Office of Engaged Research News

News Highlights

Pirates achieve historic sponsored activities funding
East Carolina University recorded $85.6 million in sponsored awards, its highest level on record, during fiscal year 2023. $55.7 million funded community engaged projects. The funding will go to innovative and impactful projects that will serve eastern North Carolina and communities around the globe. 

ECU graduate Safranek rises to the occasion to open business
A recent graduate of East Carolina University, Safranek set out to chart her path with a bachelor’s degree in business management. Because the degree offers many different avenues, she said she struggled deciding what to do after college. But she found direction through the opportunities available at ECU, a supportive community on and off campus, and real-world experience. During her junior year at ECU, she participated in an entrepreneurial-focused internship program, RISE29.

ECU undergrads find guidance in SECU Public Fellows Internship program
Over the summer, 20 East Carolina University undergraduates took part in the rewarding and impactful SECU Public Fellows Internship program. The internship program places undergrads with government and nonprofit organizations across the region for a mutually beneficial experience. It allows ECU students to use their knowledge and expertise to help organizations achieve their goals. And, interns receive real-world experience in fields they are interested in pursuing while developing leadership, analytical, communication and project management skills.


  • ECU faculty guiding new inter-institutional research for equity initiatives: East Carolina University faculty members Joseph Lee, Jamie Bloss and Leslie Cofie are building on past successes to serve on a new inter-institutional research team focused on advancing health equity by promoting digital inclusion for agricultural workers and their families in North Carolina. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Rural Health, in partnership with ECU and North Carolina State University, secured a five-year, nearly $6 million Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society award from the National Institutes of Health for the proposed Agricultural Workers Digital Equity Initiative.
  • Bus tour encourages collaboration for transformation: During spring break, a group of East Carolina University faculty, students and staff embarked on a tour throughout eastern North Carolina’s rural and remote areas. The purpose: to engage with community partners and to explore ways to connect ECU’s knowledge and skills with the needs of industries and organizations. The hope: that collaborations and ideas lead to long-term benefits felt throughout eastern North Carolina.
  • ECU’s SBTDC Helps New Owners of Uptown Greenville Fashion Landmark: A new chapter is about to be written for a long-time fashion landmark in uptown Greenville. Catalog Connection, which opened almost 30 years ago in 1994, has new owners. Like the store itself, new owners Lamm and Allen’s Pirate roots run deep as ECU graduates. 
  • ECU-led group addresses housing needs in eastern North Carolina: The collaboration that led to this funding opportunity began in January 2020 when the SECU Foundation started the Rural Opportunity Grant Program to address key challenges in specific regions of the state. The availability and accessibility of affordable housing was identified as a need for northeastern North Carolina. A longtime partner of ECU, the foundation tapped into the university’s resources and expertise to develop a plan to address the housing issue. 


  • ECU professor part of $16 million grant to study resiliency of coastal communities: An East Carolina University professor is part of a team of researchers that has received a National Science Foundation Coastlines and People grant totaling more than $16 million to study the increased intensity of hurricanes as well as address the equity, economic prosperity and resiliency of affected communities.
  • ECU undergrads take advantage of SECU PFI summer internship opportunities: East Carolina University students set out for rewarding and impactful internships across eastern North Carolina this summer as part of the State Employees’ Credit Union Public Fellows Internship program. The program places undergraduate students throughout the region for internship projects that address community-identified priorities.
  • Yeager and Normoyle Awarded Competitive Engagement Scholarships: Two East Carolina University research faculty members have been named recipients of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium’s Research/Creative Activities Grants Program. A limited number of awards up to $5,000 each go to university faculty members to fund one-year projects and collaborative projects. Only 13 other faculty members in the nation were named for 2022.  
  • Pirates tour the region on a mission: The Pirate buses rolled through five counties making nine stops in two days during the university’s spring break. The Purple and Gold Bus Tour encourages partnerships that result in scholarly activities for the long-term benefits of the people and communities of eastern North Carolina. 


