Dr. Heather Norris

Interim Chancellor, Appalachian State University

Dr. Heather Hulburt Norris became Appalachian State University’s ninth leader on April 19, 2024. Previously, she had served as provost and executive vice chancellor of App State since May 2021, after fulfilling that role in an interim capacity since February 2020.

She brings more than two decades of academic leadership, vision and expertise to her role as interim chancellor. Beginning her journey at the university in 2003 as a seasoned assistant professor in the Walker College of Business’ Department of Finance, Banking and Insurance, she was named assistant dean for undergraduate programs in 2005, associate dean for undergraduate programs and administration in 2008, senior associate dean in 2012, acting dean in 2014 and interim dean in 2015. In 2016, after a national search, she was named dean of the Walker College of Business. Her career has been characterized by her strong, collaborative leadership and service to both App State and the greater community.

Rising steadily through the academic ranks from assistant dean for undergraduate programs in 2005 to the pivotal role of interim dean in 2015, Norris has consistently led by example, serving to inspire the faculty, staff and administrators who have worked alongside her, as well as the students she has taught and mentored. Following a rigorous national search, she became the seventh dean — and first female dean — of the Walker College of Business in July 2016. During her time as dean, new commitments of outright gifts and new pledges to the college grew by 68%, and the college secured three new endowed professorships. Norris also oversaw a significant remodeling of Peacock Hall, which houses Walker College. Under her leadership, the college renewed its focus on experiential learning, expanding opportunities for global and civic engagement, and emphasizing sustainable and resilient business practices — and it was then the college coined the motto “Business for Good.”

In recognition of her trusted leadership and her passion for advancing the success of App State, Norris was appointed interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor in February 2020, assuming full responsibilities in May 2021. In this capacity, she oversaw the strategic direction of academic affairs, driving innovation and fostering key partnerships across the university’s various divisions, enabling a dynamic environment conducive to excellence in teaching and learning, research, scholarship and creative activities, and community outreach and engagement. Notably, she played a pivotal role in steering the university’s strategic planning and executing effective bridge planning strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring continuity and resilience in academic operations. Post-COVID, she led the efforts for the university’s 2022–27 strategic plan, “Empowering Human Potential through the Appalachian Experience,” as well as ensuring the recent development of an Academic Affairs Strategic Plan, a Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Strategic Plan, and the university’s current 2024–29 Quality Enhancement Plan, all under the direction of her Academic Affairs leadership team.

Her leadership as Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor has been characterized by a strong emphasis on developing and expanding new models and markets for academic delivery and expanding access to education for more people in North Carolina. Examples include the introduction of three new programs in 2024: a Bachelor of Science degree in health sciences, a Master of Science in occupational therapy program and an online Master of Public Health program. In 2024, for the fourth consecutive year, App State was recognized as the No. 1 in Most Innovative School in the South by U.S. News & World Report, in the publication’s 2024 “Best Colleges” rankings. Schools recognized in this category were identified by top college officials for making innovative improvements in curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities.

In the last two years, she has, in response to campus feedback and with an emphasis on innovation, repositioned and redeveloped several roles in the Provost’s Office to ensure greater role clarity, efficiency and transparency, and to encourage creative problem-solving among her leadership team. Additionally, she redeveloped a position on her leadership team to become Vice Provost of Research and Innovation in order to focus more strategically on universitywide innovation opportunities that show strong potential for local and regional economic impact.

Committed to enhancing faculty and staff welfare, Norris has actively engaged in discussion and implemented substantial measures to ensure competitive compensation for faculty, as evidenced by the recent salary increases and ongoing commitment to adjust compensation structures to attract and retain top talent. 

Under her leadership, the university launched a General Education Listening Task Force that culminated in significant, data-driven revisions to App State’s General Education program. Additionally, Norris has increased support for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for Student Success, bolstering faculty professional development and enhancing student success initiatives.  

Norris has been published in the Journal of Portfolio Management, Financial Management, Managerial and Decision Economics, and the Journal of Applied Business Research. Her work on corporate restructuring has been cited in The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Business Week and Dow Jones Online News. Norris is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Norris is dedicated to community service, having served for many years on the boards of directors for organizations such as Children's Hope Alliance and the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce.

Prior to her tenure at App State, Norris held faculty positions at Bowling Green State University, Pennsylvania State University and West Virginia University.

Norris holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance from James Madison University, and master’s and doctorate degrees in finance from Penn State University.

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