ECU celebrates new academic year, refreshed strategic plan
East Carolina University kicked off the new academic year Wednesday with its first University Day celebration.
“It’s a time to renew relationships, it’s a time to form new bonds, it’s a time to recall our own ECU stories, and it’s a time to honor who we are and where we’re going forward as a university community,” Chancellor Philip Rogers said. “It’s an occasion to remember that our deep commitments to our students are a strong and unifying force as we navigate the rapidly accelerating pace of change in American higher education.”
The ceremony in the Main Campus Student Center ballrooms highlighted ECU’s refreshed strategic plan, Future focused. Innovation driven. The plan supports the university’s mission of student success, public service and regional transformation.
“We must view this plan as a call to action and ensure the decisions we make each day are through the lens of how to move the university forward to fulfill its mission,” Rogers said.
The plan is a five-year road map with mission strategies that prioritize transformational experiences for all learners, citizen engagement, and success in student achievement and regional development. “It also articulates a set of vision priorities for our campus, centered on social and economic mobility, workforce success, and rural health and well-being,” Rogers said.
Video by ECU News Services.
The ECU strategic planning process was co-led by Acting Chief Research and Engagement Officer for Research, Economic Development and Engagement Sharon Paynter and faculty member Dr. Ravi Paul and included broad input from university constituencies and committees.
In sharing priorities for the academic year, Rogers has charged ECU Provost Robin Coger and Vice Chancellor Brandon Frye to work with key stakeholders to produce a student success agenda that can be communicated to campus and used to measure annual progress.
ECU plans to attract new online students in collaboration with the UNC System-affiliated Project Kitty Hawk, an education-technology startup, and in launching a creator microcredentialing program in an exclusive partnership with YouTube content creator and philanthropist MrBeast. The programs are innovative models that will help address emerging workforce needs.
Another priority is continuing to expand access to high-quality care in the region and sustaining clinical integration through ECU Health. Achieving these goals will require a collective commitment in infusing a culture of care throughout ECU, Rogers said. “Whatever your role in this organization, you can personally foster a welcoming environment and demonstrate care for all,” he said.
The day also acknowledged two historic accomplishments from the past year. First, the university had a single-year record with $85.5 million in 438 sponsored research awards, an increase of nearly 450% since the 2020 fiscal year — an all-time high for ECU. The awards fund research, education, community programs, equipment and infrastructure that support a wide array of activities.
Rogers shared examples of those ECU research projects that range from delivering telehealth-enabled care and creating an educator pipeline for rural communities to adding electric transit buses and restoring marine ecosystems.
Second, the university raised more than $95 million, representing the largest single-year total in philanthropic giving in ECU history. This includes the largest gift in university history, made by Robert and Amy Brinkley and Pat and Lynn Lane for the ECU Honors College Brinkley-Lane Scholars program.
Brinkley-Lane Scholar and ECU alumna Abby Ulffers, a first-year Brody Scholar in the Brody School of Medicine, shared her experiences as a Greenville native and the support she has received throughout her student journey.
“My experience at ECU thus far pretty much outlines our mission, but my future is where I can see ECU’s vision priorities coming to life, through social and economic mobility, workforce success, and especially rural health and well-being,” she said. “There’s so much need in eastern North Carolina, and so much room for innovation and creativity to drive positive change. For me, attending ECU means knowing I’ll be prepared with the knowledge and relevant experience necessary to address the health needs of our communities.”
In closing, Coger, in listening to Rogers’ and Ulffers’ remarks, said she was reminded of why she came to the university: its people.
“I add my thanks for the impact that each of you make on who we are as ECU,” Coger said. “Everything that we are and everything that we do begins first with the people of ECU. It’s powered by your expertise, your determination and your passion.”
Coger said each person is essential to making the culture of care and belonging possible at ECU. “I am personally energized to see what we will create together as we bring the university strategic plan refresh to life by our individual and our unit-based actions,” she said.
The Magnolia Belles, an all-female ECU a cappella group, closed the event with several selections including the ECU fight song before everyone gathered outside for lunch.
The university’s new strategic plan video and the Chancellor’s keynote address are available online.