From the Desk of Vice Chancellor Virginia Hardy
Every December, it's common to reflect on our challenges and accomplishments for the year. Last year we looked forward to the beginning of a new decade and all the possibilities of personal and professional growth that awaited us. The end of 2020 also has us reflective, but our challenges and achievements are uniquely different from other years. I think it’s fair to say, even though 2021 is no guarantee of immediate improvement, we would all be happy if we never experienced a year like 2020 again!
To put a positive spin on it, this year taught us a lot! In fact, 2020 taught us to confidently make decisions on the fly, how to work remotely and make sure our microphone is on or off during a Microsoft Teams, Zoom or WebEx meeting. Many departments improvised their operations, such as Purple Pantry, which provided food packs for students. Campus Living, quickly and seamlessly arranged to move students out of the residence halls or into new halls on College Hill. And our herculean team in Student Health Services tested what seemed like an infinite number of students. Most importantly, 2020 taught us how to lean on each other for support, and ultimately, how to adapt our skills while providing the best service and care to our students.
Spending time with the family will look different this year; I am thankful that modern technology helps us visit safely. Not being able to see loved ones in person will continue to be hard because it deprives us of that personal interaction that we crave, especially during the holidays. But we have a hope for a light at the end of the tunnel. We don’t know how long the tunnel actually is, but there is a light.
During this break ahead I hope you will take full advantage of getting some time away to re-charge the batteries (I know I will be checking out for a bit). But I also ask the you to please heed the warnings and protect yourself and your friends/family. Wear a mask. Avoid any large gatherings. Wash your hands. We must do our part to keep others safe and healthy and do our part to keep our campus open and functioning as the calendar flips in January.
The simple truth is that in 2021 we still can’t do this alone. We will need to support each other to forge a path forward. Our resilience will sustain us, and we’ll emerge stronger than ever.
I hope everyone stays healthy and safe and I wish you and your families a wonderful and blessed holiday season!
East Carolina University celebrated the accomplishments of more than 2,000 graduates with its 112th fall commencement on Friday, delivering a virtual ceremony because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions against large, in-person events. Watch the full ceremony below and/or click on the button to read more about the Class of 2020 including messages from Parents.
Battle of the Bands
After so many different virtual events, SAB ended the semester by hosting a Battle of the Bands with the programming boards at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill. Emily Reynolds, Assistant Director of Programming, chaired the planning team and Lilah El-Halabi, SAB President, led the student discussions and hosted the show! To get to the final performers each school held a competition where students submitted videos of their musical talents to represent their individual school and then each school chose one act from the submissions to perform at the Battle of the Bands. This event was held via Zoom and included a 15-minute performance from each artist. After the performances, they opened up text-in voting to determine who would be crowned the winner of Battle of the Bands. The event had over 100 live viewers with many watching later and awesome engagement with voting.
Not only was this a fun collaboration, but ECU’s top act WON! Emily and Lilah are looking forward to further collaborations with these other universities, including a Spring virtual concert, as they continue to develop innovative program ideas.
To see the performances, click on the video/links below:
Pirate Media 1
Pirate Media 1 held its virtual fall awards program in November. Here’s a brief video of the students’ success in spite of all the challenges of the semester.
First Generation College Celebration
The National First Generation College Celebration is held each November 8 to bring awareness to and celebrate first-generation students, faculty, and staff. The year ECU celebrated November 9-13 by sharing videos from current faculty, staff, and students via social media.
Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson, a first-gen himself, kicked off the week. The student organization “I’m the First” was highlighted and founding member Skylar Wheeler, a current senior, shared some reflection of her time at ECU. Faculty and staff members Dr. Africa Hands (Assistant Professor, College of Education), Kiya Bolds (Assistant Director, University Studies), and Nichelle Shuck (Director, AmeriCorps Programs) shared advice and encouragement for students. We wrapped up the week with Kevin Carmona-Salinas, current ECU freshman, reflecting on his first semester and what being a first-generation student means to him and his family. If you were a first-generation student, join our faculty and staff directory by filling out your information here. Thanks to all who helped us #CelebrateFirstGen.
