Board of Trustees appoints deans for Health and Human Performance, Graduate School

In its final meeting of the 2023-24 academic year, East Carolina University’s Board of Trustees looked to the future with the appointment of two college deans.

The board approved Dr. Nicole Bromfield’s appointment as dean of the College of Health and Human Performance (HHP), and Dr. Debra L. Jackson’s appointment as dean of the ECU Graduate School, effective July 1.

In addition to Bromfield’s extensive international academic experience in a 25-year career, including as an assistant professor at the United Arab Emirates University from 2010-16, she is a seasoned scholar and administrator with 16 years in academic administration in multiple leadership positions.

Trustees approved the appointment of Dr. Nicole Bromfield as dean of the College of Health and Human Performance. (Contributed photo)

Her most recent leadership role was as associate dean for academic affairs for the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work, where she has been an associate professor since 2016. Under her four-year tenure as associate dean, the college enjoyed 30% enrollment growth and received a full program reaccreditation. She previously held administrative appointments at Virginia Commonwealth University as a director of student services and as a student services coordinator.

“Being selected as the next dean of East Carolina University’s College of Health and Human Performance is an incredible honor,” said Bromfield, who recently served as a Fulbright Research and Teaching Scholar for 20 months at the University of Namibia. “I am delighted to lead our vibrant HHP community dedicated to fostering holistic well-being through groundbreaking research, service and experiential learning, and to work with the college to further foster a welcoming and collaborative environment that supports each one of our talented faculty, staff and students in reaching their full potential. Our collective commitment to enhancing human well-being, academic excellence and collaborative innovation in research, teaching, service and community engagement will continue to guide us in advancing the college’s legacy and impact on eastern North Carolina and beyond.”

Bromfield has completed research projects in the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, India, Namibia and other nations. She co-authored a scholarly book, “From Intercountry Adoption to Global Surrogacy: A Human Rights History and New Fertility Frontiers,” and her research has been highlighted in various media outlets, including The Boston Globe, The National UAE newspaper and BBC News.

“Dr. Bromfield’s expertise, academic experiences and alignment with the dimensions of College of Health and Human Performance are a few of the reasons why I am very excited to welcome Dr. Bromfield to our ECU team,” said Provost Robin Coger. “I also thank interim dean Stacey Altman for her leadership over the last couple of years in collaborating with the faculty, staff and students of HHP to ensure the many strengths of this critical college.”

HHP has been led by Altman since July 1, 2022. Her tenure will continue until June 30 when she completes her 22 years of service to ECU. Altman is looking forward to welcoming the new dean.

“Dr. Bromfield’s breadth of experience and collaborative style is ideally suited to lead the HHP community to further success and positive impact as we continue to deliver on the promises associated with the ECU mission,” Altman said. “I look forward to supporting her transition to ECU and the position.”

Bromfield earned a doctoral degree in public policy and administration, with a specialization in health policy, from VCU. She holds two degrees from West Virginia University — a Master of Social Work, with a concentration in community organization, and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and anthropology as a summa cum laude graduate. She has completed academic leadership training with Harvard University, the Council on Social Work Education, the National Association of Deans and Directors, and the University of Houston.

Jackson takes over for interim dean Dr. Kathleen Cox, who has served as interim dean of the Graduate School since July 2022 following the retirement of Dr. Paul Gemperline.

“The work of our Graduate School benefits all of ECU, and Dr. Jackson’s experience and collaborative leadership style will enable the next phases of the development and growth of our Graduate School,” said Coger. “I am also extremely grateful for the leadership of interim dean Kathleen Cox over the last couple of years. These two leaders have already met and are eager to work together and with their teams in the Graduate School and across the university.”

Jackson joins ECU after serving two decades at California State University, Bakersfield. In her most recent role as associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of academic programs, Jackson secured $7 million in funds to support student success.

Under her leadership, CSU Bakersfield received a five-year grant from the Department of Education for “Promoting Excellence in Graduate Education and Increasing Hispanic STEM Related Degree Completion.” She also helped secure the 2023 Award for Innovation in Promoting Success in Graduate Education from the Council of Graduate Schools for a California State University system-wide program titled “The Next Step: Building Career Readiness Among Graduate Schools across the CSU.”

Dr. Debra L. Jackson’s appointment as dean of the ECU Graduate School was approved by ECU trustees. (Contributed photo)

“I am very excited to join the Pirate Nation family and look forward to working with the incredible team in the graduate school,” said Jackson.

While at CSU Bakersfield, Jackson also served as the associate dean for graduate and undergraduate studies, interim associate dean for the School of Arts and Humanities, coordinator for the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program, and the assessment coordinator for both the School of Arts and Humanities and General Education program. She recently completed a three-year term on the executive board of the Western Association of Graduate Schools.

