NCWU Receives Funding from NSF

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – North Carolina Wesleyan University (NCWU) has been awarded a significant grant of $251,835 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for an innovative project titled “WESPATHS: Waterways for Environmental Science-Promoting Advancement and Training for Hands-On Supports.” This prestigious award marks NCWU’s first NSF grant since 1972 and aims to bolster the university’s Environmental Science Program through strategic recruitment and retention efforts.

male professor in navy shirt

The grant, led by Principal Investigator Dr. Daniel Elias and Co-Principal Investigator Dr. John Temple, seeks to increase the number of students majoring and minoring in Environmental Science at NCWU. A primary focus will be on the recruitment and retention of students from historically excluded groups. This project advances NCWU’s marked successes in teaching students from under-represented groups aligns with the NSF’s goals for increasing diversity and inclusion in science related fields.

Dr. Elias elaborates on the project’s vision: “By integrating activities and creating a supportive environment that begins more than a semester before students matriculate, we will lower barriers to recruitment, retention, and graduation for a more diverse student body in the regional workforce and improve social mobility.”

The WESPATHS initiative aims to develop a geoscience learning ecosystem that will provide students with the skills and competencies necessary for career readiness. Central to the program is the use of project-based learning, where students engage directly with stakeholders to address pressing local water quality and quantity issues. This hands-on approach not only enhances learning but also fosters a sense of self-efficacy and belonging among students.

In addition to strengthening NCWU’s Environmental Science Program, the project is set to have a lasting impact on the Rocky Mount region. By establishing strong connections with area high schools, WESPATHS will offer high school students, teachers, and counselors’ greater opportunities to explore higher education and NCWU specifically. This outreach effort is designed to create a pipeline of local talent, encouraging students to pursue careers in environmental science and related fields.

The program’s emphasis on local problems and local solutions is particularly noteworthy. By focusing on regional issues and involving local organizations, WESPATHS aims to build a stronger, more skilled workforce that can effectively address the environmental challenges facing the community. This collaborative effort is expected to yield new opportunities for both students and stakeholders, enhancing social mobility and community resilience.

As NCWU embarks on this transformative journey with the support of the NSF, the university stands poised to make significant strides in environmental science education and community engagement. The WESPATHS project represents a promising step towards a more inclusive, skilled, and socially mobile future for the Rocky Mount region and beyond.

Dr. Shane Thompson Honored with Prestigious Kershaw Lectureship

male professor in light shirt
Dr. Shane Thompson, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – Each year, the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) selects a distinguished group of scholars to deliver the esteemed Kershaw Lectures in Near East Archaeology. These lectures take place at various museums, society meetings, and universities across the nation. This year, Dr. Shane Thompson, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at North Carolina Wesleyan University (NCWU), has been chosen as one of the Kershaw Lecturers.

The Kershaw Lectures were established in 1994 by Norma and Reuben Kershaw, thanks to a generous endowment from the Kershaw Family Trust. These lectures honor Norma Kershaw, an AIA Trustee Emerita and long-time supporter of Near East archaeology. The Kershaw Lectures cover archaeological research in the regions of present-day Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, focusing on periods between 7000 B.C. and 400 A.D.

Dr. Thompson was recommended for this honor by the AIA Near East Archaeology Interest Group to the AIA Lecture Program Committee. His selection highlights his outstanding contributions to the field.

A rising star among NCWU’s faculty, Dr. Thompson has an impressive academic background. He earned his B.A. at Wake Forest University and holds multiple master’s degrees from Emory University, Brandeis University, and the University of Kansas. He completed his Ph.D. at Brown University in 2021 and has been serving as an Assistant Professor at NCWU since then.

Dr. Thompson’s research focuses on the material culture and political and cultural dynamics of the ancient Middle East. He has authored, co-authored, or co-edited fifteen books and published over a dozen articles and book chapters. His work in digital humanities, in collaboration with Associate Professor Jason Buel, recently received a National Endowment for the Humanities Spotlight on the Humanities Grant. He is also deeply committed to mentoring undergraduate students, having guided the second winner of the Undergraduate Research Award. In May 2024, Dr. Thompson was appointed to serve as the second Director of the Office for Undergraduate Research.

