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ECU, U.S. State Department work together on groundbreaking climate change course

GREENVILLE, NC   (Feb. 2, 2010)   —   East Carolina University is working with the U.S. Department of State to promote a course on climate change that will be viewed across the globe.
Intended to foster cross-cultural understanding of global climate change, the first-of-its-kind partnership will kick off Wednesday, Feb. 3, with an 8 a.m. presentation by President Obama’s top science adviser, John P. Holdren, on “Science and the Impact of Climate Change.”
Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, will speak by videoconference to students at ECU and at partner universities in India, China and Brazil — three countries that are major players in the climate change debate.

Austin Bunch, ECU associate provost, hailed the partnership as a “feather in the cap” for the university.

“With the global attention to climate change, this course offered by the Department of Geography and the complementary activities that are planned worldwide bring attention to ECU’s leadership in the use of technology, in building global partnerships, as well as increasing our students’ awareness of their parts in being global citizens,” Bunch said. “It is a significant example of our quality in teaching and learning.”

The State Department chose ECU because of its record of sustaining classroom partnerships among students from several countries, said Rosina Chia, ECU assistant vice chancellor for global academic initiatives.

In 2004, Chia and Elmer Poe, associate vice chancellor for academic outreach, started a Global Understanding course that brings together students around the world via videoconferencing. An ECU student, for instance, might spend five weeks working on a project with a Pakistani student, five weeks with a Chinese student and five weeks with a Russian student. Today, that 8-section course connects 28 colleges and universities from 22 countries.

The pilot Global Climate Change class will match students with peers at other universities to work on projects addressing the issue in their communities. Those institutions are Shandong University in China, Faculdade de Jaguariúna in Brazil and the University of Jammu in India.

Experts from the participating countries also will address students.

Students already have studied consensus building and conflict resolution. “We anticipate that these four countries will have very different viewpoints on how to resolve the problem of climate change,” Chia said.
In the fall, the State Department will be reaching out to a worldwide community interested in discussing global climate change – potentially tens of thousands of people, Poe said. “The hope is that the course will simply stimulate an ongoing discussion about climate change within a broad community around the world.”
Greenville-area sponsors for the pilot course are Greenville Utilities Commission and North Carolina’s Eastern Region, the economic development agency for the area’s 13 counties.
Presentations throughout the semester will feature other high-ranking experts:

Feb. 24: “Mitigation Policies and Technologies,” David Sandalow, assistant secretary for policy and international affairs, U.S. Department of Energy.

March 17: “Adaption,” Marcia McNutt, director, U.S. Geological Survey.

April 7: “Multilateral and Local Actions,” Jonathan Pershing, deputy special envoy for climate change, State Department.

The public is invited to view Holdren’s presentation live and participate at


Contact: Austin Bunch, ECU associate provost | 252-328-0607