CET students arrive on campus for first day of classes

Students attend the first day of class for the fall 2021 semester in Jeff Foeller’s engineering dynamics class. (Photos by Ken Buday)

What began with long drives and bins full of belongings last week culminated with the first day of class on Monday for students in the East Carolina University College of Engineering and Technology.

Dr. Harry Ploehn, dean of the college, had an online kickoff meeting for faculty and staff, and noted the activity around Greenville.

“There’s a lot of buzz on campus,” he said.

Maybe not so much in class at 8 a.m. — on a Monday.

“I think it’s so quiet because it’s an 8 o’clock class,” teaching instructor Jeff Foeller told his students in his engineering dynamics class.

CET freshman Zach Rogers said he woke up way too early for his first class of the day but was still almost late.

“I had a glasses lens pop up and tried to put it back in, freaked out and was almost late so it’s pretty great so far,” he joked.

As a junior, Matthew Lutze of Goldsboro has been through the excitement of the first day of class before. His biggest problem as an off-campus student was finding a place to park.

“I left 45 minutes early. I had to park way downtown and just got here,” he said as he entered his class just a couple of minutes early. “But it’s been good. I’m excited.”

Students attend the first day of class.

Students began arriving in Greenville last week. Freshman Randy Lyles had a 4 1/2-hour trip from Kings Mountain.

“I heard about the engineering program, and I heard it was good — smaller class sizes, too,” he said.

Lyles is part of the Living Learning Community in Umstead Residence Hall. Those students had the chance to get to know each other and meet faculty and advisors during a welcome lunch event on Friday.

Emmanuel Kutsu of Raleigh was one of those students who arrived early.

“I took a stroll around campus to find where my classes are, so it’s been good,” he said.

He said he became interested in attending ECU after receiving an email from the university.

“I thought I might as well take my shot with ECU because it is a pretty cool school,” he said. “I went to one of the performances of the ECU Pirate band, and I enjoyed it. I did my research, and a lot of people don’t know that ECU is known for engineering. It’s more known for medical, so that gave me some incentive.”

Engineering teaching instructor Michael Borer talks to students during a welcome lunch in the atrium of the Science and Technology Building.

Camryn Miller, a freshman from Charlotte Hall, Maryland, said she was drawn to ECU.

“I really like the campus. It’s very pretty. I’m waiting for it to cool down a little,” she said. “It’s my favorite campus among all the places I visited, and I really liked all the people I’ve met.”

Some of the first CET students to arrive on campus were a cohort of PIRATES engineering scholars. The program — Providing Inclusive Residential And Transfer Experience Support in Engineering — started in the fall of 2020. The goal is to support students pursuing undergraduate engineering degrees with up to $10,000 in scholarships annually. Funding comes from a $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Program.

They enjoyed a welcome dinner as well as a variety of activities designed to help them transition to ECU. They had meetings with advisors and faculty members, learned about student organizations and got help setting up laptops and other needed devices for class.

They also participated in team-building and leadership events that included a gathering at ECU’s North Recreation Complex. The day ended with — what else for Pirates — a sword fight with foam noodles.

ECU PIRATES engineering scholars sword fight with foam noodles during team-building exercises at the North Recreation Complex.

The activities may have been fun, but they had a purpose, said Dr. Ricky Castles, who along with Dr. Chris Venters heads up the program.

“This was a good environment for them to get to know each other,” Castles said. “We’re going to be talking about some serious academic stuff and careers and advising, but we wanted them to be a team that’s bonded and knows a little bit about each other — what are their values and what are their goals and how do they support each other and understanding where they want to go.”

Castles and Venters see a group of young scholars who can develop into leaders at ECU.

“Looking at their letters of recommendation, a common theme is not only are they strong students, but they helped out their classmates,” Castles said. “When they got a task done in a lab or a classroom, they made sure their other classmates understood it as well. We want people to make the community better, to make the classroom better. We’re going to look to each of them to be leaders. It’s not just about finishing your work and getting a 4.0 GPA. It’s can you make your teams better; can you help somebody else who might otherwise be struggling.”

Keaton Caldwell, a freshman from Thomasville, is one of those engineering scholars.

“It’s been pretty good so far,” she said of her first week on campus. “I think I’m going to like it here.”