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Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences

ECU's Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Announces Three New Department Chairs

June 17, 2016

By Lacey L. Gray
Director of Marketing and Communications
Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences

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East Carolina University’s Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences is announcing the appointment of three new department chairs.

Dr. Jefferson “Jeff” Shinpaugh, professor of physics and director of the ECU accelerator laboratory, is the next chair of the college’s Department of Physics, effective July 1, 2016.


Shinpaugh came to ECU in 1994. He oversaw and supervised a major renovation of the ECU Accelerator Laboratory, funded by the National Science Foundation and the ECU Division of Research and Graduate Studies, and he has been serving as interim chair of physics since July 1, 2015.

“I am honored to be selected as the next chair of the department, and I look forward to serving the department in this role,” said Shinpaugh. “We have great faculty who are committed to their research and are dedicated to teaching and student training at all levels in our BS, MS and PhD programs.”

Shinpaugh’s research interests, which have received more than $2.6 million in financial support from NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy, include biological effects of radiation, radiation damage in materials and particle track structure, material analysis and modification using ion beams, and atomic collision processes. He has conducted experiments at various ion beam facilities in the U.S. and Germany, including the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, and the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

As chair of physics, Shinpaugh has several goals for the department.

One of our primary goals is to continue to expand our research programs in biomedical physics. We expect to strengthen our collaborations with the other science departments and with the medical school, and for our undergraduate programs, we expect to significantly increase the number of physics majors. A physics degree provides many career options, and our graduates have found very successful careers,” said Shinpaugh.

Dr. Alethia Cook, associate professor of political science and director of the security studies program, has been named chair of the Department of Political Science. She succeeds associate professor of political science Dr. Bob Thompson. Recently retired, Thompson served as the department’s interim chairperson from May 2014 until May 2016.

I am very excited to have this opportunity to lead the Department of Political Science,” said Cook. “We have incredibly talented faculty and students who are among the best on campus. I’m looking forward to being in a position to help the department’s faculty and students achieve their goals.”

Coming to ECU in 2007, Cook’s attraction to ECU included her ability to be part of the Security Studies Program. Cook said it was particularly important that she play a role in developing the courses and curriculum for the Master of Science in Security Studies, which admitted its first students in 2010. Under Cook’s direction, first as assistant director of the program in 2007, then as director in 2012, the program continues to grow. In the spring of 2015, a new BA/BS Security Studies informal concentration was created within the Multidisciplinary Studies Program.

Cook’s research interests span various aspects of homeland and international security, including Weapons of Mass Destruction, terrorism, pandemic disease and the factors that influence violence in conflicts.

Since coming to ECU, Cook has published three books Emergency Response to Domestic Terrorism: How Bureaucracies Reacted to the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, The United States and Iran: Policy Challenges and Opportunities, and Drawing a Line in the Water: The Mavi Marmara Incident and Israel’s Naval Blockade of Gaza. She has two additional works in development, Conflict Dynamics: Civil Wars and Factors that Determine Their Progress (under contract with University of Georgia Press) and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Threats, Impacts and Response (under contract with Rowman & Littlefield).

In her new role as department chair, Cook plans to build on the department’s strengths.

Building on the department’s existing strengths will be an important factor,” said Cook. “These include a high level of scholarly productivity, strong and positive interaction with our students, interdisciplinary collaboration across campus and a growing Master of Science in Security Studies program. It is important to not lose sight of these areas where we are excelling.”

On August 16, associate professor of English Dr. Marianne Montgomery will step into the role of chair for the college’s Department of English. Montgomery came to ECU in 2006, and currently, she is serving as interim chair of the department.

I’m excited by the opportunity to lead a vibrant, vital department whose work is central to ECU’s mission of student success, public service and regional transformation,” said Montgomery. “English is a big department, so this is a big new job. I am fortunate to have supportive and experienced colleagues in the department and in the college to help me to learn this new role.”

Montgomery, who specializes in Shakespeare and Renaissance drama and is particularly interested in English accounts of cultural encounter, including the work of Thomas Harriot, succeeds professor of English Dr. Donald Palumbo. Palumbo served as the department’s interim chairperson from July 1, 2015 until April 30, 2016.

My goal is for English to be a department that works constructively with other units in the college and university, attracts lots of students and educates them well, uses its resources wisely to encourage productivity in teaching and research/creative activity, and celebrates individual and collective successes,” said Montgomery. “In the coming year, we will focus on recruiting, workload and our academic program review self-study.”

Dr. William M. Downs, dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, underscores the importance he places on these three programs as engines of excellence in the college.

“Political science, physics and English are disciplines that are absolutely essential for the success of our College of Arts and Sciences and for our university’s broader mission. Together, they account for more than 700 of the college’s undergraduate and graduate majors,” said Downs. “I have great confidence that these three new departmental leaders will work effectively to promote impactful research, provide inspirational teaching and serve our community. I am grateful to have their talents on the Harriot College leadership team.”