  • Five earn certification from ECU Economic Development Academy: In the first designation of its kind, five members of East Carolina University’s Economic Development Academy were named North Carolina Certified Economic Developers. Each member of the inaugural class completed 84 contact hours to earn the certification, including courses in data and analytics, innovation and entrepreneurship, retention and expansion, and legal framework, among others.
  • North Carolina Agromedicine Institute recognized with national designation: The North Carolina Agromedicine Institute has been nationally recognized for an exemplary project by the Engagement Scholarship Consortium. An inter-institutional partnership among East Carolina University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and North Carolina State University, the institute collaborates with organizations throughout the state to address the health and safety challenges facing North Carolina farmers, foresters, fishermen, and their families and communities.
  • Baile selected to national economic and community engagement student advisory group: Rising East Carolina University senior Maggie Baile will represent the university on the inaugural Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ (APLU) Commission on Economic and Community Engagement (CECE) Student Advisory Group. Baile, a Jacksonville native and double-major in security studies and political science with a minor in criminal justice, was one of eight students selected nationally to the advisory group. She will join representatives from Cornell, University of Texas at Austin, Michigan State, UC San Diego, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Ohio University and Georgia Southern.
  • RISE29 Empowers Students, Businesses in Eastern North Carolina: Entering its third year, RISE29, East Carolina University’s student entrepreneurship program, is finding its footing. Tasked with creating a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders in the university’s 29-county service area, the program has morphed and changed from an innovative idea into a thriving program that helps businesses across eastern North Carolina. With more than 200 student participants, 45 clients served and 22,000 hours of field work, the program is doing more than just preparing the state’s next great business leaders – it’s amplifying their voices.
  • RISE29 Interns Share Expertise to Help Eastern NC Seafood Business: Making a name for your company is never easy, especially in an industry as well respected as North Carolina’s commercial fishing enterprise. Dell and Richard Newman, owners of Belhaven’s County Road Seafood, had the knowledge, passion and work ethic to make their business a household name. They were just missing one ingredient — the marketing expertise. That’s where East Carolina University’s student entrepreneurship program RISE29 stepped in.
  • Purple and Gold Bus Tour Continues in Online Environment: East Carolina University’s fourth annual Purple and Gold Bus Tour saw its wheels grounded this year, but the journey across eastern North Carolina continued for Pirate faculty and students in an online format. Traditionally, the bus travels hundreds of miles through the eastern portion of the state for two days, introducing ECU faculty, staff and students to the region’s people and culture in hopes of spurring new research projects and partnerships. Organized by the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement and funded by a College of Nursing Health Resources and Services Administration grant led by Pamela Reis, the tour has led to interdisciplinary connections across a range of schools and colleges within the university.
  • Pirates Selected to SECU Internship Program: Twenty East Carolina University students will spend the summer as part of the university’s State Employees Credit Union Public Fellows Internship program. The program, led by the Office of Community Engagement and Research in the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, places undergraduate students throughout eastern North Carolina as part of internship projects that address community-identified priorities. Internships provide opportunities for students to develop leadership, analytical, problem solving, communication, and project management skills, as well as allowing them to network in professional settings.
  • ECU’s Digital Market Gives Researchers Opportunity to Share Innovations: Not every bright idea leads to a patent or a late-night as-seen-on-TV infomercial. But those ideas can lead to innovations that become vital in homes, offices and labs across the country. East Carolina University researchers are finding value in their innovations through the university’s newly launched Digital Market. The platform brings together content created by conscientious faculty and staff in an online marketplace that is accessible to the general public.
  • Project Examines Healthy Behavior Modeling in the Classroom: While East Carolina University is known for preparing educators for the classroom, a team of Pirate researchers is studying how teachers’ personal views on healthy behaviors impact their students. Virginia C. Stage, an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition Science, along with two other Pirates — Department of Human Development and Family Science professor Archana Hegde and former EC Scholar and current master’s student Jocelyn Bayles — examined the link in the Public Health Nutrition journal published by the Cambridge University Press.


