ECU’s Horizon Awards celebrates service

About 130 faculty, staff and students who embody East Carolina University’s motto, Servire — to serve – were honored recently during the Chancellor’s Horizon Awards for Service. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Horizon Awards did not have an in-person ceremony.

“One of the core reasons that brought me back to Pirate Nation as chancellor is the service mentality with which our community pursues its mission,” Chancellor Philip Rogers said in his virtual introductory speech. “So, as you might imagine, it always fills my soul with a great amount of joy when I have the opportunity to celebrate ECU faculty, staff and students who exemplify our motto.”

The Talton Leadership Award is the most prestigious award presented annually at ECU’s Horizon Awards. It was created to honor the servant leadership of the late James R. Talton Jr. ’65, who was a two-term chairman of the ECU Board of Trustees, a prominent civic leader, a former chairman of the ECU Foundation and a member of the College of Business Advisory Council.

Traditionally, the award recognizes one student, administrator, faculty or staff member in recognition of their outstanding servant leadership in serving others in their work through collaboration, empathy, trust and the ethical use of authority.

This year, five leaders were named as recipients of the Talton Leadership Award: Dr. Jason Foltz, Dr. Chris Locklear, Dr. Purificación Martinez, Capt. Chris Sutton and Dr. LaNika Wright.

(Video by ECU Creative Services and Reed Wolfley)
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According to the selection committee, “As we know, this has been an unprecedented year for all of us. COVID-19 has called on us to adjust, adapt, rearrange, and yes, even pivot. As we have done that, there have been many who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.”

The committee chose to honor the following recipients because of the outstanding leadership displayed in their the day-to-day, work but also during the university’s response to COVID-19.

Talton Leadership Award

Jason Foltz

Jason Foltz

Dr. Jason A. Foltz is the chief medical officer for ECU Physicians. He practices servant leadership both as a physician and in his role as the senior physician executive of ECU Physicians.

Foltz leads the ECU Physicians COVID-19 pandemic response team. Through his leadership and determination, ECU Physicians transitioned to virtual visits in less than a week of the onset of the pandemic, allowing the organization to continue to meet patient care needs without the risk of additional infections. According to his nomination, Foltz’s interaction with patients, including anxious ones, in the vaccine clinic provides strong evidence of his overwhelming compassion, professionalism, respect and mutual sacrifice.

Through his efforts, ECU Physicians opened Greenville’s first drive-thru COVID-19 testing center for patients and ECU staff. This center, which is still operating, was adapted to allow for a location to perform a safe mass flu clinic for ECU employees and their family members this past fall. Additionally, Foltz helped to coordinate and manage the vaccine clinic.

Chris Locklear

Dr. Chris Locklear, chief of staff, works tirelessly to benefit ECU students and employees. According to his peers, he is a hugely generous person who sacrifices for the greater good.

Over the past decade, through changes in university leadership, Locklear has filled key leadership positions. According to his nomination, Locklear has adapted to each new challenge, developed the knowledge and skills required for each position and been a very effective leader.

Most recently, Locklear served as chair of the university’s COVID-19 committee, facilitating important conversations and the work of key players across ECU, to navigate the university through an unprecedented and tumultuous time dealing with the pandemic.

Purificación Martinez

Dr. Purificación Martinez, associate professor of Hispanic studies in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, is known as the kind of leader who gets things done by her colleagues.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the pivot to online learning were exceptionally disruptive for the ECU community — faculty, staff and students alike. Everyone had to quickly learn new ways of doing work, and Martínez, as incoming chair of the faculty, rose to the occasion.

She continued the work started by her predecessor, Jeff Popke, in implementing electronic Personnel Action Dossiers (PADs) using Microsoft Teams and DocuSign. Martínez is now working with the Department of Academic Affairs on software procurement for a more sustainable electronic PAD system.

As ECU prepared for the fall semester, courses with students already enrolled had to be migrated to a block schedule. This needed to be done quickly, during the summer. But for Martínez, shared governance works best when it proceeds through regular order. With her leadership, ECU will have a calendar process that allows for innovative delivery methods and term lengths while also offering stability to students and faculty.

Chris Sutton

ECU Police Department Capt. Chris Sutton’s professionalism and ability to build relationships across ECU, local and state agencies and the federal government have directly contributed to the university’s success and safety. Sutton is mission driven, focused on securing the safety and security of ECU students and the community in allowing them to have a voice, no matter how popular or unpopular it is.

