ECU-FSU Partnership Grant to Support Minority Public Health Graduate Students

A partnership between East Carolina University and Fayetteville State University has secured more than $1.3 million in grants from the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation to address regional public health needs.

The partnership will create pathways to recruit a diverse population of graduate students through the development of a summer research immersion program and provide support for graduate students. The partnership will fund scholarships for students at minority-serving institutions across the state — historically black colleges and universities and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke — to enter graduate health programs Public, Environmental Health, Health Education and Promotion, Biology and Biotechnology from East Carolina University.

Eastern North Carolina is a predominantly rural region with high rates of preventable chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this situation and revealed the continued need for strong public health infrastructure.

Fayetteville State University student Alexis Nealy works in a lab in ECU’s Life Sciences and Biotechnology building.

“It is exciting to see this program supporting diversity and providing opportunities for underserved students focused on the academic success of public health graduates, and the future impact of those educated through our commitment to this program looks promising for impact the health of eastern North Carolina residents for years to come,” said Marilyn Foote-Hudson, executive director of the NC GlaxoSmithKline Foundation.

Applicants to the program must come from minority-serving institutions; a rising sophomore, junior, or senior; in good standing with their college or university (with at least a 3.0 GPA); and an underrepresented social group or a first-generation student.

“This is a huge investment by the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation in the long-term health of eastern North Carolina,” said Dr. Keith Keene, professor of biology and director of the Center for Health Disparities. from ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, who serves as one of the program directors. “This generous funding will support a summer research immersion program at ECU for undergraduate students from minority-serving institutions, provide scholarship support for graduate students, and pair graduate students with opportunities for on-the-ground and community-engaged learning in underserved communities. It’s a win-win for everyone, but more importantly, it’s a huge investment in the health of underserved communities in rural eastern North Carolina for generations to come.

Over the past decade, the nation’s public health workforce has shrunk by about 17 percent, further compounding eastern North Carolina’s struggles to provide quality health care to the area. 41 counties stretching roughly from the I-95 corridor to the coast. ECU and FSU are the two main public universities located in the heart of this medically underserved region. As area residents and academic anchors for eastern North Carolina, students and faculty at both institutions have direct exposure to health care disparities and are uniquely positioned to understand and innovate on behalf of area residents.

ECU’s Public Health, Environmental Health, and Health Education and Promotion programs are the only accredited master’s-level programs that promote public welfare in eastern North Carolina.

“It’s really important that we not only strengthen our public health education on behalf of the residents of this region, but also develop a public health workforce that is more representative of the population it serves,” said Keene. “This program will be of tremendous benefit to all parties involved – our students, our respective universities and the communities we serve.”

While the initial goal is to recruit interested FSU and UNC Pembroke students to apply for the pipeline program, program directors will expand the program to include other HBCUs across North Carolina, including Elizabeth City State University. , NC A&T State University, NC Central University, and Winston-Salem State University.

Recruitment and summer internships

The Pathways program has two main components: the recruitment of eligible students for an intensive summer immersion program at ECU and scholarships that will provide students with up to two years of full-time graduate study.

“We have long-standing partnerships with Fayetteville State and other UNC constituent institutions, as well as the GlaxoSmithKline Foundation of North Carolina,” said ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers. “It is gratifying that program funding directly benefits students across the region. »

Fayetteville State University students toured Eastern Carolina University’s Life Sciences and Biotechnology Building in June 2022 as part of an expanded partnership between the two schools to increase FSU undergraduate enrollment in ECU graduate programs.

Fayetteville State University Chancellor Darrell Allison agrees North Carolina’s future is tied to a strong public health infrastructure.

“Our partnership with ECU aligns with Fayetteville State’s academic excellence strategic priorities, supporting the university into the future and providing real and lasting impact in the communities where our students come from,” said Allison.

Recruitment for the program has already started. In April 2022, Dr. Danielle Graham, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Acting Chair of FSU’s Department of Biological and Forensic Sciences, chaperoned 11 FSU students at ECU to tour the campus, meet with representatives from graduate programs and participate in an immersive experience. laboratory activity.

Graham, another program director, expects his initial tour to serve as a model for future visits by FSU students to ECU, and ultimately a model for students from other Carolina MSIs to follow. North.

“The visit was informative and the students were really interested in the variety of opportunities ECU offers for higher education,” said Graham. “This program provides the support and resources our students need to achieve their career goals while addressing an important public health need in their own communities.”

Graham sees the summer immersion program as an opportunity to match students with potential graduate school mentors, build a peer community of early-career scholars, foster social and professional networks, and prepare to apply for admission to ECU graduate programs.

The summer program will consist of cohorts of 10-12 students living on campus, gaining research experience and professional development opportunities such as CV and resume writing, improved communication and interview skills and exposure to career opportunities in research and public health.

“Prospective students will see their summer program fully funded – meals, housing and more – allowing them to focus on building relationships with graduate school mentors and gaining real, hands-on experience with research. significant to ECU,” Graham said.


Each year, 10 eligible students will be admitted to one of ECU’s Master’s programs (Public Health, Environmental Health, Health Education, Biology and Molecular Biology, and Biotechnology) and will see their tuition, housing and some incidental expenses covered by scholarships provided by the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Grant. In addition to covering the costs of the graduate program, ECU will work to place students in the program in mentoring settings with Eastern North Carolina Public Health Officers to give students real-world experience before graduating.

Complementing formal study programs and mentoring collaborations, the social safety net established by ECU involves caring for the whole person: the Purple Pantry provides food security for ECU students; ECU’s Counseling Center provides free, comprehensive behavioral health care; the Student Treasure Chest works with students to cover emergency costs; and students have access to quality child care, on campus and in the community.

“The Foundation Board made it clear to us that our multi-tiered approach to supporting our students through to graduation was a key factor in awarding the grant,” Rogers said. “The education of our pirate student body isn’t just about what happens in the classroom or in a lab. It is essential that we provide a wide range of academic success services. Over the years, we’ve put a lot of effort into building systems that keep our students on track to graduating.

ECU is in the public phase of the Pursue Gold campaign to raise half a billion dollars. This ambitious effort will create new paths to success for hackers on campus, across the country and around the world. Donations from donors during the campaign will keep us constantly in mind and ready to push forward what is possible. Learn more at

About the GlaxoSmithKline Foundation of North Carolina

The GlaxoSmithKline Foundation of North Carolina is an independent, self-funded 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that supports activities that help meet the educational and health needs of society today and for future generations. Since its inception in 1986, the foundation has awarded more than $86.3 million to support North Carolina projects and programs that emphasize the understanding and application of science, health, and education at all academic and professional levels. Visit the Foundation at

Fayetteville State students tour ECU’s biology lab


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