  • Farmville’s Cafe’ Madelein, RISE29 Interns Connect Over Confections: A group of East Carolina University interns is helping an artisanal bakery bring the taste of France to Farmville. Through ECU’s student entrepreneurship program RISE29, College of Fine Arts and Communication senior Erycka Anderson and College of Business sophomores Evelyn Gonzalez and Grant Smith teamed with Café Madeleine Bakery & Wine owner Coleen Starling to grow her downtown bakery in Pitt County.
  • RISE29 Internship Team Partners with Nonprofit: A group of East Carolina University interns are helping Beaufort County’s Alpha Life Enrichment Center (ALEC) support farmers in eastern North Carolina. College of Education graduate student Tiffany Corey, College of Business junior Steven Hollingsworth and College of Allied Health Sciences sophomore Sma Almomani teamed with ALEC to develop plans for a regional cannery business and identify potential grant funders for the nonprofit’s food production and distribution programs.
  • Unwavering Commitment – Public Fellows Internship Program Continues Despite Pandemic: Despite the challenges that arose in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, East Carolina University continued its State Employees’ Credit Union Public Fellows Internship program, offering 20 students a chance to connect with eastern North Carolina government agencies and nonprofits. The program places undergraduate students in internships throughout the region as part of projects that address community-identified priorities.
  • Economic Engine – Study Finds ECU’s Statewide Economic Impact Totals More Than $2.5B: East Carolina University’s annual economic impact across the state exceeds more than $2.5 billion, a 2019 study led by a team of Pirate researchers found. In total, the university supports more than 27,000 jobs, with nearly 96% of those jobs concentrated in eastern North Carolina.
  • Triumph Through Tragedy – Partnership Recognized by National Organization: Ask any group of football fans what triggers their gridiron passion and they’ll point to a specific memory. It may be the first morning of crisp fall air after a sweltering North Carolina summer. A screeching whistle as a referee reaches for the bright yellow flag to signal a penalty. Or the pebbled feel of the pigskin leaving their hand as they throw the first pass of the season to a friend in the back of a makeshift endzone. East Carolina University associate professor Sharon Rogers Moore’s love of the sport is fueled by something different — keeping high school athletes safe.
  • ECU Warehouse District Gets New Name, Future Plan: East Carolina University’s former warehouse district received a new name on Tuesday as the university and its development partner, Elliott Sidewalk Communities, introduced a master plan for the millennial campus property. Designated Intersect East, the property covers 19 acres between main campus and the Dickinson Avenue corridor, including the historic Export Leaf Tobacco building, the American Tobacco Company storage warehouse No. 2 and the Prichard-Hughes Warehouse.
  • Expanding Broadband Opportunities: COVID-19 uncovered the realities of the rural digital divide. While almost all Americans living in urban and suburban areas have access to high speed internet, only about 63% of people living in rural communities have adopted broadband services. Due to a lack of access, families are forced to move from parking lot to parking lot in search of internet hot spots for children to sign into Zoom classes, and industry – from farming to manufacturing – are stifled by the lack of fast connections that will allow them to expand their business and reach global marketplaces.
  • Innovation LLC Welcomes New Members: The next cohort of East Carolina University’s newest trailblazers kicked off their first week as Pirates as the Innovation Living Learning Community (LLC) welcomed 15 new members to its 2024 class. The group of innovators, ranging from Greenville to as far north as New Jersey, will spend the next four years exploring ECU’s innovation and entrepreneurship programs while living in Gateway Residence Hall.
  • ECU Associate Professor Elected to National Academy of Inventors Senior Members Class: An East Carolina University associate professor was elected to the National Academy of Inventors 2020 Senior Members class, the organization announced Aug. 11. The College of Health and Human Performance’s (HHP) Sharon Rogers Moore became just the second ECU inventor to receive the honor, joining a class of 38 academic inventors across 24 research universities, government offices and nonprofit institutes.
  • Interns Announced for 2020 SECU Internship Program: Twenty East Carolina University students will spend the fall as part of the university’s State Employees Credit Union Public Fellows Internship program. The program, led by the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, places undergraduate students throughout eastern North Carolina as part of internship projects that address community-identified priorities.
  • RISE29 Student Entrepreneurship Program Announces Fall 2020 Interns: More than a dozen East Carolina University students have been selected for fall internships with the university’s award-winning student entrepreneurship program, RISE29. RISE29, led by the university’s Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, connects small business ideas with regional community needs.
  • Marketing Main Street: Twenty minutes north of Greenville sits the little town of Bethel. With fewer than 1,700 residents, you won’t find a sprawling shopping mall or a towering multiplex with the latest movie releases. But what many visitors have found is a tight-knit community that’s ready to open its doors to eastern North Carolina and share its small town charm.
  • Local Jewelry Startup Polishes Business with Entrepreneurship Program: East Carolina University business management senior Ashley Nolan grew up with two loves: creating and selling. By connecting with the university’s student entrepreneurship program, RISE29, she found the opportunity to combine those two passions and refine her own online jewelry storefront. In 2018, Nolan launched Copper Ashes, carving out a digital space to create and sell ethically sourced, nature-inspired artwork.
  • ECU Startup Flips Over Hemp for Skateboard Manufacturing: A student-led East Carolina University startup company has plans to make hemp a household item, not for its use in health products or wholesome snacks, but for its potential to help thrill seekers grab big air on a halfpipe. ECOre Composites, a startup led by mechanical engineering major Cainen Miller and industrial engineering technology major Joe Gisler, utilizes eco-friendly composites to design and manufacture products.
  • Third Annual Purple and Gold Bus Tour Rolls Through Eastern North Carolina: For the third consecutive year, East Carolina University’s Purple and Gold Bus Tour rolled through eastern North Carolina in early March, traveling more than 380 miles to 13 locations across eight counties. The annual tour, hosted by the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement and funded by a grant from the College of Nursing, carried nearly 50 ECU faculty, students and staff members across the state.
  • ECU Announces 2020 ECU Research and Creative Activity Awards Winners: East Carolina University researchers will be recognized Monday, March 2, at the university’s fourth annual Research and Scholarship Awards. The awards honor ECU faculty with the Lifetime Research & Creative Activity Award, the Five-Year Research & Creative Activity Award, and the University Scholarship of Engagement Award.
  • SBTDC at ECU Ready to Assist With Small Business Loans: In light of the world-wide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) at East Carolina University is prepared to help regional small business owners suffering as a result of the pandemic.
  • Simply the Best: East Carolina University’s student entrepreneurship program, RISE29, was honored for its co-curricular innovation by the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) at its annual conference in New Orleans. RISE29 received the association’s Excellence in Co-Curricular Innovation Award, presented annually to the college or university whose entrepreneurship program encourages creativity, quality and sustainability, and produces an impact on the communities it serves.


