ECU welcomes first year nursing students | WNCT

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Aug 282015


By Ali Weatherton
Published: August 27, 2015, 6:40 pm

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – ECU welcomed its first year nursing students Thursday morning.

Over 100 students participated in the Lamp of Learning Ceremony. The event gives first year nursing students a pin in the shape of a lamp, symbolizing the student’s commitment to their career. They will wear the pin as part of their nursing uniform throughout school.

“Just a symbolic ceremony that we have talking about the values of the nursing profession and honesty, integrity knowledge and service,” said Sylvia Brown.

The lamp is part of a pin created by the college’s first graduating class in 1964 and given to nurses at graduation.


ECU Greek life makes changes to eliminate stigma | WNCT

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Aug 282015


By Jessica Jewell
Published: August 28, 2015

To view news video at WNCT, click here.

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Greek life on college campuses has made national headlines over the past year for incidents like sexual assault and discrimination. So WNCT is digging deeper to see what steps ECU is taking to keep scandal from happening here.

Across the country, people are concerned about the culture within Greek life, following national incidents as recent as this week. That’s why ECU is implementing new policies to be proactive, rather than reactive.

The university kicked off a new program this week called One Community. It’s focused on teaching students in sororities and fraternities about university policies. It’s also about taking a hard stance against sexual assault and discrimination to prevent potential scandal.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Involvement and Leadership Erik Kneubuehl says students have a lot to take away from the new program.

“That we are all looking out for each other. That we’re all holding each other to the same high standards that we expect. And that one bad apple really can ruin it for the bunch. And so that’s why we need to make sure that we are all on the same page,” Kneubuehl said.

While ECU Greek life did come under scrutiny in the spring, leaders say they’ve only had minor incidents.

The timing of this new program is particularly important, as Greek life recruitment begins this week.


Vidant debuts birthing center update | The Daily Reflector

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Aug 282015


By Michael Abramowitz
August 28, 2015

Women who receive obstetric care at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville now have a seamless, more comfortable and medically safe birthing experience at Vidant’s renovated labor-and-delivery triage area, which made its public debut Thursday.

More than 3,500 babies are delivered at Vidant Medical Center each year, making it the largest birthing center in eastern North Carolina. Recent renovations to the hospital’s labor-and-delivery triage area, where women who may be in labor first are examined, are making the experience more private and comfortable for mothers-to-be and their families, according to Dr. Cal Hayslip, chief of Vidant’s OB/GYN service and faculty chairman of the OB/GYN Department at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

“We’ve been very excited about this new triage area because our patients will feel more warmly welcomed at a nervous time,” Hayslip said. “And our physicians will be able to spend some time with their patients before they move over to the labor and delivery area or diagnose or treat pregnancy issues and send them back home. This upgrade in triage service is something we’ve wanted to do for quite some time.”

Hayslip led a media tour of the $1 million triage area that began caring for patients this spring, located beside the Children and Women’s Center and the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital.

The triage area has six private examination rooms, each with separate facilities for exams like ultrasounds, heart rate monitors and fluid analysis, Vidant Women’s Center Medical Director Dr. James de Venti said. The area also has a negative pressure room that isolates the air around pregnant women who might be experiencing an infectious condition, such as the flu, de Venti said.

“The mothers’ first concern will be their babies, so we’ll be able to see and evaluate everything going on with them,” de Venti said. “We’re directly attached to the hospital, so we can move them right to Labor and Delivery if necessary. Sometimes things have to be done even more quickly, so we can treat them right here in the triage area if necessary.”

Triage often is a pregnant woman’s first experience with medical care in a hospital setting, Hayslip said.

“If there is bleeding, pain or other symptoms, this is a place other than an emergency department where they can be directed for a much more pleasant and welcoming experience,” he said. “It serves many roles for a woman throughout her pregnancy. At the end of the day, it’s all about patient safety and quality of experience.”

The experience was good for Stephanie Luper and her first child, Christian Izaiah Warren.

“I came for my regular appointment, and they told me they were going to be inducing my labor,” Luper said. “They all were very nice , and it all was in such a calming and comfortable environment. They talk all the anxiety out of you. I didn’t know all of this is new, but it’s awesome. It’s been a great experience.”


ECU cornerback relishing memories | The Daily Reflector

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Aug 282015


By Nathan Summers
Thursday, August 27, 2015

Only a matter of days remain until Josh Hawkins begins his final football season at East Carolina, but the senior cornerback insists he is still in camp mode.

In order to temper his excitement between now and next Saturday’s season kickoff against Towson, the at-times acrobatic defensive back is exercising some serious discipline.

“We’ve got to keep giving it 100 percent and work extremely hard,” Hawkins said. “We’ve got to play fast and physical, know our keys and know what we’re supposed to do in press (coverage), man, cover 2 and cover 3. You’re perfecting your craft at this point.”

Hawkins became the face of the secondary last season with a team-high five interceptions and 11 pass breakups that rocketed him into the running for the Jim Thorpe Award.

In addition to being the unit’s statistical leader, Hawkins aims to be more of a traditional leader this season, but said he is not alone in that cause.

