ECU Nursing buries pandemic momentos to be unearthed in 20 years


Items selected for the College of Nursing’s time capsules include:

  • Photos of the College of Nursing’s building, its classrooms and labs, as well as photos of students including clinical groups, student organizations and the Lamp of Learning Ceremony.
  • Letters from the senior class, RIBN students, first semester nursing students, the Holistic Health Organization, the Cadet Nurse Association and from the student who came up with the idea for the capsules, Brandon Phillips.
  • A thermometer.
  • An empty toilet paper roll, signifying the shortages during the pandemic.
  • A Pirate Nurse mask and mask holder.
  • Informational flyers and points of pride for the College of Nursing, the Honors College and the RIBN program.
  • A Christmas ornament with 2021, a mask and a needle on it.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • A Pirate Nurse sticker and a Pirate Nurse Network ID badge reel.
  • An outline of the undergraduate curriculum.
  • A form displaying the college’s current BSN Admissions Ranking Formula, used to help determine whether applicants are admitted.
  • A list of tuition and fees for 2021.
  • COVID-19 swab testing kits.
  • An MSNA graduation cord.
  • Newspaper articles about what life is likely to be like in 2040.

    On a sunny early December morning, students and faculty from the East Carolina University College of Nursing came together — and some stood apart — to be a part of burying two time capsules containing relics of life and nursing school during a pandemic.

    The project was an idea from senior nursing student Brandon Phillips, and organized by the college’s Student Leadership Council with assistance from professor Dr. Alta Andrews and clinical instructor Susan Willson Lally. The sealed cylindrical metal canisters were placed in the ground just outside the College of Nursing entry, and covered with shovels full of dirt — first by Phillips and Dean Dr. Sylvia Brown, followed by members of the college’s Student Leadership Council and other nursing students and faculty. They’re marked with a stone engraved with information of what lies below, and when they’re intended to be removed — 20 years later, in December 2041.

    The capsules are filled with photos, letters, Pirate Nurse paraphernalia and items that became far more commonplace during the pandemic — masks, testing kits and hand sanitizer to name a few.

    “I just knew that this was such a different experience for nursing school. Specifically for us, we started in person, so when we were told that everything was transitioning online, it was a huge shock,” Phillips said of the senior class. “Going through the online experience and being able to transition back (to in person education), it was just so different and so I knew we had to do something about it to show what we went through — and I thought it would be cool to show the future students.”

    In her address to the crowd prior to burying the capsules, Brown acknowledged the extraordinary circumstances the students have faced and commended their perseverance and their volunteer efforts, providing COVID-19 vaccines and helping with testing.

    “Certainly, we have had two years of unprecedented turmoil, and you have stepped up to the plate,” Brown said to the students. “This group of students have been the most impacted of any of our students — you were the first ones who transitioned to online education, and altered the way you did clinical for a while. I really appreciate the tenacity that you have experienced during this time and how consistent you’ve been in reaching your educational goals.”

    Phillips said that he hopes the students who open the capsules in 20 years will have a more normal nursing school experience, and that he’ll return to see the event in 2041.

    “100 percent, no matter where I end up, I’ll definitely be here,” Phillips said. “I hope that they’re not having the same effects of COVID that’s going on today.”

    Dean Sylvia Brown, left, and senior nursing student Brandon Phillips drop time capsules into a hole outside the entry of the College of Nursing.

    An engraved stone outside the College of Nursing entry marks where the capsules are buried and when they are intended to be unearthed.