This Spring, ECU’s Outer Banks campus will host its third cohort of students to participate in the Semester Experience at the Coast program. While the undergraduate residential program is held each spring, much of the fall semester is spent coordinating and promoting the program to both current and future Pirates. This year, however, marks an exciting change. Over the course of the fall, faculty and staff have worked hard to increase the number of students who join the program.

In the spring of 2021, CSI welcomed sixteen students who spent their semester enrolled in classes broadly focused on coastal science. While many of the program’s courses center on the natural sciences, the program is open to science and non-science majors. Last year, in fact, students that attended the program were from a variety of majors including political science, hospitality management, and environmental engineering.

While some students chose to solely enroll in the courses offered here on the Outer Banks campus, others took a combination of in-person and online classes. This flexibility, in combination with small class sizes, allows students to turn classroom learning into active learning opportunities at the coast. During the program, undergraduates often find themselves involved in current research efforts with faculty in the field. Research opportunities and internships both with ECU faculty and community partners are some of the key elements that make the Semester Experience at the Coast program so unique and intriguing to ECU students.

During their first day on campus, the 2021 cohort had the opportunity to explore campus and the Coastal Studies Institute.

It is these amazing opportunities that are the motivation for ECU faculty and staff to expand the number of students that study here at the coast. “Our current goal for spring semester enrollment is twenty students,” says Alex Nolte, University Programs Associate at CSI. “We recognize this is a considerable ambition. It is an increase from the number of students we had enrolled last year. But we are confident that as we work to promote the program on main campus and across the region, more and more students will seize the opportunity to study here on the Outer Banks.”

Working directly with Dean Reide Corbett, Nolte has been dedicating efforts to expand the program in a variety of ways. “The main thing we want to do this year is get the word out about the Outer Banks campus. More people need to know that we are here!” she states.

In addition to speaking directly with students on ECU’s main campus, Nolte has been attending events put on by ECU admissions to make sure prospective Pirates know about this great opportunity to study at the coast. Between visiting classrooms, holding interest meetings, scheduling consultations with advisors, and speaking directly with faculty across campus, it is safe to say that Nolte and Corbett are working hard to expand the number of students enrolled in the program.

Dean Corbett chats with prospective students at an ECU Open House.

Photo: Rhett Butler, ECU News Services

While the long-term goal is for fifty students to be on the ECU Outer Banks campus each semester, the idea of program expansion does not stop merely with the numbers. As the Semester Experience at the Coast program grows, faculty and staff are also hoping to develop the types of courses offered at the Coastal Studies Institute. The interdisciplinary nature of the program suits the expansion of the undergraduate coursework well. Moreover, providing courses that span disciplines is one of the cornerstones of this distinctive program. The expansion of the Semester Experience at the Coast isn’t just a matter of enrolling more students, but also adding to the already incredible array of opportunities here at the coast.

Whether a student is interested in an internship, research project, or semester-long program, the ECU Outer Banks campus has something to offer. And these opportunities are only growing. Although this is only the third year the program is being offered, the undergraduates that have attended so far haven’t just had a “good time” but have had a life-changing experience. Josh, an alumnus of the program highlighted The Semester Experience at the Coast as “the best college experience [he] ever had”. While Marco, another alumnus, noted that his internship “[gave him] experience in a field [he] hopes to make a career out of.” For these reasons and all those mentioned above, the faculty and staff at the CSI are excited about the imminent expansion of the Semester Experience at the Coast, and ECU is excited to see more Pirates set sail for new horizons on the Outer Banks campus.

Led by East Carolina University (ECU), The Coastal Studies Institute is a multi-institutional research and educational partnership of the UNC System including North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Wilmington, and Elizabeth City State University.



Based at the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI), the North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP) advances inter-disciplinary marine energy solutions across UNC System partner colleges of engineering at NC State University, UNC Charlotte, and NC A&T University.  Click on the links below for more information.




ECU's Integrated Coastal Programs (ECU ICP) is a leader in coastal and marine research, education, and engagement.   ECU ICP includes the Coastal Studies Institute, ECU's Department of Coastal Studies, and ECU Diving and Water Safety.


The faculty and staff at the Coastal Studies Institute come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, as well as departments and organizations including ECU Department of Biology, ECU Department of Coastal Studies, NC Sea Grant, the North Carolina Renewable Energy Program, and the UNC Institute for the Environment.


Tour the ECU Outer Banks Campus and learn about the research, education, and engagement projects of CSI and ECU Integrated Coastal Programs through our 360 virtual tour.


The ECU Outer Banks campus is home to the Coastal Studies Institute.
Located on Roanoke Island along the banks of the second largest estuary
in the United States, this coastal campus spans 213 acres of marshes, scrub wetlands, forested wetlands, and estuarine ecosystems.