“It’s our last first game. All the seniors, we’ve already all told each other that we’ve got to leave it all out on the field,” Hawkins said. “If we make a mistake, we’re going to make it giving 100 percent and we’re going to run to the ball, and we’re going to fix that mistake by running to the ball.”

War stories

Defensive coordinator Rick Smith is rarely without a story, and in the wake of the loss of sophomore quarterback Kurt Benkert for the season due to injury earlier this week, he was reminded of one.

The third-year coordinator said the injury to Benkert’s right ACL conjured images of his uncles.

“All my uncles were in World War II … and I’ve heard them on the porch at Christmas and Thanksgiving,” Smith said. “They’d get together and start popping the bourbon. Two of them were Marines, and I’ve heard it a million times. ‘During the war, we just buried the dead, stacked the wounded and kept marching.’ I’ve always used that analogy with our guys. If a guy is out for the year, somebody has to step in and march with the other guys. That’s just the way football is.”


NC budget deal reached on state employees pay | The News & Observer

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Aug 282015


August 26, 2015

By Lynn Bonner and Craig Jarvis

House and Senate leaders have reached a compromise on teacher and state employee pay and have moved closer to an agreement on overall state spending.

State employees and teachers would receive $750 bonuses this year under the compromise, rather than a 2 percent across-the-board increase the House wanted.

The Senate in its budget proposed targeted raises for hard-to-fill and hard-to-retain positions.

The State Employees Association of North Carolina had been pushing for across-the-board raises. Ardis Watkins, a SEANC lobbyist, said she hopes the final budget agreement includes bonus days for state employees – additional annual leave – because some use that time to supplement their regular income.

The average state employee salary was $42,753 in May 2014, the latest figures available.

That means the $750 bonus represents a 1.75 percent bonus for the average employee.

Food and rent are going up, Watkins said, “and wages aren’t.” The last budget included five bonus days for state employees.

House Speaker Tim Moore’s spokeswoman, Mollie Young, said a priority will be “shoring up funds so we can give meaningful raises” next year.

Sen. Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican and budget writer, said the House wanted to give state employees $500 bonuses but the Senate wanted to give more. The Senate got the $750 and agreed to move money into education, something the House wanted.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican and budget writer, said what the House really wanted was to increase base pay overall – an increase that would carry into next year- rather than the one-time bonuses.

Going into specifics about the negotiations on bonuses “is not productive,” he added.

The budget also funds pay increases for teachers as they gain experience and the second-year of a two-year plan to raise the salaries of beginning teachers to $35,000.
A slow process

The House and Senate budget negotiations have been significantly slowed this year by major policy and spending differences. The House wanted to spend more than the Senate, and the Senate put some controversial tax and health care policy proposals in its budget. To move negotiations along, the Senate withdrew its tax and Medicaid policies, and last week the chambers agreed to a budget bottom line of about $21.7 billion.

An agreement on how that money should be divided between education, health, state courts and other functions took time, McGrady said.

The final budget will spend more than $100 million less on education than the House wanted, and more than $150 million less on health and human services than the House proposed.

“Lower targets are real things,” McGrady said.

Budget subcommittees were working Wednesday on budget details, and McGrady said he could not give specifics on what would be cut from the House proposal. The Senate wanted to cut funding for about 1,700 teacher assistants this year and increase spending on teachers to reduce class sizes.

The status of teacher assistants, for example “will be the subject of negotiations between the House and Senate conferees,” he said.

Brown said the budget includes pots of money for wage hikes for specific employees. The agreement has $10 million for community college employee raises, about $1 million to increase pay for forensic scientists, and $3.7 million for highway patrol officer raises.

A $12.5 million salary adjustment fund Gov. Pat McCrory controls will allow his administration to award targeted increases for select jobs.

The agreement on pay and broad spending targets is a significant step, but work on the budget will not be finished by Aug. 31, when a second stop-gap budget runs out.

Moore said Wednesday that both chambers would take up their third stop-gap budget Thursday. This one would expire Sept. 18.

Brown said a statewide reserve of $121.4 million would be used primarily for justice and public safety, where there has been a call for increased courts staffing and operations, replacing an antiquated information technology system for the courts, hiring new technicians for the state crime lab, and increasing staff at the mental health unit at Central Prison in Raleigh, allowing it to treat a full capacity of 72 inmates at a time.

Funding for a “Film and Entertainment Grant Fund” has not been determined.

Spending targets

▪ Under the spending targets, education would see spending of $12 billion, less than the House $12.15 billion and more than the Senate $11.87 billion.

▪ Health and Human Services would have spending of $5.12 billion, less than the $5.28 billion House proposal and more than the $5.06 billion in the Senate budget proposal.

▪ Justice and Public Safety had $2.43 billion, slightly less than both the House and Senate budgets.

▪ Natural and Economic Resources would have $372 million, less than both the House and Senate.

▪ General Government would have $425.3 million, less than the House and more than the Senate.


Five questions for departing community college leader | The News & Observer

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Aug 282015


August 27, 2015
By Jane Stancill

Scott Ralls became president of the N.C. Community College System in 2008 at the dawn of the recession. He would preside over a period of intense growth during a severe state budget crisis. But while absorbing thousands of unemployed workers who sought training, credentials and hope, the state’s 58 community colleges also began to reinvent themselves.

