.C. Arts Council’s Grassroots Arts Program has provided North Carolina citizens access to quality arts experiences. The program distributes funds for the arts in all 100 counties of the state primarily through partnerships with local arts councils. The Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge serves as the N.C. Arts Council’s partner in awarding subgrants to local organizations for arts programs in Pitt County.

For more information, contact Dawn Wainwright at (252) 328-4090.

EC Scholars help in fundraising event

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EC Scholar Payton Burnette sorts and organizes books for a Charleston County Public Library book sale.  (Contributed photo)

EC Scholar Payton Burnette sorts and organizes books for a Charleston County Public Library book sale. (Contributed photo)

Every year during East Carolina University’s fall break, the senior class of EC Scholars travels to Charleston, South Carolina. A major component of this capstone experience, called the senior impact trip, is a service project that benefits the local community.

This year’s senior EC Scholars spent six hours volunteering at the Charleston County Public Library’s “That BIG Book Sale” hosted by the Charleston Friends of the Library.

“We selected the Charleston Friends of the Library because of their long-term commitment to the city of Charleston, the history of the event and the important connection between reading and academic success,” said Todd Fraley, director of the EC Scholars award program at ECU.

More than 60,000 books, DVDs, CDs, and other items were available for purchase with all proceeds supporting the library. With the help from the EC Scholars, the organization raised $68,000, which surpassed their goal.

“Being able to be a part of something that provides this transformational experience to children and adults throughout Charleston and the surrounding communities was extremely fulfilling,” said senior EC Scholar and nursing major Lindsay Caddell.

The Charleston Friends of the Library is a nonprofit organization that supports and advocates for the Charleston County Public Library system. According to their website, the organization raises money to fund more than 6,000 programs sponsored annually by the library.

“I have no doubt our seasoned volunteers will be telling stories of the ECU students for years to come,” said Emily Everette, executive director of the Charleston Friends of the Library.

Students collaborate on performance

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pictured left to right are ECU students Dylan Ritch, director of the showcase, and mask creator Jordan Brown. (Contributed photos)

Pictured left to right are ECU students Dylan Ritch, director of the showcase, and mask creator Jordan Brown. (Contributed photos)

Twenty-one East Carolina University students teamed up to present “Stories from Afar,” a Theatre for Youth Showcase Nov. 1 at the Turnage Theatre in Washington.

The performance was followed by a theater workshop for children to create their own tale and act it out.

Dylan Ritch, an ECU junior and theater arts major from Asheville, directs the performance aimed at entertaining while teaching children life lessons such as dealing with a bully and helping friends in need.

Stories are incorporated from cultures all over the world.

Senior Jordan Brown, a fine arts major concentrating in sculpture from Snow Camp, created nine African masks for the performance.

“I wanted to use these masks to communicate a form of theatre that originated from Africa and to expose children to multiple types of theatrical drama,” Ritch said.

Masks created by an ECU senior were part of a performance in Washington.

Masks created by an ECU senior were part of a performance in Washington.

“It is also my strong desire to inspire in children a love for theatre,” Ritch said. “I know seeing a play for the first time for me was a life changing experience. I wish to recreate that experience for other children who might be getting their first taste of theatre.”

Ritch also hopes the performance will introduce the community to ECU’s Theatre for Youth concentration, part of the theatre arts program in the School of Theatre and Dance. The concentration prepares graduates to work in professional theatre for children and youth. Students also participate in the Global Classroom Initiative, partnering with universities in such countries as Peru and Russia to extend their understanding and exposure to children’s theatre and cultures around the world.

Pirate pride takes center stage

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The annual ECU Homecoming parade made its way down Fifth Street Oct. 4, featuring the ECU Marching Pirates, student organizations and honored alumni. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

The annual ECU Homecoming parade made its way down Fifth Street Oct. 4, featuring the ECU Marching Pirates, student organizations and honored alumni. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)


By Joy Holster

ECU News Services

A satellite image of western North Carolina from the first weekend in October might reveal vibrant shades of fall. But in the East, purple and gold prevailed.

Pirate pride was evident across the region as East Carolina University celebrated Homecoming weekend Oct. 3 – 5 with events including alumni reunions, the annual Homecoming parade and a match-up at Dowdy-Ficklen stadium with the Pirates playing the Southern Methodist University Mustangs.

