Remarks from the Dec. 9, 2016 Meeting of the Board of Trustees

Friday, December 9, 2016

Board of Trustees Meeting
Friday, December 9, 2016
Plemmons Student Union, on the campus of Appalachian State University

Remarks by Sheri N. Everts, Chancellor

Good morning, Chair Roess, trustees and guests. As we prepare to congratulate the newest Appalachian graduates on Saturday, I am happy to say that we have accomplished much of which to be proud since last we met.

Appalachian’s leadership in sustainability is widely known, and is a consideration in every decision we make regarding curriculum, growth, community engagement and stewardship. We continue to make a name for ourselves in this fast-growing discipline, and are building a solid reputation that extends well beyond our region, across the nation and with the sustainability leaders throughout the world.

Just before the Thanksgiving break, we received the exciting news that Appalachian has been ranked first among master’s granting institutions on the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s 2016 Sustainable Campus Index.

This AASHE index ranks top-performing colleges and universities throughout the world in 17 areas and overall, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (you may also have heard this referred to as STARS).

Let me repeat, Appalachian was ranked first, overall among all of the participating institutions across the world.

We also ranked No. 2 in the area of curriculum and No. 5 in the buildings or facilities category. It is quite an achievement and an honor to be recognized on such a well- regarded international index.

We continue to gain momentum in this area, and I have more good news to share. At 8:59 this morning, the university’s new Director of Sustainability, Dr. Lee Ball, signed his contract. Dr. Sue Edwards led a national search for this position, and the committee hosted candidates for the position in November and December.

Additionally, Ged Moody and Debbie Covington have begun work on the 6th annual Appalachian Energy Summit. Appalachian’s leadership in this event has provided a platform through which UNC campuses – together with industry partners – have avoided more than $499 million in utility costs.

On Nov. 11, Appalachian observed Veterans Day with an emotional morning ceremony, and later that day celebrated the opening of the Major General Edward M. Reeder Jr. Student Veteran Resource Center. Opening the center is a key move forward in Appalachian’s long tradition of working with veterans and their families, It 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.

I would like to point out that successful grant work by our faculty (thank you 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.

Nov. 11 was a busy day on campus! Also on that day, Famed actor Ben Vereen paid Appalachian a visit and led a master class on musical theatre for three theatre majors, which was open to the general public. The class is the first collaboration between the City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium and Appalachian’s Department of Theatre and Dance. The three students who worked with Vereen are sophomore Roy Dale Cox of Birmingham, Alabama; sophomore Elizabeth Mason Moore of Raleigh; and sophomore Sabrina Palazzo of Cary. All have musical theatre experience. They were chosen by Derek Gagnier, an associate professor of theatre and the coordinator of the Bachelor of Arts Performance Degree, and Keith Martin, the John M. Blackburn Distinguished Professor of Theatre. Thank you, John.

The work of our faculty continues to place Appalachian in the national spotlight. Department of Geology’s Dr. Cynthia Liutkus-Pierce recently published research around the age and formation of the largest assemblage of Homo sapiens’ footprints discovered to date. Her team has determined that the more than 400 footprints are between 19 thousand and 10 thousand years old. Her team’s research is now with the paleoanthropologists at the Smithsonian Institution and the American Museum of Natural History, who will explore what they tell us about the roots of human behavior.

Dr. Liutkus-Pierce has received widespread media attention, landing her on the front page of The Washington Post, and in articles in National Geographic, the Huffington Post, the Christian Science Monitor and the BBC.

This is just one story of the important research conducted by our faculty that leads to new knowledge in the field and strengthened classroom experiences for our students. There are countless examples of the work of our stellar faculty, staff and students. You will hear more later this morning from the Reich College of Education’s Dr. Christina Rosen and her students.

The meaningful engagement our faculty and staff have with our students provides them with deep and rich learning experiences. It also has significant outcomes. An important initiative led by Susan McCracken in the Career Development Center and Heather Langdon in the Office of Institutional Research and Planning has revealed some key data about the success of our students after graduation. Those of you who attended the Student Development committee meeting yesterday heard some of this information, which has also been informed by Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving as well as deans and department chairs across the university.

