Read more about the ECU Strategic Plan.


ECU's new strategic plan sets a bold path

Sept. 19, 2014

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

The next five years will see East Carolina University grow important academic programs, work to address the needs of eastern North Carolina and graduate students who are ready to lead in the workplace and community.

That's the message of the university's new strategic plan, titled Beyond Tomorrow: Our Commitment to the Future.

"Beyond Tomorrow sets a bold course for the university," said ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard. "It is a reflection of the values and principles of the university. It also points to one of the defining qualities of East Carolina: our readiness to confront the challenges of today while pushing beyond them toward a better tomorrow."

The plan aligns with ECU's mission in three key areas - maximizing student success, serving the public and leading regional transformation - that the plans calls "commitments."

Work on the underpinnings of the plan began last fall in the form of meetings of faculty, staff members, administrators and students who listed six potential directions and goals along with strategies and action items to meet them. Those were consolidated into three commitments and several related goals and compiled into a formal strategic plan.

In July, the plan was presented to the ECU Board of Trustees, and the university's Executive Committee approved it in August. During the next five months, 25 units within the university will develop their own strategic plans based on the broader plan along with action items to accomplish their goals and metrics to measure their success.

Senior Associate Provost Austin Bunch, Associate Professor of Nursing Elaine Scott and Interim Provost Ron Mitchelson led the Strategic Planning Committee. The following articles illustrate how ECU is already implementing the plan.


Maximize student success

In August, 20 high-achieving freshmen began their college careers as EC Scholars, East Carolina University’s top undergraduate scholarship program. A few miles away, three others began their medical school studies as Brody scholars, the top graduate scholarship program.

“I chose to attend ECU because, through the EC Scholars Program, I will be given opportunities that are unimaginable at other universities,” said Tulsi Patel, a freshman from Cary.
EC Scholar Tulsi Patel

“When I visited ECU, I had the ‘I just knew it was the one’ feeling that I had not experienced before. I could not wait to officially be part of the community and lively atmosphere I saw around me.”

These scholarship programs are examples of how ECU works to ensure top students are successful, and Todd Fraley, director of the EC Scholars program, said many of the attributes of the scholarship programs – the community feeling, research opportunities and more – are evident across the university for all students.

“It’s essential to what we do here,” Fraley said. “It’s the kind of thing ECU believes in and is striving to make sure (students) have a unique and valuable experience.”

ECU also wants to become the top university in the state for service to military personnel and veterans. The university will achieve this goal through programs targeted at those groups as well as through research into service-related conditions such as traumatic brain injury, Gulf War illness and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Education is a major step toward a successful future,” said Steve Duncan, ECU assistant vice chancellor for administration and finance and a Vietnam-era veteran who used the G.I. Bill to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees. “Service members leaving the military in the upcoming months basically have two options: find a job or attend schooling that will hopefully lead to a job.”

For other students, a new degree program at ECU, the university studies major, is helping them succeed when their interests and aptitudes don’t fit into a single, traditional major or if they got part-way to their degree then left the university.

One student in the new program is Conner Mangold, a junior from Kinston in the ECU Honors College. He started as a music major, but that didn’t quite fit his plans for after college.

“My main area of study is sound design…for electronic music. So, my major is part computer science, part music and part animation,” Mangold said. “It’s still early, but I enjoy the fact I get to focus on different fields.”

These examples are just a few of how ECU is working to help students achieve their potential. For more information about the university’s strategic plan, click here.

EC scholar student Leela Goel learned to operate the da Vinci Surgical System as part of an summer 2014 internship with the East Carolina Heart Institute. (Contributed photo)

Serve the public

Believed to be the first of its kind in the state, a barrier installed by ECU researchers is reducing nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in eastern North Carolina groundwater. The project is one example of how ECU faculty members are using their expertise to serve the region.

It is funded in part by a $3,500 grant from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services for the barrier installation.

Officials discovered a few years ago that the nitrate-nitrogen concentration in groundwater near Rodgers Elementary School in Martin County exceeded allowable state limits. While drinking water in nearby homes and the school isn’t at risk, state regulations required the levels be reduced.
Environmental health sciences professor Charles Humphrey obtains groundwater samples at Rodgers Elementary School.
“No one drinks this, but there is a groundwater standard they’re held to,” said Charles Humphrey, assistant professor of environmental health sciences in the College of Health and Human Performance. In May, he led a group that installed a permeable barrier to improve water quality.