At the Alumni Awards ceremony Oct. 3, the university recognized service with presentation of the Virgil Clark ’50 Distinguished Service Award to Angela Allen ’81 and Carl W. Davis ’73.

ECU alumni Angela Allen, left, and Carl Davis were honored for service at the annual Alumni Awards Ceremony Oct. 3. (Photos courtesy of the ECU Alumni Association)

ECU alumni Angela Allen, left, and Carl Davis were honored for service at the annual Alumni Awards Ceremony Oct. 3. (Photos courtesy of the ECU Alumni Association)

Allen is vice president of IBM’s global sales technical enablement organization, where she designs solutions and training to help solve customers’ technology problems. She is a member of the ECU Board of Visitors, former board member for the Women’s Roundtable and the ECU Foundation, charter member of the College of Engineering and Technology Advancement Council and member of the Department of Computer Science Advisory Council.

Davis is the eastern region sales manager for Electronics Research. He is the immediate past chair of the East Carolina Alumni Association, following two years as chair and earlier service as vice chair and treasurer. He created the financial strategies committee to better facilitate the investment of the alumni association’s endowments. Davis is a founding member of CommCrew, which supports the ECU School of Communication.

Honorary Alumni Awards were announced for E. Jackson Allison Jr., the founding chair and first medical director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Brody School of Medicine, and Robert Wright (1870-1934), the first president of East Carolina Teachers Training School. Outstanding Alumni Awards were presented to William Clark ’66, ’68, Lt. Gen. William “Mark” Faulkner ’82, Van Isley ’85 and the late Maria “Terry” Shank ’77. Additional information on honorees is available at piratealumni.com.

A main event for younger fans was the annual Homecoming parade on Saturday morning. Crowds gathered up and down Fifth Street for the celebration, which featured alumni, student organizations and members of the Homecoming court representing the theme, “Land of the Free, Home of the Pirates.”

A canned food drive throughout the weekend collected 44,146 pounds of food, nearly twice the 23,000 pounds collected in 2013. Donations will be delivered to the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina and the Campus Kitchen of ECU, which prepares meals for the Little Willie Center, Operation Sunshine, the Ronald McDonald House and JOY Community Center.

For many Pirate fans the crowning event kicked off at noon when ECU’s Pirate football team took the field to play the SMU Mustangs. The game made history as ECU’s first American Athletic Conference football contest. The Pirates scored a 45-24 victory over SMU, with a record-setting performance by quarterback Shane Carden, who broke former quarterback David Garrard’s record as all-time leading passer.

A final shot of Pirate pride closed the weekend Sunday when the football team rose to #19 in both the Associated Press and USA Today rankings.

– The ECU Alumni Association contributed to this article.

The ECU Pirates football team takes the field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the Oct. 4 contest against the SMU Mustangs. (Photo courtesy of the ECU Alumni Association)

The ECU Pirates football team takes the field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the Oct. 4 contest against the SMU Mustangs. (Photo courtesy of the ECU Alumni Association)

 

Chaney receives gubernatorial appointment

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By Kathy Muse
Health and Human Performance

Gov. Pat McCrory has appointed East Carolina University assistant professor Dr. Beth Chaney to the North Carolina Substance Abuse and Underage Drinking Prevention and Treatment Task Force.

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Chaney

The task force consists of 20 members appointed for a two-year term.

“I am honored to be appointed to the Governor’s task force and am hopeful that we will make positive impacts related to substance abuse and underage drinking prevention,” said Chaney.

Chaney leads a team of ECU researchers in an alcohol field study conducted in downtown Greenville. The study results will provide important data related to drinking behaviors of over 1,000 bar patrons for the task force to consider when developing recommendations for approaches to address the hazardous drinking issues in North Carolina.

“The behaviors associated with high-risk drinking are complex. Solutions to this problem will demand a multileveled approach, involving changes not only at the individual level, but also at the institutional, community and policy levels,” said Chaney.

