Nancy and Steve Ballard (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
Ballard to leave chancellor’s post next year
Chancellor Steve Ballard will step down from the helm of East Carolina University next July. He made the announcement July 1.
Ballard has served as chancellor since 2004.
“East Carolina is a special place that puts its students first, excels at serving North Carolina and is committed to leadership and service for our region,” Ballard said. “Nancy and I have been privileged to be a part of this community for more than 11 years. It has been a perfect fit for us.”
The timeline will allow a search for the next leader to take place with minimal disruption, Ballard said.
“There is much to accomplish in the next year as we continue to build academic excellence across colleges, stand out in the American Athletic Conference and lead regional transformation in eastern North Carolina,” Ballard said.
Tom Ross, president of the University of North Carolina system, said Ballard’s tenure has been a time of growth, excellence and leadership for ECU.
“Under his leadership, ECU has raised the bar with respect to academic excellence and integrity, service and community engagement and intercollegiate athletics,” said Ross. “During his tenure, ECU has grown beyond its natural eastern North Carolina footprint and has developed a truly statewide impact. By any measure, Steve Ballard will leave ECU stronger and better than he found it.”
During the past decade ECU has received prestigious national recognitions, including the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award and the C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
Ballard lauded the commitment and passion of ECU for those strides.
“I am grateful to faculty, staff, students and leadership at ECU for your spirit, for your collegiality and for the difference you make to higher education,” he said. “In very difficult times, you continue to excel.”
Ballard is ECU’s 10th chancellor and is the longest-serving chancellor in the UNC system. At ECU, he has promoted student success and emphasized leadership at all levels.
Major steps for ECU during his tenure include enrollment growth from 22,000 to 27,000 students and the development of a College of Engineering and Technology, an Honors College and a School of Dental Medicine with community service learning centers across North Carolina.
Before coming to Greenville, Ballard was a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Maine and Bowling Green State University. He has served as a chief research officer, chief academic officer or chancellor for 18 years.
After consultation with Ross, the ECU Board of Trustees will form a search committee of trustees, faculty, students and alumni to identify Ballard’s successor. At the conclusion of that search, the board will forward a slate of at least three finalists to the UNC president for consideration. The new chancellor, upon nomination by the president, must be elected by the UNC Board of Governors.
Ballard said he and his wife want to devote more time to their son who has a medical condition and spend more time with their 1-year-old granddaughter.
One memory from his time at ECU stands out for Ballard.
“In terms of special moments, receiving the Freedom Award in front of thousands of people in Washington, D.C., was very special because we pay special attention to the military and we made it a priority,” he said. “ECU is only the second university in 15 years to be so recognized. When peers recognize you for your quality and results, it is always special.”
Between now and next July, Ballard plans to focus on strong financial footing for the Brody School of Medicine and on continued academic excellence across campus.
“Last but not least, I intend to be the head cheerleader for our baseball team and coach Godwin’s goal of getting to Omaha,” site of the College World Series, said Ballard, a former college baseball player. “And I don’t think we’ll be satisfied to just get to Omaha.”
—ECU News Services
J. Fielding and Kim Grice Miller (Contributed photo)
ECU to establish region’s first School of Entrepreneurship
ECU will create the first School of Entrepreneurship in the East, made possible by a generous commitment of $5 million by Raleigh-area entrepreneur J. Fielding Miller ’84 and his wife, Kim Grice Miller ’83.
The new Miller School of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business is expected to serve as the regional hub for preparing generations of ECU students to take an entrepreneurial mindset into their communities. The school will infuse a culture of innovation and leadership across the campus and region using academic programs, workshops, research, public-private entrepreneurial partnerships and other services that respond to the needs of small business.
Miller, co-founder/CEO of CAPTRUST, a financial and investment advisory firm based in Raleigh, will provide the funds for this initiative, to include startup funding, a professorship in entrepreneurship and a matching pool to challenge other ECU alumni to join in supporting the school.