The First Destination project is a national effort of campuses across the nation to track what students are doing – or that first destination – immediately after graduation. The work of Susan, Heather and their colleagues at Appalachian is significant in that it builds on the national model, but pulls data from multiple sources, allowing for a more complete picture of the success of our newest Appalachian alumni. Appalachian’s team has managed to track over 73 percent of Appalachian’s graduates. The national standard for tracking is 65 percent.

The study is in its first year, and shows that of our 2014-15 graduates, nearly 85 percent of undergraduate and nearly 100 percent of graduate alumni are employed and/or enrolled in an institution of post-secondary education within one year of graduation. Thank you Susan and Heather, and congratulations Appalachian.

We have much of which to be proud and our momentum continues to be strong. To help provide you with timely information about the university’s success in meeting our strategic goals, we are developing a scorecard that we will share with you monthly, which will include metrics associated with our major strategic initiatives, along with key points of information to help you better share Appalachian’s news. We hope you will find this to be a valuable tool as you continue your ongoing work for Appalachian on so many fronts.

A few more important updates: you have likely heard that Dean Bill Pelto and Dean Fred Whitt have announced they have accepted prestigious new positions with nationally recognized organizations. While we will certainly miss them on our campus, we are very proud of their new opportunities. I am confident their new work will continue to reflect positively on Appalachian’s reputation as a leader in higher education.

Provost Darrell Kruger and colleagues are moving forward with national searches for both positions. Please join me in thanking Bill and Fred for their excellent work at Appalachian.

Also, as you know, the searches for the next vice chancellor for student development and vice chancellor for advancement are well underway. Jerry Baker and the team at Baker and Associates are assisting us in identifying and attracting excellent candidates.

Bill Pelto is chairing the vice chancellor of advancement search – you see Bill, we are not letting you go just yet! And, Dr. Mike Mayfield is chairing the search for the vice chancellor of student development. Trustees John Blackburn and Susan Branch are representing the Board of Trustees on these very important committees. Thank you, John and Susan.

Master Planning continues to move forward, as reported yesterday by Provost Kruger and Dr. Randy Edwards. I hope you are excited about the progress we have made. In addition to several campus planning sessions over the last several months, the master planning committee invited the campus community and our community partners to join us on Oct. 20 and 21. Many attendees contributed their ideas in these engaging sessions regarding the future of Appalachian’s campus.

And, of course you all already know that we are bowl bound! We are excited about the national spotlight the achievements of our student-athletes will shine on the entire university as we participate in the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery Alabama on Dec. 17th. Congratulations to our student-athletes, Head Coach Scott Satterfield and his staff, Athletic Director Doug Gillin and all of our colleagues in Athletics.

This is a very exciting time made bittersweet by the passing of Yosef Club Director Gerald Adams, who was known far and wide as “Mr. Yosef.” Gerald, along with Julia, “Mrs. Yosef,” represents the deep love and passion Mountaineers feel for this special place. His tireless work on behalf of our students, the seemingly endless generosity of time and talent he and Julia offered so freely, and the support they have provided for student scholarships, athletics, the arts, the diversity festival and so much more has made a tremendous and lasting positive impact on our university. It is undeniable that his decades of work on behalf of the university was critical to our success. What a monumental legacy he has left us. He is greatly missed.

In closing, I would like to invite you all to attend the last Faculty Club event of the Fall Semester. The event will take place in the Whitewater Lounge, Room 220 of the 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.

It has indeed been a remarkable year at Appalachian. I wish you all a happy holiday season, and I know we are all looking forward to the many accomplishments of our students, faculty, staff and alumni in the coming year.

Thank you for your enduring support of – and advocacy for – Appalachian.

Please know your support is critical to our success and to the lives of our students.

Madam Chair, this concludes my remarks. Thank you.