Some adopted fast-track programs to retrain people in careers with a future. Then, the colleges began to focus more intently on getting students to graduation, with pared down course offerings, streamlined remedial education and more robust counseling services. By last fall, all the changes were fully in effect – changes that have gained national recognition.

On Sept. 1, Ralls will leave North Carolina for the presidency of Northern Virginia Community College, one of the largest in the nation. On Thursday, he signed an agreement with 22 private colleges in North Carolina to smooth the pathways from two-year to four-year colleges. He previously inked a similar plan with the UNC system. Ralls sat down this week for an interview with The News & Observer. Here are excerpts.

What achievement are you most proud of?

We had simultaneously the greatest budget challenges our system had ever faced, combined with a hyper-enrollment we had never had. We had over 25 percent enrollment [growth] over three years. … What we said was that the road to recovery in North Carolina was running through the middle of the North Carolina Community College System. …

What was a given for us was we were going to have less money and a lot more people. The thing I was so proud of at that time was how community college people responded to it. I don’t like to make military analogies because it’s a different thing; it’s not the same thing as being in a battle. But for education, it was as close to a battlefield kind of scenario you could have, where community colleges were really on the front lines of dealing with this unprecedented economic challenge.

What do you wish you had accomplished?

Community colleges have many, many more people who appreciate us, but I still feel like we don’t have enough people who champion us. Some people say, well, what’s the difference? If you look at it from a political standpoint, people who appreciate you make you a line in a speech; people who champion you make you a line in the budget. I don’t think it is fully recognized – the breadth and depth and impact of community colleges in this state. As much as I’ve worked towards that every day, I still don’t feel like we’ve been able to accomplish that yet. You look at the numbers the Department of Commerce published last year – over 40 percent of all the wage earners in our state have been students at one of our 58 community colleges in the last 10 years. No sector of higher ed has the impact on alumni wages in North Carolina that our system has. …

We still struggle on areas like faculty salaries. I do believe North Carolina has the best system of community colleges in the country and has been supported in ways that you don’t find in other states. But we’re now among the lowest paid in terms of what we pay our instructors, and there’s no way that the system will stay as great as long as it stays in that position.

What’s the future of free community college, which was recently launched in Tennessee, and “debt-free” higher education, being discussed by some presidential candidates?

In some ways, it seems to be more of a political discussion than a policy discussion, and it needs to be kept in the context of policy. … The overall philosophy of what that proposal is about really gets at something that’s so important, which is the fact that higher education, particularly for lower-income students and middle-income students, is becoming much less accessible than it was. When you go back to the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, tuition wasn’t so costly. You could still work part-time jobs and pay for your tuition. That’s not possible now in most places. … Today if you look at community colleges, two-thirds of our students at community colleges across the United States are from the lower 50 percent of the income bracket. If you look at the top 50 most selective colleges, that’s only 5 percent of their student population.

What does North Carolina need to do to compete with other states on economic development?

I think we need to be aggressive about economic development. North Carolina has never been a state that has, compared to many of our neighbors, been aggressive about financial incentives. We have to be in the game; we don’t need to be the leaders of that game. I’ve had a lot of economic development experience, and I don’t know where we ever won a project because we gave more incentives than someone. That being said, though, I do believe North Carolina in recent years has fallen way too much on its heels and needs to get back on its toes again when it comes to economic development. …

We’re not all going to agree on economic strategies, but we need to have more agreement about economic strategy and we need to get behind economic strategy. And we need to compete as a state. We also need to recognize how vital our educational institutions are as a secret weapon in that process.

What are the challenges facing community colleges and higher education in North Carolina?

In a world where higher education is greatly in flux … I’m someone who buys into the notion there is a higher education bubble. Some would say everybody’s trying to be Harvard, and I’m not saying that that’s not a noble thing to pursue. I think what higher education needs, and perhaps in North Carolina, is sometimes for us to be more like us. What I mean is that we should never lose our jobs-focused approach, we should always be doing our best to keep our tuition and fees as low as possible and we need to be community focused. As we’ve always said in North Carolina, meet people where they are and carry them as far as they can go, which means that for us, we take just as much pride in how inclusive we are as Harvard takes in how exclusive they are. The world needs community colleges just as much as it needs the Harvards.

Deal to make transfer easier for community college students

On Thursday, community college leaders signed a new agreement with 22 of North Carolina’s private colleges to simplify the transfer path for students.

Each year, about 2,000 community college students transfer to North Carolina’s 36 private colleges, but sometimes they find that they won’t get credit for all of their courses. The agreement establishes which courses will fulfill general education requirements and sets out required courses for community college students in the hopes that they will map their pathway to a four-year college. Students who earn an associate’s degree at a community college will be guaranteed entry as juniors with full credit at the private colleges.

Hope Williams, president of the N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities, said the goal is to make the transfer experience “positive, smooth and streamlined.”

Leaders gathered for the signing ceremony at William Peace University in Raleigh.


Student Dies After Savannah State University Shooting | The New York Times

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Aug 282015


AUG. 28, 2015

Officials are investigating the death of a student killed in a shooting Thursday night at Savannah State University in Georgia, the university said in a statement.

