Recognizing Internationalization | Eastern North Carolina Now | Awards ceremony highlights internationalization at ECU

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    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The authors of this post are ECU News Services and Jamie Smith.


Approximately $95,000 in study abroad scholarships were awarded to students during East Carolina University's 2021 International Awards Ceremony ceremony. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)


    East Carolina University celebrated the beginning of International Education Week on Monday during the university's International Awards Ceremony. Faculty, staff and students were recognized for their outstanding work in pursuing international opportunities during the pandemic.

    "As you all know, the last two years have been a very difficult time for many of us in higher education. Perhaps no area was harder hit than international education," ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers said in his opening remarks. "The pandemic has not dampened the enthusiasm among ECU faculty and administrators, who are still committed to providing students the opportunity to study abroad when appropriate. This year, 40 faculty members have proposed short-term programs for the spring and summer."

    ECU's Office of Global Affairs awarded $95,000 in scholarships this semester, anticipating the return of international opportunities for students in the spring and summer as travel restrictions are lifted and more programs get underway. The recipients of the most prestigious global studies scholarships, the Rivers Foreign Exchange Scholarship and the Mary Pashcal and Marguerite Perry Endowment Fund, were recognized at the ceremony. Some of the recipients will use their scholarships to help fund a semester at the ECU Tuscany campus. It was the first program to reopen after the pandemic halted travel abroad. It was able to reopen at 50% capacity this fall with students spending a semester studying in Certaldo, Italy.

    ECU's robust virtual programs, including the Global Virtual Exchange, allowed students to stay engaged with students at universities across the world throughout the pandemic.

    "Our virtual program is strong, and luckily we have that available to many of our students, but you can still see the magnitude of the impact (travel restrictions) had on our institution and future alumni," said Dr. Jon Rezek, assistant vice chancellor for Global Affairs.

    Many of the evening's award recipients were recognized for their efforts in research and using virtual opportunities to engage students with experiences outside their own countries.

    Dr. Sachiyo Shearman, an associate professor of communication, received the Award for Achievement in International Teaching; Dr. Bomna Ko, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology, was presented the Award for Achievement in International Research and Creative Activity; and assistant professor in the College of Nursing Dr. Nancy Dias received the Award for International Service.

    ECU staff member Colleen Roland, student services specialist in the Graduate School, was presented the Staff Award for Achievement in International Service.

    In addition to faculty and staff, two international students were recognized for their service to the community and academic achievement. Betul Kucukardali, a doctoral student in marriage and family therapy, and MD Hasibul Hasan Rahat, a graduate student in construction management, were recognized with the International Student Award.

    Kucukardali came to ECU from Turkey. Her passion for family therapy and experiences working with pediatric patients and their families led her to want to improve the medical care in her home country.

    "As an empowered Turkish woman, I aspire to revolutionize the medical perspective in Turkey through facilitating integrated behavioral health care and incorporating the sorely missing biopsychosocial-spiritual approach to hospital operations," Kucukardali said in the application for the award.

    Her research and clinical supervisor, Dr. Jennifer Hodgson, spoke about Kucukardali's current work in a local health care clinic during the award presentation.

    "She is helping to revitalize the integrated behavioral health services in that clinic and is making remarkable progress to help ensure all patients get equal access to quality health care. She is advocating for the essential resources and is greeting each opportunity with a positive outlook. Already we have received feedback on the positive difference she is making for the patients and providers," Hodgson said.

    Rahat's recent research for his thesis project in the College of Engineering and Technology to transform disposable face masks into filler for asphalt has given him a unique experience and opportunity to work toward publishing his first paper.

    Dr. Carol Massarra, teaching assistant professor, presented the award to him and talked about Rahat's hope to pursue a doctorate after completing his master's degree at ECU.

    "His dreams are big and have no limit," said Massarra.

    Rezek ended the ceremony by emphasizing the importance of internationalization at ECU. He recalled the inspirational story of an ECU alumna who shared her personal story with him in 2019. After having a rough start academically, the opportunity to study abroad changed her life and career trajectory, and inspired her to donate to scholarship opportunities for ECU students to travel outside the U.S.

    "It was the right decision to restrict travel, everybody did it, and it was important to do, but it was not without a cost. That's why we're excited to be here today. You wouldn't believe how excited we are to be back doing this work," said Rezek.

    Another cycle of study abroad scholarships is available within ECUAWard and will close on Jan. 16.

    The Mary Paschal & Marguerite Perry Endowment Recipients

  • Berekia Divanga
  • Kailauna White

    Thomas W. Rivers Foreign Exchange Scholarship Recipients

  • Naomi Baez
  • Rachel Barlow
  • Daja Brown
  • Taylor Brown
  • Nina Carillo Corujo
  • Francis Dudding
  • Chima Enwere
  • Emma Frinsko
  • Jasmine Gomez
  • Jacob Hartman
  • Khadijah Howard
  • Brian Martinez Sanchez
  • Kyle Newell

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