Remarks from the June 23, 2017 Meeting of the Board of Trustees

Friday, June 23, 2017

Board of Trustees Meeting
Friday, June 23, 2017
Plemmons Student Union, on the campus of Appalachian State University

Remarks by Sheri N. Everts, Chancellor

Good morning Trustees, and thank you for the opportunity to share a brief update.

Please join me again in recognizing our Board of Governors liaison C. Philip Byers. Philip, we appreciate your continued support and all your efforts in securing our Board of Governors appointees for the class of 2017 Board of Trustees: Carole Wilson, Lee Barnes and Charlie Murray.

Carole, Lee and Charlie, we are pleased to have you return for another term and thank you for your service to Appalachian. In addition, new trustee Bonnie Schaefer’s term begins in July.

Clear indicators for how well our university is meeting its academic mission are enrollment and student success. While I must stress these numbers are preliminary, I am pleased to share that enrollment continues to grow at a slow and steady pace. Our projections for fall enrollment are up and we anticipate:

  • total enrollment of 18,618
  • 3,175 first-year students
  • 1,275 transfer students
  • 1,731 graduate students, and
  • 1,246 distance education students

Not only are the numbers up, all profile indicators are up as well. In addition to increasing test scores, here are a few facts we know about our first-year students:

  • 31% identify as first generation
  • 10% received application fee waivers
  • 5% have at least 30 college credit hours
  • 4% are from early college

Our top counties for student enrollment are Wake, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth and Union. Also, this incoming first-year class is on course to be the most diverse ever to attend Appalachian as we nudge closer to 18% who identify as underrepresented.

Transfer students continue to be a growth area for us as well. This year’s transfers numbers are up and

  • 43% identify as first generation
  • 14% receive application fee waivers
  • 16.5% identify as underrepresented, and
  • 5% served in the military

Our community college partners continue preparing students to succeed here at Appalachian. Our top community colleges for transfer enrollment are Caldwell, Wake Technical, Central Piedmont Catawba Valley, and Wilkes.

While it is important for us to continue our slow and steady growth, it is also vitally important our students succeed during their time at Appalachian. We cannot fulfill our academic mission if we cannot retain students and ensure their success. The key indicators for success in this area bode well for us. Our overall retention rate surpasses our peers at just over 87 percent. Our 6-year graduation is also a leader among our peers at nearly 72 percent.

At the end of the day, all these numbers tell us that an Appalachian degree continues to grow in value, and the experience our students receive is transformational and life-changing. As we continue to attract stellar students, faculty and staff, our campus must meet the infrastructure needs to support our steady growth and the academic community.

A key component of meeting these needs is space and facilities.

The recent purchase of the old Watauga High School property provides us with an opportunity to strategically meet our current and future needs. While we continue our due diligence to best capitalize on this opportunity, we are challenging ourselves to think outside the box about how this property can strengthen the support for our core academic mission on central campus.

Many things are under review including parking, recreation facilities for all students, multipurpose fields for intramurals and club sports, recreational opportunities for the community at large, residence halls, and campus daycare.

As you can see, a number of immediate and long-term needs could be met through strategic use of this property. A key point to keep in mind is that this breathing room is important to better utilize space on our main campus for classrooms, labs, faculty offices and meeting spaces.

While it was closed long before my arrival, the Broyhill Inn site has now been prepared for a new future. The site was addressed with much attention to processing the materials as sustainably as possible. For more than two years, our community has been investigating how this area could best support our core academic work. The recent Master Plan, with wide community input, offers a possible solution that builds on the 67-acre nature preserve and our strategic needs. The plan puts forth possible facilities connecting innovation and sustainability to support our students, faculty and staff in the transformational work of our academic mission.

In a connecting program, I was honored to announce Appalachian’s first class of innovation scholars funded through my office. Projects include:

  • Urban farm-to-table development and technologies to extend year-round local food production;
  • Innovation in health professions education: interpersonal, rural-focused primary care simulations;
  • Socially assistive robotics for traumatic brain injury rehabilitation, education and outreach;
  • Demonstration of root zone heating supported by the biomass greenhouse heating system at local cooperative farms, and
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration to create micro-business opportunities for students and alumni with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

These five represent the outstanding research and service conducted by our faculty and staff each and every day. In a show of support, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Research Institute for Environment, Energy and Economics funded additional proposals from the applications. These thought leaders are making a difference in our community and in the lives of the students they teach and mentor.

Just two weeks ago, we joined our colleagues at Rodgers Builders to celebrate the “topping off” of the new Beaver College of Health Sciences Building. The ceremony, which celebrates reaching the highest point in the building – and craftworker safety – was thrilling, and indicates how quickly this project is moving forward. As the first of the Connect NC bond projects to begin construction, it is on schedule for completion in fall 2018. The work of the college, this facility and our partnerships with Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and Wake Forest ensure a bright future for health care in our region.

The Winkler Hall project continues to move forward. Chief among our concerns is to ensure we best meet our needs for the best price. To this end, we continue to do our due diligence so that our investment reaps the appropriate benefits for the cost. We will be providing future updates about this and all our facilities projects as we move ahead.

I am very pleased to share that Appalachian has a full slate of deans! All nine dean positions are filled. I congratulate Provost Kruger and our colleagues in Academic Affairs on the selection of outstanding individuals to fill these critical roles. I have a few slides here to recognize all of our deans, new and more established alike. In addition, you can find a handout in the general information section of your notebook. We have included a photo and brief biography for each dean.

The areas include: the Beaver College of Health Sciences, the University Libraries, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies, the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Hayes School of Music, The Honors College, the Reich College of Education, and the Walker College of Business.

It is also important to share Appalachian has hired an associate vice chancellor for enrollment management as well as an associate vice chancellor for equity, diversity and compliance. All of these positions are extremely vital for our campus’ success and I am elated to have a full team of excellent educators and administrators. We will ensure you have opportunities to meet all these individuals in the months ahead.

Just last week, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in an Appalachia Initiative Roundtable for Rural Health. This is part of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Task Force on Appalachia. By invitation from Senator Thom Tillis, specialists from our university are participating in discussions led by Senators Tillis, Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and David Perdue of Georgia on education and the workforce, entrepreneurialism and job creation, energy and infrastructure and rural health. Our faculty and staff have firsthand knowledge and experience to contribute around each of these issues affecting Appalachia. The opportunity to share our ideas with a bipartisan team of U.S. senators could have unprecedented impacts on health care, education, job creation and energy initiatives in the region.

I would like to conclude my remarks with two special recognitions. First, please join me in recognizing Chair Alice Roess for her leadership on the Board of Trustees. It is evident to anyone who meets and spends even a small amount of time with Alice that Appalachian holds a special place in her heart. Likewise, she holds a special place in ours. Thank you, Alice.

Trustee Baldwin, will you please join me at the podium. In May, George was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Since 1963, North Carolina’s governors have reserved their highest honor, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, for persons who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments. George, on behalf of your colleagues and friends at Appalachian, it is my pleasure to present you with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine pin.

Madam Chair, this concludes my remarks.