Loretta Heyward, a spokeswoman for the university, said in a statement on Friday that no arrests had been made in connection with the shooting that killed Christopher Starks, a junior from the Atlanta area. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is handling the inquiry, with the help of the campus police, Ms. Heyward said.

Mr. Starks is the only person known to have been taken to a hospital from the scene of the shooting.

Ms. Heyward said the administration knew few details about the episode, and she urged anyone with information to come forward. “While it may be natural to want to protect an associate,” she said in the statement, “the lack of disclosure may do more harm than good in the long run.”

On Thursday, The Tiger’s Roar, a student newspaper at the university, reported that blood had been found on the floor of the student union building, near where the shooting took place.

The campus was placed on lockdown after the shooting, but the measure was lifted shortly before midnight.

The Tiger’s Roar said that despite the end of the lockdown, students were being encouraged to stay in their dorm rooms.

The shooting took place one day after two television journalists were shot and killed while broadcasting live in Roanoke, Va., reigniting the long-running debate in the United States on gun control.


Beating the “back to school plague” | WNCT

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Aug 272015


By Kelly Byrne
Published: August 25, 2015

To view news video at WNCT, click here.

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – With the start of classes and homework, comes the start of coughing and sneezing.
Many parents and teachers refer to this as the “back to school plague.”

“When kids get back to school. they naturally just spread germs and they drink after each other they eat after each other,” said Pediatrician Dr. Caroline Morgan. “They’re coughing and sneezing, and they younger ones especially don’t know how to avoid getting sick.”

According to the CDC, kids get sick 8 to 12 times per year, and over 22 million days of school are lost each year due to the common cold. But doctors say there are simple tips to follow to help keep your kids from getting sick.

“Washing hands is a big thing that you want children to do,” said Dr. William Dalzell of the Brody School of Medicine. “Second thing is learning to cough – coughing into your sleeve or shoulder. And the third one is just getting a good night’s sleep.”

You can also have your child take their own water bottle to school, as water fountains are often full of germs. Make sure you children stay active, and have them eat well.

And remember, if your child is sick – keep them home from school.


ECU QB Kurt Benkert out for season with knee injury | The News & Observer

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Aug 272015


August 26, 2015
By Brian Haines


East Carolina suffered its first major loss of the year Wednesday as it learned recently named starting quarterback Kurt Benkert will be out for the season with a right knee injury.

Benkert sustained the injury during practice Tuesday and additional testing Wednesday confirmed the severity of the injury.

“It was tough news that we got this morning. I’m disappointed for K.B.,” ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said. “Talk about a kid that exemplifies what we want here on and off the field.”

McNeill also said that there was no contact when Benkert sustained the injury.

The strong-armed sophomore was named starting quarterback Aug. 19 after he beat juniors Blake Kemp and Cody Keith for the job. Benkert was set to make his first career start Sept. 5 when ECU hosts Towson in its season opener.

McNeill said Benkert’s spirits were still high

“There was no ‘why?’ but it was more ‘what’s next?’” McNeill said. “We talked, him and his fiancée and I, and he said, ‘Coach, what can I do? How can I help the team since I can’t play?’”

East Carolina offensive players are not made available to the media Wednesdays, but Benkert tweeted, “You can sit there and ask ‘why me?’ or you can embrace it and say what can I (do) next?”

What the Pirates will do next is still uncertain. McNeill and first-year offensive coordinator Dave Nichol must now choose between Kemp, a junior college transfer who ran the scout team last season, or Cody Keith, who sat out all of the 2014 season and the spring of 2015 as a result of Tommy John surgery and just came back to practice Tuesday after missing two weeks with a foot injury.

Phillip Nelson and Ray Smith are other options, but neither is likely to win the job. Nelson, who recently transferred from Minnesota, has not been ruled eligible for this season, and Smith is a freshman.

McNeill did not rule out the possibility of seeing both Kemp and Keith during ECU’s opener but refused to tip his hand further as far as how he will manage his QBs.

“As coaches, we plan for all scenarios at all positions,” McNeill said. “I’m not going to reveal my plan to you right now today, but we plan for these scenarios for every position.

“We’ve surrounded (the quarterbacks) with a group that will allow them, no matter who is there, to distribute the football.”


Salisbury native earns top medical school scholarship | The Salisbury Post

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Aug 272015


Published 12:00 am
Thursday, August 27, 2015

A medical student from Salisbury has been awarded the most prestigious scholarship available at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.

Catherine Thriveni is one of three students in the medical school’s class of 2019 chosen for the Brody Scholar award, valued at approximately $112,000.

She will receive four years of medical school tuition, living expenses and the opportunity to design her own summer enrichment program that can include travel abroad. The award will also support community service projects she may undertake while in medical school.

Thriveni attended N.C. State University on a Park Scholarship, the university’s four-year merit scholarship program founded on scholarship, leadership, service and character. She recently completed her degree in biological sciences with a concentration in human biology. As a student at N.C. State, she was a member of the Omega Phi Alpha service sorority, studied abroad in Peru and England, and minored in Spanish and creative writing.

She aspires to a career in primary care with a special focus on disease prevention. “Patient care is beginning to shift from treatment-based to prevention-based, which I think is a really exciting phenomenon,” she said. “I’m passionate about providing care that encourages the overall wellness of the patient, physically and mentally.