Jackson’s research addresses ethical, political and epistemological issues regarding sexual violence against women. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy from Purdue University in 2002 and an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Middle Tennessee State University in 1996.

Following a recommendation by the University Affairs Committee, the board voted for the conferral of degrees for approximately 4,800 students for graduation on May 3.

Chancellor Philip Rogers opened his comments to the board by congratulating the new American Athletic Conference commissioner Tim Pernetti whose appointment was announced earlier in April. Rogers is the chair of the AAC Board Executive Committee that led the search. He then updated the board about the challenges that prospective students as well as universities are facing because of processing delays with the FAFSA, the federal student aide program.

“Across the higher ed trade press and in the national media, the rollout of the new FAFSA is center stage,” said Rogers. “We are in the peak period for college decisions, yet students and their families face so much uncertainty in weighing the affordability of college given the delays in receiving financial aid award letters.”

Based on ECU’s IPEDS data, 60% of undergraduate students receive grant or scholarship aid.

ECU has delayed the fall 2024 student commitment deadline to May 15 from May 1, which reflects action by other UNC System institutions. Additionally, the university has committed institutional resources to expand the Honors College by 100 students this fall. Rogers has also tasked Christopher Dyba, vice chancellor for University Advancement, and Coger to lead a comprehensive review to enhance ECU’s scholarship process.

“We are active in those spaces we can control,” said Rogers.

For ECU, a completed FAFSA is one of the top two ways the university knows a student will attend, with the other being in-person attendance at a campus event.

The processing delays represent only part of the problem. Due to the delays, fewer students nationally have completed the form. According to the National College Attainment Network, FAFSA submissions are down 30% nationally and 26% in North Carolina, which is the equivalent of 26,000 students. Rogers cited a recent report that if trends hold, the 2024 high school graduating class will complete between 300,000 and 500,000 fewer FAFSA forms than the previous graduating class. This could result in significantly fewer college students in the fall.

“This is a national crisis, and it complicates providing enrollment forecast data. If college going rates continue to decline and some of those declines are connected to the FAFSA challenges, it will be as if the enrollment cliff arrived sooner than anticipated for some colleges and universities,” Rogers said.

To conclude his remarks, Rogers recognized outgoing ECU Student Government Association President Javier Limon for his service.

Student Government Association president Javier Limon stands with Chancellor Philip Rogers and chairman of the board Jason Poole. (ECU photo by Rhett Butler)

“When I meet with incoming SGA presidents, I always provide the following advice: Be an advocate for all students and focus on the platform you presented during your campaign,” said Rogers. “Javier has remained true to himself and is an example for all those who follow him in this role. He is thoughtful, measured, reliable and steadfast in his advocacy for students. He is highly respected and has demonstrated what it means to be a servant leader, and I am grateful to have spent this year with him.”

Limon was presented with a silver platter by Rogers and board chairman Jason Poole.

During his report from the student body, Limon introduced Anderson Ward as the newly elected SGA president. He also highlighted the work that the organization has done during the current academic year.

In other business:

Trustees on the Athletics and Advancement Committee heard a presentation about the undergraduate student recruitment scholarship initiative. The focused effort aims to keep ECU competitive in the higher education admissions landscape. Dyba told the committee that several goals are being set to raise funds for admissions recruitment scholarships, double the access scholarship program, build endowment, and fund experiential learning opportunities to support admissions and student success initiatives.

Executive Associate Athletic Director Ryan Robinson reported that the Pirates Unite campaign has raised $31 million, with $21 million targeted toward the Isley Indoor Performance facility.

The committee approved 10 new members and eight re-appointments to the ECU Board of Visitors, and renewed appointments of officers Preston Mitchell, chair; William “Dutch” Holland, vice chair; and Toby Thomas, secretary.

The golf facility at Ironwood Country Club was named for Harold and Amanda Varner and Gate 10 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium was named in honor of Mark Fackrell and Glenda Dawson.

During the Budget, Finance and Infrastructure Committee meeting, Stephanie Coleman, vice chancellor for administration and finance, presented the 2024-25 all-funds budget with operating expenses and revenues totaling $1.12 billion. The committee approved the budget with the full board approval on the consent agenda. The budget will be sent to the UNC Board of Governors for review at its May meeting.

ECU Police Chief Jason Sugg presented the annual campus safety report, which shows a 56% decrease in violent crime reports since 2017.

Details regarding planned renovations of Legacy and Jones residence halls were presented by Gina Shoemaker, director of ECU facilities engineering and architectural services. The elevations for Legacy Hall were approved by the board.

The Committee on Strategy and Innovation heard from a panel about Project Kitty Hawk, an effort to attract more adult learners to UNC System universities. For ECU, Project Kitty Hawk offers an expansion of already successful and nationally ranked online programs.

The next meeting of the ECU Board of Trustees is scheduled for Aug. 1 at the Coastal Studies Institute in Wanchese.