In 2015, ECU and the nation saw a significant rise in social activism, from political protests to demonstrations on educational issues. During this same time, concerns over freedom of expression policies and management within higher education took center stage. As ECU administrators began to work with students and outside community organizations, the ECU Police Department found a vocal and steady champion in Sutton. His support for ECU’s students and educational mission were demonstrated numerous times through security planning, policy development, event management and consistent and regular communication.

During fall 2020, in the midst of the pandemic quarantine, Sutton coordinated the patrol of the neighboring communities through the Responsible Behavior Initiative, to prevent large gatherings. In conjunction with University Communications, Sutton created messaging and educational materials to encourage students to comply.

According to his nomination, Sutton is a positive agent of change who continually looks for opportunities to better himself and positively impact Pirate Nation. In his own words, he is “out to win the day!”

LaNika Wright

Dr. LaNika Wright is director of ECU’s Student Health Services. According to her peers, Wright is highly respected by the university community and is especially valued by the medical community. Her commitment to supporting the health of ECU students and her proven leadership in the state and in our region regarding college student health issues are noteworthy. Her extraordinary efforts during the pandemic provided Wright the opportunity to shine as she led her team through vast uncharted waters.

During the initial days of the coronavirus pandemic, Wright helped her staff in adapting quickly to new procedures and protocols in response to the demand to ensure the safety of ECU students, staff and faculty. She worked to find solutions based on facts to provide seamless service to make the campus community safer. Wright and her team are responsible for testing, contact tracing, communicating information to relevant stakeholders and for administering the vaccine.

From the beginning of the crisis, Wright has been a visionary leader who has devoted herself in sustained and selfless service, working tirelessly to shape ECU’s response to the unprecedented challenge presented by the coronavirus.

N.C. Campus Compact Community Impact Student Award

In addition to the Talton Leadership Award, ECU student Seth Lemon was recognized by North Carolina Campus Compact, a statewide network of colleges and universities committed to community engagement, for his outstanding leadership and service. Lemon is a recipient of the network’s Community Impact Student Award, which honors one student leader at each member school.

Outstanding Faculty Contributions to Community Engaged Learning

Many of ECU’s faculty accomplish the university’s mission of service by working with local community organizations through service-learning and community-based partnerships. These partnerships help students learn more effectively and help ECU’s partners provide better service to eastern North Carolina and beyond. The Outstanding Faculty Contributions to Community Engaged Learning Award recognizes teaching strategies that have positively impacted students and the community. The award is presented to a faculty member who has demonstrated the ability to enrich both course content and the community through the application of community engaged learning.

The 2020-21 recipient is Dr. David Loy from the Department of Recreation Sciences. In 2020, Loy created the Pirate Wellness Program to serve as a telehealth treatment program for individuals with disabilities and as a capstone learning platform for recreational therapy students unable to obtain traditional face-to-face internships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students provided treatment programs for children with disabilities referred by the Pitt County Schools Adapted Physical Educators, older adults through the Pitt County Council on Aging and young adults from Pitt Community College’s Career Academy. Loy was recognized for his resilience in providing a community engaged learning experience despite the pandemic, as well as his variety of partnerships within the community.

The award is sponsored by the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement and provides a $1,000 faculty development award in support of course needs for professional development.

Read about additional award recipients by clicking on a link or image below.

Public Service Internship Fellows Internship Recognition

A regionally visible program included in the Horizon Awards is the Public Fellows Internship (PFI) recognition. Supported by the State Employees Credit Union (SECU), 19 students were recognized for their successful completion of the program.

The Public Fellows Internship program places undergraduate students with regional organizations in projects that address community-identified priorities. The mission of the program is to offer workplace experiences for ECU students in building professional skills while helping rural communities address public issues.

This year, the program worked much differently.

“In the middle of student recruitment, many approved sites were unsure of how to move forward safely, so the program was moved to fall,” said Cassie Keel, university program associate in the Office of Community Engagement and Research. “All the internships were done virtually. Projects such as an entrepreneurship program for a local community, research on best practices for an electric vehicle charging station, best practices and guidance on recruiting, marketing and teaching in a virtual world had pivoted.”

The students proved to be resilient.

“Learning new skills like research and grant writing, I have never had an experience that has been so enriching as the one I had as a Public Fellows intern. It helped push me out of my comfort zone and I believe that has made me a stronger person,” said Desteney Hopkins Edwards, who worked at the Pocosin Arts School of Fine Craft.

Pre-dental student Hatcher Price, an intern at the Windsor-Bertie Chamber of Commerce said, “I intend on moving back to my hometown to practice dentistry in order to provide a bigger volume of dental care to the rural area. Serving as an intern was a wonderful experience that gave me a lot of new insight on a town that I thought I already knew so much about.”