The development of a School of Entrepreneurship comes as East Carolina is experiencing campus-wide momentum related to its innovation, engagement and economic impact initiatives. In July, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities designated ECU as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity campus, placing it alongside universities such as Auburn, Clemson and the University of Maryland.
“Modern business requires innovation to be successful,” said Stan Eakins, dean of the College of Business. “It doesn’t matter which industry, or whether it is a start-up or large established firm; competition demands that businesses constantly seek new and better ways to operate and serve their communities. That’s why it’s so critical to instill essential entrepreneurial abilities among our future leaders, and we’re grateful for this bold opportunity to lead the way.”
Miller said: “Entrepreneurship gave me the opportunity to achieve independence, the ability to profit from hard work and the capacity to give back in a meaningful way. I hope this gift will encourage other ECU alumni and entrepreneurs to support this effort and extend the school’s impact even further.”
Michael Harris, who serves as chair of the Department of Management and director of ECU’s Small Business Institute, said he sees the new school becoming a national model for educating and encouraging entrepreneurs. “We want students to come in and open their minds and say, ‘I want to be a job creator’ instead of someone who works for a corporation,” he said.
Campus-wide collaboration will be essential to the new school’s success, complementing services and activities already offered, including the Office of Innovation and Economic Development, Office of Technology Transfer, Small Business Institute, and Small Business Technology and Development Center. The School of Entrepreneurship is expected to be an active part of ECU’s proposed millennial campus, a site where the university can collaborate with private companies to commercialize research discoveries and offer advanced training to benefit the region’s high-tech industries.
Miller graduated from ECU with a degree in business marketing. In 2013, the university honored him with the Outstanding Alumni Award.
Over the past 25 years, CAPTRUST has grown under Miller’s tutelage from its entrepreneurial beginnings to become one of the nation’s largest independently owned and operated retirement advisory firms, specializing in providing investment advice and services to retirement plan fiduciaries, executives and high-net-worth individuals. CAPTRUST represents $160 billion in client assets and has 22 offices nationwide. To learn more about CAPTRUST, visit www.captrustadvisors.com.
—ECU News Services
Board member Steve Jones was elected chair of the ECU Board of Trustees.
(Photo by Cliff Hollis)
(Photo by Cliff Hollis)
New members, officers focus of board meeting
The ECU Board of Trustees swore in new members, heard an update on Heritage Hall and broke ground for a new student center during its July 17 meeting.
Steve Jones of Raleigh was elected chair of the board; he previously served as vice chair. Kieran Shanahan of Raleigh was elected vice chair, and Bob Plybon of Greensboro will serve as secretary.
Sworn in as new members were Leigh J. Fanning of Greenville, Kel Normann of Sanford and Mark Matulewicz of Currituck, who is the Student Government Association president. The junior finance major was elected SGA president in the spring and will serve as an ex-officio member of the board.
Fanning is owner/director of R.A. Jeffreys Distributing Co. and general manager of the Greenville location; she attended ECU. A 1985 graduate of ECU, Normann is managing director of the Normann Financial Group of Wells Fargo Advisors.
Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Chris Dyba said the new Heritage Hall, a permanent place to recognize people of historical significance to the university, will be in the soon-to-be-built Student Services Center in downtown Greenville.
The board voted in February to create Heritage Hall as a location “where those recognized are presented in an authentic and comprehensive context” and where “all members of the Pirate Family can make their own value judgments of any person recognized.”
That vote followed months of discussion on the name of Aycock Residence Hall, which honors Charles B. Aycock, a former governor, federal prosecutor and school superintendent who served as a spokesperson for white supremacy campaigns at the turn of the century. The Aycock name will be transitioned to Heritage Hall when it opens.
——Jeannine Manning Hutson, Amy Adams Ellis, Jay Clark and Kathryn Kennedy
ECU English professor Tom Douglass, left, talks with Stuart Wright, donor of Joyner Library's Stuart Wright Collection. (Photo by Linda Fox)
Rare work of literary giants part of ECU collection
Some of the work and correspondence of celebrated Southern poets and novelists are becoming available at East Carolina University.
