ECU receives first Carnegie Leadership for Public Purpose classification

East Carolina University is one of 25 U.S. colleges and universities — and the only North Carolina institution — to receive the first Carnegie Leadership for Public Purpose classification. The designation was announced Friday and awarded by the American Council on Education (ACE), the Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

The classification recognizes institutions that have committed to campuswide efforts to advance leadership in pursuit of the public good.

ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers is joined by members of the Chancellor’s Student Leadership Academy. (ECU photo by Alex Dennis)

ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers is joined by members of the Chancellor’s Student Leadership Academy. (ECU photo by Alex Dennis)

“We are proud to be in the inaugural class receiving the 2024 Carnegie Elective Classification for Leadership for Public Purpose, a designation that confirms and endorses our institutional commitment to the pursuit of collective public goods,” Chancellor Philip Rogers said. “This designation reflects the leadership at the core of our university’s purpose and the call to action of our strategic plan to be future-focused, innovative leaders.”

Receiving the designation is the result of a rigorous process of self-study through which ECU administrators demonstrated evidence of an extraordinary institutional commitment, investment in and accomplishment at addressing pressing issues of the societies they serve through assessment of student learning, curricular and co-curricular offerings, and faculty and staff rewards.

“Congratulations to these pioneering recipients of the inaugural Carnegie Leadership for Public Purpose classification,” said Carnegie Foundation President Timothy F.C. Knowles. “These institutions have demonstrated a relentless commitment to fostering leaders dedicated to the pursuit of vital public goods. Students from these institutions will undoubtedly shape a brighter future for us all, upholding fundamental American values and advancing opportunity for the nation.”

The 2024 designees represent 19 states. Of the 25 institutions classified in the inaugural cycle, 15 are public institutions, 10 are private, and two are service academies.

ECU also has earned the 2024 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification from the American Council on Education (ACE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. This acknowledgment highlights the work the university and its partners do together in communities across the globe. Only 40 U.S. colleges and universities received the 2024 designation.

“ACE is proud to welcome the inaugural recipients of the Carnegie Elective Classification for Leadership for Public Purpose,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “The institutions in this cohort serve as models in higher education, demonstrating excellence in nurturing leaders who are prepared to address and solve pressing public challenges, which is sorely needed in our society right now.”

Mission and vision

ECU has earned the Carnegie Leadership for Public Purpose classification recognizing institutions that have committed to campus-wide efforts to advance leadership.

ECU has earned the Carnegie Leadership for Public Purpose classification recognizing institutions that have committed to campus-wide efforts to advance leadership.

ECU’s focus on leadership has been part of the institution from its earliest days when its first president, Robert Wright, imagined the leadership contributions that ECU could make through service to the region.

The university has developed leadership capacity throughout its history and made expansive progress in leadership education over the past 40 years.

A deep universitywide commitment to leadership was Dr. Steve Ballard’s first “big impression” of ECU during his visit in 2004 prior to becoming the university’s 10th chancellor.

“It was part of our culture and self-definition,” said Ballard, director of the Truist Leadership Center and co-chair of the Carnegie application team. “We have done so much more in leadership development since 2005, to the extent that it is found across the curriculum, in all colleges, and in our culture and mission.”

Dr. Dennis McCunney, director of intercultural affairs and Carnegie team co-chair, believes that the designation affirms ECU’s leadership contributions to the region envisioned by the university’s first president, Robert Wright.

“Our commitment to leadership education across the campus has been deep, pervasive and integrated,” McCunney said. “It’s been built into our strategic plan, our programmatic goals, our academic programs and our efforts to educate students outside the classroom and in the community.”

Prioritizing leadership

Leadership is central to the mission of the university. The assessment team found leadership concepts are a core part of ECU’s educational curriculum and are vital to the institution’s emphasis on student success.

“This tells the entire nation, as well as prospective students and their families, that good things are happening at ECU, that we take our mission seriously, and that a degree from ECU is worth the cost and the time invested,” Ballard said. “We are saying that students do especially well when they have excellent classroom experiences, when they have practical experiences which require that they apply what they’ve learned in the classroom, and when they are recognized as leaders and people who can inspire and empower others. That is ECU.”

McCunney highlighted a variety of award-winning leadership education programs across the entire institution. From leadership mentoring programs through the Office for Faculty Excellence and the Chancellor’s Student Leadership Academy through student affairs to engagement opportunities through the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, students, staff and faculty have access to a wide range of programs that focus on developing and promoting leadership principles.

“The designation is an external recognition of ECU’s longstanding commitment to educating future leaders, which has been a natural part of our mission of serving the region for so many years,” he said.

Building a leadership culture

The leadership designation represents decades of focus among administrators, faculty and staff to make leadership important to ECU.

“Having a prestigious organization like Carnegie recognize who we are is important to our national reputation and to the people who have worked so hard to make leadership a core part of our work,” Ballard said.

Panelists speak at a Leadership Development Academy session. (ECU photo by Zach Karamalegos)

Panelists speak at a Leadership Development Academy session. (ECU photo by Zach Karamalegos)

The assessment team wrote of their belief that ECU deserved the designation because of the institution’s commitment to creating a leadership culture. From a leadership-inspired curriculum to creating an innovative leadership center (the Truist Leadership Center) to the annual leadership lecture and dozens of other initiatives, ECU has demonstrated numerous accomplishments to enhance the public good.

Dr. Sarah Williams, executive director for the ECU Office for Faculty Excellence, served on the assessment team. She said the designation highlights the extraordinary leadership ECU’s faculty provide in and out of the classroom through a strong commitment to students and the region.

“A strong commitment to leadership is a longstanding priority for ECU, and faculty and staff have been embracing that commitment through research, engagement in the community, and in a wide range of educational settings for many years. This designation is one outcome of that work,” Williams said. “Hopefully this will help us demonstrate that commitment even more fully, as well as attract others who are drawn to that shared vision.”

Williams said the classification has the potential to help faculty with an explicit focus on leadership show how it is embedded in all they do and how it is essential for accomplishing the missional priorities of student success, public service and regional transformation.

“ECU’s emphasis goes well beyond positional leadership and embraces servant leadership regardless of a specific field of study or job,” Williams said.

The Carnegie application team’s assessment found that the commitment to leadership is upheld through ECU’s Future focused. Innovation driven. strategic plan. A central tenet of the five-year plan is to serve as trusted leaders in innovation. Through education, research, health care, community engagement, cultural enrichment and more, ECU remains steadfast in its vision to enhance the quality of life of its students and the region it serves, according to the assessment.

“Recognition by prestigious associations and foundations is the single best marketing a university can do,” Ballard said. “The Carnegie designation means that we have external verification that leadership is very important to us, and it is not only a self-definition.”