Making a difference away from the campus

Published 5:50 pm Saturday, December 15, 2007

By Staff
What comes to mind when East Carolina University is mentioned?
For some people, especially these days, it’s that the ECU Pirates are going to play in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 23. For other people, it’s where they went to earn their degrees. Some people work for the university.
East Carolina University is many things to many people. It’s probably a safe bet that when most people talk about or think about the university, they talk about going to the campus or what’s happening on the campus.
But East Carolina University is much more than just what happens on the campus, at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium or in Wright Auditorium. The university reaches deep into eastern North Carolina to provide opportunities to people of all ages.
As ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard has discussed before, the university is focusing its efforts in five areas — 21st-century education, being a leadership university, building the economy of the eastern part of the state, health care and medical innovation and the arts, culture and entertainment.
When it comes to Washington and Beaufort County, the university has been focusing on two of those areas — economic development and culture.
ECU’s Storybook Theatre, under the direction of Washington resident Patricia “Patch” Clark, makes excursions to area schools and participates in area festivals and events.
Storybook Theatre has been part of Music in the Streets and Smoke on the Water. Earlier this month, Storybook Theatre educated and entertained children and others for at least two hours in downtown Washington.
Children’s theater exposes youngsters to theater arts, music, dancing and reading, Clark said in a recent interview. Storybook Theatre performances include references to reading.
When it comes to Storybook Theatre, it is about the children, Clark said.
Perhaps some of those children with smiling faces will grow up to become famous authors, actors, singers, directors or producers whose talents entertain millions of people.
Also, the university has plans to use the rehabilitated Turnage Theater to help further its economic-development mission.
According to Ballard, ECU’s alliance with the Turnage Theaters Foundation focuses on two of the five directions — economic development and culture. The chancellor said the partnership and a rehabilitated Turnage complex “adds to the cultural attractiveness of the area.”
Don’t forget the university is making preparations to open a dental school, with the goal of providing more dentists to provide dental care in rural areas that don’t have many, if any, dentists. That’s another example of the university extending its resources beyond its campus.
Then there’s ECU’s College of Education offering degree opportunities in special education-general curriculum through the Wachovia Partnership East Virtual Consortium. Wachovia Partnership East is designed to allow students to complete their general education course work at one of the partnering community colleges and then transfer into the ECU program to complete their junior and senior years. The partnership utilizes a part-time cohort model that allows a group of students to move through the degree program together, taking six to nine hours per term until the final year, which involves a full-time internship. The program is designed specifically for students who are transitioning from a North Carolina community college to ECU.
The more East Carolina University reaches out to communities, the brighter the future for those communities and the people who live in eastern North Carolina.