ECU News

Institute for Outdoor Drama audition
Well-attended auditions helped
improve the institute's budget

Institute thrives here

The curtains came down in October on another season of outdoor drama in North Carolina, long the nation’s hot spot for live community theatre. Horn in the West in Boone celebrated its 60th year; The Lost Colony again entertained large crowds in Manteo and is gearing up for next year’s historic season, its 75th. Extreme weather held down attendance at most of the 13 theatre sites, from persistent rains in the mountains to hurricanes on the coast.

Many enthusiasts worried that budget cuts would curtail the outdoor dramas this year, and concerns worsened when the Institute for Outdoor Drama (IOD), which provides management and talent support for the 13 outdoor dramas in North Carolina and many more in 29 other states and Canada, lost its state funding and its home of nearly 48 years at UNC Chapel Hill. The IOD, with one remaining employee, Susan Phillips, moved to East Carolina with a mandate from the state to find its own financial way. It’s been a part of the College of Fine Arts and Communication for the past year now and reviews so far are positive.

In a memo sent to IOD supporters and member companies, Dean of Fine Arts and Communication Michael Dorsey said, “By all accounts it was a very successful year.” The IOD came to ECU with only $36,000 in its endowment, he noted, but has raised $59,000 in nonstate funds since its arrival and is becoming financially sound. “These efforts plus an increase in national consultantships and the best year ever in national auditions are due to the heroic efforts of one individual and her loyal supporters,” Dorsey added. “We are lucky to have Susan Phillips.”

Phillips has done double duty since coming to ECU, as the IOD’s manager and director. Phillips has spent more that 30 years performing on stage, including four summers with outdoor drama. She’s also a veteran of the Children’s Television Workshop, producers of Sesame Street.

Michael HardyMichael Hardy, a former ECU faculty member and current general manager of The Lost Colony, was named IOD director effective Jan. 30. Joining Phillips on staff and responsible for the day-to-day operation of the institute, Hardy also will teach one course per semester in the School of Theatre and Dance.

Over a 40-year career, Hardy has served as CEO of performing arts centers in Illinois, New York City, Louisville and Miami and was executive director of the International Society for the Performing Arts. Hardy was born in Durham and studied at Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill before earning his Ph.D. in theater at the University of Michigan. He was general manager for the drama department at East Carolina for two years before pursuing a career in arts management.

The IOD’s year got off to a successful start when it held national auditions on campus for roles in dozens of dramas around the country, with aspiring Daniel Boones and Sir Walter Raleighs coming from as far as Scotland. It provided paying consulting services to companies in Arkansas and South Dakota as well as the 13 here in North Carolina.

What’s next? Dorsey said the IOD is partnering with Theatre and Dance to establish a regional Shakespeare Festival in New Bern. “The arts at ECU now have a national voice which will serve us well in the future,” he said.

He’s also proud that ECU was able to save the IOD, which was founded by the playwright Paul Green in 1937 and which had grown to become a pillar of the state’s artistic landscape.

$10.4 million grant for
Wounded Warriors program

East Carolina will receive $10.4 million from the Department of Defense over the next five years to support the Operation Re-Entry North Carolina (ORNC) program to assist wounded soldiers returning from combat overseas, and their families. The program partners with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command center at Fort Detrick, Md. The cooperative agreement gives ECU $2.1 million this year with an additional $8.4 million in subsequent years.

“We are honored to participate in this vitally important work, which will advance the quality of health care and family support for those who put their lives and well-being on the line for our nation,” said Dr. David P. Cistola, a professor and associate dean for research in the College of Allied Health Sciences who is the principal investigator of the program.

The ORNC began three years ago and has progressed to an externally funded, university-wide, multi-institutional research partnership in support of wounded soldiers and their families, as well as military and Veterans Administration providers who care for them.

Cistola credited the grant to the leadership of Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies Deirdre Mageean. “She walked the halls of Congress in the early stages and established the traction that ultimately led to a Department of Defense appropriation for ORNC, which in turn led to a successful peer-reviewed grant proposal,” Cistola said. Mageean hired retired Colonel Michael DeYoung to champion ORNC in Washington, which was instrumental in Department of Defense and congressional support.

ECU Physicians in the black

For the first time in five years, ECU Physicians earned a profit. Operating revenues last fiscal year were $158.8 million for the medical faculty practice plan, which exceeded expenses by $17.5 million. The bottom line was boosted by a $17.9 million payment from Pitt County Memorial Hospital as the university’s share of revenues from the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center, which PCMH now operates under a joint agreement. Another $9 million to revenue came from accounting shifts related to the Healthspan electronic medical record implementation.

Brian Jowers, executive director of ECU Physicians, reported to the ECU Board of Trustees that although operating revenues continue to fall short of expenses of providing direct patient care, the medical practice is close to balancing its budget. He said the practice is seeing more patients, improving its charging and bill collecting, and using better business practices.

