Recipients of the Robert H. Wright Alumni Leadership Award, the highest honor given to ECU undergraduates were, left to right, Kristi Noelle Wilkerson of Mastic, New York; Shayna Mooney of Winterville; Jessica Jewell of Clayton; Matthew Baucom of Marshville; and Ajay Ajmera of Greenville. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
Students, faculty celebrate 2015 spring commencement
Sunshine lighted the smiles of graduates as they marched into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the 106th spring commencement at East Carolina University today. And even as clouds from Subtropical Storm Ana rolled in overhead, spirits stayed bright.
“I’m excited,” said Kaylee Redon, a graduate of the College of Business with a degree in managerial finance. “I’m ready to go out in the real world and use what I’ve learned.”
Redon, a hammer-thrower on the ECU track team, has a job in Greensboro with Volvo Financial Services. But first, she’s headed to Florida for a track event.
She was one of nearly 5,000 ECU students who completed their degrees this semester, many of whom marched in purple graduation gowns and celebrated with classmates on the football field as dignitaries praised the work they did to reach this point.
Tom Ross, president of the University of North Carolina system, encouraged graduates to use the skills they learned in college to live a life that matters.
“Ask yourself this question: Am I making a significant difference in the lives of others?” he said.
He also encouraged graduates to own a dog or other pet. “Because if you do, you’ll always have love in your life,” he said.
Newly minted ECU alumni show their Pirate pride at the 2015 commencement ceremony.Morgan Phillips of Mooresville was one of 50 dental students in the inaugural class of the ECU School of Dental Medicine who were receiving their degrees. She’s headed to Columbia, South Carolina, for a general practice residency. She called graduation “bittersweet.”
“You’re excited to move on and practice and get into your profession, but we’re separating,” she said, referring to her fellow graduates. “We’ve spent more time with our classmates than our families.”
Another dental graduate, Sheena Neil of Raleigh, agreed. “We’ve been a family for four years.” She’s headed to ECU’s Community Service Learning Center in Ahoskie for a general dentistry residency.
Psychology graduate Wendy McFarland of Durham likely summed up the feelings of many students.
“I feel ecstatic. It’s so exciting,” she said. “I’m done with homework and tests, for now anyway.” But not for long; she’s headed to Grand Valley State University in Michigan to pursue a master’s degree in higher education.
“Maybe one day I’ll be the dean of a college, or a chancellor maybe,” she said.
Brandon Tedder, a graduate in health fitness, is going to Charlotte for a cardiopulmonary rehabilitation internship at Presbyterian Hospital. “I’m pretty excited about that, making an impact in people’s lives,” he said. “I’m going to work my butt off and impress everybody.”
Another health fitness graduate, Jessica Smith of Nashville, described her college years as “amazingly fun. We learned a lot and made a lot of friends.”
She’s going to Raleigh for an internship with WakeMed and hopes to enter physical therapy school.
Among the faculty members at commencement was Ken MacLeod, an associate professor of business who’s taught at ECU for 25 years.
“There are always a few students you remember,” he said. “You look back and remember, ‘Yeah, they did really well in my class.’ They’re moving forward, and you’re just really happy for them.”
Madison McGraw of Gastonia, a health and human performance graduate, spoke as the senior class representative.
“Beating Carolina 70-41, the late-night runs to Cook-Out, jumping into freezing cold water just for a T-shirt, even the final exams we all dreaded – I wouldn’t change those memories for anything in the world,” she said.
Robert Rippy, a 1964 graduate of ECU and member of the UNC Board of Governors, reminded the graduates and their parents of some changes they’ll see in their lives.
“You’re going to go home this weekend and find your room has been taken over by your little brother or little sister,” he said. “Parents, you are realizing you no longer have to fill your student’s car with gas.”
Of the graduates, approximately 3,480 received bachelor’s degrees, and 1,360 received graduate degrees – including 80 from the Brody School of Medicine.
One of those, Sarah Norris, married fellow Brody graduate Alex Dalrymple two weeks ago. Both are headed to the University of Virginia for residencies – Norris in family medicine and Dalrymple in neurology.
“I haven’t changed my name yet,” Norris said. “I want to be ‘Dr. Norris’ for a little while first.”
—Doug Boyd and Amy Ellis
Pictured below, fellow Pirates are pictured in the lens of an ECU graduate's sunglasses, needed for most of the ceremony despite the threat of rain from an approaching coastal storm, which dropped heavy rain on Greenville just a few hours later. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
Hall named 2015 top nurse at ECU Physicians
A nurse specialist in vascular surgery has been selected by her peers as this year’s top nurse at ECU Physicians, the group medical practice of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.
Marquita Hall, a Duplin County native, works at the East Carolina Heart Institute. She has seven years of nursing experience and an undisputed reputation among her coworkers as “the calm amidst the daily storm.”
Her daily responsibilities include ensuring the vascular surgery clinic operates efficiently and patients’ needs are met quickly. She oversees patient scheduling and provides preoperative and postoperative education to all the clinic’s patients. All this she does, according to vascular surgeon Dr. C. Steven Powell, “in an excellent fashion and with a smile on her face.
“She is excellence personified,” Powell said. “She is cool and calm in all situations, always pleasant, has outstanding interaction with patients, and is always on top of getting things accomplished even in the busiest of situations. She is the best I have ever worked with.”
Hall’s primary source of motivation is her patients, she said. “Most of them have overcome many obstacles, and throughout it all, they continue to smile,” she said.
“I strive to provide my patients with the same quality of care I would want provided to one of my loved ones,” Hall added. “I wholeheartedly believe in treating others as you would want to be treated, and that is also what motivates me to care for my patients as I do.”
Her compassionate attitude is readily apparent, according to Hall’s coworkers. “She carries the biggest smile on her face, and it absolutely will light up a room and warm a patient’s troubled heart,” said physician assistant Brandy Wilson.