Dr. Joseph Lane, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at NCWU, expressed his pride in Dr. Thompson’s achievements: “We are overjoyed that Dr. Thompson is receiving this well-deserved recognition for his groundbreaking work on the ancient Near East. He embodies the Wesleyan ideal of the engaged teacher-scholar. At NCWU, students have the opportunity to work directly with some of the most accomplished scholars in their field, and Dr. Thompson exemplifies the idea that great thinkers are also great teachers. We look forward to sharing his engaging and insightful stories about the ancient Near East with wider audiences.”

NCWU Students participate in NCDHHS Internship

Nayonna Bland

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – North Carolina Wesleyan University students, Nayonna Bland and Makaela Stokes, have accepted an internship with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) as part of the department’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) Internship Program. This paid summer internship is a component of the department’s workforce development initiative to build a strong and inclusive workforce by increasing the number of human services professionals to provide for the growing number of residents in North Carolina.

“We are looking toward the future in NCDHHS by building a strong and inclusive workforce that supports all North Carolinians,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “We genuinely applaud each of these young professionals for their assistance in helping NCDHHS protect the health, safety and well-being of the people in our communities now and into the future.”

Makaela Stokes

Stokes and Bland will be working on a project with NCDHHS’ Division of Health Benefits. The internship will last 10 weeks and will include work in the assigned project area, seminars, presentation practice and an immersion event at the end of the internship experience.    

“NCDHHS is now in its 6th Cohort of HBCU/MSI Change Champion Interns, connecting with over 150 students since 2022.  We are creating a strong and inclusive workforce by building a pipeline to the public health and human services professions for this generation,” said Angela Bryant, NCDHHS’ Assistant Secretary for the Health Equity Portfolio. “NCDHHS is excited that Makaela and Nayonna have chosen to join 41 other graduate and undergraduate interns to help build the workforce needed to improve the health, safety and well-being of all North Carolinians.”

NC Wesleyan believes that student engagement is vital to rewarding social lives, strengthening leadership skills, and the desire to make a difference on campus and the community. We encourage students to get involved and make most of their collegiate experience. We are so proud of these Bishops for taking advantage of this opportunity and taking a step further to make most of their journey. Both of these students will be able to apply the skills learned during their internship with DHHS towards their respective careers in the social sector.

NCWU Awarded Longleaf Fund Grant

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – The North Carolina Wesleyan University Teacher Education Program received a $10,000 grant from the Longleaf Fund Foundation. This is an anonymous donor advised fund at Foundation for the Carolinas (FFTC) that provides grants to organizations in the Carolinas to support capital projects for at-risk youth. The grants are intended to help communities create opportunities for a brighter future for their youth.

Dr. Kelvin L. Spragley, Director of Teacher Education, shares “What this Longleaf Fund Grant means to a Teacher Education student is that s/he will learn needed skills required to be successful as an educator when implementing parent, school, and community partnership efforts.”

How this grant will be used

Beginning Fall 2024, proceeds from the grant will be used to support the K-12 public school students who receive tutoring via the NC Wesleyan Award-Winning After-School Program. Dr. Spragley will utilize funds “to purchase 10 laptops (with software) and 10 hotspots (for students who do not have home internet). These materials will be used to aid the K-12 students, who have IEPs and are tutored by students in the NC Wesleyan Teacher Education program, with their work in the primary content areas of Reading, Math, and Science/Biology.” 

group of students in front of middle school

The critical steps involved in this project are as follows:

  1. Students will complete as much school work as possible while receiving tutoring at the once-each-week after-school program.
  2. Students will be allowed to sign out laptops and/or hotspots to complete work at home
  3. Students will continue with Zoom sessions with tutors between tutoring sessions
  4. Students will return equipment and NC Wesleyan will track student progress while working in conjunction with parents and building-level teachers. 

