ECU chancellor Philip Rogers visits

Dr. Philip Rogers kicked off his fifth month as chancellor of East Carolina University with what he called one of his favorite things — talking with staff and faculty about the future of ECU.

Rogers met with leadership of the College of Engineering and Technology on his Pirate Perspectives tour, one of his first face-to-face meetings with an ECU college as part of a series of conversations with university stakeholders.

Dr. Philip Rogers, left, chancellor of East Carolina University, speaks during his Pirate Perspectives session Tuesday at the College of Engineering and Technology with Dr. Harry Ploehn, dean of the college. (Photos by Ken Buday)

“I look at this as an opportunity,” he said. “I’m trying to meet with as many staff and faculty as I can.”

He told the group he had about 60 such sessions planned. With nearly 15 completed, one thing has been clear to him.

“I enjoy these so much that once I get done, I may start over again,” Rogers said.

He said his goal of the Pirate Perspectives sessions is to learn about the university’s accomplishments and challenges from a variety of people who have a stake in ECU. To date, those sessions have included alumni organizations, university administrative departments and community leaders.

In his session at the Science and Technology Building, Rogers heard about the college’s Student Success Center as well as its emphasis on having a regional footprint through such initiatives as the new Eastern Region Pharma Center that is being developed, and the Smart Manufacturing and Maintenance Center planned for the Intersect East development. The college offers hands-on programs that can change the lives of people living in eastern North Carolina, providing students, their families and their communities a brighter future.

“This is an all-star college,” he said.

Rogers was also told about how faculty continue to push the college forward, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They have stepped up and done whatever we have asked them to do,” said Dr. Barbara Muller-Borer, chair of the Department of Engineering.

“That’s been a reoccurring theme,” Rogers responded.

He praised the work of faculty, especially in a time in which they are having to do more with less, and mentioned that ECU offers resources to help faculty and staff with mental well-being. He said retention and recruitment of faculty are vital, and when asked about faculty pay raises, said a budget proposal in the General Assembly would increase pay 3% over two years.

Another highlight included talk of how ECU lives up to its principle of being an access university.

“That’s a huge part of our mission,” Rogers said.

Chancellor Philip Rogers thanks faculty and staff during a Pirate Perspectives session.

One of the challenges mentioned during the conversation was attracting what Rogers called the “new American student,” the person who started a career after high school and now at age 25 or older realizes that a college degree would provide career advancement.

“It’s such a big opportunity to pursue,” Rogers said.

Another challenge are high school students who may not see value in higher education. While acknowledging the challenge, Rogers mentioned that higher education provides students economic opportunity but must be more adaptive by providing innovative spaces and hands-on learning — something the College of Engineering and Technology provides.

“We’re the place they can come to,” he said.

He concluded his session by thanking attendees for their comments.

“These sessions are always the highlight of my day,” he said.

Rogers has Pirate Perspective sessions scheduled through the end of October, when he will look at themes that will shape the work of the university moving forward. He plans to release a final report in early 2022.

For those unable to participate in an in-person or virtual Pirate Perspectives session, an online form is available.