Dr. Dean Yamaguchi, a cardiovascular surgeon who works closely with Hall, said of her, “She has become the voice of patients who call into ECHI, helping to resolve often-complex medical as well as social barriers to providing appropriate medical care. She embodies what it means to be a nurse.”
Hall credits her grandparents with inspiring her original interest in nursing. Her grandmother has worked as a nursing assistant for 28 years and her grandfather has worked in mental health for Hall’s entire life.
“Growing up under their care, I witnessed the dedication, patience and compassion they exhibited toward their clients,” Hall said. “Their genuine caring natures inspired me to make a difference, as they have, in the lives of others.”
Hall’s academic success and leadership during high school garnered her a North Carolina Nurse Scholarship, and she graduated magna cum laude from the ECU College of Nursing in 2008.
After working approximately 18 months as a staff nurse in the Cardiac Intermediate Unit at Vidant Medical Center, Hall was employed for three years by ECU’s Department of Cardiovascular Sciences in their electrophysiology division. She followed that job with a brief stint at the Pitt County Health Department before returning to ECU in her current role.
Hall is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and the Golden Key International Honor Society. In 2011, she received an ECU Treasured Pirate Award in recognition of her unique contributions to the university.
She has no intention of resting on her impressive list of accomplishments, however. Although she has no plans to leave her current position anytime soon, she eventually would like to pursue a career in nursing administration. To that end, she’s currently enrolled in the masters of nursing leadership program at ECU.
“I have a desire to not only make a difference in the lives of my patients, but to also make a difference within the nursing profession itself,” she said.
Hall’s colleagues have no doubt she’ll do just that. “Marquita is a woman who is going somewhere,” Wilson said. “She has the drive, the unlimited potential and the compassion to do great things.”
A grant from the SECU Foundation will enable a collaboration with the university that will take ECU students off campus to earn valuable job experience as interns in small-town community organizations. The program will support up to 20 summer internships for sophomore and junior students. Pictured above, students meet with potential employers during the 2014 Career Fair. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
SECU Foundation, ECU join for small-town internship program
East Carolina University will use a $100,000 grant from the State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) Foundation to fund up to 20 summer internships for undergraduates interested in careers in leadership positions in rural North Carolina communities.
The SECU Public Service Fellowship is designed to provide sophomore and junior students with job experiences in small-town government agencies, non-profits and private businesses.
The aim of the pilot program is to help build capacity for underserved areas and to reduce the talent drain from the state’s rural communities, according to Dr. Marilyn Sheerer, an SECU Foundation board member and chair of its internship committee. Sheerer is a former provost at ECU.
“These hard-working students will be immersed in a hands-on learning experience that may stimulate an occupational interest and lead to a career in their home county,” Sheerer said. This program blends a traditional internship placement experience with a collaborative approach that draws on the expertise of the university and community partners, according to Dr. Sharon Paynter, interim director of public service and community relations at ECU.
“The program is designed to strengthen connections between the university and community by allowing students to explore public sector issues that challenge a community or the region at large,” Paynter said.
The interns will be placed in organizations that work on community-identified priorities. Students will explore community and economic development strategies, grant writing or project implementation involving skills ranging from graphic design to engineering.
The program will allow students to develop a better understanding of the collaborative nature of public sector issues that impact community sustainability and growth while strengthening core competencies gained through academic programs.
Communities that have worked with ECU through the Engagement Outreach Scholars Academy and the Talent Enhancement Capacity Building program are eligible for student interns.
Faculty members who are working on projects with those communities will select the interns, Paynter said.
The internships come with a $4,500 stipend. Students selected for the internships must be state residents, have completed at least 60 credit hours, and have a 3.0 cumulative GPA. This program is for undergraduate students only.
“In today’s competitive world, it’s important to provide students with opportunities that will help open doors for them to gain valuable work experience and a fresh perspective of the workings and challenges of rural government agencies and organizations,” said McKinley Wooten, chair of the SECU Foundation board. “Ultimately, their talents and skills can help make a positive impact in the economic future of North Carolina’s communities.”
SECU members via the SECU Foundation have provided funding for similar internship programs this summer at Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Wooten said that if the initial internship programs at ECU, ASU and UNC Pembroke are successful, the program could be expanded statewide.
Left to right, Seeds to Snacks ECU student intern Morgan Kunsman, sixth-grader Jordan McKenzie and ECU student leader Jordan Hostetler check the soil and mulch around some tomato plants in the garden at the Boys & Girls Club in Winterville. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)
ECU students teach nutrition through gardening in afterschool program
An innovative East Carolina University program is planting ideas – and vegetables – with some Pitt County Schools students.
Seeds to Snacks is a curriculum that helps teach kids about eating and growing healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Lessons on gardening, team building, service learning, career development and STEM are taught by ECU students, volunteers and community members at the Boys & Girls Clubs in Greenville and Winterville.
Kimberlain Childers, an ECU student volunteer, helps sixth-grader Jordan McKenzie re-plant a leafy green in the garden.
“Some kids may not have access to fresh food,” said Alice Raad, ECU’s Seeds to Snacks coordinator, who leads a team of undergraduate students who work with about 25 Pitt County children each week.
On a recent cool and drizzly Wednesday afternoon, Jordan Hostetler, a nutrition science major at ECU, took five middle school students outside. It’s a short walk from the main building on Fire Tower Road to the club’s 11 garden beds.
The day’s lesson was on farmers markets and the kinds of vegetables and fruits offered there. Hostetler and the students talked about leafy greens, cabbage and tomatoes, which were beginning to sprout nicely from the ground. They talked about the parts of the plant, and how plants need sun, water and oxygen to grow.
When she asked “what’s another thing that plants get nutrients from?” students answered “compost” and “soil.”
“You know what we need to do? We need to weed,” Hostetler said, as the students began pulling up unwanted grass. “Don’t pull it from the top. Remember to get way down from the bottom,” she said.