“I’m also passionate about being a culturally competent physician,” she said. “Health is so intimately related to lifestyle habits, which are closely connected with culture. As a physician, I hope to be sensitive to and aware of my patients’ cultures and work with them on encouraging healthy habits.”

To that end, Thriveni said one of her goals during medical school is to stay open-minded and receptive to learning not only from the medical cases she encounters, but also from her diverse group of classmates.

“Receiving the Brody Scholarship exceeded all of my dreams,” Thriveni said. “Knowing that the Brody family and the board of directors — distinguished physicians, scholars and philanthropists — believe in my success has already provided me with more courage than I can express as I start this journey. I feel so grateful to know that I’ll have a home within a home at Brody and a network of support. Knowing that someone has invested in your future motivates you that much more to inspire and achieve.”

In its 33rd year, the Brody Scholars program honors J.S. “Sammy” Brody. He and his brother, Leo, were among the earliest supporters of medical education in eastern North Carolina. The legacy continues through the dedicated efforts of Hyman Brody of Greenville and David Brody of Kinston. Subsequent gifts from the Brody family have enabled the medical school to educate new physicians, conduct important research and improve health care in eastern North Carolina.

Since the program began in 1983, 131 students have received scholarships. About 70 percent of Brody Scholars remain in North Carolina to practice, and the majority of those stay in eastern North Carolina.

Also a graduate of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Thriveni is the daughter of Nice and Pius Thriveni of Salisbury.


Program moves youth to success | The Daily Reflector

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Aug 272015


By Sharieka Breeden
Thursday, August 27, 2015

When the Greenville Police Department gang unit recently visited a local library, they delivered just one of many messages youngsters will have the opportunity to hear through “Bound to Success.”

Tamika Perkins said she developed the program to give children 5-14 years old something to do during the summer and expose them to positive influences and leadership in the community.

The group meets once a month at Sheppard Memorial Library’s East Branch to listen to community leaders speak and participate in activities. Pekins’ hopes are to get the children involved in community action and encourage them to build on future opportunities.

“As of right now it’s been going great,” Pekins said. “I plan on keeping it going. My plan is for it to succeed and expand even more. I developed the program because no matter what happens to you in life, you might go through ups and downs and trials and tribulations, but you are bound to succeed.”

A lack of exposure to career paths and interests while she was growing up is one of the primary reasons Perkins is working to give today’s youth something that she said was absent from her childhood.

“Growing up there wasn’t a lot of people to talk to about politics,” she said. “Now I see a lot of people in the area that can come and speak to the youth. If they want to achieve that, they can see people doing it here and know that they don’t have to be in Washington, D.C.”

Attendance at the sessions has been about 15 kids. The largest turnout of the summer came on Aug. 15 during a back-to-school event where 68 youth received school supplies.

Children also got to ask questions about gangs.

Gary Howard, a police department gang unit detective, cautioned youth about getting involved with cliques associated with crime. He said it was important that many parents stuck around to hear the message as well.

“Watch who you hang around because you can easily get in trouble, so choose your friends carefully,” Howard said. ”If somebody tries to recruit you. let a responsible adult know, and they can point you in the right direction.”

The gang unit’s participation in community functions is something that Howard sees as a way to foster healthy community relationships. The unit provides presentations based on requests made by schools, churches, organizations and community members.

The unit has presented to youth at C.M. Eppes Middle School, South Greenvile Gym, the Walmart Safety Program, Pitt County Structured Day Academy and during the Summer Significance Program at the Boys & Girls Club.
Talks at schools provide information for teachers as well as students who learn about gang activity, colors associated with gangs and practices of members.

Howard said paying attention to things like handwriting or simply letting the youth know someone cares makes a difference.

“Depending on which gang they are with, they won’t use certain letters,” he said. “We advise the teacher to let them know that they are noticing the behavior because they want to be undetected. Make them think about what they are doing. … Contact us or the school resource officer because those guys are spending time with them.”

Connecting with the youth is essential to help combat a problem in communities nationwide, Howard said.

“We get very good responses and feedback,” he said. “ Let them know they are a part of the learning process. They learn from me, and I learn from them.”

Howard, who completed the master’s program in leadership at East Carolina University, said he learned that 90 percent of gang members in the area either have drugs or weapons charges. Howard said he emphasizes to youth that participation in gangs often leads to involvement with other crimes.

“This is very significant to me,” he said. “Like the songs says, ‘We are the world, and our children are our future.’ When I get old, some of the very people I am dealing with will be taking care of me.”

He credits several mentors in his life for helping him stay on the right path.

“My dad is my biggest mentor and teacher, and alongside him was my brother and grandfather,” Howard said. “I was blessed and had all the tools I needed to succeed. As I became a police officer, I noticed there was a lack of guidance and lack of someone following up and checking up holding them accountable.”

The next scheduled presenter in the mentoring program is Ella Harris, former assistant principal at J.H. Rose High School, who will discuss reading and the importance of education.

Anyone interested in the program can contact Perkins at Community members, schools, churches and anyone interested in having the gang unit conduct a presentation, call the police department at 329-4315 and request information on gang awareness and prevention presentations.

