Past Student Award Winners


Each year, the ECU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi selects three student award winners. The Outstanding First-Year award goes to a student in their first-year of study at ECU who exemplifies outstanding academic achievement, a love of learning and a spirit of community service. The winner receives a plaque and a cash award of $500. The Outstanding Senior award goes to a graduating senior who has excellent scholarly accomplishments but who has also made positive contributions to both the university and the greater Greenville community. The winner receives a plaque and a check for $1,000. The third award is for the Eldean Pierce Graduate Fellowship. The national society of Phi Kappa Phi sponsors a graduate fellowship competition among seniors who have been accepted for graduate or professional study in the following year. The chapter selects a winner who then goes on to compete for national awards. Our chapter winner receives a plaque and a check for $1,500.

The 2022 Outstanding Senior is Elliot Paul.
The 2021 Eldean Pierce Graduate Fellowship winner is Shaelyn Raleigh.

Outstanding Senior

Elliot Paul is a senior Brinkley-Lane Scholar from Greenville, NC who studies biomedical engineering. He has been involved in 4 unique undergraduate research projects, starting his freshman year. On-campus, he has also been involved in a campus ministry, several intramural sports, and is the president of the Biomedical Engineering Society at ECU. He has also tutored with the Pirate Academic Success Center, studied abroad in Bern, Switzerland, and worked as a Co-Op/intern with two companies in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.


Eldean Pierce Graduate Fellowship Winner

Shaelyn Raleigh, a Brinkley-Lane Scholar majoring in Exercise Physiology with an Exercise as Medicine concentration and a Nutrition minor, is the recipient of the fellowship. She interned with the Marian Drane Graham Scholars Program where she was paired with the North Carolina Business Committee for Education in the Governor’s Office to learn more about key issues facing public higher education. She served two terms with AmeriCorps through STEMCorps East as a STEM Enrichment Assistant with the goal of improving STEM education for children in underserved areas. She was nominated to represent STEMCorps East on the NC LeaderCorps Council where she was then elected as Vice President of LeaderCorps. Additionally, she was the President of the women’s club soccer team at ECU and a member of the club sports council. She has conducted research with Dr. Murray on head impacts by tracking eye movements through virtual reality and research with Dr. Mizelle regarding limb dominance and the aging brain. She did a summer study abroad program in New Zealand and Australia with the College of Health and Human Performance where she was able to learn about sports in different cultures. While abroad, she was able to participate in some once-in-a-lifetime experiences including skydiving, feeding kangaroos, and holding a koala!


Each year, the ECU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi selects three student award winners. The Outstanding First-Year award goes to a student in their first-year of study at ECU who exemplifies outstanding academic achievement, a love of learning and a spirit of community service. The winner receives a plaque and a cash award of $500. The Outstanding Senior award goes to a graduating senior who has excellent scholarly accomplishments but who has also made positive contributions to both the university and the greater Greenville community. The winner receives a plaque and a check for $1,000. The third award is for the Eldean Pierce Graduate Fellowship. The national society of Phi Kappa Phi sponsors a graduate fellowship competition among seniors who have been accepted for graduate or professional study in the following year. The chapter selects a winner who then goes on to compete for national awards. Our chapter winner receives a plaque and a check for $1,500.

The 2021 Outstanding First-Year student is Cora Alexis McQuaid.
The 2021 Outstanding Senior is William R. Guiler
The 2021 Eldean Pierce Graduate Fellowship winner is Olivia Sessoms.
Finalist of Distinction for Graduate Fellowship: Melany Contreras
Finalist of Distinction for Graduate Fellowship: Yulia Price

Outstanding First-Year Student
Cora McQuaid graduated from Woodgrove High School in Loudoun County, Virginia. She is pursuing a degree in Bioprocess Engineering with a minor in Coastal Marine Studies. She is a Chancellor’s Fellow in the ECU Honor’s College and was recently recognized as one of the Department of Engineering PIRATES scholars, based on high academic achievement. She is on the executive board as the secretary and social media manager for a newly founded club at ECU, Pirates on Water, that focuses on promoting awareness and education of water resources issues to ECU. She is also actively involved with ECO- Pirates, a sustainability focused organization, Releaf which plants trees around campus, Society of Women Engineers which promotes women in engineering, and outinSTEM which supports LGBT students and allies in the STEM field. She is also a founding member of “Sustainabilibees,” which focuses on educating and raising awareness about the importance of pollinators, specifically honeybees. Their mission is to increase the pollinator population on campus through the installation of beehives and wild pollinator habitats. This past semester, Cora has been studying at the ECU Outer Banks Coastal Campus and learning field-based methods for ocean coastal research. She is completing an internship with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Outer Banks in Kitty Hawk, NC, evaluating sustainable development options that will minimize impacts to the creek that runs adjacent to the property and flows into Kitty Hawk Bay. Next semester she will work on a project to design a wave energy converter to desalinize water. This will allow purification of salt water into clean drinkable water using ocean energy.