Jordan McKenzie, a sixth-grader at Hope Middle School, said he has grown cucumbers and strawberries at home. “I like to eat vegetables that I grow myself,” he said.
Called the “guardian of the garden,” Jason Lindsay with Greenville Harvest – a nonprofit group dedicated to eating healthy and sustainable stewardship of the environment – helped prepare and plant the beds and maintains the garden at the club. The goal is for the children to eventually tend the garden on their own.
On Thursday and Friday afternoons, students learn about nutrition. Recently guest speaker Kristen Zwingler, a second-year ECU graduate student in the physical activity promotion concentration, talked with students about exercise.
She debunked some common myths, including the idea that you shouldn’t eat while running a marathon.
“If you ran 26.2 miles and didn’t eat, you’d have no energy left,” Zwingler said. “You can’t eat a hamburger while you’re running, but you could have a little banana or energy gel pack. You have to be strategic about what you eat.”
She added that drinking water while exercising is important. Experts recommend at least 16 ounces for every hour of activity, Zwingler said.
Jayline Small, a sophomore at South Central High School, has been coming to the nutrition class since it started. “They explain it so I know what they’re talking about without using big words,” She said.
The lessons have stuck with South Central junior Rikeema Barfield. “You learn what’s good for you and what’s not good for you,” she said.
Robert Hill, director of Jarvis unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs in downtown Greenville, said the program has been a great addition to their programs. “Our members anxiously look forward to their arrival every Friday and truly enjoy learning about the nutritional and scientific aspects of healthy foods,” Hill said.
“The program leaders do an outstanding job at creating exciting methods to teach about living a healthy lifestyle."
Having transitioned from the former Snack RX program, Seeds to Snacks is funded through a Vidant Health Foundation Community Benefit Grant and directed by Dr. Elizabeth Wall-Bassett, ECU associate professor of nutrition science in the College of Human Ecology.
In addition to Raad and Hostetler, ECU student leaders and interns are Zainab Moss and Karsyn Tall, nutrition science majors, and Kaylan Bristol and Morgan Kunsman, who are majoring in public health studies with a concentration in community health.
ECU College of Business instructors Mark Weitzel, left, and Len Rhodes teach personal finance with a class challenge to save money during the semester. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
ECU professors inspire $100,000 in student savings each semester
A personal finance class at East Carolina University has inspired students to save a combined $100,000 each semester for the past five years.
The ECU College of Business instructors Len Rhodes and Mark Weitzel call themselves “The Money Professors.” They challenge 500 students in two 250-student sessions of the class to collectively save $100,000 during the semester.
“For most it is as simple as realizing how much they spend on eating out and cutting back, or making smarter purchasing decisions. For others, it is about setting a financial goal and then making changes in their lives to achieve that goal,” said Weitzel, director of the ECU Financial Wellness Institute.
The professors created the challenge because they wanted to know if what they were teaching was making an immediate difference in the student’s financial lives. “The challenge is simple,” said Weitzel. “If you learn something in class that you put into practice in your daily life and that saves you money, we want to hear about it.”
Weitzel created the personal finance class in 1999 after being inspired by a walk across ECU’s campus, where he observed banks and credit card companies catering to students during registration. “Students were signing up for credit cards, having no real idea of how to properly use them, quickly abusing them and finding themselves in real trouble,” said Rhodes, director of Technology, Information and Operations.
The class, which has no prerequisites and is worth three elective credit hours, quickly expanded and now reaches full capacity every semester. “That’s 1,000 new students a year,” said Rhodes. “It’s the most popular class on campus.”
As the class evolved, the professors became dissatisfied with the available textbooks on personal finance, so they decided to write their own.
“We couldn’t find anything that completely fit what we were teaching. For example, we couldn’t find a single textbook that talked about the biggest financial decision you make in your life: who you marry,” said Weitzel. “While it isn’t terribly romantic to look at it that way, one out of two marriages ends in divorce, and the leading cause is fights about money. We decided that we need to help educate these kids about understanding money and relationships.”
The overall goal of the class is to provide students the information and the tools they need to better manage their personal finances while they are at ECU and after they graduate.
“The single most important thing that we hope students will walk away with from the course is that you cannot separate your personal life from your financial life. They are inextricably intertwined. Good financial health promotes and enforces good health in other dimensions of your life,” said Weitzel. “The second message is that personal finance is personal. There is no one-size-fits-all advice out there that works for everyone.”
All royalties from the sale of their textbook, “Personal Finance: Easy. Relevant. Fun.,” are given back to ECU students in the form of scholarships.
Rhodes and Weitzel have co-written many other finance books including “The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money” and “How to Keep Your Kid From Moving Back Home After College.” Together, they run a company called “The Money Professors,” through which they offer expert knowledge, resources and consulting to help other universities develop content that students can relate to.
For further information, visit http://www.themoneyprofessors.com.
ECU Honors College students Jill Collins, left, and Mona Amin, center, move forward with a group of their peers who opted to study outside the classroom in an Honors College seminar hiking on the Appalachian Trail. (Contributed photos)
Honors College seminar courses challenge students beyond the classroom
This spring, East Carolina University Honors College students spent time learning way outside the classroom – on the Appalachian Trail, 15 feet underwater and behind a camera lens in eastern North Carolina.
Those out-of-the-box experiences – touching both ends of the state – happened in Honors College seminars. Innovative courses designed and taught by ECU faculty members supplement the regular curriculum and feature small classes, guest speakers and field trips.
Honors College students are required to take two of the seminars before they graduate, but several said the courses are a want-to, not a must-do.
“I want to take advantage of every opportunity I can,” said ECU sophomore Claire Tuttle, who is majoring in business management information systems. “This semester, I just wanted to do something different. Why would you not do it?”
Faculty members Mary Beth Corbin, left, and Traci Birch led the Honors College Seminar on the Appalachian Trail.
She enrolled in “Along the AT: Experiences and Reflections on the Appalachian Trail,” which culminated with a four-day hike in April.