Student Affairs Assessment, Research, and Planning
E-Sports Assessment submitted by Greg Corack, Ed.D.
Recreational Sports programs are focused for the most part on in-person engagement especially those occurring on college campuses throughout the country. Within the last three years, E-Sports offerings were mostly for niche groups with little appeal to the broader campus community. March 2020 brought a pandemic and a renewed emphasis on attracting participants virtually. Campus Recreation and Wellness took this opportunity to launch a small program with a few offerings in April 2020 to moderate success. The interest in CRW Esports Programming has been significant as the ECU Intramural Program has the highest participation rates of Intramural Sports professionals in North Carolina, as noted by an informal survey.
The ECU Intramural Sports program pivoted to offering a full slate of E-Sports competitions in August launching a semester-long program with 54 total events and 281 participants. In October the program administered a comprehensive survey to participants with questions ranging from satisfaction to engagement and suggestions for improvement. The survey, modeled off instruments from UC-Irvine and Duke University, measured participant feelings of engagement with campus, engagement with others, satisfaction with program administration, and sought to identify improvements for future offerings and variety of games.
Early results gleaned from the survey indicated some significant changes planned for the spring semester including:
- Computer-based offerings instead of only traditional consoles (Switch, Xbox, Playstation)
- Saturday and Sunday tournament offerings
- New tournament structure including more team and dual elimination modes
“Esports assessment allowed our program to expand future offerings to appeal to a broader student base in Spring 2021.” - Jordan Richardson Coordinator of Intramural Sports
Chancellors Student Leadership Academy submitted by Katy Locke
While transitioning to virtual programming has been demanding, I found a lot of conveniences along the process. Chancellor’s Student Leadership Academy, a cohort-based leadership development program, was one that I was apprehensive about transitioning online. Having to make the abrupt switch mid-semester in Spring, I was anxious about whether the cohort would continue, with all the other demands that the pandemic placed on their lives. Thankfully, all but one of the original twelve cohort members remained active. With that success, I was a lot less nervous about moving Fall 2020 completely virtual and found a few conveniences about the virtual space.
Our office (CLCE) found Microsoft Teams to be the best platform for our programming. The files function of Teams allowed scholars quick access to pre-readings, leadership journal prompts, and presentation slides. The sessions could be easily recorded and stored in our Team, in case scholars had prior obligations or had to miss part of a session. The chat function allowed scholars to give each other feedback, ask questions, and participate without having to disrupt presenters. It was also very easy to incorporate presenters into our sessions with little technological hassle.
Although curriculum and assessment remained mostly the same from in-person to virtual, the switch to virtually gathering reflections after every session yielded much more detailed responses than the hand-written reflections from in-person. It was beneficial at the end of the 10 weeks, too, when scholars were able to look back at their responses prior to creating their virtual leadership vision boards, a culminating presentation that documents their experience and vision for applying their knowledge. The virtual vision boards provided scholars with a creative and flexible way to reflect and share at the end of the experience. Responses from the weekly reflections indicated that our sessions helped them understand leadership in a new way and the cumulative post-survey showed that despite the virtual platform, the cohort members were satisfied with the experience. Moving forward, the possibility of hosting a virtual cohort for remote learning students or non-traditional students, in addition to our traditional in-person cohort, is much more feasible.
Student volunteers with Campus Kitchen at ECU (CKECU) and staff from the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) served special Thanksgiving meals for their community partners as part of the annual Turkeypalooza.
As a result of fall semester changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, CKECU paused weekly cooking operations, nutrition lessons and volunteer opportunities at four community partner sites. Turkeypalooza provided an opportunity to support and impact the Greenville community with a record 40 sponsors for turkeys, 35 complete meal boxes that include holiday side items, and over 20 hours of service.