Dr. Spragley believes “Instruction emphasizes critical thinking, analytical reasoning, reading, writing, speaking, making informed ethical decisions, and using new information technologies.” Providing necessary resources for 30+ students will make a lasting improvement on Wesleyan’s Teacher Education Program, but also in the students’ lives.

Maryhelen Willhite Endowed Scholarship Established

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – Bishops are often asked, “What makes Wesleyan different?” or “Why Wesleyan?” The answer is simple. It is the people, the community. This is proven once again by another generous donor, Maryhelen Willhite Jones.

Maryhelen is the daughter of the late Dr. W. Lyle Willhite who was a professor at NC Wesleyan from 1976 to 1984. Her dedication and commitment to Wesleyan runs deep and in 1996, she was able to assist one of Dr. Willhite’s former students, Rick Bradham III, ’81, in establishing The Dr. W.L. Willhite Endowed Scholarship.

Maryhelen Willhite Jones

Because of her late father’s influence, Maryhelen made her first contribution in the spring of 2024 to establish The Maryhelen Willhite Jones Endowed Scholarship, her own Second Generation Legacy Scholarship. This award will be given to undergraduate students majoring in Marketing who have excelled in academic and extracurricular accomplishments at NCWU.

Dr. Willhite instilled in Maryhelen to be bold and give with purpose and passion. Now she has been able to “bring that ‘can do’ boldness to NCWU through another endowed scholarship with the Willhite name.”

Maryhelen says “I believe in not only paying things forward, but also paying them inward.”

Although her background is in the Arts, International Relations, and Information/ Library Sciences, she has a passion for all things Marketing: brands, products, companies, non-profits, social causes, innovations, and ideas. Maryhelen states, “If I had to do it over again, I would go into the field of Marketing. What I can do instead is to help support those who decide to do just that.”

Maryhelen knows that Wesleyan’s undergraduate marketing degree involves research skills, critical thinking, demographics, collaboration, creativity, communication, persuasion, information, observation, social, economic, and cultural considerations, and yes, sometimes playfulness!

“My ultimate focus is on the students, who no matter what their career fields end up to be, are ethically grounded and have a strong moral self-compass,” says Maryhelen Willhite Jones.

“The Dr. W. L. Willhite Endowed Scholarship has been financially supporting Wesleyan students for over 27 years. To have a scholarship established by his daughter, Maryhelen, that will impact lives in the same way is a grand gesture. We are grateful for the ongoing support from the Willhite family, which will continue to make a difference for future Wesleyan alumni. The relationship developed has been meaningful and of great significance.”

Successful APS NSLS Fast Pass Program Launch

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – Sixty-five students were inducted into the National Society for Leadership and Success (NSLS) customized online program offered in the Adult and Professional Studies Program (APS) at North Carolina Wesleyan University (NCWU). NSLS is an honor society and leadership program that aims to assist students develop their leadership skills and have a positive impact on their communities. It is the largest leadership society in the United States with over 1.4 million members and more than 700 chapters nationwide.

Students gathered online for weekly synchronous sessions each Thursday evening for nine weeks to complete the induction program. In addition to meeting the NSLS requirements, students engaged in community service activities, positively impacting the lives of those in need and demonstrating their commitment to social responsibility. Tanisha Reed, Director of Career Development, facilitated the students’ induction process and calls this inaugural effort “a success with excellent results and enthusiastic participation.” The success of this program highlights the commitment of NCWU to fostering leadership and career development among its students, preparing them to excel in their professional lives and contribute meaningfully to their communities. “Their dedication and hard work exemplify the core values of leadership and success, and I am confident that this experience will serve as a cornerstone to their future professional endeavors,” Reed said. Students value this unique opportunity and the environment that comes with it. Reginald Wilkinson, recent inductee, shares, “Having Reed as our sponsor and leader at NCWU has been great! She is awesome! I am truly thankful for this induction and being part of the NSLS community!”

What comes next for these inductees? During the Fall 2024 semester the NSLS chapter will resume, combining Traditional and APS students and celebrating the induction on November 20, 2024.