Experts are processing, digitizing and exhibiting works of the Stuart Wright Collection, part of Joyner Library’s Special Collections Division. It includes letters, notes, books, photographs and other mementos that detail the lives and work of the writers, making the collection invaluable to faculty, students, scholars, biographers and historians from North Carolina and beyond.
“We’re working on digitizing more components of the collection so more people can access it online and see them,” said Jan Lewis, director of Joyner Library.
The collection is unique because of the variety and scale of its pieces. Wright, a collector and friend to many of the writers and poets, collected the pieces over the years, and ECU acquired them and has made them available digitally and as part of exhibits that feature individual authors. The Stuart Wright Collection, which includes works and writings from Robert Penn Warren, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, John Updike, Randall Jarrell, Peter Taylor, Richard Eberhart, Robert Lowell, Barry Hannah, Harry Crews and other notable writers, complements similar collections held by other university libraries.
Lewis said the collection opens doors for graduate and undergraduate students to have unprecedented access to the workings of the writers’ minds as they crafted novels and poems and to the correspondence they shared with other writers.
“We’re looking forward to seeing some theses from ECU students that are based on these materials,” she said. “Some of the undergraduate papers are really good.”
Lewis said she also hopes the university can offer more lectures and exhibits that highlight the collection’s contents.
A collection of photographs taken and processed by Welty, a prolific Southern author, is on display through Sept. 1 in the North Carolina Collection at Joyner Library. They are a part of the main Stuart Wright Collection and are an example of the rare view it provides of the lives of the writers beyond the pages of their books or the lines of their poetry.
Those at ECU who have seen parts of the collection are eager for it to be available in as widely to students and faculty as possible, which could happen as early as this fall as more pieces become digitally available.
“It’s amazing how it really has expanded,” Lewis said of the collection. “We have seen a tremendous amount of faculty and student engagement, which is what we wanted. We’ve only scratched the surface of what we’re going to be able to do with it.”
ECU graduate student Matt Gallagher, left, talks with an equipment operator at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro as part of a N.C. Agromedicine Institute program to improve operator comfort. ECU's involvement in the Agromedicine Institute is one of the attributes that helped ECU earn the designation of an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. (Photo by Cliff Holllis)
ECU recognized for spurring innovation, economic prosperity
In recognition of its commitment to economic engagement, ECU has been designated as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
Institutions that earn the designation work with public and private-sector partners in their states and regions to support economic development through a variety of activities, including innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development, according to APLU.
ECU is one of 18 universities named in APLU’s third group of Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities.
The APLU describes public universities as economic engines for their communities and states, conducting cutting-edge research and developing the talent to help existing businesses grow stronger and new ones to develop and thrive. The work of the universities extends beyond their campuses into their communities in the form of economic development that creates jobs and improves lives.
All told, ECU had an economic impact of $2.8 billion across North Carolina in fiscal year 2012-13, according to a recent study by the University of North Carolina system. That included $1.8 billion in eastern North Carolina.
To earn the designation, ECU conducted an internal and external assessment of its regional economic development efforts and developed a comprehensive improvement plan. A 30-member task force worked through the nearly yearlong IEP application process under the leadership of Sharon Paynter, interim director of the Office of Public Service and Community Relations.
ECU was recognized for its economic development initiatives such as the Talent Enhancement and Capacity Building program, an innovative collaborative with the N.C. Department of Commerce that has been recognized as a national model for university-based economic development.
“This Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation is an affirmation of the key role East Carolina University is playing as a leader in the creation of new ideas and new development in eastern North Carolina and beyond,” said ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard.
From 2011 to 2013, ECU brought nearly $100 million in sponsored research support to the region. In addition, ECU has played a key role in service, research and development initiatives such as the School of Dental Medicine’s Community Service Learning Centers, the North Carolina Statewide Telepsychiatry Program, the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute, the Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Academy and the Pharmaceutical Development and Manufacturing Center of Excellence.