  • Assistant Vice Chancellor Honored by AMEXCAN: An East Carolina University assistant vice chancellor was recognized by the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina (AMEXCAN) on Thursday for her dedication and service to the association. Sharon Paynter, assistant vice chancellor for community engagement and research, was honored with AMEXCAN’s research partnership award at the association’s annual community leadership awards ceremony.
  • SECU Public Fellows Interns Leave Mark in Eastern North Carolina: East Carolina University students made their impact felt across eastern North Carolina this summer as part of the North Carolina State Employees Credit Union Public Fellows Internship program.
  • ECU Professor Travel to Zambia Thanks to Fulbright Program: An East Carolina University associate professor will travel to Zambia next year to assist in water quality testing of the African nation’s groundwater system. Alex Manda, a hydrogeologist in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award.
  • ECU’s Economic Growth Collaboratory Launches with Focus on Agriculture: Farmers, farm advocates and experts at East Carolina University are working to fuel economic growth through agriculture as part of its new Economic Growth Collaboratory. With a focus on agriculture and aquaculture in eastern North Carolina, ECU’s data scientists – in association with N.C. State University and SAS – began an ongoing dialogue with farmers, agriculture representatives and community stakeholders about the stressors affecting the state’s farming industry.
  • Annual Research and Creative Achievement Week Highlights Students, Faculty: East Carolina University researchers shared their work with the community as part of the university’s 13th annual Research and Creative Achievement Week. This year’s event featured a new category focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. The Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Intersection of Arts and Sciences Showcase highlighted student research with an eclectic mix of fine art, performance art and entrepreneurial work.
  • Second Annual Bus Tour Partners Researchers, Regional Leaders: East Carolina University’s second annual Purple and Golden Bus Tour rolled out of Greenville on March 4, making 10 stops while traveling 423 miles over two days in eastern North Carolina. The tour, hosted by the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, carried nearly 50 ECU faculty researchers and staff leadership across the region.
  • ECU Receives $1M Grant for Rural Innovation: East Carolina University received a $1 million award from the Golden LEAF Foundation to support rural economic prosperity through innovation and entrepreneurship. The grant, awarded on Feb. 7, will support ECU’s recently launched university-wide program focused on creating a new generation of business owners in the 29 counties of eastern North Carolina, reflective of its name RISE29.
  • Assistant Vice Chancellor Named to Executive Council: An East Carolina University assistant vice chancellor has been appointed to a leadership role in a prestigious new Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities panel. Sharon Paynter, who oversees ECU’s Office of Community Engagement and Research, has been named a member the APLU’s Commission on Economic and Community Engagement executive committee.
  • 2019 EOSA Cohort Named: East Carolina University’s Office of Community Engagement and Research has announced the members of its 2019 Engagement and Outreach Scholars Academy cohort. The 2019 cohort represents 11 members from seven different ECU colleges and schools.