Outstanding Senior
William R. Guiler was the winner of our chapter’s Outstanding First-Year award previously. He came to ECU as a Chancellor’s Scholar in the ECU Honors College and as an Early Assurance Scholar in Nursing. His research with ECU professors shifted his emphasis away from nursing to pursuit of a double major in psychology and neuroscience. He worked with Dr. Dolbier in her Stress and Health Laboratory, researching a mindfulness intervention called Koru and evaluating its effects on college student mental health. Most recently, he has been a Co-Investigator on a study pertaining to college student stress and coping across the pandemic. He completed his senior honors thesis under Dr. Dolbier and Dr. Everhart’s supervision. The study is titled, “A Neuropsychological Profile of College Students with ADHD,” which he intends to publish after graduation. His scholarly interests led him to Dr. Lu, director of the Harriet and John Wooten Laboratory for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases. In his lab, he worked on several projects and utilized complex super-resolution microscopy techniques. In the Summer before his senior year, he completed an internship with Merck in their Genetics and Pharmacogenomics Department. Taken together, his research experiences at ECU have culminated in over 15 presentations, multiple publications (under review), over $9,000 in grants, and being named ECU’s first Goldwater Scholar.

William also has an outstanding record of service. He worked with the ECU Wellness Center on their mental health initiatives, including their collaboration with the Jordan Porco Foundation. He traveled weekly to local area high schools to advocate for suicide awareness and prevention along with educating such students on the transition to college. He joined the ECU Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) as an ally, supporting students who are in recovery from addictions and aiding those students with their wellness goals. He served as their Service Committee Chairman. This committee planned and implemented the Purple Pantry, the first food bank for ECU college students in need. He has also worked with diversity initiatives on the ECU campus. He held several leadership positions at ECU. He was treasurer for the ECU Psi Chi/Psychology Club treasurer, the undergraduate representative for ECU’s Association of Neuropsychology students and trainees, and Student Vice-President for ECU’s Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi.

William will pursue graduate study in the PhD program in Interdisciplinary Neuroscience at the University of Iowa. He ultimately plans to become a professor of neuroscience and to mentor students with disabilities and those from underrepresented backgrounds.

Eldean Pierce Graduate Fellowship Winner
Olivia Sessoms grew up in rural Sampson county where her high school lacked funds for laboratory equipment and opportunities for students with an interest in science and mathematics. She attended the NC Governor’s School for Mathematics and began to consider her options in the sciences. She came to ECU as a member of the Honor’s College and chose to major in engineering, eventually focusing on an environmental concentration. She was one of 14 undergraduates from across the state chosen to receive the North Carolina Space Grant Undergraduate Research Scholarship. Her research, with Dr. Ali Vahdati, involved computational modeling of nitrogen species transport in unsaturated soils using specialized software. Nitrogen pollution has a negative impact on human health and environmental quality. “Developing a robust model of nitrogen species transport in variably saturated soil would allow for the extrapolation of results to different sites and would save money and time by decreasing reliance on a large amount of experimental measurements,” she said. “One of the greatest benefits of this model is once the framework is created, parameters can be easily changed so the model fits different scenarios.” Over the Summer of 2020, she participated in the NC State RISE/REU Program for Civil and Environmental Engineering. She learned Python so she could develop a program to represent the effects of climate change on hydraulic performance of water distribution systems based on literature projections for climate effects on water demand. She also conducted research with Dr. Natasha Bell studying innovative green technologies to reduce nutrients in wastewater effluent and stormwater runoff. Her most recent effort is a project to educate the public about local water quality and innovative water treatment technologies by documenting my process of designing and constructing a regenerative stormwater conveyance system to treat a local stream for degraded water quality through videos and visual media.