State approval of Medicaid upper payment limits closer to what commercial insurers pay will help revenues in coming years, Jowers said. Once approved, ECU will be reimbursed for services delivered after July 1, 2010, and higher reimbursement rates will continue. The upper payment limit reimburses the state’s two medical school practice plans, at ECU and UNC Chapel Hill, which treat significant numbers of Medicaid patients at rates closer to what commercial insurers pay. —Doug Boyd


Two join board of trustees

Edwin Clark ’79 of Greenville (right), executive vice president of WillcoHess LLC, and Robert “Bobby” Owens of Manteo (left), a Dare County political leader and former member of the N.C. Utilities Commission, were appointed to the ECU Board of Trustees by Gov. Beverly Perdue. They will serve four-year terms and took their seats at the board’s September meeting, as did two other new trustees, Raleigh attorney Keiran Shanahan ’79 and Deborah Davis ’79 ’83 of Richmond, COO of the Medical College of Virginia. Shanahan and Davis were appointed by the UNC Board of Governors.

Clark founded Trade Oil Co. with his father-in-law, Walter Williams ’51 ’51, in 1984. The chain of gas and convenience stores eventually grew to form WilcoHess. Owens, who attended East Carolina but didn’t graduate, is chairman of the board of Outer Banks Hospital and a past board member of University Health Systems. He is a brother-in-law of former Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight.

The new members take the seats occupied by past trustees David Brody, David Redwine ’72, Robert Greczyn ’73 and William Bodenhamer, who completed their terms in the spring.



Above: Italy Intensives students touring the Coliseum in Rome

Campus in Italy now open yearround

 Italy Intensives

Classrooms are inside a renovated medieval palace,
the Palazzo Stiozzi Ridolfi, which dates to 1330

ECU students spending fall semester in the centuries-old village of Certaldo Alto in central Italy aren’t treated as tourists by the villagers. Most nights they see the students in the local restaurants and chat with them on the train to nearby Florence and Siena. Having seen ECU students around town for a few years now, they assume they aren’t just passing through. Now, it’s official that East Carolina students are in Certaldo Alto to stay.

East Carolina’s Italy Intensives program, begun four years ago as a summer enrichment offering, has proven so popular and academically effective that it’s being strengthened into a year-round endeavor, with classes offered during fall and spring semesters and during summer sessions. Committing to a firmer footprint in Italy requires ECU to reach long-term business arrangements for classroom space, meals and apartments for the students. It also means four or more faculty and support staff residing in Italy for extended periods. The Board of Trustees was briefed on these new responsibilities at its September meeting.

Operating its own curriculum in such a year-round setting means Italy Intensive students receive direct credit, not transfer credit, for their classes.

Operated by the College of Fine Arts and Communication, the program is especially popular with BFA students majoring in art and design. Students say it’s inspiring learning to draw, sculpt and create other art forms in the heart of Tuscany, the region that gave the world Dante and da Vinci. You can draw Michelangelo’s statue of David from a picture but that doesn’t compare to standing in front of the real thing, sketchbook in hand, as these students do.

Italy Intensives
A sidewalk in Florence becomes a classroom

This semester, professor Linda Darty ’89, coordinator of the metals arts program in the School of Art and Design, and three other faculty members are teaching classes in Certaldo Alto, where Renaissance writer Boccaccio was born in 1313. The 23 students there are enrolled in up to 15 hours of courses such as art history, jewelry design, painting, digital photography, enameling and ceramics. Students are learning Italian while others are studying communication subjects like international news and feature writing.

To date, about 250 ECU students have lived and studied in Certaldo Alto. They meet in classrooms located in a renovated medieval palace, the Palazzo Stiozzi Ridolfi, which dates to 1330. Students live in apartments in a Renaissance-era building surrounded by ancient olive groves and vineyards. Each evening students dine together with the locals at a village restaurant where they can practice conversational Italian and learn the finer points of Mediterranean cooking. Some classes are taught nearby at the highly regarded Le Meridiana International School of Ceramics.

The Italy Intensives program costs $9,850 per semester, which covers tuition, lodging, in-country transportation and many meals. Also included are expenses for scheduled trips to Rome, Florence, Pisa, Assisi, Naples and other cities for museum tours and similar enrichment experiences. Students sunbathed on the Amalfi Coast and explored Pompeii during one recent break.

The number of ECU students studying abroad has noticeably increased in the last couple of years as the university has made it a priority. Besides Italy Intensives, programs operated by other departments and schools on campus sent 388 students to 15 other countries in the past year. All of the 48 current EC Scholars will spend a semester abroad because it’s included in their scholarship. About a third of all Honors College students will study abroad.

However, Italy Intensives is the first study-abroad program to operate year-round. Twenty-five students already were registered for spring semester, when the faculty will grow to seven professors and an expanded curriculum.

Chancellor Emeritus Richard Eakin, who is leading the Honors College, said Italy Intensives “is an absolute gem. The setting in the Tuscan hill town of Certaldo is picture postcard perfect. Student accommodations are in my estimation among the best anywhere for study abroad. If I were a student again, I would participate without question.”

The program “is providing an extraordinary experience for ECU students,” said Provost Marilyn Sheerer. “Due to Professor Darty’s keen skill for putting together a very integrated, authentic program in another country, the students have an in-depth experience and become part of the city of Certaldo and all of its cultural richness and history.” Darty is committed to the program she founded in 2008 because it was a semester she spent in Italy as a sophomore that she says changed her life.