  • SECU Interns Make Impact: Each summer, the Office of Community Engagement and Research works with regional businesses and nonprofits to support student internships through the SECU Public Service Fellows internship program. Undergraduate student placements provide opportunities for fellows to develop leadership, analytical, problem solving, communication and project management skills, as well as allowing them to network in professional settings.
  • ECU Announced Economic Development Academy: East Carolina University officials today unveiled plans to create an academy that will offer customized economic development training and certifications to elected officials, business leaders and personnel of economic development offices.
  • Symposium Builds Connections: Nearly 80 East Carolina University faculty members filled Harvey Hall at the Murphy Center on Tuesday for the inaugural Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Engagement Symposium. The symposium, hosted by ECU’s Economic Development and Engagement Council, brought together faculty members from across academic disciplines to showcase existing innovation, entrepreneurship and engagement opportunities offered by the university
  • Bus Tour Focuses on Research: East Carolina University faculty and staff returned home March 6 after traveling more than 400 miles across 14 North Carolina counties as part of the inaugural Purple and Golden Bus Tour. The tour, hosted by the Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, took 42 participants to 13 stops over two days.
  • Horizon Awards: East Carolina University celebrated the commitment employees have made to the university’s motto – Servire, to serve – during the Chancellor’s Horizon Awards for Service.
  • Research Clusters: Directors of East Carolina University’s university-wide research clusters shared their goals and expected outcomes at Eastern AHEC. The research groups are intended to enlist faculty and researchers from across the university to work on common interest areas.
  • Researchers Saluted: East Carolina University honored some of its faculty members at the second annual Research and Creative Activity Awards Ceremony.

Learn about the university’s elective
Carnegie Foundation Classification for Community Engagement.


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