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The East Carolina University Board of Trustees met Friday in the Main Campus Student Center. (ECU photo by Cliff Hollis)
East Carolina University's Board of Trustees used its regular meeting Friday to recognize, reflect and celebrate the end of the academic year and its outgoing members.
Members also looked to the future in approving the conferral of degrees for more than 4,500 students who will graduate May 5, the appointment of Todd Fraley as dean of the ECU Honors College and the launch of a refreshed strategic plan.
In his remarks, Chancellor Philip Rogers said the university's founders would be proud.
"Those individuals had the imagination and drive to reinvent higher education in a way that would better allow them to adapt to a fast-changing world - a world that demanded more from each of us and institutions like ECU to deliver on the promises of opportunity to the people of this state,"
Rogers said. "In fact, that pivotal moment in our history that led to the creation of ECU sounds quite similar to the challenging times we face today - one with shifting demographic trends, new digital technologies and the need to demonstrate the public value of a higher education degree now more than ever before."
The traditional university landscape must continue to adapt in a changing education market, in which not all learners are focused on traditional bachelor's or master's degrees, Rogers said.
The university's refreshed strategic plan, Future focused. Innovation Driven, will guide campus through 2028 and is the next step in demonstrating the value of an ECU degree, said Rogers, who thanked co-chairs Sharon Paynter and Ravi Paul, the committee and members of the campus community who provided input through focus groups and surveys.
"This plan strikes the right balance between staying true to our mission of student success, public service and regional transformation and pushing ourselves to embrace innovation to advance our goals and adapt to the changing landscape around us - just like those original 11 faculty members did in the early 1900s."
According to a recent survey, 90% of ECU students are employed or are in graduate school within six months of graduation. "We'll continue to build on those accomplishments through this new plan to demonstrate the return on investment that ECU provides to the people we serve,"
Rogers said. College and unit level planning will begin with this week's release of the plan to campus.
In addition, Rogers recognized board chairman Scott Shook for his leadership the past two years. "You've provided insightful counsel and steady guidance - with a healthy dose of humor along the way. Your passion for this university is visible at every turn,"
Later in the meeting, Rogers and Shook recognized outgoing trustees Angela Moss, Leigh Fanning and ECU Student Government Association President Ryan Bonnett for their service on the board. Shook asked Van Isley to lead the board's nominating committee, which will report at the next meeting in August. Rogers also recognized Isley and his family for their $5 million gift to the Pirates Unite Campaign for Comprehensive Excellence. Rogers congratulated Elizabeth Ables in the Department of Biology on receiving the 2023 UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching.
In other business, trustees approved:
- A new contract for women's basketball coach Kim McNeill.
- The following construction projects and agreements: advance planning funds for renovations to Legacy and Jones residence halls; the elevation plan renderings for the medical education building, parking deck and central utility plant on the health sciences campus; an elevation plan for the Speight Building, home to the College of Education; selection of Muter as construction manager at-risk for Whichard Building renovations; permanent and temporary easements for the city of Greenville's Town Common greenway connector project; and a new six-year lease for ECU Health's Firetower Medical Office.
- The disestablishment of the Center for Natural Hazards Research, the renewal of the partnership agreement with Pitt County Schools for the Innovation Early College High School, and the approval of an interim policy to revise the policies and procedures of the university's Admissions Appeals Committee to ensure compliance with UNC System policy. Provost Robin Coger said the work of the Center for Natural Hazards Research will continue, but that it will no longer operate with official designation as a center by the UNC System.
- The board also established the Trustees Award for Distinction, which will be presented by the Board of Trustees to recognize those who have provided extraordinary leadership to the university.
On Thursday, members of the Budget, Finance and Infrastructure committee heard more about ECU's long-range campus housing master plan. Fewer sophomores, juniors and seniors are choosing to live on campus with more than 6,500 student-centered apartment rentals in a two-mile area, not including properties in "the Grid."
With fewer first-time freshmen expected in the coming years, the plan calls for closing Umstead and Slay as residence halls after Legacy and Jones are renovated.
During the University Affairs committee, Coger presented information on wrap around services at ECU - programs linked to the retention and success of students, especially those at increased risk of stopping out. The committee received an overview of the work of the Department of Disability Support Services, the STEPP Program and the PASS Clinic.
Legislative liaisons Michelle Brooks and Karson Nelson provided an updated on the state and federal budget processes during the Strategy and Innovation committee meeting. Michael Waldrum provided updates on the ECU Health and Brody School of Medicine. And third-year medical student Ryan Dickerson shared his reasons for choosing ECU.
Stephanie Coleman, vice chancellor for administration and finance, updated members of the Audit, Risk Management, Compliance and Ethics Committee on revised rankings from the Enterprise Risk Management Committee of the top 10 risks to the university. Student crisis management, which includes food insecurity as well as mental and physical health, moved up three spots to third behind workforce challenges and financial sustainability.
Trustees on the Athletics and Advancement Committee welcomed 14 new members to the ECU Board of Visitors, and new officers Preston Mitchell, chair; William "Dutch"
Holland, vice chair; and Toby Thomas, secretary. Members received an update on the Pursue Gold Campaign, which has raised $455.8 million to date, and the Pirates Unite Campaign that has $20 million in pledges and commitments. In addition, Junior Synia Johnson, a guard on the ECU women's basketball team, spoke about her experience as a student athlete and the team's successful season.