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ECU faculty selected for annual research, creative activity awards

The four East Carolina University faculty members interviewed below are this year's recipients of the Achievement for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity Awards. These annual recognitions center on the originality and excellence of an individual's research and creative activities.

Chief among them, the lifetime achievement award recognizes accomplishments made across the entire span of a professional career. The Scholarship of Engagement Award recognizes achievement in the scholarship of engagement and a sustained commitment to partnered scholarly endeavors with communities.

"Each of these individuals has had an impact on their disciplines, our region and beyond," said Ron Mitchelson, interim vice chancellor of Research and Graduate Studies at ECU.

All recipients were nominated by their peers in acknowledgement of their achievements and recommended by the Faculty Senate Academic Awards Committee. Each recipient will receive a cash award and all will be honored at a lecture and reception at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 6, in the auditorium at the East Carolina Heart Institute.

(Photos by Cliff Hollis and Jay Clark)

Lifetime Achievement Award
Margaret Bauer
Department of English
Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences

When Department of English professor Margaret D. Bauer came to East Carolina University in 1996, she was seeking a job teaching Southern literature. The additional responsibility of editing the state's literary review was a bonus.
Margaret Bauer

"I probably thought, 'I'll read a lot of submissions, pick what goes in and proof them,'" Bauer recalled in an interview.

Instead, the North Carolina Literary Review became a publication that has consumed her career, transforming her into a self-professed "writer groupie" but also a sincere advocate for North Carolina authors and their works.

Bauer has earned the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity for 2013-14. Awarded annually at East Carolina, it recognizes her successes in the classroom and in scholarly endeavors but, most prominently, her role in the statewide literary community.

"(The review) turned out to be the thing that makes ECU special and keeps me here," she said. "We're very hands on with the editing. We develop such a relationship with the writers."

She describes her mission at N.C. Literary Review as two-fold: She aims generally to be an ambassador for North Carolina writers, but also wants to maintain a venue where readers can discover new authors or rediscover neglected or forgotten ones. It requires balance, she explained.

"North Carolina has so many literary stars," she said. "And they're so generous."

Accordingly, the annual review often reaches 200 pages. Bauer led a major redesign of the review in 2009 and also launched an annual online edition in 2012. The online edition offers different works than the print edition, and information about both can be found at

A fascination with literature developed early in Bauer, a native of Louisiana. She remembers reading Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" in high school, and being amazed that her teacher could ascertain so much of a character's life from only two pages.

"I want to learn how to read like that," she thought.

Today, she attempts to impart that same love of fiction -- and the critical thinking required for comprehending complex literary works -- to her students.

"I'm going to be stuck in this head 100 years except when I'm in a novel," she tells them. "It's a chance to get out of your head for 400 pages."

As the Ralph Hardee Rives Chair in Southern Literature, Bauer continues to add to her own body of scholarly works. Her most recent book examines Scarlett O'Hara-type characters in literature, and is slated for release this summer by University of South Carolina Press. Other ongoing projects include getting a critical edition of Paul Green's play "The House of Connolly" published. She describes the play as "rivaling anything (renowned playwright) Tennessee Williams wrote."

"I am the breadth and depth of her efforts as a scholar and as one actively promoting living writers," wrote ECU Department of English chair Jeffrey Johnson in his recommendation of Bauer for the lifetime award. "Her record is stamped with her indefatigable spirit, with her unrelenting pursuit of excellence and with the intensity of her infectious energy."

Bauer credits those around her, from the interns on her review staff to department and university leadership.

"I've had a lot of good support," she said, "and I appreciate that."

- Kathryn Kennedy

Five Year Achievement Award
Heather L. Littleton
Department of Psychology
Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences

Heather Littleton

Dr. Heather Littleton, an associate professor of psychology, received a 2014 Five-Year Achievement Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity from the ECU Division of Research and Graduate Studies. Her research focuses on several areas of women's health with a concentration on sexual assault.

Littleton has written 19 peer-reviewed articles in the past five years alone -- nearly 40 throughout her career. One of her most recent publications, "Health risk behavior and sexual assault among ethnically diverse women," was selected to receive the Georgia Babbladelis award for the best paper published in Psychology of Women Quarterly in 2013. She has also presented her research at conferences across North America.

