ECSU eyeing faculty mentors


left to right: Bob Pippen, Rotary District Governor and Elizabeth City Morning Rotary Club Member, Theo Bohn, Elizabeth City Morning Rotary Club President, Bonnie Thrift, John Manley, Jr., Dr. Vann Newkirk, and Pedro Holley, Elizabeth City Morning Rotary Club member and sponsor for new member John Manley, Jr.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Elizabeth City State University is giving renewed attention to faculty mentoring of students — citing the practice as a strength of the university’s past that can work in the present.

Provost Vann Newkirk said in a Dec. 12 presentation to ECSU trustees’ Academic Affairs and Student Success Committee that the university is trying to rebuild faculty mentoring of students.

Responding to a question about mentoring from Trustee Harold Barnes, Newkirk said mentoring was an important part of “the old HBCU model” that ECSU has gotten away from but wants to restart. HBCU is a federal designation that refers to historically black colleges and universities.

Mentoring was an important part of what made ECSU successful in the past, Newkirk said.

Newkirk said the university is working to shift faculty time more toward academic advising because that work pays off in student retention. The average amount of time ECSU faculty members currently spend on academic advising is 6.8 hours a week but university officials would like to increase that by 30 percent to 10 hours a week.

The committee also received a report on why faculty leave ECSU. The survey indicated 59 percent of departing faculty cited salary and benefits as their reason for leaving, while 23 percent mentioned "university bureaucracy" or felt they were "not appreciated here."

The survey yielded a 20-percent response, which Newkirk called "a very good response rate."

Chancellor Thomas Conway said it was no surprise that salary and benefits were identified as the main reason faculty leave ECSU.

"We identified the salaries issue coming in the door," he said.

Conway said he thinks that over the years the assumption in the university system has been that the cost of living is lower in Elizabeth City because it’s in a rural area.

But Conway said Elizabeth City also is close to other colleges and universities in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, so "we live in a tough neighborhood" and need to offer competitive salaries.

Also, there might not have always been effective advocacy for ECSU faculty salaries in the past, but "we intend to fix that," Conway said.

Newkirk said that during the past year, 61 percent of faculty said they had considered leaving ECSU. He said that's not unusual in higher education.

The survey indicated that 78 percent of faculty were marginally satisfied or not satisfied with their salary and benefits at ECSU.

Newkirk said a special appropriation from the General Assembly is being used partly to boost faculty salaries in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines and implement problem-based learning across the curriculum.

Trustee Jan King Robinson said the emphasis on problem-based learning will not only help ECSU students but also change the trajectory of public education in the region as teachers enter the public school system.