ECU News

Spanish class
Instructor Olmanda Hernandez-Guerrero
leads a Spanish class of other ECU teachers

Teachers take a seat
to become students

About two dozen professors who usually stand at the front of the class are taking seats as students to further ECU’s goal of helping students prepare to compete in a global economy. The teachers-turned-students in the Faculty Language Development Program (FLDP), which was launched fall semester, are learning Spanish but other languages may be added later, said James Gehlhar, associate vice chancellor for international affairs

“There is a high level of enthusiasm on the part of the faculty to learn Spanish in order for them to use it in their field,” said Olmanda Hernandez-Guerrero, a teaching instructor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, who is leading the class. Professors from several disciplines are enrolled, she added. Some professors in the class have led student groups in overseas study and want to be better prepared for future trips. “Business professors are learning because they take students on business trips to Latin America and Spain. And professors want to set the example for students,” she said.

“The FDLP program is one of ECU’s better ideas,” said Brian Massey, an associate professor in the School of Communication who also is a student in the class. “It’s helping to equip professors with foreign language skills, which in our case is Spanish. And that serves ECU’s globalization efforts. It’s also helping me relearn what life is like as a student. It’s a lot busier than I remember. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to do homework.”

Organized by the Office of International Affairs, the class meets for three hours weekly and will continue studying Spanish for two years. Besides syntax and grammar, the professors also are learning customs and traditions observed in many Spanish-speaking nations. An ignorance of those customs can cause problems for Americans studying or doing business overseas.

“This is so important in order to conduct business,” said Hernandez-Guerrero. “Some common gestures in the U.S. may be offensive in another culture. Even the types of food that are strange for an American could be a delicatessen in another country. In Peru, for example, people eat the guinea pig. A negative reaction to the dish might be very offensive for a Peruvian.”

Gehlhar said plans are being made for ECU to partner with a college in Latin America that FDLP students will visit over the summer for a complete immersion in Spanish language and culture.

“Every student should be aware of the needs in the world beyond his environment. Learning a language and the culture opens the doors to the world beyond East Carolina University,” Hernandez-Guerrero said.

News Briefs

ECU is No. 2: Appalachian State University led the nation and East Carolina was second in the number of graduates receiving the National Board Certification in 2011, according to data from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). North Carolina again was tops in the nation in teachers receiving the prestigious designation, with 1,244 credentialed teachers out of the 6,200 national total. Nationwide to date, 97,291 teachers have received the certification. For the first time, the NBPTS released data on colleges attended by the newly certified teachers, and seven UNC system schools are in the top 20 nationally. Two Wake County high schools, Leesville Road and Athens Drive, are in the top 10 nationally in the number of board certified teachers on staff.

Enrollment drops: Higher tuition costs and the weak economy were blamed for a slight decline in enrollment at UNC system campuses this past year. A report by the UNC Board of Governors said overall enrollment fell by 1,422 students a year earlier to 220,305 in fall 2011. Enrollment increased by seven campuses and declined at nine others, including East Carolina, where it dropped by about 400 students to 27,386. The biggest declines were at Elizabeth City State, down 11.4 percent to 2,930 students; and UNC Pembroke, down 10 percent to 6,251. Fayetteville State had the largest percentage increase in enrollment, up 2.6 percent to 5,930.

Studying life underground: Biology professor Matthew O. Schrenk was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to research the forms of microbes living underneath the Earth’s oceans and continents. Called the Deep Life Directorate, the project will include cooperation among 10 other universities and institutes. Schrenk will work with colleagues from seven countries to collect and analyze data over a two-year period. “The main goal of the research is to fill in the ‘black box’ of the rock-hosted subsurface microbial biosphere, which may be the largest habitat on Earth, but also that with the least data,” Schrenk said.

Network upgrade: A 10-gigabit upgrade to network services at East Carolina, which is a main network hub for most public institutions east of I-95, will boost high-speed broadband capacity throughout the region. The upgrade was completed through the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative, a $144 million expansion of the N.C. Regional Education Network, which serves the Intranet and Internet network needs of almost all of the state’s educational and research institutions. ECU Chief Information Officer Tom Lamb said the upgrade provides essential bandwidth and broadband capacity to service the school’s online and distance learning programs, videoconferencing, economic development and other essential services.

Fall graduation: More than 3,300 students were recognized at East Carolina’s fall commencement exercises on Dec. 16, including approximately 2,220 bachelor degree candidates and 1,110 graduate degree candidates. “Today, as we say goodbye, we can look back on these last four years with a smile,” said Senior Class Officer Casey Anthony. “Our education should never stop, even though our formal schooling has.” Dr. Thomas G. Irons, associate vice chancellor for health sciences and professor of pediatrics at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU, delivered the primary address. He recently received the Award for Excellence in Public Service from the UNC Board of Governors. “I hope every one of you will make a difference, and above all, that you will find joy,” he said.