Student Affairs Making Headlines
Journal of American College Health Publication
Student Health Services was recently featured in the Journal of American College Health which is the only scholarly publication devoted entirely to college students’ health.
Published bi-monthly by Taylor & Francis Group in cooperation with ACHA, this prize-winning journal covers developments and research in this broad field, including clinical and preventive medicine, health promotion, environmental health and safety, nursing assessment, interventions, management, pharmacy, and sports medicine. The journal regularly publishes major articles on student behaviors, mental health, and health care policies and includes a section for discussion of controversial issues.
SGA Recaps Fall 2020
While this semester wasn’t picture perfect, the Student Government Association made the best of it and continued to carry out the mission of student government here at ECU. A few highlights from the semesters initiatives included funding to the Counseling Center for after-hours crisis hotline and to CRW to establish the BetterYou app. They also established a Police Liaison with the Greenville Police Department to enhance the relationship among students and the police department.
In addition, they hosted “Tips for Success” events in coordination with the Pirate Academic Success Center to aid students in their transition to online courses. As a member of the Association of Student Government they advocated for expansion to student emergency funds and financial aid.
"This is just a brief highlight of the Fall 2020 accomplishments, but our work is not done. SGA has some ongoing initiatives and ideas that I think will play out perfectly for next semester and I look forward to the ongoing work we will endure together." ~ Tucker Robbins, Student Body President
Spring 2021 Drop-Off Volunteers Needed
Like the university, Campus Living is facing challenging times with their staff facing furloughs and hardships. Campus Living is asking for your help. In fact, they need your help to continue to serve our students as they return to campus for the Spring semester.
ECU is hoping to have about 1,900 students living in Residence Halls during the Spring 2021 semester with about 1,100 of those being students that didn’t live on campus during Fall 2020. Early Drop-Off will be available to students from January 7 - January 10; this process will be very similar to the Summer Drop-Off days we organized in preparation for Fall move-in.
Here is where we need your help. Campus Living will need volunteers to help our students and families as they arrive for their Drop-Off day. Each volunteer would be asked to work a four-hour shift on at least one day (though we are open to you volunteering for more than one shift) and those shifts would be from 9am - 1pm or 1pm - 5pm. Volunteers will not be expected to carry boxes/furniture, or walk people up to their rooms. Responsibilities/details for Drop-Off volunteers include:
- Work a complete 4-hour shift from 9am - 1pm or 1pm - 5pm
- You will be assigned to a specific Residence Hall for your shift
- Greet students and families in the lobby of your assigned hall (or out front depending on weather)
- Answer general questions (we will have a Hall fact sheet for each volunteer)
- Monitor hand truck and cart usage and make sure they available for the next student/family
- Remind students/families to wear masks while on campus (We will have hand sanitizers and sprays on-site too)
If you have any questions, please contact Madeline O’Connor, Administrative Associate for Residence Life at email@example.com.
Written by Steven A. Trotter, MS, Campus Recreation and Wellness
Believe it or not, it’s December. This year has somehow seemed as if it lasted forever and flew by quickly all at the same time. In a season where we may be running on empty, or perhaps already on the side of the road waiting for AAA, self-care is, perhaps, more important now than ever before. Self-care is the gift that you didn’t know you needed and is a gift that keeps on giving. As we bring 2020 to a close, I’d like to share three of my top tips to prioritize self-care over the upcoming winter break and holiday season.
Our bodies are a lot like electronics, they both work better if you unplug them, let them sit for a while, then plug them back in again. Unplugging can mean something different to each of us. Some of my favorite ways to unplug are:
- You can practice mindfulness through many different methods, examples include mindful eating or mindful walking. One of the best ways to start your day is by practicing mindfulness first thing in the morning after you wake up. Perhaps you can get to the kitchen before anyone else in your household and sit in silence as you drink your favorite cup of tea or coffee. Another way is to lay in silence after you wake and practice deep breathing. This will make your morning feel less rushed rather than jumping straight out of bed after your alarm wakes you. If you are unsure of how to start mindfulness practices, I recommend turning to apps. Headspace and Calm are excellent mindfulness and meditation apps that will guide you through the experience. The Calm app leads a daily calm by providing you with a 10-minute guided meditation with a topic specific to each day.
