ECU student awarded scholarship for international conference

ECU master of social work student Jennifer Roofner won the Christian Hartline Scholarship to attend the International Eating Disorder Professionals 2015 Symposium in Phoenix, Arizona.



The scholarship pays for conference registration and Roofner will be presented a $1,000 check at a banquet set for March 19.

Roofner said she was excited to represent ECU at the international conference. “My ECU education and the professors I have had…have not only inspired me beyond my personal expectations, but also they have encouraged me to follow my passions,” she said.

“They have guided me to become a self-confident woman to apply for such scholarships and be fearless in doing so.”

Roofner is pursuing a masters of social work with a concentration on eating disorders.


ECU students provide holiday meals for local children

Left to right, Shemmah Barrett, principal of Falkland Elementary; ECU student Renata Copeland; and Falkland elementary teacher Beth Ward stand with some of the food collected for the holiday season.  (Contributed photo)

Left to right, Shemmah Barrett, principal of Falkland Elementary; ECU student Renata Copeland; and Falkland elementary teacher Beth Ward stand with some of the food collected for the holiday season. (Contributed photo)

A season intended as a time of joy for children – with multiple days out of school – also means no breakfast or lunch for many children across Pitt County. Now thanks in part to a group of East Carolina University students, children at Falkland Elementary School will have meals provided throughout the holiday season.

Multiple student organizations at ECU collected food to supplement Falkland Elementary’s Backpack Pals program, which works throughout the school year to supply children with non-perishable, easy to fix foods. The food items are loaded into backpacks that are sent home each Friday afternoon. The program serves 38 children representing 20 families.

But the program was not set up to provide meals during the two-week holiday break. Falkland Elementary teacher Beth Ward recognized the need to supplement the program and set up this year’s holiday drive. “The food drive on ECU’s campus along with a similar drives held at The Heritage at Arlington and by the Greenville Chapter #2362 Women of the Moose were more than enough to see our children through the break,” Ward said.

Ward said that enough food was collected to send each student home with a box that would last through the holidays. She spoke with several parents who were beside themselves with joy.

“I’ve had parents come in crying and expressing their gratitude for the students and community members who participated in this year’s food drive,” said Ward. “Several families have said that without this drive there would have been days without food on the table during the two-week break.”

Renata Copeland, an ECU student and member of the Council on Family Relations, was overwhelmed by the need existing in her own back yard. “I wanted to get involved with Backpack Pals because no child deserves to go hungry. You cannot learn if you are hungry,” said Copeland. “I love giving back to my community and this was something that really touched me.”

In addition to food donations, Walmart of Greenville awarded Falkland Elementary a $2,000 grant to provide holiday items and instructional supplies for the Backpack Pal students.

“Without the local businesses and community members who sponsor this program year-round and special events like the one held at ECU, we wouldn’t be able to provide the children in Pitt County with adequate food throughout the year,” said Ward.

The ECU student organizations who collected food for the program include ECU Campus Kitchen, ECU Council on Family Relations, Eta Sigma Delta International Honor Society, National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, and Student Dietetic Association and the Volunteer and Service Learning Center.



ECU student serves on statewide board of directors



East Carolina University graduate student Priscila Hilligus, pursuing a master’s degree in social work, is a coastal district representative for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) North Carolina Board of Directors.

She represents the needs and interests of more than 370 NASW members residing and working in the district, including ECU social work students, staff and faculty.

Hilligus said that her work with the organization allows her to give back to the profession, be the voice of her fellow social workers, stay attuned to important legislative changes such as title protection in North Carolina, and expand her skills in macro social work.

Hilligus discovered her passion for social work after almost a decade in the education field. “I started my journey to social work without realizing it. When I moved to the US from Brazil, where I grew up, I experienced the hardships of culture shock and prejudice.

“My early experiences as a member of the out-group, coupled with motherhood and marriage into the challenging military lifestyle led me to seek therapy as a way to rediscover and reaffirm myself,” said Hilligus. “My therapist was a social worker…and our work together opened my mind to the field. I had been an educator for many years but social work was like a magnet pulling me.”

When she learned about the part-time master’s degree cohort in New Bern, she applied for the program. “Social work has already done so much for me. It has allowed me to embrace my ethnic identity and to explore my inner self as a path to growth,” said Hilligus. “It has also helped me to see the world through a more compassionate, relational lens and to engage people and systems for change.

For additional information about NASW membership, visit or contact Priscila Hilligus at


Social work students earn nationally competitive scholarships

By Nicole Wood
College of Human Ecology

Two master of social work students were recently selected to receive nationally-competitive scholarships. Both the Christine Smith Graduate Studies Scholarship and the GlaxoSmithKline Opportunity Scholarship are awarded based on the student’s academic performance and personal or faculty recommendations.



Stacy Connor of New Bern will use the $15,000 Christine Smith Scholarship to cover the cost of her graduate degree and the exams to become a licensed clinical social worker and licensed clinical addictions specialist.

Any remaining money will help support the two years of clinical supervision required for licensed practitioners.

The Educational Foundation, with funding from the estate of Christine Smith and the members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, established the Christine Smith $15,000 Graduate Studies Scholarship for graduate level studies specializing in children and family issues.

Connor was overjoyed when she heard the news of her accomplishment.  She said she selected ECU’s School of Social Work because of its distance education program.

“I am a working professional and the DE program allowed me to work while going to class on Saturdays. I would not have been able to attend a regular track program,” said Connor. She said that she was also drawn to ECU’s nationally-accredited social work program for its focus on relationships.

“Being immersed in the clinical-community relational perspective is important when seeking licensure. ECU has one of the few programs in the nation that specialize in this form of study,” said Connor.



Christina Unruh of Cary, recipient of the GlaxoSmithKline Opportunity Scholarship, was selected for demonstrating the potential to succeed despite adversity. Unruh began her graduate work in another department at ECU, but in 2011 had to take a leave of absence due to a personal matter. Upon returning to East Carolina and changing her program of study, Unruh enrolled in the social work program in 2013.

Unruh explained that she too chose East Carolina because of the program’s perspective. “The clinical-community relational perspective is what drew me in initially,” said Unruh. “Its fundamental premise is that problems in living and psychological problems are almost always exacerbated by social isolation and lack of resources.”

Thankful for the opportunities the $5,000 scholarship will provide, Unruh said, “The scholarship will pay my tuition and fees which will allow me to focus on my internship and volunteer work; giving me educational opportunities all while building my résumé.”