Bacteria research: Md Motaleb, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the Brody School of Medicine, received a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study Lyme disease. He is studying the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent that causes the tick-borne disease, to determine exactly how the germ moves through tissue, reaches its destination and causes infection. Information about that process could help lead to a vaccine.

Most affordable med school: The Brody School of Medicine charges the least for in-state tuition and fees of all public medical schools in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report magazine. Brody’s tuition and required fees are $11,554, more than $2,000 less than the No. 2 school on the list, Texas A&M Health Science Center. ECU also charges nearly $3,000 less than the UNC Chapel Hill medical school, ranked No. 4. The national average cost of in-state tuition and required fees at public medical schools is $26,418, the magazine said.

Grant boosts teledentistry: The ECU School of Dental Medicine will use a grant of $392,748 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand its rural residency program by implementing a telemedicine system. The system will allow dental residents to receive academic lessons via teledentistry equipment while working at three rural clinics in underserved areas of North Carolina. They also will allow consultation about complex cases with specialists in Greenville. The sites will be at the community service learning centers in Ahoskie, Elizabeth City and Sylva. The school plans to apply for another grant to fund telemedicine at sites in Lillington and Spruce Pine. The funds will also pay for a central telemedicine site at the school’s new Ross Hall, under construction on the Health Sciences Campus.


Dental students learn the drill

Drill in hand, Shannon Holcomb ’07 ’11 follows the chewing grooves on the tooth she’s filling, a hard-to-reach molar far back in the patient’s mouth. She makes a tiny hole, then another, before stopping to review her notes and ask questions. Because she’s left-handed, using the instruments and mirror is taking some practice.

ECU DentalBut that’s not a problem for her patient, a plastic model called Dexter. Although she got the drill only a few weeks earlier, Holcomb, a first-year student at the ECU School of Dental Medicine, already is preparing model teeth for restorations, learning the ins and outs of dentistry and developing the hand skills she’ll need to treat her first real patients. That may come as early as August. By then, she will have studied the body’s systems and anatomy, heard a year’s worth of practical lectures and solved hundred of case problems using the school’s online discussion network.

The good news is that between now and then, she’ll have plenty of friends to count on during class and after hours.

“We’re like family,” Holcomb, 27, says of her classmates, the first enrolled at the dental school. “We celebrate birthdays and all want to see each other succeed. That’s part of being in the first class.” Instructors, too. “They don’t view us as students, but more as colleagues,” she says. “They stand by us.”

This inaugural class of 52 is navigating its first, fast year. And what a ride it’s been. Only a few weeks into their first semester, they began lab work with models and wax teeth. They spent two days a week there learning what are called hand skills, the manual training to prepare, fill and otherwise restore teeth. The dental school is temporarily housed on the second floor of the Brody Health Sciences Building, but that should change by the start of their second year, when the new dental school building is expected to open. Once it does, they’ll see their first patients under the supervision of faculty members.

That brisk pace distinguishes ECU from traditional dental schools. Another distinction is its problem-solving seminars. Indeed, before they graduate, they will have worked through more than 5,000 case problems and completed more than 1,000 procedures. They’ll learn the body’s systems, an important component for dentists in rural areas where they will likely encounter complex dental cases in people with advanced health problems.

Their practical training is spread over four years, starting with models their first year. This fall, they will treat patients under the supervision of an attending dentist. Their third year brings more complex cases and treatments.

By year four, they will be working under a faculty member at one of several planned ECU dental offices both at the dental school and outside Greenville, where they’re expected to complete three different nine-week rotations. These practices, known as community service learning centers, are under construction or planned in Ahoskie, Elizabeth City, Lillington, Sylva and Spruce Pine. Five more sites will be announced.

“Everything is going according to plan,” says Greg Chadwick, interim dean, who took over from James Hupp in 2011. Hupp is now serving as a professor.

The model heads used in their lab, located in a second-floor area of the former Laupus Library, allow students to insert and change the hinged teeth sets they work on. Using a thin blue rubber sheet, they cover most of the teeth, exposing only those they’re studying. Looking up, they can review notes and diagrams on their laptops as they go through the procedure.

For many of them, taking up a dental drill was a rite of passage. “We were all pretty nervous,” says Phillip Cochran, 25, who’s also class president. “Once you dive in you’ve got plenty of good instruction. It’s easier than I thought it would be,” he says, adding, “but in some ways it’s a lot more difficult.”

Getting his drill felt a lot like being knighted, says Alex Crisp, 24. “It was official,” he says. “It was really exciting.” The program has moved quickly but he expected it would. With tests every Wednesday, labs Tuesday and Friday and lectures and seminars Mondays and Thursdays, there’s not a minute to spare. Like medical students, they also have rounds with presentations by faculty members—medical doctors as well as dentists—who discuss complicated or interesting cases and research. They conduct their own rounds, as well, presenting cases to each other and to faculty members.

