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.
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.