ECU, RTI International Explore Partnership

East Carolina University and RTI International are exploring opportunities to jointly combat health, economic and educational disparities in eastern North Carolina.

As part of ECU’s Rural Prosperity Initiative announced by Chancellor Cecil Staton in 2017, the university has challenged itself to become a national model of how a major research university can lead regional transformation and create a new generation of technologies, micro-businesses and innovative solutions.

By developing a partnership with RTI, an independent, globally-engaged nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition, ECU can better serve the needs of rural residents in eastern North Carolina. RTI delivers reliable data thorough analysis, innovative methods, novel technologies and sustainable programs that help partners, like ECU, inform public policy and ground practice in evidence.

“ECU is excited to develop this important partnership,” said Dr. Jay Golden, vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement at ECU. “RTI is an internationally recognized leader for developing and implementing impactful research programs. Its long history of collaborating with research universities and institutions like ECU will allow our faculty and students to benefit from those experiences and be able to extend our research and engagement capabilities both in North Carolina and around the globe.”

Last fall, ECU launched seven research clusters, with an eighth planned later this year. Research clusters are part of a formal university strategy to connect interdisciplinary faculty and researchers who might not have met through traditional means. With the clusters, faculty from across ECU can establish partnerships and combine their talents to advance the Rural Prosperity Initiative.

Representatives from RTI met with ECU research cluster co-directors Feb. 21 to discuss collaboration opportunities such as having RTI staff on external advisory boards; offering lectures between ECU and RTI research leaders; creating student internship and mentorship opportunities; and establishing partnerships with ECU faculty members and RTI on research projects.

“By joining forces with ECU, we have the opportunity to further alleviate health, economic and educational disparities in our community,” said Jacqueline Olich, senior director of University Collaborations at RTI.

The company has a long record of working with research universities, institutions, faculty, scholars, staff, and students to advance scientific scholarship. In 2014, the RTI University Scholars Program was launched, bringing academic researchers from the 16 University of North Carolina campuses and Duke University to work alongside RTI’s scientists and researchers.

“Our missions are similar in that we are focused on improving the human condition,” Golden said. “Our new university-wide research clusters align with RTI’s priority practice areas of human health; energy and environmental sciences; education and workforce development; food security and agriculture; and innovation ecosystems.”