Members are charged with preparing a comprehensive plan to address the underage sale and use of alcohol and drugs, risky behaviors and substance abuse among collegians. Additional work includes providing treatment and recovery services for individuals struggling with substance abuse, according to the executive order which created the task force. “I look forward to working with the task force members to begin to develop strategies for tackling these problems, said Chaney.”

“Substance abuse and underage drinking are critical public health concerns,” said Dr. Glen Gilbert, dean of the College of Health and Human Performance. “Beth’s service on this task force will add a researcher that understands the behavior of this important population as well as practical approaches to address the issues.”

The task force will build on statewide prevention, treatment and enforcement initiatives implemented by the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, Alcohol Law Enforcement Division, the Department of Health and Human Services and the UNC system.

The governor signed the executive order at ECU May 14. ECU is one of six University of North Carolina campuses that will take part in a pilot program that will emphasize prevention and treatment.

Chaney earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in health studies from The University of Alabama. She received a doctorate in health education from Texas A&M University.

Flying vehicle takes second in competition

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From left to right, Dr. Zhen Zhu and ECU engineering students Logan Cole, Alan Register and Tyree Parker. (Contributed photo)

From left to right, Dr. Zhen Zhu and ECU engineering students Logan Cole, Alan Register and Tyree Parker. (Contributed photo)

 

By Margaret Turner
ECU College of Engineering and Technology

Three East Carolina University undergraduate engineering students built a flying vehicle this summer that took second place in a unique national competition.

The students, led by ECU Assistant Professor of Engineering Zhen Zhu, competed against six other universities at the Autonomous Aerial Vehicle Competition at the 2014 Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Conference in Dayton, Ohio. The competition, the first of its kind, was part of the Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate.

Students Logan Cole, Tyree Parker and Alan Register are members of ECU’s student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Zhu, faculty advisor for the organization, said the student team used very low cost materials to build the aircraft. Most competitors had larger budgets and were able to use higher end materials and sensors.

Cole and Register attended the competition with Zhu.

The students’ vehicle was required to use autonomous navigation and target geo-location in a GPS-denied environment. The vehicle had to fly autonomously and find an object and record its coordinates. “It was a difficult task for a relatively young group of students. Many of the teams consisted of graduate level students and ours are all undergraduates,” Zhu said.

The competition was divided into three parts: demonstration, a written report and an oral presentation. The team took first place in the flying portion. “The design and concept was done by the students,” Zhu said. “I was most impressed with how well we did using the lower cost materials and open source software.”

Register, a sophomore biomedical engineering student, got involved at Zhu’s request after working on another unmanned aerial vehicle competition earlier in the year. “In this competition, we experienced real world situations like signal interferences that can’t be simulated in a lab,” Register said. “As an engineer, we want to experience real world problems and not just produce an ideal solution.”

Cole, a senior, learned how to read and write C code, a frequently used programming language. “I want to work with microcontrollers after college so this is a great way to get some firsthand experience,” he said.

The College of Engineering and Technology has more than 20 active student organizations, which provide opportunities for competitions, learning outside of the classroom and networking. For more information, visit http://www.ecu.edu/cs-tecs/student_organizations.cfm.

ECU Neurology dubbed leader in MS care

Representatives from the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society visited Greenville to formally present ECU Physicians Neurology with recognition as a partner in MS care. Pictured during that event are, left to right, are Robert Frere, Londra Fleming, Shawnna Patterson, Donald L. Price Jr., Lovie Powers and Kaye Gooch. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
 Representatives from the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society visited Greenville to formally present ECU Physicians Neurology with recognition as a partner in MS care. Pictured during that event are, left to right, are Robert Frere, Londra Fleming, Shawnna Patterson, Donald L. Price Jr., Lovie Powers and Kaye Gooch. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)


Representatives from the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society visited Greenville to formally present ECU Physicians Neurology with recognition as a partner in MS care. Pictured during that event are, left to right, are Robert Frere, Londra Fleming, Shawnna Patterson, Donald L. Price Jr., Lovie Powers and Kaye Gooch. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

 

By Amy Adams Ellis
ECU News Services

ECU Physicians Neurology, a leading provider of care for people living with multiple sclerosis in eastern North Carolina, has been recognized as an official “Partner in MS Care” by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

This formal designation honors the practice’s commitment to providing exceptional MS care, and to working closely with the society to address the challenges of people affected by the disease.

