Beth Velde, academy coordinator and director of public service and community relations at ECU, speaks at an event to honor participants of the new Student Engagement and Outreach Scholars Academy. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Students learn through public service

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

East Carolina University leaders celebrated a new model for student learning and public service April 25 by recognizing Student Engagement and Outreach Scholars Academy participants.

ECU’s program is believed to be the first of its kind and a national model in pairing graduate students, undergraduate East Carolina Scholars and faculty mentors across disciplines at ECU to work with community partners on a semester-long, spring project, said Beth Velde, academy coordinator and director of public service and community relations at ECU.

Ten teams were honored Wednesday in a ceremony at Willis Building Auditorium.

Seeing the value

Hannah Potter, an international studies and religious studies Honors College student from Marshville, said she enjoyed experiencing research, especially a type that could have an immediate impact on the community. She worked with Samantha Fuerderer of Greenville, a graduate student in School of Communication, at the Building Hope Community Life Center in Greenville.

“Before I became involved in the Student Engagement and Outreach Scholars Academy, I never realized how involved my university is with the community,” Fuerderer said. “Working with a local organization enabled me to see firsthand the value of forming outreach partnerships.”

The center is a faith-based organization designed to help at-risk youth from local schools stay on track academically while giving them social and spiritual support. The ECU team, with faculty mentor Dr. Robbie Quinn in the College of Fine Arts & Communication, sought to address whether the involvement of students in weekly art activities influenced their resilience traits, or traits that help students overcome changes or hardships.

While the research work has ended, Quinn and undergraduate art students will be working with the center to design and paint a mural this summer.

In some instances, the ECU teams included people from different departments, which Dr. Deirdre Mageean, vice chancellor of research and graduate studies, described as a “rare, interesting mix.”

Teaching impact

Velde partnered with Dr. Katie O’Connor, director of EC Scholars, to develop the project, which builds on an existing student outreach academy that started in 2009.

Chancellor Steve Ballard congratulated the scholars on the difference they’re making in their communities.

“This is at the heart of ECU,” he said. He challenged participants to spread the word about the good work that is being done to highlight the university’s role in public service and to help stem cynicism about investing in education.

“There is nothing more important than having an impact on our communities, region and state,” he said. “We are making a difference for people.”

Project list

The project name, faculty member, graduate student(s), and undergraduate student team members are:

  • Building Hope Through Art: Robert Quinn, College of Fine Arts & Communication; Samantha Fuerderer, College of Fine Arts & Communication; Hannah Potter, Honors College
  • Project ACHIEVE: Debbie O’Neal, Harriott College of Arts & Sciences; Aisha Powell, College of Human Ecology; Kofi Monney, Honors College
  • Marketing and Management Strategies for Bed and Breakfast Operators: A Best Practices Approach: Alleah Crawford, College of Human Ecology; Ryan Merrittt, College of Health & Human Performance; Mary Sanderson, Honors College
  • Health Care Innovations in Eastern North Carolina: Lucky Xue, College of Business; John Davis and Akintunde Abisogun, College of Business; Jessie Chirico, Honors College
  • Examining the Entrepreneurial Attitudes of Veterans: Bill McDowell, College of Business; Adam Earl Thornton, College of Business; Rachel Mehaffey, Honors College
  • CLAS-E (Care Leaders Advocating, Supporting and Empowering): Melissa Haithcox-Dennis, College of Health & Human Performance; Tierra Jones and Akeen Hamilton, College of Health & Human Performance; Rachel Pollard, Honors College
  • Capturing the Best Practice Language of School Leaders within Eastern North Carolina Schools and Using It as a Catalyst for School Reform: Hal Holloman, College of Education; Melissa Hamm, College of Education; Megan Corn, Honors College
  • Special Families Project: Michele Mendes, College of Nursing; Amanda Lease, College of Nursing; Kevin Kearney, Honors College
  • Barriers and Facilitators to HIV Testing Among Heterosexual African-Americans at Risk for HIV Infection in Rural North Carolina: Yvonne Carter, Brody School of Medicine; Akeen Hamilton of the College of Health & Human Performance and Valeria Moore of the Brody School of Medicine; Sandii Ross, Honors College
  • Comparison of Needs and Disconnects Along the Sustainable Food Value Chain: Carol Kline, College of Health & Human Performance and Center for Sustainable Tourism; Shan Newton, Center for Sustainable Tourism; Christine Gurganus, Honors College.

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