Since 2010, the Office of Technology Transfer at ECU has filed 66 U.S. patent applications, had 25 U.S. patents granted and entered into 16 licensing agreements to commercialize ECU inventions.
In addition, ECU is in the early stages of developing a “millennial campus,” where the university will partner with private business and industry to develop ideas and technologies.
The role of economic development in regional transformation is a key part of ECU’s latest strategic plan.
“ECU is charged with serving the citizens of North Carolina in ways that improve their lives,” said Paynter. “Economic opportunity, job creation and the support of existing businesses and industries in this state create opportunities for North Carolinians, and ECU can and should aid in those efforts.”
Paynter said the APLU designation is a reflection of the hard work and effort the university and its community and business partners are undertaking to support economic development and transformation in the region and statewide.
As an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designee, ECU will work with the APLU Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness, and Economic Prosperity to assess and further develop its efforts by using the commission’s “Economic Engagement Framework” tools for self-assessment and economic impact analysis. Through the partnership, the university will advance its newest innovation and economic development projects.
ECU also qualifies to submit an application for the APLU’s 2015 Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Awards, which will be given out at the association’s annual meeting in November.
The APLU is a research, policy and advocacy organization representing 234 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and affiliated organizations.
Incoming UNCP Chancellor Robin Cummings talks with ECU students Jennifer Langdon, standing, and Christina Weber. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
ECU, UNCP to form physical therapy partnership
A new partnership between ECU and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke aims to increase the number of physical therapists working in eastern North Carolina.
ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard and UNCP Chancellor Kyle Carter signed a memorandum of understanding in June that will establish a satellite program for ECU’s Department of Physical Therapy at UNCP.
Under the agreement, ECU will launch an “assurance program” for the 2016-17 school year, which reserves places for up to four UNCP students in each entering class of the doctoral program.
Once there are approximately eight UNCP undergraduate students who meet the entrance requirements—estimated to occur by 2019—the assurance program will transition to a full satellite program. At that time, all physical therapy students will attend class on ECU’s campus for their first and final semesters but will spend the other semesters of the three-year program at UNCP.
All clinical experiences for the satellite students will take place in the clinics and hospitals surrounding UNCP. The program is expected to grow to approximately 10 UNCP students a year.
“Helping other institutions, helping the whole region through workforce development and preparing our students for the future—those are three things we’re committed to,” Ballard said.
“My hope is that we train a lot more health professionals in both areas—at Pembroke and ECU. We know these people will get good-paying jobs.”
Phyllis Horns, vice chancellor for health sciences at ECU, said this collaboration could also increase the diversity of the region’s health care workforce.
Housed within the College of Allied Health Sciences, the ECU Department of Physical Therapy has advanced the education of physical therapists for North Carolina since 1970.
“This college and the Department of Physical Therapy have a strong tradition of training health care providers for North Carolina and to work in rural, eastern North Carolina,” said Amy Gross McMillan, associate chair of physical therapy at ECU. “We know that students who come from an area are more likely to stay in that area (to work).”
Gross McMillan said she hopes this partnership will lead to more applications from students in the southeast region of North Carolina and from Robeson County in particular.
ECU’s doctorate of physical therapy is one of the most competitive programs offered by the university. It accepts North Carolina residents only, and the average undergraduate GPA for this year’s incoming class was 3.75. Admission is limited to 30 students, and they often attract more than 300 applications for those slots.
Other collaborations between UNCP and ECU include a community service learning center for ECU’s School of Dental Medicine in Robeson County and the UNC system’s first massive open online course via ECU’s College of Business.
At left, Dr. Meghan Scott, a Brody School of Medicine graduate and second-year family medicine resident at ECU, stands with Dr. Jonathon Firnhaber, ECU's family medicine residency program director. ECU has again been ranked as among the top ten in the nation in producing family care physicians. (Photo by Gretchen Baugh)
Brody ranks fourth
The Brody School of Medicine at ECU has been recognized again for the high percentage of its graduates pursuing residency training in family medicine.