Olivia has engaged in extensive university and community service. She spent three years as a residence hall advisor and was a teaching assistant for an engineering course. She interned at the ECU Innovation and Design Lab. She and fellow students Loring Penna-Welch, Jacob Marshall and Hayden Murphy worked with the ECU Innovation Design lab to create a composting business in Greenville. The group, named Terra Bella Compost, takes organic food waste from ECU’s dining halls and converts it to high-quality compost for gardeners and landscapers, thus helping the environment and reducing trash costs.

It is Olivia’s goal to be an effective steward of the environment and to help enact positive societal change. Her Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship will facilitate her pursuit of a M.S. in Environmental Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. Eventually she plans to give back by working to create opportunities for students who come from less STEM-literate areas of the country.



The Phi Kappa Phi 2019-2020 Eldean Pierce Graduate Fellowship Award

Each year, the ECU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi sponsors a competition among graduating seniors for a fellowship to help fund their first year of graduate or professional study. Named in honor of a former chapter secretary and faculty member in Nursing, the award includes a fellowship of $1,500 and a plaque.

The 2019-2020 Fellowship Winner is Ananya Koripella. A graduate of Panther Creek High School in Cary, NC, Ananya entered the university as an East Carolina Scholar and member of the Honors College. She is completing a double major in Public Health Studies and Hispanic Studies. She has been a member of Dr. Spangenburg’s lab, gaining experience in using mouse models to research the efforts of endocrine-based gene regulation on physiological and metabolic functions of skeletal muscles that can be applied to humans. She is completing her Signature Honor’s Project under his supervision focusing on the breast cancer 1 early onset gene (BRACA1) to examine its role in regulating muscle function. Last summer she participated in the East Carolina Heart Institute Clinical Internship under Dr. Wiley Nifong.

Ananya has been involved in numerous service projects during her four years on campus and was inducted last year into ECU’s Servire Society. This year she was awarded the Robert H. Wright Alumni Leadership Award. She was a Residential Scholar and volunteer with New Independence Academy for autistic students. She was the co-fundraising chair for the program and helped raise $4,500 in scholarship funds. She has also participated annually in the Dil se Naach, an Indian dance group. She volunteered with ECU Global Brigades on a medical service trip to Honduras. She has also worked as a Program Assistant at the Women’s and Gender Office and as a Research Technician at the Diabetes and Obesity Institute.

Ananya also studied abroad in Greece and Spain, and shadowed in the Spanish Interpretation Department at Vidant Medical Center to learn more about the issues faced by Spanish-speaking patients. Next year she will attend medical school and has an interest in global and public health. She would one day like to work with the United Nations’ World Health Organization to address health disparities affecting various populations globally and perhaps volunteer with Doctors without Borders.


The Phi Kappa Phi 2019-2020 Outstanding Senior Award

The East Carolina University chapter of Phi Kappa Phi recognizes co-winners of the 2019-2020 Outstanding Senior Award: Brooks Holt, ECU College of Nursing, and Ashley Hunter, ECU Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. Each will receive a plaque and a check for $1,000 from the chapter.

Brooks Holt graduated from Northwood High School in Pittsboro, NC. She enrolled at East Carolina University as an East Carolina Scholar and member of the Honors College. One of her passions in high school was working with the Hispanic population in Siler City, NC. She assisted in summer camps and with food programs and a clothing ministry. She has continued this passion in nursing, finding a way to pursue a minor in Hispanic Studies despite the extreme time commitments with a nursing curriculum. Brooks was part of Dr. Kim Larson’s study abroad service program in Guatemala where she worked in malnutrition centers and rural clinics. During the past four years, she also partnered with the community group, AMEXCAN (Association of Mexicans in North Carolina), to help in the local Hispanic community. She also started a student organization called AMEXCAN@ECU and recruited students to volunteer to help with community events for Latino people, raise money for school supplies for Latino students and to create a special Saturday event to recruit more Latino student to enroll at ECU. During her spring year, she interned at AMEXCAN as their volunteer coordinator and created a class in Spanish for newly diagnosed diabetic patients. In the spring of 2019, she received an Undergraduate Research Award to return to Guatemala and work with Dr. Larson interviewing 38 families to evaluate the sustainability of a clean water project. She subsequently received the Rising Stars Research and Scholarship award to present her results at the Signma Theta Tau convention and at Collaborative Nursing Research Day. Brooks has also served the university as a lead CHEM 1120 tutor, a member of Pirates Promoting Community Wellness, and as a College of Nursing Top Performer. She has accepted a position on a general medical unit at Wake Med hospital after she graduates. However, she eventually plans to return to graduate school to pursue her Doctorate of Nursing.