Littleton called sexual violence a "major public health issue" that is often kept secret. That's why she developed her latest project, "From Survivor to Thriver," an online, self-paced, therapist-facilitated program for college women who have been sexually assaulted and have post-traumatic stress disorder.

"A lot of women who have been sexually assaulted don't feel comfortable seeking in-person therapy for a variety of reasons," Littleton said. "It's unfortunately way too common, but it's still something people don't want to talk about and deny. Over half of them don't consider what happened to them to be rape or even a crime."

She said From Survivor to Thriver is a tool that helps counselors "reach women who might not get help otherwise and help women sooner." Women who complete the program show significant improvement, with more than three-quarters no longer having PTSD after completing the program, she said.

"It's wonderful to see that," Littleton said.

Since arriving at ECU, Littleton has been the principal or co-principal investigator on research grants totaling more than $736,000 from agencies such as the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation.

Littleton has mentored nine master's students' theses and two doctoral students' dissertations. Her students hone their counseling skills working with fellow students.

"She is an excellent colleague, and her training, experience and professional skills are uniformly high," Dr. Amie Grills-Taquechel, an assistant professor at Boston University, research collaborator and former doctoral classmate of Littleton's at Virginia Tech, wrote in a recommendation letter.

Littleton is on the editorial board of Sex Roles and the Journal of Traumatic Stress and an ad hoc reviewer of publications such as the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Anxiety, Stress, and Coping; the Archives of General Psychology; and others.

Littleton is also an adjunct professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Before coming to ECU, Littleton was a women's health research fellow at the University of Texas Medical Branch and an assistant professor of psychology at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.

She said young faculty members and researchers shouldn't be shy about pursuing their goals.

"Don't be afraid to put yourself out there," she said. "Go to conferences. Figure out ways to collaborate. Set aside time for research. Choose something you're passionate about. Talk with individuals whose work you admire about collaborating and working together."

Littleton has doctoral and master's degrees from Virginia Tech and a bachelor's degree from Clemson University. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association.

-- Doug Boyd

Five Year Achievement Award
David G. Kimmel
Department of Biology
Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences,
The Institute for Coastal Science and Policy

David Kimmel
If there's anything David Kimmel likes more than uncovering new concepts through research, it's sharing them with students and colleagues.

Kimmel's passion is paying off. The associate professor in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology and ECU's Institute for Coastal Science and Policy is being recognized with a 2013-14 University Research/Creative Activity Award in the Five-Year Achievement category. His research explores how human-driven environmental changes impact estuarine, coastal and marine populations.

"North Carolina is a good 'ground zero' for global environmental change impacts on a coastal region," Kimmel said. "I foresee my research continuing to investigate the changing food-web dynamics in coastal North Carolina as the environment continues to change.

Kimmel's research has focused primarily on zooplankton but has expanded to include the climate's effect on oyster populations in Chesapeake Bay, to assist in oyster restoration. Kimmel also studies jellyfish populations in the Neuse River and how humans and jellyfish interact.

"The coastal areas of North Carolina are a network of complex habitats that are under threat from climate change and are also home to a growing human population," he said.

Kimmel wants to continue research in zooplankton ecology, climate dynamics and quantitative ecology that will help change the world. He hopes to help people understand how everyday life affects fragile ecosystems, which in turn can affect all life globally.

Colleagues believe he already is doing that. "David Kimmel is a gifted young researcher who has charted himself a path for an exemplary career," wrote Dr. Jeffrey McKinnon, chair of the Department of Biology, in his award nomination letter for Kimmel. "He is notable for the diversity and consistency of his contributions, from writing influential papers through bringing in an exceptional array of grants and mentoring students to their own successes."

Since joining ECU's faculty in 2008, he has published 20 peer-reviewed journal papers and book chapters, and has authored 18 contributed papers and posters at national and international conferences. He has secured nine research awards from funding agencies including the National Science Foundation (NSF), NOAA Coastal Ocean program, North Carolina Sea Grant and PCS Phosphate Corporation. Kimmel has secured four awards from the NSF Biological Oceanography program since 2008.

Kimmel is celebrated for his strengths beyond research and publishing. He is a popular seminar speaker and an exemplary grant writer, McKimmon said. His professional service and attentive mentorship contribute to his success as well.

"I'm fortunate to have found a career where a large aspect of my duties consists of talking at length to students and colleagues about subjects I enjoy," said Kimmel.