Although Tuttle had been camping many times with her parents, she had no experience backpacking. Still, Tuttle said her biggest fear wasn’t climbing mountains but not knowing anyone in the class when she signed up.
“It was really cool to get to know people,” she said, describing how much she enjoyed talking around campfires, sharing the responsibility of cooking food and setting up and breaking down camp. She read for fun and kept a daily journal for the class. “It was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made since coming to college.”
The trip helped Tuttle gain perspective on life, she said. She learned new things, from the history of the trail to how toothpaste can be toxic to the environment.
“When you’re out there, you realize human impact,” Tuttle said. “We take so much for granted, that’s for sure.”
Tuttle commended Brad Beggs in the ECU Adventure Program and faculty Traci Birch and Mary Beth Corbin for preparing students for the hike.
Freshman Leah Price of Wilmington had only been on a day hike before taking the class. “I was definitely a beginner,” she said.
“I had never even camped before overnight.”
She saw wild ponies and other wildlife, summited Mount Rogers in Virginia and enjoyed meeting “through-hikers” in the process of hiking all 2,175 miles of the trail from Georgia to Maine.
It was a bonding experience for her group because there was no cellular service, so phones and social media were absent. “Being off the grid for four days is not easy,” she said. “It was refreshing. It was time to wind down from everything.”
Students soldiered through hail, snow, thunderstorms and sunshine. “It was beautiful nonetheless,” Price said. The trip has inspired her to study abroad. “I feel like I can conquer the world now.”
Having the chance to learn something new guided ECU junior Trey Cook, a biochemistry major and EC Scholar from Cary. He explored Williamston, Plymouth and New Bern – towns he had never visited – by taking “Cultural Landscapes of Eastern North Carolina in Photography and Writing.”
The documentary journalism course taught by Daniel Kariko and Charles Twardy was a blend of photography and writing with an emphasis on the history of photography, journalism and photo editing techniques. Cook said he knew very little about photography before taking the class.
“I think the most monumental thing I learned was the concept behind art,” Cook said.
“True artists try to create thoughts and feelings in their audiences. Whether it is a painting, a dance or a photograph, what the art is composed of is not as important as the thoughts and feelings it instills in its admirers. That realization has revolutionized the way I look at art and given me a much greater appreciation for artists in all sorts of fields.”
While the class fulfilled fine arts credits that Cook needed, he said the format, professors and design of the class provoked student creativity and innovation. It also exposed him to the culture of eastern North Carolina, which is different from the metropolitan area where he grew up.
Rising senior Stephanie Griffin, a speech and hearing sciences major from Monroe, would scuba dive for the first time after enrolling in “Ocean Exploration: Shipwrecks, Conservation and Technology,” focused on the relationship between humans and the ocean, the Great Lakes and inland waters.
Highlights included seeing artifacts from Blackbeard’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, on ECU’s west research campus, which helped reinforce the class material. “It’s great to see the conservation methods they’re doing,” she said.
The students did scuba diving in the diving well of Minges Natatorium on campus under the guidance of ECU instructor Clint Etheridge.
“I hope it provides an awareness and appreciation they might not otherwise have found,” said Dr. Tim Runyan, who created and teaches the class which fills up each spring. “I’m a hands-on guy. We do things rather than talk about them.”
Griffin spent her childhood visiting grandparents in Mann’s Harbor, where she learned an appreciation for the water. “But this is a whole different educational aspect,” she said.
Of the four books she read for class, Griffin most enjoyed “The Power of the Sea” by Bruce Parker, which emphasized the physics behind tides, rogue waves and tsunamis, natural disasters and climate change.
“This fulfills honors credit but in a fun way,” Griffin said. “It lets you taste a little bit of everything while you’re here.”
Pictured below ECU professor Tim Runyan's spring semester ocean exploration class is shown in their first effort at scuba diving at Minges pool. (Submitted photo taken with a GoPro underwater camera).
At the first Medical Education Day at ECU, Dr. Elizabeth Baxley, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Brody School of Medicine, left, speaks with keynote speaker Dr. Rajesh Mangrulkar, associate dean for medical school education at the University of Michigan. ECU and the University of Michigan are among 11 schools selected nationwide to reshape medical education. (Photo by Gretchen Baugh)
Brody holds first Medical Education Day
Innovations in medical education were showcased and shared April 22 as health sciences faculty and learners from across East Carolina University gathered at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU to celebrate the Brody School of Medicine’s inaugural Brody Medical Education Day.
An offshoot of Brody’s $1 million, five-year grant from the American Medical Association to help reshape how future doctors are trained, the event was packed with posters and podium presentations. Topics ranged from patient safety and population health to working effectively in interprofessional teams.
“Many imperatives for improving the effectiveness of our country’s health care system are not a consistent part of how medical students are being taught in the United States,” said Dr. Elizabeth Baxley, senior associate dean for academic affairs at Brody.
“As one of only 11 medical schools across the country chosen by the AMA to help reshape medical education, Brody is leading the way in developing a new curriculum that will better prepare physicians to work – and lead – within our evolving health care system.”
Keynote speaker Dr. Rajesh Mangrulkar, associate dean for medical school education at the University of Michigan – a fellow member of the AMA’s 11-school consortium – told attendees, “I am truly inspired by the exemplary work you are doing here to deliberately connect medical education to the health care system with meaningful projects. It is wonderful to see how your students and faculty are all participating in learning as well as leading.
“We are entering a period of profound change in our educational and health systems, and we have to be responsive,” Mangrulkar said. “Our institutions are not a lot alike, but we are on this journey together. We’re all at base camp and we can all see the summit. We’ll have to strategize our own different pathways to get there, but we can benefit from each other by sharing many of our best strategies with each other.”
Mangrulkar highlighted some of the University of Michigan’s efforts to address current challenges in medical education, including what he referred to as the “know-do gap,” the difficulty many learners have in translating the “explosion of basic science knowledge they get early on” into real-life clinical environments.