- If you are like me, you’ve been attached to your electronic devices more than ever this year. We stare at computer screens, then we stare at our phones, then we stare at the television. I had to upgrade my home office monitor to a higher resolution and purchase blue light glasses this year to combat the screen fatigue my eyes were experiencing. If you can give yourself the gift of a digital detox this holiday season, it will be one you will truly remember (and better yet it costs nothing). But as with any behavior change you are implementing, it’s not a good idea to quit cold turkey. Use the apps already built into your phone to monitor and set goals around screen time. Schedule when you are going to watch TV or scroll through those latest TikTok videos. You can also turn it into a game and complete projects around your house, go for a walk, or read a chapter in a book between your digital sessions. And don’t forget to reward yourself when you meet your goals!
- Now is also a great time to increase your sleep health. Even if you aren’t able to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night, start by adding 30 minutes to your existing sleep schedule. The quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity. For strategies for successful sleep, check out this article I wrote for the American Council on Exercise last year.
When it comes to exercise and the holiday season, your mind may go straight to those dreaded New Year's resolutions. That doesn’t have to be the case and it shouldn’t be that way. Movement is meant to boost your mood not to serve as punishment.
Find movement you enjoy
- A critical step in the self-care journey is movement. Most importantly, you should find movement opportunities you enjoy. It always amazes me when I hear people say they hate running but yet they run for exercise. If you do not like what you are doing, then you won’t do it very long. Use this time to try out new activities that you might like; it’s a trial and error period. If you try something and don’t like it, don’t do it again. It’s as simple as that. If you can do it safely, go for a midday walk in your neighborhood. Take laps around the house during the commercial breaks of your favorite shows. If you want to try out more structured movement opportunities that you can do from the comfort of wherever you are, sign up for Les Mills OnDemand. There are over 1,000 workouts that you can access on the app and with our ECU partnership you get a FREE 60 Day Trial. It’s also 20% off if you continue after that.
- If you can blend movement with social opportunities, then you are more likely to continue the behavior and you are enhancing your social well-being. It’s a win-win! If competition is important to you, create activity challenges with your friends and family. If you can maintain your safety and well-being, get some of your neighbors to join you on your midday walks through your neighborhood.
Expressing gratitude is something that we should strive to do all the time. Gratitude can bring a sense of calm and appreciation to you and those around you. Gratitude can be expressed in many ways. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Starting a gratitude journal is one of the most common ways that folks begin their gratitude practices. You can take a notebook or perhaps just type into a note taking application on your phone. Start by writing down three things you are grateful for each day. These things can be small or large, tangible or not. It’s just as simple as three things you are grateful for. On days when the clouds are darker, it’s helpful to reflect back to read through your journal and find the sunshine.
- Writing letters can be another way to express gratitude. Hand write some letters to friends, family, or colleagues and tell them what you appreciate about them. You can also write letters to yourself. Include what you appreciate about yourself, what you are proud of, and give yourself words of affirmation. You can even seal these letters in an envelope and, depending on how many you write, you can space out how often you open them throughout 2021.
Receive Notes from the Universe
- One method that I’ve stood by since 2010 when I first started receiving them is Notes from the Universe. Created by author Mike Dooley, Notes from the Universe are daily messages that show up in your inbox each morning, customized to you, based on a profile and goals you complete on the website. These messages are filled with affirmations, gratitude, and positive thoughts. After all, thoughts become things and the Universe has a way of always having your back
I hope you found these tips helpful. It’s no secret that 2020 was a challenging time for us all. The waters were rough but as Ginger Zee, chief meteorologist for ABC, says in her book Natural Disasters: I cover them. I am one “No matter your storm, it never rains forever. It can’t and it won’t.”