He teaches biological oceanography and has taught ecology to undergraduate students, as well as a study abroad program to Australia in International Sustainability Australia: Humans and the Environment. He heads up graduate courses in Coastal Ecological Processes and has mentored two Ph.D. students and a master's student who have gone on to secure degrees.

"I especially enjoy mentoring young scientists," Kimmel said, "and helping them through the formative years of their careers."

Coming from a previous post in a research laboratory, Kimmel is thriving in his environment at ECU. From mentoring to speaking engagements to earning grants and interacting with fellow faculty, he is turning heads in his field. He sees it as an opportunity to challenge himself and learn from those around him.

"At ECU, I interact with colleagues from diverse backgrounds," he said, "and this has led me down new paths and forced me to broaden my perspective with regards to teaching and research."

Kimmel earned his Ph.D. in marine-estuarine-environmental science in 2001 from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

-- Spaine Stephens

Scholarship of Engagement Award
Martha Engelke
College of Nursing

Martha Engelke
Dr. Martha "Marti" Engelke has spent her career developing partnerships that help people - often children - manage chronic illness.

Engelke, longtime professor and associate dean for research and creative activity in the College of Nursing, has received East Carolina University's 2014 Scholarship of Engagement Award.

"Nursing is a practice discipline," Engelke said. "When working with nursing in the community, it keeps you grounded. You know more about what's going on in the real world."

Engelke's background is public health nursing. "It just comes natural that I would be working with nurses in community settings," she said.

One of her recent and notable collaborations has been with the N.C. Division of School Health to develop a case management program for students with chronic illness ranging from asthma, diabetes and severe allergies to attention deficit disorder.

Engelke and her partners developed a tool kit for school nurses, a nursing model of case management, a website and portal for data entry and statewide interdisciplinary educational programs.

Research shows that school nurses who use the model improve the health, safety and quality of life for students with chronic illnesses, said Engelke, who was awarded the outstanding research award by the National Association of School Nurses.

Two Kate B. Reynolds Health Care Trust grants have helped to grow the program from five rural counties in eastern North Carolina to 29 counties across the state.

"The project helped not only children and their families in the communities...but also improved school health programs in those school districts," said Martha Guttu, a nurse and school health consultant from Edenton who partnered with Engelke on the project.

Engelke continues to receive requests for materials, speaks about the program and is participating in a new initiative to establish a statewide school nurse research network.

"I don't think school nurses are recognized for all they do," Engelke said. "With the stress and mental health issues in schools today, it's becoming more and more a part of the role of the school nurse."

In 1996, Engelke was awarded a federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant to develop a community health concentration in the college's graduate program. The goal was to prepare community-based nurses who could lead interdisciplinary teams and use emerging technology to combat serious health problems.

She worked with a colleague at Pitt County Memorial Hospital (now Vidant Medical Center) to develop an early telehealth model to serve chronically ill patients, particularly those with heart failure. The program showed a reduction in hospital readmission rates and improvement in quality of life. That project received the international nursing honor society Sigma Theta Tau Information Technology Award for clinical practice in 1999. Since then, the model has expanded and is used across the country.

"She has an exemplary record of enduring and substantial contributions to partnered scholarly endeavors with communities and has demonstrated a strong commitment to engagement with community partners to transform the health of rural underserved regions," said Dr. Sylvia T. Brown, dean of the College of Nursing, in her nomination letter.

Helping others was instilled in Engelke as a child. "The idea of caring for people was very important, serving your fellow man or woman," she said. "It was always a part of our family."

Engelke plans to return to teaching and reduce her administrative duties by fall semester. She has led nursing's research, scholarship and creative activity efforts since 2001, and serves as the Richard R. Eakin Distinguished Professor of Nursing.

Engelke received a bachelor's degree in nursing from Michigan State University, a master's degree in public health nursing and health education from the University of Michigan, and a doctorate in sociology from N.C. State University.

She is a recipient of the Sigma Theta Tau, Beta Nu Chapter of Excellence in Research Award and, in 2012, was awarded the ECU Teacher/Scholar Award. In October, Engelke was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, a prestigious honor in the field of nursing.

Engelke has secured more than $1.2 million in funding, has published more than 40 articles, written four book chapters and made numerous national and international presentations. She has chaired several doctoral dissertations, student research projects and served on dozens of master's theses committees and research projects at ECU.

-- Crystal Baity

Faculty Achievement 2014

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