“Our goal is to bring science to the bedside earlier,” he said.
Mangrulkar also discussed his institution’s work to prioritize societal needs and population health. “Prevention and health maintenance typically get more lip service than action in med school,” he said, challenging listeners to consider whether learners should spend more time learning to care for hospitalized patients than learning to manage chronic disease.
Among those presenting educational projects at the event were the first graduating members of ECU’s Teachers of Quality Academy, a group of 27 selected health sciences faculty who spent the past 15 months immersed in the newest health system competencies, learning how to develop curricula and pioneering better ways to prepare future providers.
Several of these new educational components are already being integrated into the medical school curriculum at Brody, said Dr. Herb Garrison, associate dean for graduate medical education.
“You’ll see that these new approaches to teaching, research and leadership involve creating safer, more equitable and higher quality healthcare, improving the health of populations and working more effectively in interprofessional teams of health care providers,” Garrison said.
Emergency medicine physician and Teachers of Quality Academy graduate Dr. Tim Reeder said, “This day is the culmination of a lot of hard work to develop new educational components that will educate students from all disciplines. Although I’ve taught for many years, I’m thinking differently about how I teach now. It’s about critical thinking rather than rote memorization now.
“We’ve practiced in interprofessional teams for a long time,” Reeder added. “But there’s a recognition now that we need to educate in ways that support that.”
—Amy Adams Ellis
ECU music therapy students and Emily Selitto, left, and Amanda Bernstein help patients at Vidant Medical Center with music. Not pictured are Madaline Logan and Emily Margagliotti. (Contributed photo)
ECU students use music therapy to help Vidant Medical Center patients
“The girls and their music made it much easier for him to go on to glory,” Brenda Daniels said. Her husband, Noah Daniels, passed away in January at Vidant Medical Center. She said she is eternally grateful for two East Carolina University music therapy students who spent time singing and playing music for her husband and family.
For more than 45 years, the East Carolina University Music Therapy program has been training students to help people through the power of music. This semester, four of those students have brought their talents to Vidant Medical Center, to work with patients on a weekly basis.
Noah Daniels was just one of the patients who benefited from their work. “He was having a hard time, but when those girls walked in, we were elated,” his wife said. “I could see by the look in his eyes and the expression on his face, how the music lifted his spirits.”
Each Thursday, ECU seniors and music therapy majors, Amanda Bernstein and Emily Selitto visit Vidant Medical Center and go room to room singing and playing instruments for some of the sickest patients. “It’s a very humbling and rewarding experience,” Bernstein said. “We aren’t just singing and playing music for ourselves, music therapy is so much more than that; we are using our talents to help people.”
Music therapy students are required to complete a 12 hour practicum each semester in order to graduate. “Our main goal is to help patients use music to complete tasks that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to,” said Selitto. “If we can be a distraction, lift their spirits, and help relax them, if only for a few minutes at a time, then we are successful.”
Dr. Michelle Hairston, professor and chair of music education and music therapy department at ECU explained that a music therapist is constantly assessing the responses of the patient and uses his or her training to formulate a goal– and then work on it immediately. “Music is the powerful tool that reaches the soul of every individual. It is nonthreatening and inviting,” said Dr. Hairston. “Music engages patients immediately, and the personal connection of the music therapist keeps that connection going. The power of the music, the human contact (by the music therapist) and the goal-directed interaction of the two, is what makes music therapy work.”
Patricia Rice, a physician assistant at Vidant Medical Center, has been a practicum mentor for the music therapy students for the last three years. “The influence that these students have with the patients is remarkable,” Rice said. “They have a way of using music to help the patients with pain management, relaxation, and increasing physical activity which helps the patients reengage into life.”
Their influence is especially true in regards to the Daniels family. Brenda Daniels was so impressed and inspired by Bernstein and Selitto, that she asked if they would perform at her husband’s funeral. The girls obliged and sang several hymns, including Amazing Grace. “I wish that I could repay them, for what they gave to me and my husband with their music,” Daniels said. “I’ve never experienced anything like that in my entire life.”
For more information about the ECU Music Therapy program, please contact Dr. Michelle Hairston at Hairstonm@ecu.edu.
—Courtesy of Vidant Health Corporate Communications
ECU online business program ranks nationally in value
East Carolina University’s online MBA program has earned top marks for educational quality and value, ranking 28th nationally based on 2015 rankings from Value Colleges.
The online information source also ranks ECU as a Top 50 Best Value Online Business School, placing it at No. 37 among other undergraduate programs.
The rankings considered and measured all AACSB-accredited business schools in the U.S. according to their complete cost, average return on investment and average starting salary for graduates.
The online program in the ECU College of Business has grown from a single course offering in 1998 to undergraduate and graduate degrees in several concentrations. Of the nearly 700 students enrolled in the MBA program for the fall 2014 semester, 75 percent attended part-time and selected online classes.
“We’re proud that our online business program continues to rank among the nation’s top schools for the best educational quality and value,” said Dr. Stan Eakins, dean of the ECU College of Business. “The ECU College of Business has pioneered the field of distance education, and we continue to innovate – providing an engaging learning environment to the leaders of today and tomorrow while expanding business knowledge and serving our communities.”
For more information about Value Colleges’ Online MBA rankings, visit http://www.valuecolleges.com/rankings/best-value-online-mba-programs/.
For more information about Value Colleges’ Top 50 Best Value Online Undergraduate Business Schools of 2015, visit http://www.valuecolleges.com/rankings/best-value-online-business-schools/.
ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard speaks during the university's awards day ceremonies, while Provost Ron Mitchelson studies the order of events. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
University awards recognize the best of ECU’s faculty, staff
Achievements of East Carolina University’s faculty and staff took center stage at the sixth annual Founders Day and University Awards Celebration on April 29 in Hendrix Theatre.
