America's Rural Communities Need Our Help

ECU is embarking on an initiative to address rural prosperity in eastern N.C.

The Rural Prosperity Initiative will harness the intellectual strengths and research resources of ECU to improve the quality of life, health, education and employment for the people of our region and their communities. ECU is committed to rural prosperity by leveraging resources from all corners of the university. We will partner with government, industry and community groups to develop new tools and approaches that drive job creation, health innovation and educational improvements in rural and coastal communities.

Rural Communities are sustaining America. America is NOT sustaining its rural communities.

Rural Prosperity Initiative News

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As we work  to identify new strategies through research we will find solutions for the challenges holding us back.

Outer Banks Campus

ECU is expanding its coastal research commitments with the development of its Outer Banks Campus on Roanoke Island. The campus is home to ECU’s newly created academic unit, Integrated Coastal Programs, which houses the Department of Coastal Studies. Additionally, ECU now operates the $32.6 million, multi-institutional Coastal Studies Institute in the Outer Banks. The 83,791-square foot facility houses ECU researchers and colleagues from other UNC system schools. Our faculty and staff are engaged in coastal economic development and research, putting an emphasis on finding innovative approaches for capturing ocean energy, sustainable designs for coastal communities, and marine ecology, maritime archeology and tourism.

Dental Medicine Community Service Learning Centers

The School of Dental Medicine embarked on cutting-edge dental education by strategically building eight ECU Dental Medicine Clinics throughout North Carolina in addition to the main dental medicine campus in Greenville. The Community Service Learning Centers bring ECU dental students and faculty to communities in over 40 rural counties that are lacking dental medicine providers.


Miller School of Entrepreneurship

In 2015, a generous $5 million commitment from Fielding and Kim Miller made it possible to establish the first named school of entrepreneurship in the region. The Miller School of Entrepreneurship serves as the regional hub for preparing students to take an entrepreneurial mindset and skill set into their communities. The Miller School hosts its annual Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge for students and alumni, giving participants the chance to share their business ideas with the ECU community.

Innovation and New Ventures

ECU has launched its Office of Innovation and New Ventures, overseeing the university’s rapidly expanding efforts to discover, develop and commercialize ideas and inventions cultivated by ECU’s students, faculty and partners. The office leads ECU in its mission to become a national model of how to support student creativity and innovation.


Microenterprise Program

ECU has a rich legacy of supporting regional communities in eastern North Carolina. ECU is taking its public service mission of helping rural residents adapt, grow and thrive in the 21st century to the next level with its new microenterprise program. The program is a university-wide endeavor creating cohesive teams of passionate and highly motivated students to help optimize and create new businesses to drive job growth and economic vitality for the entire region.

Millennial Campus

ECU’s millennial campus connects the talents of university researchers and partners in industry, government, military and more to discover innovations that boost rural and coastal prosperity. The campus focuses on commercializing research discoveries that benefit regional industries. Millennial campus buildings will feature state of the art lab and collision spaces that foster interaction and stimulate ideas, collaboration and new discovery.


Rural Education Institute

ECU’s Rural Education Institute — which has been elevated to a college-level institute at the university — has continued to pursue its mission of eliminating educational disparities in eastern North Carolina. The institute serves as the epicenter of rural education research, teacher support and outreach. Over the next five years the institute will leverage research–practice partnerships to address educational disparities and ensure access to high quality instruction in rural areas.

School of Public Health

One of the exciting ways ECU is working to further improve the health of rural and coastal communities is through our efforts to grow the Department of Public Health into a larger stand-alone School of Public Health that focuses on population health. The new school will initially combine departments and centers already in existence at ECU – public health, health education and promotion, biostatistics, health services and information management and the Center for Health Disparities. ECU’s School of Rural Public Health is expected to open in 2020.


National Security and Industry

ECU’s newly created Office of National Security and Industry Initiatives combines several ECU programs into one office, helping researchers engage with government and industry entities to advance programs and partnerships that promote the health, education and economic advancement of eastern North Carolina.

North Carolina Agromedicine Institute

ECU partners with the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute to promote the health and safety of farmers, fishermen and foresters through research, prevention, intervention and educational outreach.


ECU I-Corps

Funded by the National Science Foundation, Innovation Corps@ECU embraces the formation of ideas, innovation and commercialization of inventions by using proven methods in lean launch, customer discovery and business model innovation. The project aims to prepare and support ECU faculty, staff, students, entrepreneurs and industries in the process of validating the potential for new products, services and technologies while launching new companies.

ECU Partners Up

ECU and analytics leader SAS are joining forces to help rural areas overcome economic, educational and health disparities. Using analytics and data visualization, ECU and SAS will work together to support ECU’s Rural Prosperity Initiative. Additionally, ECU and RTI International are exploring opportunities to jointly combat regional challenges in eastern North Carolina. 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 its rural residents.

Rural Prosperity Initiative Data Hub

In support of Chancellor Cecil P. Staton’s Rural Prosperity Initiative, the Division of Research Economic Development and Engagement has undertaken the development of an interactive database for ECU faculty and students. The database initially contains Excel files, geographic information system maps and formatted presentations. This data will be expanded to include interactive maps at the county level, as well as aerial and satellite imagery.

This on-going project is designed to provide researchers at ECU with a broad suite of regionally-specific data spanning health, education and economic disparities at the eastern North Carolina county level, state level and national level.

Rural Prosperity Initiative Data Hub


ECU launched its eight pan-university research clusters in 2017-18. The clusters focus on research and engagement between the university and its faculty, students and community partners. Click the clusters below to learn more about how our clusters are influencing research at ECU.