“We are so proud to partner with ECU Physicians Neurology to enhance coordinated care for the more than 800 people who live with MS in Pitt County and its surrounding areas,” said Kaye Gooch, executive vice president of programs and services for the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“In earning this recognition, ECU Physicians Neurology has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in MS care, making a tremendous impact on people affected by MS in their community and region,” she said.

Joseph Hodges, clinical administrative manager for the practice, said, “This designation is an important achievement for us because it endorses the level of care and professional commitment our physicians and staff provide our patients living with multiple sclerosis. It means we work in cooperation with the MS Society and with many local providers and hospitals to ensure patients receive the highest level of quality care available.

“Although multiple sclerosis is a chronic neurological disease, it impacts many body functions,” he added. “Thus, coordination with other physicians and caregivers is essential for patients to achieve a high level of functionality in their daily lives.”

MS is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system in which the body’s immune system incorrectly attacks healthy tissue in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, disrupting the flow of information between the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the body.

Symptoms can range from relatively benign to disabling and include blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, memory and concentration problems, paralysis and blindness. It’s estimated that more than 2.3 million people worldwide are affected by MS.

ECU Physicians Neurology is the largest and most comprehensive neurological medical practice in eastern North Carolina, with 10 physicians who care for patients with MS. One of them, Dr. Robert Frere, who is board-certified in neurology and psychiatry, holds a specialty certification in neurophysiology.

The practice provides MS diagnosis, neuropsychological or cognitive evaluation and treatment, ongoing MS medical and symptom management, pain management, and patient and family education. They also participate in MS clinical trials and research.

ECU Physicians Neurology is located at 2280 Hemby Lane in Greenville. For an appointment, call 252-752-4848, or toll-free 1-800-775-4840. For more information about the practice visit www.ecneurology.com.

University studies program starts strong

University studies degree major Connor Mangold, a junior in the ECU Honors College, is using the degree program to merge his interests in music and computer science.

 

By Steve Tuttle
ECU News Services

From zero to 142 majors in one year is rapid growth for a new degree program at East Carolina University. The university studies program has experienced that surge because its flexible curriculum appeals to a definite niche of students, officials said.

University studies degree major Connor Mangold, a junior in the ECU Honors College, is using the degree program to merge his interests in music and computer science.

University studies degree major Connor Mangold, a junior in the ECU Honors College, is using the degree program to merge his interests in music and computer science.

“We’re getting off to a very strong start,” said program director Dr. Rondall Rice. The first four graduates with the university studies degree graduated at the end of summer session. Twenty-three are on track to graduate this winter, Rice said.

ECU created the university studies major in response to the need of students whose interests and talents don’t easily fit into any major.

Generally speaking, the students he sees come from two academic backgrounds, Rice said. “There are the journey students and the off-ramp students.

“Journey students didn’t find a passion for something, although they took a bunch of courses.

“Off-ramp students are those that tried a traditional degree. They got pretty far into the major but changed their minds, so they try to transition into another major.”

The problem for both kinds of students, Rice said, is they sometimes get discouraged and drop out.

University studies takes an individual, personal approach. “We look at what they have taken and then look at what they’re trying to do,” Rice explained.

“We try to help them find their inner passion,” he said.

One university studies major is Connor Mangold, a junior from Kinston in the ECU Honors College. He’s what Rice would call an off-ramp student.

“I was a music student but I decided that wasn’t for me,” Mangold said. He decided his real interest was an emerging field that blends computer science and art.

“My main area of study is sound design… for electronic music,” he said. “So, my major is part computer science, part music and part animation.

“The best thing about this degree is that it allows me to learn many aspects” of sound design, Mangold said. “It’s still early but I enjoy the fact I get to focus on different fields.”

Students declaring for the university studies major on average arrive with just under 109 credit hours earned, Rice said. “If you consider that most degrees require 120 hours, they’re close to getting a degree.”

Rice said some new students in the program arrive without the 2.5 GPA that most majors require, while others have great GPAs but just couldn’t decide on a major, he said.

“The students who are drawn to us probably would have left the university without a degree,” he said.