Serving as master of ceremonies, Provost Ron Mitchelson welcomed attendees. “It makes us all especially proud to share recognition of the very best of our faculty and staff today,” he said. “Congratulations to all the nominees and recipients; you do reside at the very heart of this great university.”
Harry Smith, an ECU alumnus who serves as liaison on the UNC Board of Governors, began by presenting the UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching to Dr. Carol Goodwillie. It is the highest teaching award given at the university and recognizes the sustained record of distinguished teaching by a tenured faculty member.
Goodwillie, an associate professor of biology, was selected for the award among nine nominees. She is known for her unique teaching methods that immerse students in biological concepts using an extended-classroom model. Her “classroom” incorporates a two-acre plot of land on ECU’s West Research Campus for exploring field research techniques.
Describing them as a “supportive and creative community,” Goodwillie thanked her biology colleagues and the broader campus community during her acceptance remarks.
“It’s an exciting time to be teaching at ECU,” she said. “Despite shrinking budgets, I read almost daily on the ECU website about yet another innovative educational program. Each of these, I think, is helping to build a broad, interconnected community of teacher-scholars here.”
She also acknowledged her husband, Dr. John Stiller from the Department of Biology, who was the 2013 recipient of the same award.
Learn more about Goodwillie at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-admin/news/uncaward.cfm.
Smith also recognized six winners for the UNC Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award:
- Jill Carlson, School of Theatre and Dance
- Dr. Leigh W. Cellucci, Department of Health Information Management
- Dr. Ronald Cortright, Department of Kinesiology
- Dr. Caitlin L. Ryan, Department of Literacy Studies, English, and History Education
- Dr. Douglas K. Schneider, Department of Accounting
- Dr. Heather Vance Chalcraft, Department of Biology.
Also presented at the event were the 12 Scholar-Teacher Award recipients, initially recognized on March 26 during research and creative achievement week. The winners of that award, now in its 19th year, include:
- Dr. Sonja K. Bareiss, Department of Physical Therapy
- Dr. Kori L. Brewer, Department of Emergency Medicine
- Dr. Rebecca Fay, Department of Accounting
- Dr. Rosana Ferriera, Department of Geography, Planning and Environment
- Dr. Alice Richman, Department of Health Education and Promotion
- Dr. Ann M. Schreier, Department of Graduate Nursing Science
- Dr. Natalia Sira, Department of Child Development and Family Relations
- Dr. William Sugar, Department of Mathematics, Science and Instructional Technology Education
- Dr. Deborah Thompson, School of Communication
- Dr. Sergiy Vilkomir, Department of Computer Science
- Dr. Derrick Wirtz, Department of Psychology
- Dr. Lester A. Zeager, Department of Economics
The East Carolina Alumni Association Awards for Teaching went to Dr. Christine Kowalczyk of the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management and Dr. David Loy of the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies. Dr. Kris Kirschbaum received the Robert L. Jones Award for Outstanding Teaching.
The Max Ray Joyner Award for Faculty Service through Distance Education honors a faculty member who has shown commitment and enthusiasm in teaching and mentoring off-campus students and who has demonstrated excellence in the delivery of courses through distance education. The recipient was Dr. William Sugar, Department of Mathematics, Science and Instructional Technology Education.
The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement for Research or Creative Activity was John D. Shearin, III, School of Theater and Dance. Dr. Jinling Huang, Department of Biology, and Dr. Huigang Liang, Department of Management Information Systems, received the Five-Year Achievement Awards.
Also recognized at the celebration were 85 members of the eighth class of the Servire Society. These students, faculty and staff completed over 100 hours of service to the community outside of the classroom during the previous calendar year. Thirty-three of the inductees were new members.
The James R. Talton Jr. Leadership Award was given to Dr. Angela Lamson from the College of Human Ecology. The award recognizes a leader who serves others in his or her work through collaboration, empathy, trust and the ethical use of authority.
The Centennial Awards for Excellence represent the highest awards given to ECU faculty and staff for excellence in the areas of service, leadership, ambition and spirit. Recipients in the area of ambition were Dr. Virginia Carraway-Stage, Department of Nutrition Science, and Barbara Brehm, Child Development and Family Relations.
Dr. Ed Stellwag, Department of Biology, and Dr. Dorothy Muller, Office for Faculty Excellence, were recognized for leadership.
And in the service category were Dr. Marianne Montgomery, Department of English; Mike Cox, Grounds Services – Health Sciences; and the Pre-Nursing Service Team. The Pre-Nursing Service Team members from the Department of Biology include Kristen Andrews, Anthony Capehart, Jason Gee, Elizabeth Jones and Margit Schmidt.
Recipients of the spirit award were Kim Scarborough of the Brody School of Medicine dean’s office, and Dr. Lynn Roeder, Dean of Students.
Chancellor Steve Ballard thanked all nominees and winners for their hard work and dedication. “What an outstanding faculty and staff we have that make so many contributions to our students, to our region, to our state, and to our nation,” he said. “I’m very appreciative to be a small part of that.”
The East Carolina University School of Music Chamber Singers, pictured above, were the winners in the 13th International Maribor Choral Competition Gallus in April. They were the only choral group invited from the United States and the first American choir to win the award in the history of the competition. (Contributed photos)
ECU Chamber Singers win international choral competition
The East Carolina University School of Music Chamber Singers became the first American choir ever to win the 13th International Maribor Choral Competition Gallus held April 10-12 in Maribor, Slovenia.
The competition is part of the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing, an annual contest between the winners of six European choral competitions of very high artistic quality. Despite its name, the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing is not limited to European choirs; invited ensembles from many countries participate.
The ECU Chamber Singers were the only choral group from the United States invited to the Maribor competition this year. Other participants came from Latvia, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, Indonesia and Slovenia.
With the win, the ECU Chamber Singers qualified for the finals of the European Grand Prix competition in Varna, Bulgaria, in 2016.
Andrew Crane, director of the ECU Chamber Singers, displays the awarded sculpture of Jacobus Gallus, the Slovenian Renaissance composer for whom the contest is named.