For Rebecca Ferguson, 27, working with instruments and models marks a welcome departure from the familiar. She previously worked as a pharmaceutical researcher, investigating new drugs to treat cancer and nerve conditions. But, she says, “it was a little too far from working with patients. And that’s what I wanted.” Her father is a dentist and her mom a hygienist, so she felt drawn to it. Since arriving at ECU, she hasn’t looked back.

“After we got into the lab—that’s when the real excitement set in,” Ferguson says. ”Instead of just book work, we were applying our dexterity. That was when it finally hit me: wow, this is great.” — Marion Blackburn

ECC Dental School Students

East Carolina’s new peers

Southern Illinois, Central Michigan, Southern Mississippi and East Tennessee State are new peers that East Carolina can measure itself by, according to the UNC Board of Governors. The board in November released new lists of schools that each UNC campus should consider peers. Below is the list. Schools with an asterisk are carried over from 2006. The three schools in bold are “aspirational peers” that ECU can specifically learn from.

  • Florida International*
  • Northern Illinois*
  • Southern Illinois
  • University of Louisville*
  • Western Michigan*
  • Central Michigan
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City*
  • University of Southern Mississippi
  • University of North Dakota*
  • University of Nevada-Reno*
  • University of Buffalo*
  • Ohio University*
  • Wright State University*
  • University of South Carolina*
  • East Tennessee State
  • Texas Tech*
  • Old Dominion*
  • Virginia Commonwealth*

N.C. a grad school magnet

North Carolina is a donor state in a regional consortium in which universities agree to charge in-state tuition to an out-of-state graduate student if that same degree isn’t available in the student’s home state. Called the Academic Common Market, the compact encompasses the 16 states that are members of the Southern Regional Education Board, and is intended to prevent duplicate programs. According to a November report by the UNC Board of Governors, through nine years of the program, 388 out-of-state students enrolled in grad school at one of 11 participating UNC system campuses, while 293 North Carolina students enjoyed a similar tuition break when they enrolled in grad school in one of the other Common Market universities. The report says the reciprocal tuition arrangement saved N.C. students about $6.5 million, while out-of-state students enrolled in UNC schools saved about $8.9 million in tuition.

Two programs in nation’s top 20

Two online graduate programs at East Carolina are among the top 20 such programs in the U.S., according to a new ranking by U.S. News & World Report. The College of Nursing ranked 18th out of 79 master’s or doctorate of nursing practice programs. The online MBA program in the College of Business ranked 17th out of 161 graduate business programs.

U.S. News ranked 523 online master’s degree programs in business, engineering, nursing, education and computer information in four categories: admissions selectivity, student engagement and accreditation, faculty credentials and training, and student services and technology. Programs had to have at least 80 percent of their course content available online to be considered.

The College of Nursing has been consistently named since 2004 by U.S. News as one of the largest distance education programs in the country. But the new ranking assesses qualitative categories over size. Nursing offers seven online options in the master’s of science in nursing program: adult nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, family nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, nursing education, nursing leadership and nurse midwifery.

The online program in the College of Business developed from a single course offering in 1998 to undergraduate and graduate degrees in numerous concentrations today.

Degree programs scrutinized

Chancellor Steve Ballard in January received a faculty committee’s report analyzing academic programs that could be eliminated to partially offset a steep decline in state funding. The report by the Program Prioritization Committee evaluates which degree programs the university should eliminate or maintain at current levels and those that merit increased funding.

Of the 277 programs assessed, the committee found that 48 (about 17 percent) could be targets for reduced spending or elimination. The study said colleges and schools identified 67 programs as worthy of future investment. According to the colleges, the majority of programs (167, roughly 60 percent) should be maintained at essentially current levels of investment.

East Carolina lost $49 million in state funding last year on top of $106 million the previous three years.

Appointed by Ballard in April, the 13-member Program Prioritization Committee conducted forums for each college in October, and the initial compilation of data was released in November for feedback leading to the updated version presented to the chancellor.

Some undergraduate programs up for elimination include public history, fabric design, weaving, and organ performance. Graduate programs on the line include construction management—the bachelor level would be maintained—and athletics training.

Some programs in which bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees are offered, such as communications, computer science, chemistry, economics and geography, would be narrowed to just the bachelor of science degree.

All programs in the College of Nursing would be maintained or invested. In the College of Education, some master’s programs would be removed, including history education, business education and science education. Some bachelor’s programs will be expanded, such as elementary education, middle grades education and special education.

Other undergraduate programs considered for further investment include finance with risk management and insurance, studio art with an added emphasis on digital animation, communication, music education, dance performance and engineering.

Graduate programs that could get more resources include: health information management (the bachelor level would be eliminated), music education, nutrition science, accounting (bachelor’s in accounting would be maintained), communication and health, biomedical, molecular biology and biotechnology.

No decision on the fate of those programs is expected before late April. Officials said they do not expect any immediate, large savings from elimination of degree programs. The intent, the officials said, is to right size the university over the coming five to 10-year period.