“We’re not used to dealing with this type of issue,” said Brian Thomas, who helps maintain schools in the Martin County system. “It’s never been a problem before. Charlie has been crucial to this project being done.”

Elsewhere in the state, ECU has opened, is building or has announced plans for eight dental centers. At these centers, state residents – many of whom do not see a dentist regularly – receive dental care, and ECU students and dental residents hone their skills while learning what it’s like to practice in an underserved setting. All these centers were built through partnerships with local communities and organizations.

“You get one-on-one teaching for all aspects of dentistry,” said ECU dental student Jeremy Hyder, a Hickory native on rotation in at the Elizabeth City dental center.

“It’s a unique experience that I don’t think a lot of other dental students – if any – get to have.”

Sharon Paynter, interim director of public service and community relations at ECU, says investing in collaborative efforts with regional partners allows ECU to build opportunities for lifelong learning.

“Building relationships between faculty, staff, students and community partners is critical for the strength and vitality of eastern North Carolina because knowledge lives in many places,” she said.

“While students, faculty and staff may have technical expertise, community partners provide contextual information that shapes strategies and outcomes. Without understanding context the best theoretical plans can fail.” 

Serving the public in various ways is one of ECU’s three commitments. For more information about the university’s strategic plan, click here.
Fourth year ECU dental student Brooke Burnette treats a patient at the Ahoskie community service learning center.

Lead regional transformation

Developing technically adept workers for business and industry requires an early start. That’s why ECU, together with school systems, Pitt Community College and others, is creating a comprehensive, hands-on project aimed at fueling a regional advanced manufacturing and innovation workforce beginning with middle school students.

In mid-June, the Golden LEAF Foundation announced a $1.25 million grant to support the plan.

The Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Academy and associated Master eSTEAM Instructor program are the result of a unique collaboration among middle school parents, students and teachers, ECU, PCC, Pitt County Schools, North East Carolina Preparatory School in Edgecombe County, P.S. Jones Middle School in Beaufort County, STEM East, economic developers and regional advanced manufacturers.
Middle School Innovators Academy student Logan Stox works with Jim Menke to build blue foam models of their innovations. A new program will expand the current academy and enhance its focus on STEAM topics.

Once implemented, the program will provide an effective education-to-workforce pipeline to address the growing shortage of eastern North Carolina advanced manufacturing workers and entrepreneurs skilled in science, technology, engineering, art/design and mathematics, or STEAM, as well as innovation and entrepreneurship, or e, processes.

Recognizing the possibilities to engage, equip and connect talented young people with regional advanced manufacturing careers and related entrepreneurial opportunities, the group of regional partners developed a comprehensive plan for improving students’ creative, innovation and technical skills, knowledge and abilities. The plan includes career awareness strategies, eSTEAM-related in-school and out-of-school curriculum and experiences, and professional development opportunities for 78 eastern North Carolina teachers.

Ted Morris, associate vice chancellor for innovation and economic development, said there are two ways to provide opportunities for talented people: Create jobs for them, and help them create jobs for themselves and others. One way to achieve that is to raise awareness of the careers available in advanced manufacturing in eastern North Carolina. From DSM Dyneema in Greenville, which produces ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene fiber that’s used in various industries, to Keihin Carolina System Technology in Tarboro, which manufactures electronic assemblies used in automotive and other applications, manufacturing is alive in the East, Morris said.

East Carolina’s fast-growing College of Engineering and Technology, combined with the university’s established expertise in the arts, make it the ideal leader for blending creativity with math and science to lead to rewarding manufacturing careers, Morris said.

ECU will lead development of novel curricula, novel learning experiences and novel learning environments, and top them off with summer capstone programs on campus, he said.

“We don’t know of any other program in the state that’s integrating all these parts in this way,” he said.

Using the expertise of our faculty, staff and students is one way ECU aims to transform eastern North Carolina. For more about the university’s strategic plan, click here.

ECU is a partner in a new collaborative effort to connect talented young students to potential careers in science, technology, engineering, art/design and mathematics (STEAM). The program may lead young people to pursue studies in areas such as biomedical engineering, a new master's program at ECU. Pictured above, ECU students Tyree Parker and Grace Baran perform engineering processes in a biomedical lab on campus. (Photo by Jay Clark)