The American Academy of Family Physicians Top 10 Award annually honors medical schools that, during a consecutive three-year period, graduate the greatest percentage of students who chose first-year family medicine residency positions.
Brody ranked fourth on this year’s list—one place higher than the school’s 2014 ranking. It is based on an average of 18.5 percent of ECU medical graduates entering family medicine during the last three years. No other North Carolina medical school received the award.
This is the ninth consecutive year of recognition for ECU’s medical school, according to Department of Family Medicine records. Recipients were announced in April during the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Annual Spring Conference in Orlando, Florida.
“The Brody School of Medicine was legislatively founded on a mission of producing primary care physicians—a mission which we have delivered on for our entire existence,” said Dr. Elizabeth Baxley, senior associate dean for academic affairs at Brody.
“We do this well because our focus on this mission begins with the pre-admissions process and continues through our selection of students who are most likely to pursue primary care careers,” she said. “We also are careful to hold the cost of a medical education at a level that allows our graduates to choose their specialty based on their heart, not their pocketbook.”
Approximately one in four of all medical office visits are made to family physicians, according to AAFP data. That totals nearly 214 million office visits each year—nearly 74 million more than the next largest medical specialty.
At a time when the nation is facing a shortage of primary care physicians, AAFP leadership believes filling the family physician workforce pipeline is vital to the health of Americans.
Howell Science Complex renovations will shore up exterior walls. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
Building projects alter campus look, density
With construction projects on three sides of Main Campus, ECU officials are saying the campus that emerges in three years will be a denser environment with a new signature gateway and ECU’s first parking deck.
The first example can be seen at the top of College Hill, where the new Gateway East and West residence halls are creating a new streetscape along 14th Street.
This fall semester, 722 students are expected to call the residence halls home. An official ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for the September Board of Trustees meeting.
With Gateway, the total number of students living in campus residence halls will rise to a record 5,809.
As work on Gateway wrapped up, preparation for another university construction project was beginning that will change the face of the 10th Street side of campus—the $122.2 million student union building and parking garage.
It’s the largest construction project on Main Campus since the Science and Technology Building opened in 2001.
East Carolina purchased and recently demolished the Wendy’s and La Hacienda restaurant buildings and the former Baptist Student Union on the campus side of 10th Street, according to John G. Fields, ECU’s director of facilities engineering and architectural services.
Construction on the student center and 700-car parking deck will begin in January, Fields said.
Architectural drawings show the footprint of the new student center will extend along 10th from the corner of Lawrence Street, where the Baptist Student Union stood, past Wendell Smiley Way—the circular drive mainly used by ECU Transit buses. It will cover about 210,000 square feet, have four dining options, a large ballroom and a 42-foot-wide outdoor jumbo screen, among other features. Dowdy Student Stores will move there after it opens in summer 2018.
Meanwhile, columns have been added to the corners of Howell Science Complex to reinforce the exterior walls of the aging facility. During a renovation project last year to update the interior of Howell, engineers determined the walls didn’t meet building codes.
Work on the $1.84 million Howell project was done mostly at nights and on weekends to minimize disruption to building occupants and campus activities.
On the Health Sciences Campus, work has begun to complete the fourth floor of Ross Hall, home of the School of Dental Medicine. Fields said the $7.5 million project will create additional research, office and support space. The fourth floor was left shelled in when the building opened three years ago.
Construction has also begun on a student center to serve the Health Sciences Campus.
The $34 million, 77,000-square-foot Health Sciences Student Services Building will rise in the open area between the Health Sciences Building and the East Carolina Heart Institute.
A recreation center will take up about a third of the center. The facility will have a convenience store and three dining options, including a Starbucks. It’s expected to open in December 2016.
Back on Main Campus, the ECU parking lots between 10th Street and the back of Joyner Library and Mendenhall Student Center will permanently close at the end of fall semester, Fields said. That’s to allow construction to begin in early 2016 on the student union and parking garage.