After an initial introductory course, students meet with advisers who design a “thematic core” of courses that best fit each student’s interests. For the required capstone experience, students may chose to work an internship, complete a project or write a research paper.

For now the university studies program is a free-standing unit, Rice said. “We are not under any of the colleges. It is under the Academic Affairs division, and we work directly for (Senior Associate Provost) Austin Bunch.”

The unit operates out of offices in the Old Cafeteria Building.

Among the first four graduates was Katelyn Morris. Rice said her thematic core, entitled “Adaptive Technology,” included courses in communication, technology, leadership, multicultural sensitivity comma deleted and children’s special education.

She interned with a high-tech company in Charlotte, which hired her after graduation.

Morris said she hopes her degree will allow her to “work towards selling technology that would allow the autistic child to learn to communicate through devices that will give these students a new sense of freedom.”

Another summer graduate, Kristen Ramsey, entitled her thematic core, “Human Development Through Art.” She combined art and education classes while mixing in psychology and leadership courses.

Her goal is to become an art therapist working with children, and she hopes to attend graduate school after completing an internship at an art gallery in Virginia.

Rice said one university studies student is conducting research this fall, in-concert with the Brody School of Medicine, on how electronic medical records are changing the health care industry.

He said he expects the university studies program will experience another growth spurt next fall. “The next level (of growth) will come from ‘part-way home’ students after we advertise to them. These are ones that dropped out or had other problems. This is specially tailored for former military,” Rice said.

Rice said he expects that by next fall all of the program’s courses will be available online.

NCLR traces the scars of war

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ECU News Services

For its 2014 print issue, North Carolina Literary Review devotes its special feature section to “War in North Carolina Literature.” This in-depth exploration includes an interview with author Robert Morgan, who points out, “It is one of the mysteries of human life, and human history that intelligent people, often ethical people, kill each other so often and on such a scale.”nclr1_2

Readers will also find David Cecelski’s fascinating analysis of recordings made by a young Arthur Miller (well before he became one of America’s greatest playwrights) during a visit to Wilmington in the fall of 1941, just weeks before the United States – and Wilmington – were forever changed by the second world war.
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There is also a discussion with Ron Rash and Terry Roberts about the World War I German internment camp that existed in North Carolina and is central to novels by both authors; an essay about a post-apocalyptic civil war in William Forstchen’s novel “One Second After”; and an essay about little-known African American author James McGirt, who wrote about black soldiers in the Spanish-American War.

These join Claudette Cohen’s short story “The Mayor of Biscoe,” winner of the 2013 Doris Betts Fiction Prize, which details the struggle of life for a soldier after he has left the battlefield. Quoting Robert Morgan in her introduction to the section, NCLR Editor Margaret Bauer writes, “Cohen understands, as do these other insightful writers, that there is no ‘delight’ in war.”

The 2014 “Flashbacks” section, with essays and poetry by and about writers featured in past issues, includes an essay by Paul Baggett on author Charles Chesnutt’s “Marrow of Tradition,” which is based on the Wilmington coup d’etat of 1898, as well as Jordan Stone’s essay on Michael Malone’s 1983 novel “Handling Sin.” In addition, Allan Gurganus flips from author to subject in Zackary Vernon’s essay, which delves into the Halloween horror show, held each year at Gurganus’s home, and Shirley Stave takes a look at Lee Smith’s 2002 novel “The Last Girls.” These essays accompany poems by Susan Laughter Meyers, winner of the 2013 James Applewhite Poetry Prize, as well as poems by James Applewhite, for whom the competition is named, and Fred Chappell, who served as final judge for last year’s competition.

Great work also finds a home in NCLR in the “North Carolina Miscellany” section, which this year features paintings by the writer Clyde Edgerton together with the poetry from Hannah Bonner, another of the 2013 Applewhite competition finalists. And Annie Frazier, daughter of “Cold Mountain” author Charles Frazier, shows off her own literary talents in the short story “Sakura,” a finalist for the 2013 Doris Betts Fiction Prize. “You will see when you read her story that writing talent runs in the family,” writes Bauer.

