Giving Back | Beaufort County Now | Recent alumni gifts to College of Business expected to have immediate impact | east carolina university, ECU, giving back, recent alumni, college of business, november 13, 2020

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Giving Back

Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Erin Ward & Michael Rudd.

Interview skills. Resume preparation. Career Development. The newly named Cunanan Center for Professional Success will continue to help COB students with career development and provide new services to local industries. | Photo: Cliff Hollis

Recent College of Business graduate Marianne Moore landed internships and a future job thanks to the support of the College’s Career Center. | Photo: Contributed
    Two recent gifts from College of Business alumni will improve the college's existing student success center and create a new faculty position. Steve Cunanan and his wife Ellen, both COB alumni, established the Cunanan Center for Professional Success, while alumnus Clark Stallings and his wife, Lisa, created the Stallings International Scholar position.

    According to Dean Paul Schwager, College of Business alumni gifts are increasingly important due to the effects of COVID-19 on students.

    "Our students want both an education and a social experience while at ECU, and regrettably, they're only getting one of those," Schwager said. "So, what can we bring them that will mitigate their sense of loss but enhance their education and knowledge of and preparation for the world? That's what I'm hoping these new gifts will do."

    Universities are even more reliant on donor gifts these days due to the coronavirus and its negative economic impact. Thankfully, ECU donors continue to be generous even during difficult times. For example, since the beginning of the pandemic in March, Pirates near and far raised more than $207,000 for student emergency funds. Overall giving to the ECU Foundation was $13.2 million as of Oct. 31, compared with $8.5 million at the same time last year. In the COB, in particular, philanthropy is strong. For this year's Pirate Nation Gives, the largest gift of the day — $1.8 million — went to the college's accounting department.

    "It goes to show that together we can do so much for our students and our region. Every gift, small or large, can have a huge impact," said Chris Dyba, vice chancellor for university advancement. "Steve Cunanan is a valued member of the ECU Foundation Board in addition to all that he and Ellen do for the university and its students. As with Clark and Lisa Stallings, we are so grateful for their involvement as well as their support," Dyba said.


Revamping student success

    Steve Cunanan '87 '91 will tell you the first act of his professional life centered on building a career and working in the for-profit space, a 30-year span that included leadership positions in Kindred Healthcare, Catalyst Rx and Johnson and Johnson. His second act is in the nonprofit sector as the CEO of the American Red Cross for the Kentucky region.

    "I feel at this point in my life, it is extremely important to give back," Cunanan said. "That is why I have decided to work full time for a nonprofit and give back to ECU."

    He and Ellen '88 established the Cunanan Center for Professional Success, which will move the COB's current career center into a modern and accessible location conveniently located on the third floor of Bate Building on main campus. The center annually interacts with approximately 5,400 undergraduate and graduate students in various ways designed to improve career chances during college and after graduation.

    Cunanan believes this gift is in line with the university's goal of serving the region and helping individuals better their situation, whether economic or personal.

The Cunanan’s gift will ensure future students will receive enhanced support via the Center. | Photo: Contributed
    "(Students) getting a job is really important to the university," he said. "It's important to the community, and it's important to the region."

    In the Cunanan Center for Professional Success (CCPS), students and alumni will find a more comprehensive, unified approach to providing career and professional services. All CCPS staff will be in the new space instead of separate offices scattered across campus. Resume building, practice interviews, career and development workshops and internship opportunities will continue to be the focus. One new element will be stronger community engagement, through which local industries and businesses can utilize the CCPS services to better their employees.

    "Changes in higher education and the job market necessitate a new, creative approach to student engagement and career readiness," said Lee Brown, current director of the COB Career Center. "The addition of an industry engagement specialist will enhance and broaden the services we can provide for our students, alumni, faculty, staff and the community."

    Graduate accounting student Marianne Moore was able to leverage the career center's services into two internship opportunities. Brown helped update her resume, and a Dixon Hughes Goodman representative that the center brought to campus gave her valuable interview practice.

    "I can't tell you how many times I've leaned on the career center," Moore said. "Their open-door policy is something that my fellow students and I are grateful to have."

    Now, the career center will be able to offer even more resources, thanks to the Cunanans.


Recruiting the best faculty

    Another gift came to the College of Business courtesy of timing. ECU COB alumnus Clark Stallings '89 and his wife, Lisa '91, are Pirates through and through. The Stallings live near campus, where they like to take walks. They and their four children attended ECU games. Lisa is an advisor for Alpha Delta Pi sorority. And Stallings, an entrepreneur, hires many of his employees from ECU. When he retires, his dream job is to volunteer and lead campus tours.

Alumnus Clark Stallings and his wife, Lisa, created the Stallings International Scholar position. | Photo: Cliff Hollis
    The Stallings also stay connected to the COB by reading its biannual newsletter, Stocknotes. A recent edition inspired them to make a gift.

    "I just love reading about other Pirates that are giving back in so many ways, and I just said, 'We need to step up, give back and support the College," Stalling said. The couple wanted their donation to help recruit and hire top faculty for the College of Business.

    Their gift to the college's priority fund allowed Dean Schwager immediately to create the Stallings Distinguished International Scholar. The first scholar, Dr. Victor Mbarika, was hired in September as a professor in the Department of Management Information Systems. Born in Cameroon, Mbarika studies the intersection of information technology and humanity in telemedicine, distant learning, e-agriculture and e-democracy in the U.S. and abroad, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a faculty member, Mbarika will expose students to international business strategies, skills and projects.

    Stallings refers to his relationship with the COB as a journey. "I'm very proud and blessed to be a part of it. If Paul (Schwager) needs something, he knows that we're available," he said. "We're willing to roll up our sleeves and help where we can."

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