Ashley Hunter took a more unusual path to study at East Carolina University. She attended New Hanover high school, and within months of graduating, was sworn into the U.S. Army, boarding a bus for basic combat training. Stationed at Fort Bragg, she served as a human resource specialist and was deployed to Kuwait for eight months. While in the Army, she completed her associate’s degree, and after leaving the military, decided to attend ECU because of the university’s excellent support services to help veterans transition as students. Ashley began pursuing a major in anthropology and later added a second major in classical civilization and a third major in history. She wrote a paper for her Greek history course that won the department’s Papalas Ancient History Award. In the summer of 2019, she studied abroad with Dr. David Stewart in the Maritime Landscapes in Crete program, which focused on ancient seafaring throughout the Aegean from the Bronze Age to time of the Roman Empire. In the fall of 2019, Ashley conducted independent research on international relations in classical Greece, which she presented at the Phi Alpha Theta national convention in San Antonio. She wrote her senior thesis in history under the supervision of Dr. Oakley analyzing the rise of Julius Caesar during the 1st century BCE Rome Republic. Her paper, “The Spartan Way of Life,” was selected for publication in the 2019-2020 edition of The Lookout; and another paper, “The Things They Carried: Classical Greece Maritime Trade,” was accepted for presentation at the National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium. Ashley has been active on campus. She is a member of two honor societies: Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Alpha Theta. She volunteers with the Pirate Veterans Organization and the Veterans Leadership Academy. Last summer she assisted with the Veteran to Scholar Program under the direction of Dr. Anna Froula. In addition, she has volunteered with the Beare Garden Plantation Animal Rescue in Snow Hill, NC. After graduating, she plans to take a year to work and consider her options for graduate study. Ultimately, she plans to teach at a community college because there is a real need for ancient history professors at that level and she wants to encourage those students to continue their educations as she did.


Outstanding First-Year Student Award, 2019-2020

Dustin Humphries has been selected as the Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding First-year Student for 2019-2020 by the ECU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. He will receive a plaque and a check for $500. A graduate of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, he is an East Carolina Scholar and member of the Honors College. He was an active volunteer in high school tutoring with a local Hispanic nonprofit, which ignited his passion for the Spanish language. Initially, he intended on studying medicine at ECU and combining that with a major in Hispanic Studies. He interned in Dr. Darrell Neufer’s bioenergetics lab at the East Carolina Heart Institute. While he learned a great deal, he also came to realize that he wanted to move in a different direction perhaps serving in politics. He decided to add a second degree in economics. He is currently working with an ECU group called “Knock Out Nicotine” to challenge the law that prohibits UNC institutions from becoming tobacco-free. He is currently interning at RISE29, which is an entrepreneurial consulting program, and he works with Good Bowls, a frozen-meal startup dedicated to delivering nutritious food bowls to factory workers in the east. Active in service, he has also interned with El Centro Hispano, a nonprofit to support the Hispanic population in Durham, and he has volunteered as a teacher’s aide at Belvoir Elementary School in Greenville, serving a large Latino student population. He looks forward to spending the 2020-2021 academic year studying abroad in Greneda, Spain.

Finalist of Distinction for Outstanding First-Year Student Award, 2019-2020

Diana Carbajal has been selected as a Finalist of Distinction for the Outstanding First-Year Student Award. She will receive a plaque and a check for $250.00 from the ECU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. Diana is pursuing a double major in philosophy and sociology with a minor in Hispanic studies. A graduate of North Johnston high school in Kenly, Diana is a first-generation college student. In high school, she was assisted by a club called TRIO that helped low-income students apply to universities, and she eventually received a four-year scholarship for college. Many of her service activities involve working with the elderly. She also volunteers every other week with a church group that delivers food and clothes to low income neighborhoods. In the fall of 2019 she joined the ECU Writes club to send personal letters to elementary school kids in the area to encourage them in their studies. As the child of immigrants, Diana wants to become an immigration attorney to help them learn about their rights and to guide them through the process of obtaining residency and citizenship. Many of the people she knows are living in fear

of being sent back to a country in which they have never lived. As she writes, “The American dream makes people have high hopes, but it does not tell you how hard it is to live in a forelgn country.”