Included in the latest issue is an announcement of a new NCLR creative nonfiction competition in 2015, with the winner published in the 2016 edition, to celebrate the 25th issue of NCLR. The Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize, named for the founding editor, will be open to any writer who fits the NCLR definition of a North Carolina writer: anyone who currently lives in North Carolina, has lived in North Carolina, or uses North Carolina as subject matter.

The issue also announces next year’s theme: “Global North Carolina,” and invites writers to submit for this issue by Aug. 31.

The cover art for NCLR 2014 was designed by Dana Ezzell Gay, an associate professor at Meredith College in Raleigh and NCLR Art Director since 2008. Other contributing designers include Gay’s student Karen Baltimore; Stephanie Whitlock Dicken, who teaches at Pitt Community College; and Dave Cox of Five to Ten Design in Washington, North Carolina.

Published by East Carolina University and the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, NCLR has won numerous awards. NCLR 2014 has been mailed to subscribers and will be available in independent bookstores across the state. To subscribe to the print issue, go to www.nclr.ecu.edu.

Heart Institute earns top rating

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The East Carolina Heart Institute has received the highest quality rating awarded by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr.

Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr.

The society database is the national report card that compares the quality of cardiac surgery programs across the country. Historically, only 12-15 percent of hospitals receive the three-star rating, which is the highest quality category.

In the current analysis of national data – from Jan. 1, 2013 through Dec. 31, 2013 – the cardiac surgery performance at the institute rose to the highest quality tier, earning the three-star rating.

“When a surgeon or a doctor starts to discuss an operation, the three-star rating will give the patient some repose, satisfaction and solace that they are going to an institution that has high quality, great outcomes, and combined with our patient satisfaction rate at the heart institute, that they will have a good family and patient experience,” said Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr., director of the East Carolina Heart Institute and professor of cardiovascular sciences at the Brody School of Medicine.

“We are all about quality. We are all about the highest level of outcomes. We are about patient satisfaction. We are about technology. We have it all here at this heart institute.”

In 2013, the heart institute ranked among the top 14 percent of Society of Thoracic Surgeions programs earning the three-star rating for coronary artery bypass procedures.

The overall bypass quality rating of three-stars measures top performance in four categories: risk-adjusted mortality, risk-adjusted morbidity, use of the internal mammary arterial conduit and appropriate use of all medications that have been shown to improve long term survival. The risk adjusted mortality rate takes into account patient severity, because of underlying health conditions such as stroke, kidney failure, infection and prolonged time on a ventilator.

Additionally, the heart institute achieved a three-star rating for aortic value replacement, ranking them among only 3.2 percent of STS participating programs.

The East Carolina Heart Institute is the first in North Carolina devoted exclusively to improving the state’s health status through cardiovascular health service delivery, research and education. The institute is a partnership between Vidant Medical Center and East Carolina University, with facilities housed on both medical campuses.

Private practice physicians throughout the region are also an integral part of the heart institute.

New shelters, route to serve university

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Wood Davidson, director of ECU Transit, stands in front of a new bus shelter under construction on campus. In response to passenger requests, ECU is renovating high traffic bus stops to provide protection from inclement weather. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Wood Davidson, director of ECU Transit, stands in front of a new bus shelter under construction on campus. In response to passenger requests, ECU is renovating high traffic bus stops to provide protection from inclement weather. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

 

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

New and improved shelters are opening this fall to provide pedestrians protection from inclement weather while they wait for East Carolina University transit buses.

In addition, a new Pirate Express route will offer safe and reliable late-night transportation to and from the “grid” area between Fifth and First streets near downtown Greenville.

Covered stops have topped riders’ wish lists for years. “It’s the thing our riders have been asking for,” said Wood Davidson, director of ECU Transit.

The shelters will be located at the following ECU bus stops: Speight/Rivers buildings, Mendenhall Student Center, two on College Hill between Jones Residence Hall and Todd Dining Hall, two on Ficklen Drive – near the lower and upper Minges lots – and at Curry Court near the Carol Belk Building.

 To help ensure student safety, a new Pirate Express bus route will transport students from downtown areas to university neighborhoods between 10:30 p.m. and approximately 2:30 a.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays.


To help ensure student safety, a new Pirate Express bus route will transport students from downtown areas to university neighborhoods between 10:30 p.m. and approximately 2:30 a.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays.