NCWU receives Global Funding for Swale Development and Student Engagement

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – North Carolina Wesleyan University (NCWU) anticipates the Fall 2024 semester as their start date for beginning a project highlighting sustainability, improving biodiversity and water quality, as well as erosion prevention on its campus. The project is generously funded by Easyflyers®, a global logistics company that offers comprehensive shipping solutions. The campaign’s focus is developing a vegetated swale in an urban ditch. This green infrastructure will improve stormwater runoff management, reduce erosion, and use native plants.

easy flyers logo

Easyflyers® has been a sponsor with NC Wesleyan over the last several years. Through campus beautification projects and event sponsorships, we’ve partnered to establish a greener and more sustainable campus”, states Nichol Ally, President and Managing Director of the Americas. “The EasyFlyers® Earth Day 2023 Project at NC Wesleyan provided a natural and beautiful outdoor sitting and mediation area supplemented with unique trees.”

Earth Day 2024

The company’s Earth Day 2024 donation is funding a project referred to as “The Swale”.  It will be completed by students in Wesleyan’s biology classes and overseen by Dr. Daniel Elias who states “This project showcases both EasyFlyers® and Wesleyan’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Using native plants, we can reduce some of the impact of urbanization on our ecosystem. We are grateful that EasyFlyers® want to make earth sustainability projects a priority and allows Wesleyan to assist in these efforts.”

Students at NCWU will actively participate in this project through site preparation, plant selection, and maintenance. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to conduct water quality assessments and monitor ecosystem health as part of courses like Global Water Issue (BIO330), Agroecology (BIO226), and Environmental Science (BIO324). 

Dr. Elias emphasizes this project’s educational value, “Having our students involved in every part of this project will promote a deeper understanding of environmental science and develop a sense of responsibility towards sustainable practices.”

Further, the university plans to conduct regular monitoring to ensure the vegetated swale’s long-term success. Data collected by student-led monitoring and inspections will contribute to addressing the efficacy of green infrastructures as a solution to urbanization. 

Local Company Awards Nursing Scholarships to NCWU

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – SE&M Constructors, Inc., a Rocky Mount based, family-owned company for over 100 years, recently established the SE&M Constructors, Inc. Annual Nursing Scholarships at North Carolina Wesleyan University. “There is such a high demand for quality nursing in this region and NC Wesleyan is doing a great job of trying to fill that need. As a local company, we care about the communities we serve, so helping Wesleyan students further their education and careers in nursing seems like a tremendous benefit to all of us,” states Harry Bynum, Chairman of SE&M Constructors, Inc. and member of NC Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees.

The SE&M Constructors, Inc. Annual Scholarship will be awarded to NCWU nursing students enrolled to receive their Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. The number of recipients may vary annually depending on the number of nursing students applying for the scholarship. NCWU’s BSN degree prepares experienced registered nurses for advanced leadership, management, clinical, research and nurse educator positions. Dr. Evan D. Duff, President of NCWU, states “This is another example of how our community benefits from organizations who believe in the mission of North Carolina Wesleyan University. These funds will directly impact nursing students who will further their education to meet the needs of our local hospital and medical practices. It directly impacts the public health of Nash and Edgecombe counties.”

The scholarships will be awarded with a minimum of $2,000 and a maximum of $2,500. Applications for the scholarship will be administered through the Financial Aid Office. Students interested in applying for this scholarship may contact the NCWU Financial Aid Office by emailing

New Scholarship Opportunities Announced

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – North Carolina Wesleyan University (NCWU) has announced three new scholarships that will accept applications starting Fall 2024. Each scholarship was generously offered in memory of a loved one and aligns with Wesleyan’s beliefs of being personal, practical, and purpose-driven.

Charles Randall Ranke pictured wiith his son Stephen Ranke, NCWU Infrastructure & Systems Administrator

The Charles Randall Ranke Scholarship is an annual scholarship established by Stephen Ranke (Infrastructure and Systems Administrator with NCWU), in memory of his father, Charles Randall Ranke. Charles Randall Ranke was a proud veteran of the U.S. Navy, and an Eagle Scout with the B.S.A. The scholarship will be available to any student with preference given to an Eagle or Gold Scout with the next consideration being any Veteran student. The student must be of good character, remain in good standing with the University, maintain an overall 2.5 GPA and have a financial need. In the event no student meets the aforementioned preference, it will be awarded to a worthy student according to the Universities’ general financial aid criteria. This will become available Fall 2025.