The faculty, staff and visitors who use those lots will be encouraged to walk two blocks east to satellite lots farther out on 10th.
Wendell Smiley Way also will close at the end of fall semester. Beginning spring semester, the ECU Transit hub there will relocate to the existing transit shelter between the Student Recreation Center and the back of Greene Residence Hall.
Fall semester will be the last time students will check into White Residence Hall before it closes for a major renovation. The bedrooms and bathrooms of the 10-story dorm were renovated in 2013 and 2014. This final phase of the renovation will complete the interior renovations and give the dorm a new exterior.
White will reopen in August 2016.
Nearby Clement and Greene residence halls will close for similar renovations with Clement being constructed in two phases during the summer of 2016 and the spring and summer of 2017. Green will follow similarly with construction in the summer of 2017 and the spring and summer of 2018, Fields said.
All the construction projects are designed in accordance with the ECU Master Plan. The ECU Board of Trustees has reviewed and approved all the projects, as has the UNC Board of Governors.
The changes to campus mean parking will be moving farther out from the core as the core campus is used more and more for academic programs, officials said.
Home of the Coastal Studies Institute on Roanoke Island. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
ECU takes administrative lead for Coastal Studies Institute
An agreement among five universities has confirmed the multi-institutional mission of the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute and established ECU as the administrative campus of the state university system’s program to better understand the North Carolina coast.
In addition to ECU, member institutions of the CSI are Elizabeth City State University, North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC-Wilmington.
Located in Wanchese, the institute was founded in 2003 as a result of recommendations in the UNC Board of Governors’ Marine Science Plan to expand the research and academic footprint of the UNC system to all three geographic coastal locations of the state. The memorandum of understanding was signed in April by the chancellors of the constituent universities and Tom Ross, president of the UNC system.
The institute is an effective partnership for studying coastal development and natural resources as well as community outreach and communication with stakeholders about the issues facing the coast. It calls upon the strengths of member institutions to address important issues facing North Carolina’s coastal zone.
Nancy White, CSI director and an associate professor of biology at ECU, will transition to the title of executive director and report to ECU Provost Ron Mitchelson. She previously reported to Ross.
“This is a piece of our larger emphasis on coastal science and policy,” Mitchelson said of ECU’s stronger relationship with the institute. “We are excited about its multi-institutional nature and our access to the coast and colleagues at other schools.”
The coastal emphasis is part of ECU’s new strategic plan, unveiled earlier this year. The other parts being worked on are the establishment of a School of the Coast at ECU and a joint doctoral program in coastal and marine sciences with UNCW.
With ECU being the administrative home of the institute, Chancellor Steve Ballard will appoint seven to nine members to the board of directors in consultation with the board.
The institute’s home on Roanoke Island opened in 2013. It is an 83,791-square-foot environmentally sustainable facility built on land surrounded by approximately 240 acres of marsh. Its $32.6 million cost was paid for by state appropriations. ECU was responsible for design and construction oversight and maintains the facility.
Other ECU faculty involved with the institute are economics professor Andy Keeler; Nathan Richards, associate professor of maritime history; and geological science professors Reide Corbett and J.P. Walsh. Faculty members from NCSU and UNC-Chapel Hill are also in residence at the site.
Research underway at the institute includes innovative approaches to capturing energy from the ocean, methods to restore oyster reefs, the ecological effects of stormwater runoff and sustainable designs for coastal communities.
Local communities are also involved. The institute grew out of the Dare County Task Force on Higher Education, formed in the mid-1990s. It was preceded by other successful university-community partnerships, such as those that founded the North Carolina aquariums in the 1980s.
Rolf Blizzard, vice president of Turnpike Properties, a real estate development firm based in Winston-Salem, chairs the institute board of directors.
Twenty freshmen begin studies as EC Scholars
Twenty freshmen have been selected for the prestigious EC Scholars program at ECU.
