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Pearce aims to share information about the deaf culture

Hillary Pearce plans to take her skills and experiences from ECU to become CEO of her family’s business.

When Pearce was three years old, she was diagnosed with hearing loss and began wearing hearing aids. As a youngster, she was not yet aware that the new “toys” in her ears were there to assist her and not to be misplaced. After Pearce temporarily lost one hearing aid at a birthday party, her mother, Jennifer Kearns, decided to make tools to help keep the devices in place.

Kearns founded the family business, The Ear Connection, in an effort to keep her daughter’s hearing aids in place. The Ear Connection is a hearing and eyewear instruments retention products company that creates accessories for disability aids, like eyeglasses and hearing aids.

Kearns is Pearce’s role model and has run the family business mostly by herself since 1997. “She always taught me to not be limited by the expectations others had for me, especially in regards to my hearing,” said Pearce.

With Lindsay Dozier and their faculty advisor, Nancy Ausherman, Pearce began to share the lack of her limitations with those interested in the deaf culture through ECU Silent Pirates. Ausherman is assistant director with Disability Support Services at ECU.

“I found out there was a student who wanted to start a deaf organization and was asked if anyone else was interested in helping her out,” said Pearce. She started collaborating to found the organization that provides other students with the opportunity to learn more about American Sign Language and deaf culture. 

In addition to starting a new organization during her undergraduate career, Pearce said she has been able to gain real-world experiences in courses like her favorite, MGMT 4262 with associate professor Dr. Michael Harris. In this course Pearce said students are given guidance, but are free to run a required class project how they choose. Pearce said in his course, she is able to apply lessons learned during her time at ECU in a way that truly benefits a business that can help improve the economy.

“Instead of just memorizing definitions and facts that I may never use, I actually got to gain real world experience through the course,” Pearce said. “I wish most, if not all, courses were taught in this manner.”

Pearce has plans to continue her education at Gallaudet University to fully immerse herself in a deaf community, improve her sign language and get a master’s degree in deaf studies.

“I’ve been mainstream all my life and a part of the hearing world. I want to experience the deaf culture and community,” said Pearce.

Pearce hopes to hire from the deaf community to “provide a safe place where they can do a job that benefits their community.”

Do you feel that ECU has prepared you for life after college?
I’m taking some classes right now that I enjoy, like human resources management. I feel it’s good and [learn] how to have a good HR program. The small business management class is interesting because I get to work with a real client. I get to help create marketing and a logistics plan, so it’s interesting.

Describe how someone at ECU has influenced you.

Nancy Ausherman has influenced me because she was the one who got Lindsay and me in touch to create Silent Pirates. She also has given me advice in regards to school and my future plans.

What did you want to accomplish with Silent Pirates?
I wanted to provide a place for students who are interested to learn about the deaf culture, deaf community and sign language.

What have you done that every one should do?

Push yourself. Don’t just do the same thing you always did in high school. Try to step out of your comfort zone, make new friendships and talk to people. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Learn to be yourself and be comfortable with who you are.

Why was small business management your favorite class?

The small business management course is my favorite because instead of just memorizing definitions and facts that I may never use, I actually gained real world experience. The course is a semester-long group project working with a real client. Each client’s needs differ in that some may be just starting out and need helping creating a target market and business plan, while others may be established clients who need help expanding their target markets, logistics and marketing.


Written by: Jamitress Bowden
Photography by: Cliff Hollis

"Try to step out of your comfort zone, make new friendships and talk to people. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Learn to be yourself and be comfortable with who you are."

- Hillary Pearce