“The youth today, they can rise up and become whatever they want to become,” Perkins said. “We have to do a lot of empowering. We need to counsel them and teach them that no matter what, they can succeed.”


ECU QB out for the season | The Daily Reflector

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Aug 272015


By Nathan Summers
August 27, 2015

The East Carolina football team took what might be its biggest hit of the season before playing its first game, but kept on going.

The Pirates and sixth-year head coach Ruffin McNeill practiced for the first time on Wednesday evening without quarterback Kurt Benkert, and that will be the setup for the rest of the season. Benkert suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during Tuesday’s practice and was ruled out for the season following the results of an MRI.

The news came exactly a week after the sophomore passer from Cape Coral, Fla., was named the starter for next Saturday’s season opener against Towson.

“You talk about a kid that exemplifies what we want here as a program, off the field, work ethic, it’s just tough because I love these boys,” McNeill said of Benkert following Wednesday’s practice. “You’re talking about a guy who waited, earned everything he’s gotten so far. He felt a little something (Tuesday in his knee) and we got him checked out this morning and found out. But the other thing we talked to him about was that the things that happen to you, it’s 95 percent how you react to them.”

McNeill said Benkert asked immediately what he could do to help the team now that he has been erased from this season’s equation.

It remains unclear who will be under center against the Tigers, and McNeill said he was not prepared to announce the team’s immediate plans despite acknowledging there were multiple scenarios being explored.

“As coaches, we plan on situations at all positions in all scenarios,” McNeill said. “We’ve got our guys ready to step up where needed. I thought they did well (on Wednesday).”

Junior former transfer Blake Kemp was named the top backup last week. Also in the running is junior Cody Keith, whose career has been limited to this point by injury, including a foot problem from which he returned this week. True freshman John Jacobs appears set to redshirt this season, and recent transfer Philip Nelson has not received any true repetitions this month.

Making Nelson eligible would require seeking a waiver from the NCAA, which would likely take until midseason to be approved.

According to McNeill, there was not necessarily a specific play on which the Benkert injury occurred. Instead, he said the passer complained of soreness in the knee after practice. McNeill did specify it was a non-contact injury.

The team has had mostly good fortune in terms of the health of its QBs, particularly in the McNeill coaching tenure. Dominique Davis started all 25 games of his two-year career before Rio Johnson earned the first two nods in 2012. Then it was Shane Carden’s turn, and on his way to setting every significant passing record in school history, Carden made 37 consecutive, injury-free starts.

None of the team’s current cast of QBs has made a collegiate start other than Nelson. Kemp transferred to ECU from Mesa Community College in his home state of Arizona.

Keith, meanwhile served as Carden’s main backup to open the ’13 season and made three game appearances before injuring his throwing arm and requiring Tommy John surgery that kept him sidelined all of last year.

“They’ve all come from passing offenses,” McNeill said of his remaining arms. “They’ve been around our program, in some cases, for four (Keith) and in Blake’s case for two (years). Both quarterbacks have come from (teams) that run our system.”


Emotion in Benkert reactions | The Daily Reflector

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Aug 272015


By Ronnie Woodward and Nathan Summers
August 27, 2015

Because it was a Wednesday and in congruence with in-season policy, only defensive players were available for interviews after East Carolina football’s evening practice.

That meant those defensive players answered a lot of questions about quarterbacks.

The buzz around ECU football throughout the day was centered around starting QB Kurt Benkert and his knee injury that was diagnosed early Wednesday as a season-ending ACL tear that has sidelined him for the entire season and re-opened a quarterback competition that had been settled.

There were mixed reactions and emotions from Pirate coaches and players after practice, led by head coach Ruffin McNeill expressing sorrow for Benkert and the setback that occurred a week after he was named the starter and a week and a half before the season opener. Multiple players said they are confident Benkert will eventually bounce back, led by team leader and linebacker Zeek Bigger calling the sophomore QB — last year’s lead backup to Shane Carden — a warrior.

“It’s shocking, but you have to move on still and keep his head up and keep on rolling,” Bigger said.

For a senior like Bigger, the injury means the Pirates’ planned starting signal-caller will not be on the field for this senior class’ final campaign. Inexperienced juniors Cody Keith and Blake Kemp are battling for the now-vacant spot.

“He’ll come back strong. I know that, and it’s because of how hard he works,” Bigger said of Benkert. “I believe in that and I believe in him. This isn’t the last run for that man.”

McNeill talked about how team chemistry could now be especially important. Senior cornerback Josh Hawkins supported that thought, saying that many of the players had already reached out to Benkert before Wednesday’s practice.

“It’s always sad to hear something like that, but we definitely have players that are coming in behind him that are ready to fill his shoes,” Hawkins said. “We’ve all talked to him and told him it’s just a minor setback for a major comeback.”

Some of the players took to Twitter shortly after the news became public knowledge early Wednesday afternoon, including an exchange between Benkert and Keith that included Keith posting that “I’ve been through the injury road before and it’s not fun, but it’s part of the game. Help lift (Benkert) up today he needs support.”

Most of Keith’s last two years have been derailed by injuries, but he appears as healthy as possible and is at the forefront of the team’s unexpected QB situation.