Certaldo Alto
Villagers treat students to a meal and entertainment during a festival staged right outside their classroom door.

ECU plans dental clinic in Spruce Pine

EDowntown Spruce PineCU will partner with Blue Ridge Regional Hospital to open a dental clinic in the Mitchell County community of Spruce Pine. It’s the second community service learning center sited in western North Carolina, joining one previously announced for Sylva in Jackson County. At the Spruce Pine center, dental students and residents will train and, together with ECU faculty members, provide care to residents of the Mayland area—Mitchell, Avery and Yancey counties.

Spruce Pine, a town of about 2,200 near the base of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, is the fifth site to be named for what will eventually be 10 such centers across the state. Besides Sylva, the other sites identified so far are Ahoskie and Elizabeth City in eastern North Carolina and Lillington in central North Carolina.
The 7,700-square-foot center in Sylva will be a fully functioning general dentistry office with 16 treatment rooms, X-ray equipment, educational space and more. The state will own the land, and construction likely will begin next year, said Dr. Gregory Chadwick, interim dean of the dental school. Site selection is ongoing.

Full-time dental school faculty members will staff the center, along with dental hygienists and other staff members, and fourth-year dental students and residents will train at the center. Chadwick has described the centers as similar to “moving the fourth floor of the dental school—the clinical training—off campus to rural areas of our state where dental services are needed.”

State Rep. Mitch Gillespie of Marion, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said local and university officials worked six years to make the dental school and the Spruce Pine center a reality. “These things don’t just happen,” he said. “They don’t magically appear. This took years to happen, and it’s a miracle it ever happened this year the way the budget was.”

Spruce Pine currently has three dentists, only one younger than 60. —Doug Boyd

Wintergreen Intermediate School students in FoodMASTER class

Using cooking to teach math

ECU researchers Melani Duffrin and Virginia Carraway-Stage received a $1.27 million federal grant to develop teaching aides that will add a dash of math and a cup of science to seventh-grade classrooms in eastern North Carolina. The grant from the National Institutes of Health was awarded to the FoodMASTER program, which uses the hands-on activities of cooking—measuring, mixing and following directions—to teach math and science.

FoodMASTER, which stands for Food, Math and Science Teaching Enhancement Resource Initiative, was developed by Duffrin to help increase math and science skills through food preparation and handling. The curriculum was developed in 1999 by Duffrin, an associate professor of nutrition science at ECU, and Sharon Phillips, an Ohio elementary school teacher. It is now operational in North Carolina and Ohio, and officials plan to spread the program across the country. The concept behind the program is that pupils can better comprehend math and science principles when they are applied to vital everyday activities, like cooking a meal.

Duffrin said the grant “allows us to help seventh-grade teachers pull fresh math and science resources out of their bag. Food activities are a natural, fun way to help students apply math and science to their everyday lives, and we believe this is an effective way to teach those subjects.”    

The funds also will be used to develop a FoodMASTER summer camp. The ECU Center for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education will support the project’s teacher training and outreach in eastern North Carolina.

The ECU FoodMASTER program received a $504,000 NIH grant in 2009 that was used to develop course materials that were used in classrooms at schools in Pitt, Ashe, Mecklenburg, Craven, Harnett, Gaston, Pamlico, Wake and Surry counties. Learn more about the program online at

Professors explore climate change
impact on NC weather patterns

Geography professors Tom Rickenbach and Rosana Nieto-Ferreira won a $314,000 National Sciences Foundation grant to examine how changes in the atmosphere control the manner in which rain and snow fall in North Carolina and how those changes affect the state’s current and future climate. Because precipitation is a primary source of water for North Carolina’s rivers, soils and groundwater reservoirs, the professors believe that studying the manner in which the precipitation arrives will help scientists understand how population growth, climate change and land-use patterns affect the state’s climate.

“Scientists and engineers are constantly improving our ability to measure how much rain and snow reach the surface. What we don’t understand as well is the manner in which that water is typically delivered to us,” said Rickenbach. “That missing piece of the puzzle is crucial to knowing whether precipitation reaching the ground will help or hinder us as we lead our lives. Knowing how a given amount of precipitation reached us—as gentle widespread daily showers, intense isolated but brief thunderstorms, or heavy snowfall—determines how we can best harness it for our needs and whether we must protect ourselves from its impacts.”

Nieto-Ferreira said that scientists do not fully understand how the state’s fresh water resource responds to changes in the environment. “We may then better understand how these variations in precipitation impact our lives, such as agriculture, urban runoff, coastal development and flooding,” Nieto-Ferreira added.

The scientists will conduct their research in three steps. First, every precipitation system that occurred across North Carolina over a three-year period will be identified and characterized using newly available high-resolution precipitation and three-dimensional radar reflectivity data sets. Next, the mode of delivery of the precipitation will be placed in the context of the prevailing wind and weather patterns of the atmosphere, based on archived maps and analysis. Finally, the climatology will be applied, with the goal of improving the interpretation of state-of-the-art model simulations of future regional climates. —Lacey Gray