“It is a true honor to be invited to represent the United States in an international choral competition at this level,” said Andrew Crane, Chamber Singers director. “The other invited choirs had very impressive professional resumes, and I imagine they thought of us as underdogs. Our victory is a testament to the hard work, intense preparation and dedication of this special group of ECU students.”
The ECU Chamber Singers were selected to compete in Slovenia, a small country in south-central Europe near Italy, because of their outstanding performance at the Tolosa International Choral Contest in Spain last year. Owing to the high profile of the competition and the honor of being invited to compete, the competition funds the cost of lodging and food for the singers while in Maribor.
ECU’s choral group consists of auditioned undergraduate and graduate students, and is the select choral ensemble at the university. They maintain a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule, and focus predominantly on unaccompanied choral literature suitable for advanced chamber choir.
As the winner, ECU’s School of Music receives a 2,500 Euro cash prize to be used for choral activities, and the Chamber Singers receive a first place medal, the flag of the competition and a sculpture of Jacobus Gallus, the Slovenian Renaissance composer for whom the contest is named.
— ECU News Services
Nursing professor Dr. Pamela Reis, left, and nurse-midwifery student Farrah Forney review information about a virtual patient online. The virtual patient is being used in a plan of treatment that includes faculty and students from multiple disciplines at ECU. (Photos courtesy of Pamela Reis)
ECU rolls out first interprofessional virtual patient case
Students and residents representing three of East Carolina University’s health sciences programs recently participated in the university’s first interprofessional virtual patient case.
Between April 6 and 10, a dozen nurse-midwifery students from the College of Nursing, four general dentistry residents from the School of Dental Medicine and a medical student from the Brody School of Medicine collaborated online in small teams to formulate an interprofessional plan of care for a virtual patient created by ECU faculty from multiple disciplines.
ECU nursing professor Dr. Pamela Reis, right, shows virtual patient details to Dr. Robert Carter, director of the General Practice Residency program for the ECU School of Dental Medicine.
“Almost all of ECU’s graduate nursing programs are offered primarily online, and because we have students from across the state and from neighboring states, creating face-to-face learning opportunities with learners from different disciplines is challenging and fraught with barriers,” said Dr. Pamela Reis, an assistant professor of nursing in the College of Nursing who spearheaded the project.
Funded through a Health Resources and Services Administration grant, the pilot project employed a new learning management system called the Vertical Education System. Reis said ECU is the fourth school in the nation to use this innovative, web-based learning platform designed by faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The program’s simulated, interactive electronic health record allows the virtual patient’s health history to be saved so the case can continue to unfold over subsequent semesters, Reis explained.
In this first scenario, a young woman was referred for health care by the criminal justice system due to her methamphetamine addiction, a growing problem in eastern North Carolina. This patient also had oral, gynecologic and mental health issues in addition to unmet primary care needs. As her case evolves, the patient will become pregnant and eventually develop a serious health condition that will require continued collaborative care, Reis said.
“We’d eventually like to use the case as a six-to-12-week curricular activity involving all the health sciences, and maybe even span multiple semesters,” Reis said. She added that organizers envision a consortium wherein all universities using the platform will contribute and borrow patient cases from each other.
Dr. Robert Carter, director of the General Practice Residency program for the School of Dental Medicine, said this project “teaches a dentist how to be an effective member of an interprofessional team.
“This exercise increases knowledge of other resources and support systems available to patients – such as different health care disciplines, social services and counseling – which all play a part in helping people with multifaceted needs,” said Carter.
“It also helps learners develop professional relationships across system boundaries, which results in an improved referral process and better collaboration in assessing and treating patients with a variety of problems,” he said.
Vertical Education System administrators can access a wide range of reports detailing team performance as well as an individual learner’s mastery of domain-specific knowledge.
Other faculty members who helped with the project include clinical assistant professor Dr. Janet Tillman in the College of Nursing, and assistant professor Dr. Kelly Reinsmith-Jones from the School of Social Work in the College of Human Ecology. Also from the College of Human Ecology, Dr. Megan Davidson and Dr. Mark Jones in the Department of Criminal Justice contributed their expertise.
—Amy Adams Ellis
ECU biology professor Carol Goodwillie, standing, was honored by the UNC Board of Governors for excellence in teaching. Pictured above, she explains a concept to her students. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)
ECU biology professor recognized for superior instruction
An expert in plant evolution who makes research an integral part of her classroom instruction is East Carolina University’s recipient of the University of North Carolina system’s highest teaching award.
Carol Goodwillie, an associate professor of biology, has received the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award.
She said the recognition shows the importance she places on instruction.
“At this stage of my career, it’s become my top priority,” she said.
Goodwillie said her research guides her teaching, and research activities help engage and train students in biological concepts, methods and the scientific process. She uses a two-acre plot on the ECU West Research Campus (the former Voice of America site on VOA Site C Road) as an extended part of her classroom where students study and learn.
“They gain a lot of familiarity with the local flora, they gain experience in field research techniques, then they learn how to form hypotheses and analyze data,” she said.
Goodwillie embraces active learning and has incorporated inquiry-based methods into all of her classes from genetics to evolutionary theory to field botany. The result is lively, interactive classes without the monologue characteristic of many large class lectures.
“I find that my students learn most effectively when I encourage them to be scientific explorers, to observe, analyze and test hypotheses both inside and outside the classroom,” she said. “I involve students in research all the time. They go, ‘Ah, that’s what you were talking about.’”
The popularity of her courses, even the most difficult, attests to the success of her methods. She continues to develop her courses – similar to how she conducts research, she said – recently adding a service-learning project where students identify and remove invasive plants from local parks.
Recognition of her outstanding teaching includes being named to the ECU CollegeSTAR “Top Ten” List of Effective Teachers (2014), being recognized as an ECU Scholar-Teacher (2013) and receiving the UNC Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award (2008).
