Remarks from the Fall 2016 General Faculty and Staff Meeting

Friday, August 26, 2016

Fall 2016 General Faculty and Staff Meeting
Friday, August 26, 2016
Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, on the campus of Appalachian State University

Remarks by Sheri N. Everts, Chancellor

Good afternoon, and welcome to Appalachian’s 117th academic year. I offer a special welcome to our new faculty and staff.

As we start a new year, I would like to reflect on accomplishments from the past year and acknowledge some exciting opportunities ahead.

As a community, we have progressed on many of the key priorities I presented to you last year at this time, and have seen many accomplishments in the areas of diversity and enrollment; sustainability, health, wellness and safety for our community; and increased support for faculty and staff. I am committed to continuing to advance these areas, while also continuing our success in the areas of global learning; research; community and civic engagement; and fundraising.

I am further committed to continuing to slowly grow enrollment; continuing to increase the diversity of our students, faculty and staff; and improving and growing our campus facilities to better serve our students, faculty and staff.

While we will not have official enrollment numbers until August 29, I can confidently report that Appalachian's preliminary enrollment numbers are at an all-time high of 18,300 students. Also, the diversity of our total enrollment is at an all-time high of 15 percent, up from 14 percent last year, which was then a record. The most diverse total enrollment in Appalachian State University’s History!

Also, our first-year class, some would say our freshman class, is the largest, most diverse, and brightest first-year class in Appalachian State University’s history. Close to 3,125 students, approximately 17 percent from traditionally underrepresented groups, up from 15.2 percent in fall 2015, which was also an Appalachian record for diversity. Biggest, brightest and most diverse!

Slow and steady enrollment continues to be a priority. That said, it is important to note we are not anticipating any change in our student to faculty ratio, which is a hallmark of the Appalachian Experience. While strong demand is a positive indicator of Appalachian's overall standing, we must be able to sustain our community. Pacing the growth so that it is slow but steady is key, and Provost Kruger, all the other Vice Chancellors and I are committed to having the appropriate resources in place to support the continued health of the university.

This year for the first time ever, Appalachian’s six-year graduation rate topped 70 percent, and is actually now stands at 72 percent. Our first-to-second-year retention rate is 87 percent! Congratulations, and thank you!

We also increased merit-based financial aid for students by 500,000 dollars this year, which represents a 33 percent increase.

Appalachian continues to be recognized for its national leadership in sustainability. At the end of the summer, our Solar Car team, Team Sunergy, placed third in the qualifying track race for the Formula Sun Grand Prix and went on to place sixth in the American Solar Challenge, racing their vehicle for 8 days and nearly 2,000 emissions-free miles across the country powered by nothing but the sun. This incredible group of students and their faculty mentors represent both the entrepreneurial spirit and the deep and lasting understanding of sustainability that is representative of Appalachian.

The Department of Wellness and Prevention Services was created, and we expanded services in The Counseling Center and Health Services: The Counseling Center provided clinical services to 2,335 students over the past year. This represents a 24 percent increase in students served over the previous year. Last semester, 100 percent of students were seen when they came in for an initial consultation.

Next week, the Appalachian Community will participate in the university’s annual Health, Wellness and Safety Festival – which will promote the vast number of critical resources and support our university offers to students, faculty and staff.

I am especially proud of the great progress we have made in support of faculty and staff.

We have again implemented an annual raise process for EHRA faculty and non-faculty employees. This marks the third year in a row for merit pay increases for faculty. Additionally, we secured internal funding for 14 new tenure-track faculty lines.

After a thorough market assessment of all SHRA jobs, we invested 1 million dollars in market adjustments and incremental benefits to more than one-third of our SHRA workforce, including increases to most of our lowest paid service, trade and administrative support job classes. These market-based increases brought all SHRA employee salaries to at least 85 percent of their respective market rates; and salaries in 30 job classes to 90 percent or 100 percent of the respective market rates.

The Office of the Provost was charged to complete an external review of the Hubbard Center and the new Center for Academic Excellence was created to strengthen professional development opportunities.

Space to support the work of faculty and staff is always at a premium. We have allocated more than 2 million dollars from renovation and restoration, and carry-forward funding, to upgrade the old Presbyterian Church. It will now be called Howard Street Hall and house two, new, 80-seat classrooms and 21 faculty offices. In other facilities support, PanHellenic Hall will house a new fermentation sciences facility and, with the successful NC Connect bond, we have broken ground on a new home for the Beaver College of Health Sciences.

Next month, we will present a proposal to the Board of Governors to seek Millennial Campus status for the area surrounding the football stadium. This status allows us to partner with private entities, but it is important to note that it does not require us to do so. Any such partnerships will be tied to our master plan. These types of partnerships help us maximize our revenues without diluting our academic mission. A more thorough discussion of Public Private Partnerships will be the primary subject of a Town Hall meeting scheduled for next Monday at 3 p.m. in the Student Union. Please join us, if you are able, to meet our New Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs, Paul Forte, and talk with all of the vice chancellors and me.

Thanks to your efforts, there was a record setting increase in external dollars, 16.2 million dollars in fact, through the Office of Research, and Appalachian now hosts approximately 24 international visiting scholars each year. We have 70 active, multi-faceted bilateral partnerships with institutions in 28 countries around the world.

As we continue our successes in the areas of global learning, research, community and civic engagement, I have identified four personal strategic priorities to support your work throughout the upcoming academic year:

  1. Improve and enhance communications
  2. Increase campus efficiency and effectiveness to better meet our strategic goals
  3. Continue to develop and expand fundraising initiatives; and
  4. Establish “Appalachian Innovation” for transformational sustainability

To improve and enhance communications, I will pursue additional opportunities for open conversations and discussions. We will build on community relationships and grow our relationships with local and state media, and are already placing increased emphasis on publicly showcasing the impressive work of our faculty, staff and students.

Each day, our campus will work diligently toward increased efficiency and effectiveness to ensure we are best meeting student, faculty and staff needs. Key to this goal is a culture of evidence based-decision making and the alignment of evaluation, planning and budgeting processes. Dashboard metrics will be developed to clearly communicate progress with our strategic priorities such as enrollment, diversity, efficiency and effectiveness, and sustainability. I’ll remind you we had our first annual Budget Presentations illustrating progress towards our strategic goals last April and will do so again next semester.

Our work to develop and expand fundraising initiatives in support of Appalachian’s mission and vision is of primary importance to me. We will develop and implement a capital fundraising initiatives list, as well as a strategy to secure private funding for our academic mission and to keep college costs as low as possible.

This year, I will establish an innovation scholars program, which will provide support for faculty and staff engaged in innovation within their discipline. Innovations could be related to teaching, research, service, community engagement, economic development or any combination thereof. The Appalachian approach to innovation is multidisciplinary and building upon that approach will greatly enhance our reputation as a national leader in higher education. In the months ahead, look for continued communications about identifying and recognizing your innovative approaches to teaching, research and service.

We have accomplished much since this time last year, but there is always more to be done. I am committed to working with you, as well as our students, alumni and friends to ensure we are engaging every opportunity to move our great academic mission forward.

Thank you for the opportunity to share these remarks and I wish you a successful and fulfilling fall semester.

Thank you, all, for the work you do each and every day. Your work is making real and powerful differences in the lives of our students. Thank you.

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