The seven shelters will be completed by Oct. 4 and will include covered bike parking – a first for the ECU campus, Davidson said.

The two shelters on College Hill are expected to open first and may be ready in time for the start of classes.

ECU Transit worked with Facilities Engineering & Architectural Services on the design of the shelters in accordance with the university’s master plan.

ECU Facilities is funding five of the structures, with a cost ranging from $60,000 to $80,000 each depending on the site. ECU Campus Living is paying for the two on College Hill. The previous shelters at Mendenhall, Curry Court and on Ficklen Drive were demolished to make way for the new structures.

“This is a repair and renovation project – replacing old shelters, renovating existing ones and adding new ramps to make the shelters fully accessible, adding covered bicycle racks, and improving lighting to provide a more safe, secure and user-friendly environment for pedestrians and cyclists taking advantage of our transportation system,” said Michael Talton, project manager for ECU Facilities.

The bus stops selected for shelters have the largest number of riders. “Another thing from the design standpoint is that the structures will last for several years with very little maintenance,” Davidson said.

There is space for advertising or information, and a digital display sign will provide ‘NextBus’ information on bus schedules and arrival predictions. Students can access NextBus information via the ECU mobile app for smartphones.

Each shelter will have an open design with seating that offers clear sight lines and is well lit. “We really thought about safety (during planning),” Davidson said.

Safety is also a top priority for ECU’s Student Government Association, which initiated the new Pirate Express route for the grid. “Route 902 The Grid” will serve the area from Fifth Street to First Street in the Tar River neighborhood to River Walk apartments, Thursday through Saturday nights from 10:30 p.m. until approximately 2:30 a.m., Davidson said.

“We believe that this is a very important initiative as it is directly related to the safety of students,” said SGA President Michael W. King, who credited former SGA president Tim Schwan with leading the efforts for the new route.

Stops will be established about every two blocks to offer short walking distances to residences.

“A majority of crimes committed in the university neighborhood area happen right after bars close, after 2 a.m.,” King said. “We believe, along with the local police departments, that the presence of an ECU Transit system bus running during these times in that area will deter crime. We believe this system will help to give students, faculty and parents a little more peace of mind.”

Students, faculty and staff can ride ECU Transit buses free with a valid ECU 1 Card. SGA will provide $10,000 per semester for the service.

“Having the additional bus stops throughout the grid will add an extra level of security for our students and transit passengers and cut down on the foot traffic that we see in the grid during the busiest nights of the week,” said Lt. Chris Sutton of the ECU Police Department. “It will help reduce crimes of opportunity by those individuals that would prey on our students or visitors to the downtown area.”

Sutton added that the new bus shelters will help increase student interest about the service, as well as increase safety for riders.

For those traveling on foot, Sutton underscored the importance of walking in pairs and staying aware of surroundings.

Honors student wins NOAA scholarship

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Chris Thaxton

Chris Thaxton
(Photo by Cliff Hollis)

By Jessica Nottingham
ECU Honors College

For the second year in a row, an East Carolina University Honors College student has won a prestigious scholarship and internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Chris Thaxton, a junior from La Grange and an EC Scholar, has received the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship, which provides $16,000 for Thaxton’s junior and senior years and a 10-week paid NOAA internship in 2015. He is one of 106 recipients from across the country.

Thaxton, who is majoring in biology and chemistry, intends to pursue a career in marine conservation.

“As an undergraduate, the research experience beyond ECU will be huge,” Thaxton said. “My original goal was to work at a university, but seeing NOAA from the inside, I now hope for a career with NOAA. This is a great resume-builder and networking opportunity.”

A frequent visitor to the coast, Thaxton said his passion for marine biology comes from a desire to preserve the destinations that have meant so much to him so that future generations may have the opportunity to enjoy them as well.

“Summers spent at the beach paddling through salt marshes, boating and fishing nurtured my love for the coast,” he said. “I decided to focus my love for the ocean toward coastal and wetland conservation—preserving them so that people can enjoy them like I have.”

The EC Scholars program, the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship offered at ECU, requires undergraduate research and encourages students to engage in conferences, study abroad opportunities and internships. Thaxton will be studying marine biology in Australia this fall. He interned at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort last summer.

