Talk with any of the 10 juniors and seniors who are part of the Elite Pirate program, and you will walk away with a sense of what makes these students true leaders. Elite Pirates, who all have their own personal leadership stories, truly possess the drive, ambition, and passion for service that East Carolina University strives to instill within all of its students.
According to Laura McMaster, director of the Center for Student Leadership and Engagement, the ECU Elite Pirate program is a premiere recognition program designed to honor the top student leaders at East Carolina University, while making a positive change in the ECU community. She added that the purpose of the program is to provide students, who have extensive leadership experience, with the tools necessary to recognize how to engage in the leadership process to create positive sustainable change for the ECU community.
“The Elite Pirates are leadership ambassadors/liaisons who are charged with representing ECU at Greenville, North Carolina programs and events, working closely with the Greenville City Council,” said McMaster. “As seasoned leaders at ECU, these students are well equipped to empower others to engage in the leadership process.”
The Elite Pirate program has three main objectives, which are university relations, community relations, and facilitating and implementing a social justice symposium.
Concerning university relations, the Elite Pirates serve as leadership ambassadors/liaisons specifically to the Division of Student Affairs, but also to the entire university, said McMaster.
“They go to university functions to serve as hosts and to share their leadership experiences,” she said. “Oftentimes we have people visit campus who are interested in what our students are learning and what they know about leadership, and this is a group of students who can come in and easily show that. They need very little preparation time because we have thoroughly discussed what leadership at ECU means in our weekly meetings.”
For the community relations component, the members of the Elite Pirates are committed to the Greenville community and maintain a relationship within the community and the mayor’s office. For one project, they are partnering with Mayor Pro-Tem Rose Glover to assist local families during the holiday season.
“The Elite Pirates strive to have a student presence the Greenville community can look towards for leadership,” said McMaster.
Another major mission of the Elite Pirates was to facilitate and implement a social justice symposium, which occurred on November 17 in Mendenhall. The symposium featured nationally known speaker Dr. Jamie Washington. That morning, Washington discussed social justice in a big- picture way. Later that afternoon, the Elite Pirates had the chance to facilitate smaller group sessions where individuals discussed what social justice meant to them personally.
“The goal of the symposium was to create an increased awareness and understanding around the topic of social justice,” said McMaster.
The process to become an Elite Pirate
In order to become an Elite Pirate, the students completed an online application and submitted a one-to-two page essay featuring one of the pillars of ECU’s leadership framework, which includes, knowledge, relationships, service, wellbeing, or ethics, and how the topic relates to their personal ECU experiences. McMaster said around 33 students applied for the program. Based on the applications, the selection committee created a rubric to choose which students represented the epitome of scholarship, service, and leadership at the university. The chosen students were then asked to come in for interviews, and the group was narrowed down from there.
“At the 30-45 minute interviews, the candidates were asked to talk about their leadership experience, why service is an important part of ECU and how they have engaged in that, and how they were able to manage their priorities of school, life, involvement, et cetera,” said McMaster. “The interviewers rated the students on who was best able to articulate their experiences, and we went through and selected a team that made sense.”
Since scholarship is a major component of the Elite Pirates Program, each student must have at least a 3.0 GPA. All of the current students have well above a 3.5, with most of them bringing in a 4.0, said McMaster.
The Elite Pirate program has evolved over time. It started simply as recognition for students who exemplified leadership. In later years, the students participated in individualized social change projects. For the current program, McMaster and others in the Center for Student Leadership and Engagement had the vision of what the group of Elite Pirates could do if they focused on creating positive change together, hence the social justice symposium.
“We wanted to go in the direction of looking at their strengths together as a group, as opposed to individually,” said McMaster.Â
As the program continues to grow and flourish, the students have truly shown what it means to be an Elite Pirate.
McMaster referenced the saying “to whom much is given, much is expected,” and said each Elite Pirate embodies this thought.
“The word ‘elite’ might make some people think ‘better than,’ but being an Elite Pirate actually means that ‘I have more things to do, I have more expectations, and I want to help others,’” said McMaster. “They have turned the word ‘elite’ on its head.”
The Elite Pirates also think ahead about what the program will look like in the future.
Â “Each Elite Pirate possesses a love for East Carolina University and excitement about who will become the next Elite Pirates,” she said. “They want to leave a legacy for the next group.”
Meet the Elite Pirates:
Chris, Corey, Kristen, Eric, DaJuan, Mia, Taj, Bruce, Ann, and Jennifer
Hometown: Fayetteville, NC
Before becoming an Elite Pirate, Christopher Battle learned about the program from friends who previously participated. He was automatically drawn to the service aspect of the program. Read more
Hometown: South Bend, Indiana
Major: Theatre arts, with a minor in sociology
As an Indiana native, Ann Schafer is used to people asking her how she ended up at East Carolina University. For Schafer, the answer is simple. Read more
Hometown: Goldsboro, NC
Major: Exercise Physiology
Jennifer Warren has already shown she has what it takes to be an effective leader. Warren was a general member of ECU Ambassadors for a year and served on their executive board for two years as the vice president of administration. Read more
Hometown: Wilson, NC
Major: Chemistry, with Hispanic studies minor
Before Taj Nasser became a student at East Carolina University, he would visit his older brother who was attending the university. Nasser said he loved the environment, how friendly everyone was, and the beautiful campus. Read more
Hometown: Wilson, NC
Major: Business management, with a minor in communication
Joining Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. the fall of 2010 jumpstarted DaJuan Lucas' leadership experience. That first year he was instrumental in organizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. week. Read more
Hometown: Rocky Mount, NC
Major: Biology, with a business minor
Corey Boles' leadership journey began when he became part of the Rising Leaders' Circle, an organization for freshmen and sophomores who are interested in becoming better leaders and joining Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society. Read more
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
Senior accounting major Eric Green's leadership experiences began after he became an orientation assistant, which led to joining other organizations. He became a part of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. where he is now the vice president. Read more
Hometown: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
During her time at ECU, senior Mia Marshall has been involved in numerous organizations including Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Epsilon Delta, Minority Association of Pre-Health Students, Habitat for Humanity, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Read more
Hometown: Greensboro, NC
When Bruce Pittman visited East Carolina University the first time for a scholarship interview, he immediately recognized the stellar quality of the faculty. After visiting another university and meeting their faculty members, Pittman said he noticed a stark difference. Read more
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Major: Public Health
Senior Kristen Everett said that her leadership experience began her sophomore year when she sat on the executive board of her honor society. She is currently the president of Golden Key Honour Society and the vice president of leadership for Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society. Read more
For more information about the Elite Pirate Program click here.
East Carolina University
East Fifth Street | Greenville, NC 27858-4353 USA | 252.328.6131