The following students will receive the four-year merit scholarship that recognizes outstanding academic performance, commitment to community engagement and strong leadership skills:
Jocelyn Bayles, a graduate of Middle Creek High School, plans to double major in Hispanic studies and elementary education.
Glenesha Berryman, a graduate of Seoul American High School in South Korea, plans to major in English education and become a high school teacher before pursuing a career in education administration.
Briceño “Brice” Bowrey, a graduate of Cabarrus-Kannapolis Early College High School, plans to major in biology with the hope of eventually becoming a physician.
Joshua “Josh” Butler, a graduate of Faith Christian School, plans to major in engineering with a concentration in biomedical engineering.
Emily Downs, a graduate of J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, has been selected for the early assurance program in medicine, which guarantees a place for her at the Brody School of Medicine once she completes her bachelor’s degree. She plans to major in biochemistry.
Madeline “Madie” Fleishman, a graduate of Millbrook High School in Raleigh, plans to major in political science.
Renae Harper plans to major in psychology and speech pathology. She is a graduate of Wake Forest-Rolesville High School.
Carly Judd, a graduate of Burlington Christian Academy, plans to major in neuroscience and biology with the hope of eventually becoming a brain surgeon.
Megan Koceja, a graduate of Ragsdale High School, is considering a career as a physician assistant and plans to major in biology.
Nicholas Kowalski is a graduate of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham. He plans to major in physics and eventually pursue a degree in medicine.
Kaleigh Launsby, a graduate of Porter Ridge High School in Indian Trail, plans to major in business.
Meghan Lower, a graduate of D.H. Conley High School, plans to major in biology and chemistry, attend medical school and become a pediatrician.
Daniel Nance, a graduate of Leesville Road High School, wants to major in biology, go to medical school and become a pathologist.
Claire Perry, a graduate of Conley, has secured a spot in the early assurance program in medicine. The intended psychology and biology major hopes to work in substance abuse psychiatry.
Megan Piggott, a graduate of St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon, plans to major in theatre education. She eventually would like to teach.
Conor Pumphrey, a graduate of Rose, was guaranteed acceptance into the Brody School of Medicine upon graduation through the school’s early assurance program. He plans to major in public health.
Adelaide “Addy” Robbins, a Rose graduate, plans to major in public health services. As an early assurance scholar in medicine, she will be admitted to the Brody School of Medicine after completing her undergraduate degree.
Alexandria “Alex” Stephens is also a graduate of Leesville Road and an intended nursing major.
Ashley Weingartz, a graduate of Rose, plans to major in bioprocess engineering and eventually attend pharmacy school.
Garrett Yarbrough, a North Lenoir High School graduate, plans to major in English.
EC Scholars is the university’s most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program. Recipients are admitted to ECU’s Honors College and receive a scholarship for four years, along with a stipend for study abroad, for a total value of $61,000.
The incoming EC Scholar recipients have an average combined math/verbal SAT score of 1362 and an average unweighted GPA of 3.94.
Matt Louder and Christopher Balakrishnan (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
Major grants push researchers ahead
When the little pin-tailed whydah chirps and flaps its wings in Africa, not much happens in the rest of the world. But what the bird might teach scientists about brain development could have a global impact.
That’s what ECU biologist Chris Balakrishnan and colleagues are looking at, thanks to a National Science Foundation grant of $390,000.
The whydah is one of about 100 species of birds known as “brood parasites.” That is, they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and leave their young for those birds to hatch and raise.
Whydah bird at Sylvan Heights Bird Park
What does that have to do with brain development? Though the young whydahs have no contact with their own kind, they nevertheless learn to sing the whydah song and eventually mate with other whydahs. Most birds learn these things from their parents.
“How do these birds learn what they are? How do they not get confused?” Balakrishnan said. “We’re trying to understand that. What’s different about these birds that aren’t exposed to their parents?”