“We encourage our students to seek scholarships and internships that broaden learning as they prepare for their life’s work,” said Dr. Marianna Walker, dean of the ECU Honors College, where the EC Scholars program is housed.

Thaxton attributed receiving the scholarship to his specific research interests and what he learned in a visit to NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center lab in Beaufort.

“Chris is an exceptional student whose hard work was recognized in his selection for the very competitive Hollings Scholarship,” said Dr. Tim Runyan, an Honors College faculty fellow who encouraged Thaxton to apply. “While meeting with NOAA researchers at the Beaufort lab, it was clear to me that he was dedicated to the field of ocean conservation.”

Thaxton could be placed at any NOAA office for his internship, but he hopes for an assignment in Alaska or San Francisco to study wetland restoration next summer, he said.

Thaxton is the second consecutive ECU Honors College student to receive the Hollings Scholarship. Thomas Vaughan, a senior atmospheric science major, is completing an internship in Hawaii this summer.

More information about the ECU Honors College and EC Scholars program can be found at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/honors/ or by contacting Jessica Nottingham, coordinator for marketing and recruitment for the Honors College, at nottinghamj@ecu.edu or 252-737-4625.

 

Students serve through capstone projects

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As part of their capstone project, ECU students assist with technology at the Greenville Boys and Girls Club. (Contributed photo)

As part of their capstone project, ECU students assist with technology at the Boys and Girls Club of Pitt County. (Contributed photo)

 

By Margaret Turner
College of Engineering and Technology

Students in East Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology helped revamp information technology systems and make process improvements for two Pitt County agencies dedicated to improving the lives of children.

The Boys and Girls Club of Pitt County, and the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center in the Brody School of Medicine hosted senior capstone teams in the 2013-2014 year.

A capstone project is an assignment that serves as a student’s culminating academic experience, resulting in a final product, presentation or performance. The term means “high point” or “crowning achievement.”

The projects are designed to encourage students to think critically, solve problems, conduct research and develop oral communication, public speaking, teamwork and planning skills. At ECU, the capstone project often has been a way to connect and support the university’s strategic initiatives of leadership, service and economic prosperity in eastern North Carolina.

Senior information and computer technology students Richard Everhart, Ben McKinzie, Trevor Dildy, Daniel Pennington and Lindsey Esslinger worked at the Boys and Girls Club in Winterville. Misty Marston, director of the Boys and Girls Club, identified technological areas that needed improvement to help the organization continue to grow and provide services to more Pitt County children.

Some of the technology needs included faster infrastructure, increased reliability, secure access to files and remote access for leaders who may be traveling or working from another site. The upgrades allow for a more stable information technology platform.

“Knowing the project was going to benefit such a worthy cause gave it more of a purpose than just completing a job,” Everhart said. “We got a chance to see how hard the staff at the club works and how passionate they are about improving the lives of children they work with.”

Engineering students Bobby Cox, William Gurkin, and Patricia Pigg completed another community project at the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center, which provides child-centered and comprehensive services by experts in the field of child abuse.

Many parents scheduled for initial evaluation failed to show up, thus missing out on the help they needed and filling appointment slots other patients might have taken. The students developed new reminder systems and processes designed to decrease the number of missed appointments. As a result, there has been a significant drop in missed appointments, which will allow more children to be seen on an annual basis.

“The engineering students were the best group of student learners I have supervised in my ten years at ECU,” said Julie Gill, TEDI BEAR director and capstone supervisor. “I have no doubt of the significant positive impact this project will have for improving our ability to serve abused children in our region.”

Dr. Charles Lesko, assistant professor of information and computer technology, mentors each capstone team in his department. “One of the biggest challenges to any capstone program is finding projects with meaning and value,” he said. “I challenge the students to find projects to work on that will add value both to their education as well as to others. It’s a tremendous feeling when you can take the skills you have learned at the college and impact the lives of others.”

In 2007, information and computer technology and engineering began requiring yearlong capstone projects for senior students. The information and computer technology program is housed within the technology systems department. Both departments reside in the College of Engineering and Technology. Most departments in the college require an internship or capstone project, or provide opportunities for both.

 

 

 

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