Benkert left in a golf cart in casual fashion at the conclusion of Tuesday’s practice and ECU officials said he wasn’t available to the media because of academic obligations. After discomfort Tuesday night and testing Wednesday, it was determined the ACL injury will cost him this year.

Pirate defensive lineman Terrell Stanley could be a positive source of inspiration for Benkert. Stanley suffered major injuries in a car accident on Feb. 12, 2014, and missed all of last season while rehabbing to gain active status this spring.

“You can’t let something hold you back, no matter how serious it is,” Stanley said. “You just have to keep moving forward each and every day and prepare to get back.”


At Auburn, Athletics and Academics Collide | The Wall Street Journal

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Aug 272015


By Ben Cohen
Aug. 26, 2015

In 2013, Auburn University’s curriculum review committee took up the case of a small, unpopular undergraduate major called public administration. After concluding that the major added very little to the school’s academic mission, the committee voted to eliminate it.

But according to internal documents and emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, the committee’s decision was ultimately overruled by top administrators after it met significant opposition from another powerful force on campus: Auburn’s athletic department.

In addition to meeting with the school’s provost to urge him to spare public administration, the documents show, top athletic officials also offered to use athletic department funds, if necessary, to help pay its professors and support staff. Gary Waters, Auburn’s senior associate athletic director for academic services, wrote in an email in January 2013 that athletics had made “similar investments in academic programs during the last few years,” although in those cases, he added, “it has not been publicized.”

In the fall semester of 2013, more than half of the roughly 100 students majoring in public administration were athletes, records show, including nearly all of the top stars on the Auburn football team, which would win the Southeastern Conference title and play in the national-championship game. “If the public administration program is eliminated, the [graduation success rate] numbers for our student-athletes will likely decline,” a December 2012 internal athletic department memo said.

An Auburn spokesman said that while various groups may provide input on curriculum decisions, the “athletic department has not improperly influenced academic decision-making.” The school said athletics has donated money and other resources to help several academic programs over the years, “but public administration is not one of them.”

For as long as universities have fielded big-time sports programs, many star athletes have gravitated to a handful of friendly majors that make it easier for them to meet the NCAA’s academic eligibility requirements. At some schools, these majors have come under intense scrutiny. An internal investigation at North Carolina last year found that many football and basketball players were enrolled in “no attendance” classes in the African and Afro-American Studies department, where the only requirement was the submission of a single research paper. The NCAA has told North Carolina it is investigating the matter.

Auburn faculty members, in interviews, said the athletic department’s interest in public administration represents a troubling new development. Michael Stern, the chairman of Auburn’s economics department and a former member of the faculty senate, said athletics is so powerful at Auburn that it operates like a “second university.” Whenever athletic interests intersect with an academic matter, he said, “it’s a different kind of process.”

According to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the agency that accredits Auburn, universities must place “primary responsibility for the content, quality and effectiveness of the curriculum with its faculty” and that decisions about majors must be made by people who are qualified in the field. The commission hasn’t reviewed the Auburn situation. In general, a spokeswoman said, if the commission received evidence that a school’s athletic department had influenced a curriculum decision, “there would be cause for concern.”

The Auburn spokesman said: “Auburn’s academic community makes all academic program and curriculum decisions. Auburn is fully committed to the integrity of its academic programs.”

In early 2012, documents show, a panel performing a review of the Auburn political science department, which oversees public administration, expressed doubt that the major “contributes a great deal to the Department’s education mission.” In May, provost Timothy Boosinger sent a memo supporting a proposal to suspend the major by the end of the next school year.

In August, according to documents, the political science faculty voted 13-0 to remove public administration as an active major. The following March, Auburn’s academic program review committee, the final faculty body to review such proposals, voted 10-1 to place the major on “inactive status.”

But even as the proposal was zooming toward final approval, the athletic department had begun a campaign to reverse it. In February 2013, Waters, the department’s academic officer, sent an email to Jay Jacobs, the athletic director, that said it was “extremely important” that they plead their case with Boosinger and Auburn president Jay Gogue as soon as possible. On April 9, Waters and Jacobs met with Boosinger. Gogue wasn’t present.

After the meeting, Boosinger’s position on the future of public administration softened. In a June email to Gerry Gryski, then the chairman of the political science department, he said there would be no action taken on the major until the College of Liberal Arts had appointed a new dean. In September, when Patricia Duffy, the chairwoman of Auburn’s curriculum committee, asked the provost’s office for an update, she received an email that said: “The Provost and the Dean have agreed to keep the Public Administration program open.”

In an interview this week, Gryski said he was unaware that the athletic department had offered money to help keep the major open. “I’m searching for a word here,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s incomprehensible.”

Auburn confirmed Wednesday that athletic department officials had offered to subsidize public administration during the meeting with Boosinger, but the provost had turned the offer down.

Waters, through a spokesman, said he told the provost during the meeting that he was concerned that cutting the major might have a “detrimental impact on the academic experience of students enrolled in that program.”

Auburn said the decision to save the major was Boosinger’s and that the provost changed his mind because the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Joseph Aistrup, asked to keep public administration open.

In an interview Wednesday, Aistrup said he felt it was important to preserve a pre-professional program with at least 100 majors. He said he decided to try to improve the program by giving it more resources. “I didn’t know there was a single student-athlete in the program,” he said. “It was not even on my radar screen.”