The findings could give insights into the science of neuroplasticity. That’s the changes in neural pathways and synapses due to shifts in behavior, environment, neural processes, thinking and emotions—as well as changes resulting from injury. The concept has replaced the notion the brain is a physiologically static organ and explores how—and in which ways—the brain changes during a lifetime.
Balakrishnan is one of several young faculty members at ECU who have recently received major research grants. According to Michael Van Scott, interim associate vice chancellor for research and graduate studies, it’s a validation of their credentials and ideas by experts in the field and the funding agencies.
“To receive major federal funding means that the faculty member is deemed to be at the top of their field and their work addresses significant problems in society,” Van Scott said. “Accordingly, these awards are prestigious for the institution as well as the individual faculty member.”
The fact that they are faculty members who are relatively recent graduates of their respective doctoral and post-doctoral programs and have joined ECU in the past decade signifies the strength of the university’s efforts to get new faculty members’ research programs up and running.
According to Van Scott, ECU invests $3 million to $5 million each year toward that end. The university also invests approximately $300,000 to $500,000 each year to support new investigative teams with ideas for projects that can compete for extramural funding and to provide time for faculty members to write competitive grant proposals. When faculty members receive extramural funding, ECU returns a portion of the indirect costs recovered from the grants to the faculty and units where the research was conducted.
Balakrishnan’s study, “Collaborative Research: Mechanisms of Behavioral Innovation in Brood Parasitic Birds,” is a project with scientists at Hunter College in New York. He submitted the grant proposal two years ago, learned it had been approved in the spring and just received the funding in June.
Working with him at ECU are post-doctoral biologist Matt Louder and master’s student Dustin Foote. The whydahs are housed at Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck.
Only about 5 percent of grant proposals are funded, Balakrishnan said.
“I’ve been trying all different ideas,” he said. “This is my first individual grant success. In terms of getting my individual research going, this is a vital step.”
Another ECU biologist who has received a significant federal grant is Marcelo Ardon. In the spring, he received an NSF CAREER award of $635,000 for his study of ecosystem recovery in coastal wetlands under a changing climate.
CAREER Awards are the NSF’s most prestigious awards to junior faculty “who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations,” according to the organization’s website.
This spring, he also received one of the first Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Early Career Awards recognizing exceptional performance by tenure-track professors.
Ardon completed his doctorate in 2006 and joined the ECU faculty in 2011. His research focuses on human impacts of the ecology of wetlands and streams.
Junior faculty members in the health sciences have also landed significant federal grants within the past year.
Jamie Perry of the College of Allied Health Sciences has received a $409,170 grant from the National Institutes of Health for a study related to velopharyngeal function, or how the structures of the mouth affect speech.
Myon-Hee Lee of the Brody School of Medicine has received a three-year, $367,275 NIH grant for his study of germline stem cells in a species of nematode. Germline stem cells are able to self-renew and generate a continuous supply of gametes through differentiation, or changing from one cell type to another. Lee wants to understand how these germlines are created and regulated.
Another Brody faculty member, Joe McClung, has received grants from the NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to study aspects of peripheral artery disease. The major ones are a three-year, $532,580 “Pathway to Independence Award” to study a type of cell involved in cardiovascular disease and a five-year, $1.25 million grant looking at an element of limb vasculature.
Carol A. Witczak of the College of Health and Human Performance and biochemistry and physiology in the medical school has received a $1.6 million NIH grant to study skeletal muscle glucose metabolism, work that could point the way to new diabetes treatments. That follows a 2010 NIH award for $751,000 to study skeletal muscle growth and protein synthesis.
Zachary Grass (Contributed photo)
Tuba player wins international award
An ECU School of Music graduate student is one of nine winners in the 2015 Yamaha Young Performing Artists competition.
Zachary Grass of Greenville, who plays the tuba, is the only low brass instrumentalist selected as a YYPA winner for 2015. Other winners were from South Korea, Japan and the United States and play flute, bassoon, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, drum set, cello and piano.
Grass is a student of ECU tuba and euphonium professor Tom McCaslin, a Yamaha Performing Artist.