"Carol is noteworthy because she brings to her teaching the same rigor she brings to her research,” said Jeff McKinnon, chair of the biology department at ECU. “At the same time, she lets students know she’s committed to their success.”
McKinnon said that despite difficult classes that are often heavy in math, Goodwillie’s students frequently sign up for more. "So her classes are always packed," he said. "She’s remarkable for her ability to deliver challenging material in an accessible way."
Goodwillie said she would recommend new faculty members experiment and explore new ways of teaching as they start their careers.
“Let yourself be creative, and bring some fun into the classroom,” she said.
One of her earliest students is now completing post-doctoral work and applying for university teaching jobs. “It’s very rewarding,” she said of seeing students become teachers. As for herself, she plans to stay in the classroom – whether indoors or out – and keep taking on new courses.
Goodwillie has a bachelor of music in flute performance from Oberlin College in Ohio, a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a doctorate in botany from the University of Washington.
In addition to her teaching, Goodwillie has amassed a significant body of research. Since joining the ECU faculty in 2001 following post-doctoral studies at the University of British Columbia, she has published 27 papers in peer-reviewed journals, involving undergraduate researchers in six of them; made 25 scholarly presentations; received, with colleagues, almost $700,000 in education and research grants; and served as associate editor of the American Journal of Botany and on numerous grant review panels and journal review boards.
The Board of Governors of the 17-campus UNC system selected recipients from each institution. They represent an array of academic disciplines, were nominated by special committees on their home campuses and were selected by the Board of Governors’ Committee on Personnel and Tenure.
Each award winner will receive a commemorative bronze medallion and a $12,500 cash prize. All awards will be presented by a Board of Governors member during each campus’ spring graduation ceremonies.
Martin County seventh graders at Riverside Middle School, left to right, Azion Hyman, T’san Griffin, Ashaunti Hyman (Azion’s twin sister) and Sara Beach watch the progress of flatworms as they swim in a solution of caffeine. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)
Students study effects of drug addiction on flatworms through ECU grant
Some seventh-grade students in Martin and Pitt counties have found even the tiniest of creatures can become addicted to sugar and caffeine – and energy drinks can be lethal.
That’s the outcome of the first of several studies with flatworms and the pharmacology of addiction funded through a four-year, $1.012 million grant from the National Institute of Health / National Institute on Drug Abuse to researchers at East Carolina University and Temple University.
Dr. Rhea Miles and Dr. Scott Rawls received the funds to develop a sixth-to-12th-grade curriculum using planarians, or flatworms, that display the pre-clinical effects of addictive substances such as nicotine and alcohol. Miles is associate professor of science education in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Instructional Technology Education in the ECU College of Education. Rawls is an ECU alumnus and associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and the Center for Substance Abuse Research at Temple University School of Medicine.
Middle school student Sandra Garcia fills photo trays with solution to acquire data on how flatworms respond to addictive substances.
The researchers worked with two middle schools in Martin County and six middle schools in Pitt County on the Science Education Against Drug Abuse Partnership pilot program. The hands-on curriculum exposes students to research, creates awareness about biomedical science careers and teaches them about the science of drug addiction and the adverse effects of abused substances.
“They had not considered that caffeine and sugar could be a drug,” said Tonya Little, assistant principal at Riverside Middle School in Williamston and STEM Coordinator for the Martin County Schools. “They were really able to see the connections to their life.”
“I learned just because they (worms) don’t have what we have (arms or legs), they still act like we do,” said T’san Griffin, a Riverside Middle School student. “And it has taught me patience.”
In one experiment, students placed flatworms into photo developing trays containing different concentrations of sugar and caffeine.
“You can’t tell a worm to go straight,” Little said. “The purpose of the developing tray was to give them a lane.”
Students used the stopwatches on their phones to time how long it took the flatworms to travel five centimeters. They discussed how the different concentrations of caffeine or sugar affected the motility of the worms. The students uploaded a video of the worms’ movement to a computer program to calculate the average velocity. If it takes a worm longer than five minutes to travel five centimeters, it is probably having seizures and will die if it is not detoxed, the students said.
Seventh-grader Sara Beach said she now tries to avoid sugar and caffeine. Most of the students said they’ve become more aware of food ingredients as a result of participating in the study.
“I drink more water,” Ashaunti Hyman said.
In another experiment, students put the worms in solutions containing energy drinks - beverages that contain large amounts of caffeine or other stimulants. Caffeine can cause nervousness, restlessness or insomnia in some people. It can trigger seizures or abnormal heart rhythms at high amounts. An energy drink can have 75 to more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce serving compared to a typical soft drink with 30 to 60 milligrams.
The worms wouldn’t swim until the solution of energy drink was 1 percent or less, students said. “Some of them didn’t survive.”
Students learned that if you take too much of a drug, it can cause illness, serious complications such as heart attacks or possibly death.Middle school student Sandra Garcia fills photo trays with solution to acquire data on how flatworms respond to addictive substances.
“I think this program resonates with some students who may not listen to ‘just say no,’ ” Little said. “It’s more impactful than just ‘don’t do drugs’ or ‘this is your brain on drugs.’ ”
The data was calculated and plotted on graphs and each four-student team created a presentation on their results. Students presented their findings at a conference this month and will make another presentation to 4-H next month.
Little, who is pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership at ECU, hopes the program’s success will mean it will eventually be included in the regular middle school curriculum.
Two other STEM teachers at the school are Franklin Scott Jr., who teaches robotics and 8th grade math, and Sarah Delph, who teaches 8th grade science. Both are ECU alumni.
“A majority of students don’t get a lot of opportunities to do hands-on (learning) anymore,” Scott said. “Any opportunity to do that, to see, touch and feel, is appreciated.”
Delph said students are motivated, more focused and learn to work cooperatively as a result of the program.
ECU has started recruiting high and middle schools in several North Carolina counties to participate in the program for the next school year. Temple University has public school teacher cohorts in Virginia and Pennsylvania.