Keel added, “At the end of the internships, many students stated they learned how to manage their time better, prioritize and even say no from time to time. They also reported learning the little things, the soft skills, like managing the technology and implementing heightened communications skills that are likely not learned in the classroom.”

This year’s Public Fellows interns, their fields of study and organizational placements were:

Darius Alexander, political science and philosophy — Ayden Chamber of Commerce

Mina Akhnoukh, engineering — N.C. Civil

Meredith Ferreri, political science — Edenton-Chowan Chamber of Commerce

Makayla Harris, family and community services — Love a Sea Turtle

Desteney Hopkins Edwards, fine arts — Pocosin Arts School of Fine Craft

Peyton Jackson, biology — N.C. Coastal Federation

Emma La Rocca, anthropology — Interfaith Refugee Ministry

Daniel McCoy, management and management information systems — Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce

Dejah McManus, accounting — Wayne County Public Library

Vedika Modi, public health and English — Pitt Partnership for Children

Jack Pendergraph, political science — BCED

Hatcher Price, public health — Windsor-Bertie Chamber of Commerce

Dana Shefet, public health — Hope Restorations

Nathaniel Smith, marketing — ECVC Marketing

Emily Soeken, theatre arts — Arts of the Pamlico

Francisco Solano, chemistry and physics — AMEXCAN

Julie Vincent, marketing — Heart for ENC

Tiana Washington, neuroscience, psychology and Hispanic studies — READ ENC

Aaron Watson, management information systems and marketing — Hope Restorations

The program began in 2014 with support from the SECU Foundation. North Carolina residents that maintain a 3.0 GPA in their field of study and have completed at least 60 semester credit hours are eligible. PFI students participate in 20 hours of leadership and professional development workshops in addition to the 330-hour internship experience. Each student selected for the program receives a stipend of $4,500. 

BB&T Excellence in Student Leadership Award

The BB&T Center for Leadership Development sponsors the Excellence in Student Leadership Award annually for two ECU students who have shown exemplary skills or achievement in campus leadership, made a positive impact on a North Carolina community or helped to address a significant problem within the state.

The recipients, William Grine and Olivia Sessoms, will receive a $2,000 award.

Grine is a third-year student in the School of Dental Medicine at ECU. Grine serves as the president of the Dental Student Government and served as a J. Bradley Wilson Albert Schweitzer Fellow, implementing a plan to address the need for oral health and nutrition education for Head Start students in Pitt County.

Grine’s dedication toward dentistry extends beyond school. He served as an Eagle Scout with Boy Scouts of America, is a member of ECU’s Servire Society and participated in research and publications on oral health recommendations during COVID-19. Grine’s nominators spoke to his service, leadership and dedication. “William recognizes that being considered a leader is a process, not a destination. It is evident that William does not serve as a leader for the recognition. He serves to grow and improve himself and those around him. He serves to make his community a better place.”

Sessoms is a senior majoring in engineering with an environmental concentration. As an undergraduate, her passion includes promoting sustainability in communities and supporting students from underrepresented fields in STEM. Sessoms’ impact at ECU and the Greenville community is seen through her work with ECU’s Innovation and Design Lab, National Science Foundation I-Corps program and participation in multiple research assistant roles with faculty in the Department of Engineering.

As an ECU Honors College Chancellor’s Fellow, Sessoms’ passion for sustainability and STEM education expands beyond her research. She serves as an ECU Pirate Navigator, resident advisor, member of the Society of Women Engineers and National Society of Professional Engineers, among other roles and honors. Prior to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, she initiated a large-scale composting operation targeting ECU’s dining hall food waste. Sessoms’ nominators spoke to her leadership and commitment to service: “Confident in nature, she is a dedicated student with transformative abilities who finds success in places overlooked by others.”

Staff Emeritus Recognition

This year, seven ECU employees were recognized as staff emeritus. The title is awarded to staff members who have or will retire within 12 months of their nomination and have a minimum of 10 years of service at ECU. These individuals have a distinguished record of service, dedication, leadership and innovation, and were nominated by one of their peers.

Susan Terri Gray — Academic Affairs

Ellen Hilgoe — Academic Affairs

Ernest Marshburn — REDE

Kay Murphy — University Advancement

Kathryn Avery Pruitt — Academic Affairs

Debra Steinmetz — Administration and Finance

Karen Traynor — Academic Affairs

Servire Society

A total of 85 inductees to ECU’s Servire Society, the university’s highest service awards, were announced Feb. 5. The Servire Society recognizes faculty, staff and students who exemplify ECU’s motto, Servire, or “to serve,” and to date has inducted more than 1,000 members.