ECU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi 2019 Student Award Winners. Pictured (left to right): Madeline Fleishman, Oustanding Senior; Glenesha Berryman, Eldean Pierce Graduate Fellowship; Grace Krell, Co-Outstanding First-Year Student; and Arvind Rajan, Co-Outstanding First-Year Student.


The ECU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi national honor society recognized the following student award winners at the annual initiation ceremony on April 14, 2019.


Co-Outstanding First-Year Student

Grace Krell, College of Engineering and Technology

Grace is an engineering major with minors in music and mathematics. She was a 2018 honor graduate of West Forsyth High School. A member of the Honors College and an EC scholar, Grace is an avid classical and jazz musician as well as a small business owner. Recently, she was named 2nd place winner in the Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge. She pitched her product, the SweetSip stainless steel straw, and will use the prize money to invest in her business and supply these straws through Dowdy Student stores. Grace also is active as a volunteer with the Society of Women Engineers, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the Engineering Ambassadors, the ECU Wind Ensemble, and as a mentor at the local Boys and Girls club and volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House.


Co-Outstanding First-Year Student

Arvind Rajan, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Science

Arvind is an EC Scholar and member of the Honors College pursuing majors in chemistry and biochemistry. A graduate of Enloe Magnet High School in Raleigh, Arvind joined the Medical Bioscience Academy and led a team to develop CPRonDemand, a user-friendly mobile app that serves as a real-time guide for CPR. His goal is to become a surgeon. He is conducting laboratory research with faculty members in the Brody School of Medicine on the role of fatty acid oxidation in muscle function using mice. This summer, he will do further research at the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology in Malaysia. He is a member of the ECU Martial Arts Club, enjoys photography and is volunteer chair for ECU’s Alpha Epsilon Delta pre-professional honor society. He also has organized volunteer events for the Ronald McDonald House and the Benevolence Corp.


Outstanding Senior

Madeline Fleishman, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences

Madie is completing a triple major in political science, security studies and international studies with a concentration in conflict. She is an EC Scholar and member of the Honors College. Her senior honor’s thesis examines the impacts of humanitarian aid on conflict situations and factors that worsen the outcomes. She was completing an internship at the UK Parliament in 2017 when a terrorist drove his car into pedestrians. This event impacted her desire to develop policies to improve security at home and abroad. She undertook community-engaged research with the Interfaith Refugee Ministry of New Bern, learning the stories of refugees who have resettled in the area and working to correct community misunderstandings. She has been involved with multiple organizations including Chi Omega sorority, The EC Scholars’ governing body, Roundtable, the ECU Honors college recruitment team, the ECU Office of Global Affairs, and the ECU Rural Prosperity Initiative. Madie will pursue a Ph.D. in political science next year at the University of Maryland.


Eldean Pierce Graduate Fellowship

Glenesha Berryman, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences

Glenesha is an EC Scholar and member of the Honors College majoring in English and the Interdisciplinary Great Books Program. Glenesha studied abroad with an ECU program in Cuba, and she participated in the Duke Feminist Theory workshop and UNC’s Global Africana Conference on Feminism and Sexuality in Global Black Communities. For Glenesha, the highlight of her college career was a summer research experience through the Columbia University Leadership Alliance Mellon Initiative at their Institute for African American Research. That summer, she wrote and presented her own project on Black cultural productions as acts of survival and resistance. This year, she began her own radio show at ECU on WZMB, “A Seat in the Booth.” She invites artists, activists and scholars to engage in discussion about contemporary topics. Her senior honor’s project is a collection of creative nonfiction essays in which she weaves Black and Chicana feminist theory, memoir and personal artifacts to tell her coming of age story. She received an Undergraduate Research Award to help fund this project. She too has extensive community service work including founding the Black History Month lecture series, delivering MLK keynote addresses in the community, tutoring ESL students, and coordinating an after-school literacy program. This fall, she will enter the Ph.D. program in the American Culture Department at the University of Michigan.