Auburn said the athletic department has contributed to the school’s academic side in the past by endowing professorships and donating $1.5 million to the College of Liberal Arts for the marching band. It once funded three years of a startup program in health and fitness for the kinesiology school and provided an adjunct professor to teach two classes in the journalism school, among other investments.

Auburn’s 2015 schedule

All times Eastern

Sept. 5: vs. Louisville in Atlanta, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Sept. 12: Jacksonville St., noon (SEC)
Sept. 19: at LSU, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Sept. 26: Mississippi St.
Oct. 3: San Jose St.
Oct. 15: at Kentucky, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Oct. 24: at Arkansas
Oct. 31: Ole Miss
Nov. 7: at Texas A&M
Nov. 14: Georgia
Nov. 21: Idaho
Nov. 28: Alabama

Public administration majors account for less than 1% of Auburn’s undergraduate student body. But in the fall semester of 2013, documents show, 51% of the 111 students pursuing the degree were athletes. Among them were the football team’s starting quarterback and running back, its leading wide receiver and the three defensive players who led the team in interceptions, tackles and sacks. At the time the athletic department learned of the plan to close the major, Auburn’s football team was coming off its worst season in a half-century and had just fired its coach. The following season, the team would win the Southeastern Conference and lose to Florida State in the national-championship game.

This February, in response to a question from Auburn’s faculty senate, Boosinger asked the school’s institutional research office to examine enrollment data for athletes. The report showed that 26 football players, or 32% of the 2014 team, were majoring in public administration. In May, documents show, Boosinger appointed an internal committee to review these enrollment trends and make recommendations about what actions might be appropriate.

This season, Auburn is ranked No. 6 in college football’s preseason polls and is the early favorite to win the SEC title. Public administration is still the team’s most popular major.


Vidant expects $70 million margin | The Daily Reflector

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Aug 262015


By Michael Abramowitz
August 26, 2015

Amid concerns about the uncertainty of the state budget, the Vidant Health Board of Directors on Tuesday unanimously approved its fiscal year 2015-16 budget.

The eight-hospital health system budget projects total operating and nonoperating revenues of $1.649 billion, operating and nonoperating expenses of $1.579 billion, an excess of revenues over expenses of $70.3 million and a 2.7-percent operating margin, according to documents distributed to board members at their quarterly meeting in Greenville.

“Vidant Health continues to be a healthy organization despite the fiscal challenges that are being created by changes in state and federal programs as the health care industry continues its transition from a volume-based payment system to a system based on the value of the care,” that is provided,” board Chairman Dr. Marcus Albernaz said in a statement accompanying the budget. “This budget provides the funding necessary to continue Vidant’s position as the health care safety net for eastern North Carolina. However, there is still uncertainty regarding the proposed changes in state law that could affect more than $100 million in funding for Vidant Health.”

The failure of the Legislature to complete a budget before the state’s fiscal year ended June 30 left health system leaders with unanswered questions about several key issues being decided by state lawmakers. Unfavorable decisions could jeopardize the Vidant mission, according to David Hughes, Vidant Health’s chief financial officer.

“It’s hard to present a budget without knowing what lawmakers will ultimately decide about funding for graduate medical education, Certificate of Need laws, Medicaid reform and how sales tax for nonprofits will be addressed,” Hughes said. “In addition to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, Vidant Health operates seven community hospitals that serve 29 counties, more than 70 physician practices, home health, hospice, wellness centers and numerous community partners across the region. Vidant Medical Center serves as a tertiary destination for the most medically fragile and socioeconomically challenged patients in the state and our mission could be in jeopardy.”

Planned investments in capital projects include $187 million on the construction of a cancer center, which is scheduled to be completed in 2018, Vidant leaders said. Additional investments are being made in information systems, diagnostic services, equipment replacement and upgrades in the core infrastructure of the system’s hospitals. If further reductions in reimbursements occur, the ability to fund these capital requirements will be at risk, Vidant officials said.

Albernaz said the health system’s leaders will continue to focus on the most effective and efficient way to provide health care in eastern North Carolina, which will include streamlining processes and finding ways to decrease the cost of care.

Board members said the system in 2015-16 will stay committed to the construction of a 24-hour multi-specialty clinic and helipad in Belhaven, scheduled to be completed next summer. Vidant Beaufort Hospital also will see the beginning of the renovation and expansion of its emergency department in the next year.

The system estimates its 12,000 employees will provide care to approximately 65,000 inpatients, supporting 1,186,000 combined emergency department and outpatient and ambulatory visits, performing 46,000 surgeries and delivering 6,000 babies during the next fiscal year. The budget committed to $894 million in salaries and benefits.

In addition to its affiliation with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Vidant Health includes Vidant Medical Center, Vidant Beaufort Hospital, Vidant Bertie Hospital, Vidant Chowan Hospital, Vidant Duplin Hospital, Vidant Edgecombe Hospital, Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital and The Outer Banks Hospital at Nags Head, where it is a 60 percent owner. The Outer Banks Hospital board will adopt its budget separately. Vidant Health also includes Vidant Wellness, Home Health and Hospice and Vidant Medical Group.