Remarks from the Sept. 23, 2016 Meeting of the Board of Trustees

Friday, September 23, 2016

Board of Trustees Meeting
Friday, September 23, 2016
Plemmons Student Union, on the campus of Appalachian State University

Remarks by Sheri N. Everts, Chancellor

Good morning, Chair Adcock, trustees and guests. I have much news to share about Appalachian’s recent accomplishments.

In late-breaking news, U.S. News and World Report has ranked Appalachian State University third among top public regional universities in the South, and ninth overall – up from 10th in the 2015 rankings – among top regional public and private universities in the South. Appalachian has placed among the top 15 public and private southern universities since the rankings were first published in 1986.

I am pleased to report Appalachian also ranked seventh among regional universities in the South in the Best Colleges for Veterans category.

This good news has already been picked up by the regional press.

Since its inception, Appalachian has had one vision – putting students first by providing access to a transformational education. This recognition speaks to our longstanding commitment to quality in teaching, research and service, as well as to the stellar faculty and staff who prepare our students to lead purposeful lives as engaged citizens.

Our university has many accomplishments to celebrate, and I would like to share a few of those accomplishments from our vice chancellors:

In the area of Academic Affairs, we have made many advances in the priority areas of diversity and enrollment. I am pleased to share that Appalachian’s preliminary enrollment numbers are at an all-time high of almost 18,300 students. 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. 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 our history with 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!

Appalachian’s six-year graduation rate of 72 percent is the highest in our history and our first-to-second-year retention rate is 87 percent! Further supporting students during their time at Appalachian, we increased merit-based financial aid for students by $500,000 this year, which represents a 33 percent increase.

You heard a little bit from our Solar Car team at our last meeting and they continue to receive acknowledgement for their great achievements. Adding to our national reputation as a leader in sustainability, 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 eight days and nearly 2,000 emissions-free miles across the country powered only by 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.

I am also pleased to announce that Appalachian will soon open a Student Veteran Resource Center to meet the needs of active duty military personnel and veterans at Appalachian. The office will be located on the second floor of the Plemmons Student Union and will open in November, on Veterans Day. The center will be led by Eric Gormly, a six-year veteran of the U.S Marine Corps who assumed his role as student veteran services coordinator in June. It is important to note that successful grant work by our faculty, and some terrific advocacy work by Student Veteran Association President Dan Pegram, resulted in our being able to hire Eric and create this center. I would also like to note that the Military Affairs Committee has been instrumental in advocating for a student veteran center on our campus.

At the opening faculty staff meeting of this academic year, I announced that I will establish an innovation scholars program this year, 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.

From Business Affairs, I would like to recognize our new vice chancellor for business affairs, who began work at Appalachian on Aug. 1. Paul Forte brings with him more than 30 years of experience in accounting, budgeting, purchasing, risk management and financial operations in both the private and public sectors.

Paul is exceptionally qualified to lead Appalachian’s investigation of public private partnerships, and he certainly hit the ground running! In August, we invited the campus to participate in a Town Hall to discuss and provide feedback on the topic of public private partnerships. About 200 members of the campus community attended, asked questions and shared their thoughts. Earlier this month, we presented a proposal to the Board of Governors to seek Millennial Campus status, as approved by this board, for the area surrounding the football stadium.

From University Advancement, plans are underway to fill six open development positions in the current year. Current fundraising priorities in University Advancement include scholarships, professorships, unrestricted funding and funds to equip labs and classrooms in the new building for the Beaver College of Health Sciences. 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. Thank you, Randy, for all that you are doing.

From Student Development, the Career Development Center has partnered with Institutional Research, the Office of Alumni Affairs, University Advancement and the academic colleges to complete a pilot survey of all 2014-15 graduates. This effort, which is called the First Destination Survey, is designed to track the status of these graduates, and it marks the first time in recent history that Appalachian has conducted a comprehensive, university-wide analysis to determine the first-destination career activities of students completing their undergraduate degrees. While the results of this pilot assessment are still being finalized and will be presented at the December Board of Trustees meeting, initial findings are encouraging. Data were collected on a significant percentage of the graduates and indicate that a substantial majority are employed or currently enrolled such as in graduate school. These near-term outcomes are just one measurement of Appalachian’s impact on the lives of our alumni.

In other news, Appalachian’s students completed their successful 10th Annual Homecoming Blood Drive on Sept. 21. This event differs from blood drives held by other universities because it is entirely coordinated by students.

We had an incredible day! Over 500 volunteers worked tirelessly and we collected 1,235 pints of blood, with a record number of Double Red Cell Donors. Thank you Leroy, for your leadership, and a special thank you to the Student Engagement and Leadership team. You all made this day possible.

While she will be formally introduced by Trustee Adcock later in this meeting, I would like to take a moment to welcome Danielle Carter, who begins as the new director of Multicultural Student Development on Monday. Welcome, Danielle.

And, from Athletics, the Appalachian/Miami game was yet another special day for us. While the score was not what we had hoped for, everything else was. Energy and excitement framed the weekend. Starting with a pep rally on Friday night, extended tailgating hours and record-breaking crowds generated a wonderful experience for all. We had several guests from General Administration and I received positive feedback from all of them.

We have accomplished much and our momentum is strong, and there is always more to be done. I am committed to working with the entire Appalachian Community to ensure we are engaging every opportunity to move our great academic mission forward.

I remain committed to continuing our success in the areas of sustainability; health, wellness and safety for our community; increased support for faculty and staff; global learning; research; community and civic engagement; fundraising; and growing our facilities to better serve our campus.

I thank the members of this board for the work you do each and every day in support of Appalachian. Please know that your work is making real and powerful differences in the lives of our students.

In closing, I would like to invite you all to attend the first Faculty Club event of the new academic year. The event will take place in the Whitewater Lounge of Plemmons Student Union, from 4 – 6 p.m. today. This is an excellent opportunity for you to join with faculty from across campus and faculty emeriti in an informal setting designed to generate an atmosphere of community and collaboration among Appalachian’s faculty members.

Mr. Chair, this concludes my remarks. Thank you.