Keiya Fields McKoy and Denikee Fields Davis complete forms in honor of their mother Gail Fields

Gail B. Fields Annual Scholarship is established by Keiya Fields McKoy and Denikee Fields Davis (Student Affairs Administrative Assistant for Wesleyan) in memory of their mother. Gail Fields was not only Wesleyan’s loyal and dedicated receptionist, but friend and family. The scholarship is open to students majoring in Religious Studies to fund research, tuition, and educational expenses in furtherance of their degree. The recipient should be a sophomore, junior, or senior with a GPA of 2.5 or greater. Student selection will be determined by the Financial Aid Office and the Religious Studies Department.

Judith Vilagos Parsons ‘75 and Dr. Evan D. Duff, President

Howard Parsons Biomedical Endowed Scholarship is established by Judith Vilagos Parsons ‘75 in memory of her husband, Howard T. Parsons ‘74. Judith Parsons established an annual scholarship in 2022 that honored her late husband, but she wanted a scholarship that would remain even after her memory. Mrs. Parsons shares, “The quest for knowledge is a lifelong pursuit and for Howard and me, Wesleyan was pivotal in shaping not only our lives and careers, but also our understanding of how we can best serve others. Our hope is that this gift will assist students in their own journeys, and allow the same wonderful experience of learning Wesleyan provided us.” Primary consideration will be given to Biomedical Science students or other areas of science to fund research, tuition, and educational expenses in furtherance of their degree. Scholarship recipients will be selected by the Biomedical Science faculty, with preference given to those who would most benefit academically and financially. Recipients must be a U.S. citizen of good character, remain in good standing with the University, maintain a minimum of 3.0 GPA in the sciences and 2.5 overall GPA.

For more information about Wesleyan’s scholarship opportunities, please visit or information about donating for a cause you are passionate about, visit

NCWU Becomes First Institution to Host “Science of Reading” Observation with NCICU

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – North Carolina Wesleyan University’s (NCWU) Teacher Education Program was visited by three representatives of the North Carolina Independent Colleges & Universities (NCICU). The visit was an effort to review how the Science of Reading was being implemented into NCWU’s nationally and state-accredited Teacher Education program, where instructors teach pre-service teachers the science and art of how to teach Reading in the elementary school setting.  The Science of Reading is a research-based methodology regarding the best practices to teach K-6 students how to read and comprehend. Dr. Lois M. Hart, Associate Professor of Education, explains “NCWU’s Teacher Education Program has restructured their reading classes to align with the Science of Reading research. Elementary education pre-service teachers are provided with teaching strategies and experiences that have been proven by research to result in producing readers who are able to read fluently and comprehend at high levels.”

dr kelvin spragley and

Dr. Kelvin Spragley, Director of Teacher Education and Diversity and Inclusion Liaison, along with education faculty, arranged a breakfast, campus tour, and mock pre-service teaching demonstrations for the visit, making NCWU the first institution to host an observation visit with NCICU. Students and education faculty had the unique opportunity of paneling with the NCICU visitors and discussed all of the changes in the Reading curriculum. This followed observations of both EDU 210: Introduction to Foundations of Reading, and EDU 312: Teaching K-2 Literacy.

NCWU’s Teacher Education Program takes pride in knowing that learning to teach Reading starts in their classroom courses, and then it is the pre-service teacher’s responsibility to spread these practices, to the best of their ability, in the K-6 classrooms. Dr. Hart says “Children’s potential to become successful in school begins with learning to read and comprehend at high levels. Teachers’ abilities to effectively deliver strong reading instruction begins with ensuring all teacher preparation programs implement scientifically based reading instruction to pre-service teachers.”

college students teaching in class setting
college students teaching in class setting