Due to the pandemic, the number of required service hours was reduced from 100 to 50 for 2020.

“More importantly, especially during the pandemic, our community is still taking our mission of service very seriously, showing commitment to serving others during a challenging time,” said Dr. Dennis McCunney, director of intercultural affairs. “The Servire Society highlights some of the best work by ECU faculty, students and staff.”

This year’s recipients are:

Antonio Blake, student, Kinesiology/Sports Management

Andrew Brimhall, Human Development and Family Science

Courtney Caiola, College of Nursing, Department of Nursing Science

Chad Carwein, Health Sciences Campus Facilities Services

Jamie Chamberlin, student, Biochemistry and Chemistry

Nancy Childs, News and Communications

Tamra Church, Health Education and Promotion

Elizabeth Cochran, student, Medicine

Lisa Compton, Campus Living

Lucy Cox, University Housing Services

Jennifer Crotty, BSOM Pediatrics

Breanna Culler, student, Social Work

Denise Dickins, College of Business, Department of Accounting

Najwa Dixon, student, Nursing Intended

Denise Donica, Occupational Therapy

Monique Duru, student, Doctor of Dental Medicine

Donna Lou Edwards, Cardiovascular Sciences

Cindy Elmore, School of Communication

Johna Faulconer, Literacy Studies, English Education and History Education

Todd Finley, Literacy Studies, English Education and History Education

LaQuanda Fredericks, student, Medicine

Erin Frost, Department of English

Emma Goldberg, student, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Physiology

Will Grine, student, Doctor of Dental Medicine

Teresa Gross, Nephrology and Hypertension

Rose Haddock, Health Education and Promotion

Lou Anna Hardee, College of Education Dean’s Office

Archana Hegde, Human Development and Family Science

Brittanie Height, student, Doctor of Dental Medicine

Jennifer Hodgson, Human Development and Family Science

Holly Ingram, student, Medicine

Paige Irons, Health Education and Promotion

Jakob Jensen, Human Development and Family Science

Laura Jolly, Department of English

Plummer Jones, Interdisciplinary Professions

Sharon Justice, College of Business, Management

Brenda Killingsworth, College of Business, MIS

Heather Kindl, Department of Baccalaureate Education, College of Nursing

Andrea Kitta, Department of English

William Koch, Campus Safety and Auxiliary Services

Angela Lamson, Human Development and Family Science

Hannah Lawson, student, Science Education

Grace Lee, Student, Occupational Therapy

Janice Lewis, Academic Library Services

Aaron Lucier, Campus Living

Timothy Madden, College of Business, Management

Robert Malpass, student, College of Engineering

Calli Massengill, student, Special Education, Adapted Curriculum

Kayla Mayes, student, Medicine

Brittany Means, student, Medicine

Tina Mickey, College of Education

Octavia Miller, student, Doctor of Dental Medicine

Lauren Moore, student, Medicine

Sandra Nobles, Undergraduate Admissions

Tosha Owens, College of Education, Special Education, Foundations and Research

Heather Panczykowski, Occupational Therapy

Joshua Parke, student, Medicine

James Parker Jr., student, Doctor of Dental Medicine

Anisha Patel, College of Education, STEM

Patricia Peebles, Administration and Finance, ITCS

Annette Peery, College of Nursing

Margaret Plonk, student, Health Services Management

Naimi Pothiwala, student, Public Health

Aisha Powell, College of Business

April Reed, College of Business, MIS

Tiffany Robertson, student, Special Education – Adapted Curriculum

Tia Robinson, student, Doctor of Dental Medicine

Melanie Sartore-Baldwin, Kinesiology

Debra Schisler, College of Business, Accounting

Ralph Scott, Academic Library Services

Michelle Skipper, Advanced Nursing Practice and Education

Leslie Spain, Academic Outreach Continuing and Distance Education

LuAnn Sullivan, College of Education Office of the Dean

Amy Swain, Special Education, Foundations and Research

Erika Taylor, Department of Family Medicine

Marsha Tripp, Special Education, Foundations and Research

Scarlett Walston, student, Doctor of Dental Medicine

Sandra Warren, Special Education, Foundations and Research

Jamie Williams, Health Education and Promotion

Julianne Yuziuk, student, Doctor of Dental Medicine

Guili Zhang, College of Education

Graphics by Natalie Shrader-Pruitt