Remarks from the March 16, 2018 Meeting of the Board of Trustees

Friday, March 16, 2018

Board of Trustees Meeting
Friday, March 16, 2018
Plemmons Student Union, on the campus of Appalachian State University

Remarks by Sheri Everts, Chancellor

Good morning. I’d like to begin by thanking you for your guidance and direction, your willingness to serve and your time and dedication to the mission of our university.

This morning, I will offer a few of the many accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff; review our progress toward the 5-year strategic goals we set with the UNC System, and share the road map for expansion and improvements we have developed collaboratively as a campus, and with our community.

First, a few points of pride.

  • Last year, I initiated the Appalachian Innovation Scholars Program, awarding five proposals developed by faculty and staff that exemplify one or more of the university’s strategic goals. We recently funded five new projects at up to $10,000 each. Through their research endeavors, the recipients are developing innovative solutions to real-world problems, promoting regional economic development and improving the quality of life for the citizens of our region. Innovation scholars develop stunning examples of original thinking and collaboration that foster community engagement and include students, faculty and staff with diverse talents and expertise in pursuing research opportunities. There is much to say about these proposals, but I will briefly share two examples:
  • A root zone heating system developed by faculty in the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment and a research assistant at the Appalachian Energy Center is operational at Springhouse Farm, in nearby Vilas. This is the beginning of the farming season and a critical time for greenhouse usage. Their energy-efficient system applies heat directly to the seed trays to improve germination.
  • Creative Unbound is a collaborative project between the Scholars with Diverse Abilities Program (SDAP), the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Association of Student Entrepreneurs. The focus of the initiative is to build a sustainable financial foundation for students, alumni and community members who are associated with the SDAP program. Creative Unbound partners entrepreneurial-minded students with the creative endeavors of the SDAP students. Together, they develop and bring co-branded products to market, providing a source of revenue for the SDAP artists and valuable real-world experience for the student entrepreneurs.

The enterprising thought and work of our faculty is being recognized beyond our campus as well:

  • Increasingly, our faculty and staff are sought out for remarks or interviews. Last month, Dr. Amy Dellinger Page, chair of the Department of Sociology, was a panelist on the nationally broadcast National Public Radio program 1-A, sharing her expertise in regard to breaking patterns of violence.
  • Artwork by April Flanders, associate professor in the Department of Art, was recently purchased for the permanent collection of the Asheville Museum of Science. Her large-scale piece raises awareness about how invasive species affect our ecosystem.
  • Dr. Pia Albinsson, associate professor in the Department of Marketing, has co-authored “The Rise of the Sharing Economy,” which explores how consumption-based businesses — from Airbnb to Zipcar — are changing the economic landscape.

I am also pleased to announce two new programs — both of which continue our outreach and community engagement for the long term:

  • In January, we received approval from the Board of Governors to establish a Doctor of Psychology program, with a primary goal of preparing clinical psychology students to serve rural populations. We will begin admitting students in the fall of 2019. Through this program, Appalachian will help address the critical shortage of providers in North Carolina… about one-quarter of our state’s 100 counties have no practicing psychologists.
  • Since he arrived on our campus in June, University Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Andy Stephenson has been intentional about building positive relationships between our officers and students — and increasing diversity within the department. As part of this goal, he will open a new, innovative police academy for students this summer. This program — which is only the second of its kind in the nation — will help meet the demand for well-trained and educated police officers in our state. Additionally, I see it as key to increasing rural student enrollment at Appalachian. Chief Stephenson participated in the original model while attending Indiana University, and brings valuable experience and knowledge with which to develop Appalachian’s new program.

One recent accolade for Appalachian of which I am particularly proud is evidence of the impact our alumni have in the realm of education:

  • Appalachian has the highest number of alumni in the nation certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. We also hold, for the second year in a row, the number one ranking out of 50 public and private universities and colleges for the highest number of nationally credentialed alumni. This is testimony to the innovative instruction, faculty excellence and student success for which the Reich College of Education is known.

And our students — with a broad array of interests and talents — continue to stand out both academically and as good citizens.

  • Dean Vahlbusch reports an all-time high in the number of applications by high-achieving students to join the Honors College for fall 2018 — well over 1,600. Of the 450 who were invited to join the college, 24 percent are students of color.
  • Students in the Physics and Astronomy Club are working to develop a laser prototype with an edible component — using solutions made from beet juice, tonic water, and turmeric — to add color to the laser’s visible beam of light. The project was one of 11 nationwide to receive grant funding through the prestigious Marsh W. White Award from the American Institute of Physics’ Society of Physics Students.
  • In the fall 2017 semester, 22 student-athletes recorded a perfect 4.0 GPA. Two-thirds of our student-athletes made the Appalachian Athletics academic honor roll, which requires students to have a minimum GPA of 3.25 while being enrolled in at least 12 hours of coursework.
  • Student veteran Jake Keller gave three of his Hayes School of Music faculty a special honor last month when he presented them with a Patriot Award from the National Guard and Reserve. They helped provide him with a guitar so he could teach lessons and share the value of music therapy while he is deployed in Iraq. A specialist in the North Carolina Army National Guard, he plans to finish his Master of Music Therapy when he returns home.

There is much to be proud of but, sadly, some news is not easy to share.

Many of us had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Irwin “Ike” Belk, who was an inspiring and important friend to the university. Mr. Belk, who lived to be 95, passed away in February. His contributions supported our library and our colleges, improved our athletic facilities and culturally enhanced our daily experiences. One has only to walk the campus to see any number of engaging sculptures he gifted, including the iconic “Aspire” on Sanford Mall. He was always positive and proud to support higher education, and his legacy provides great inspiration to the community.

As you know, we have pledged to meet certain UNC System strategic goals over the next five years. When I signed the agreement with President Spellings last fall, I recognized these initiatives are ambitious, but achievable, and are consistent with our founders’ mission to increase access to education for those students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to achieve a college education. Today, I can share remarkable evidence that we are well on our way to meeting, if not exceeding, the five-year performance goals (PDF 2.08M).

The System’s strategic plan metrics require that we focus on increasing enrollment and achievement for low-income and rural students, as well as in critical workforce programs such as health care, STEM and teacher education.

We have already surpassed our 2020 goal to increase enrollment of rural students. We are ahead of our goal to increase the number of low-income graduates. We are ahead in our efforts to increase the number of graduates from rural areas. And we are ahead by a full year in our goal to increase the number of critical workforce credentials in STEM fields.

Our efforts to reduce the disparity in academic performance between low-income and the overall student population are slightly below the desired baseline. We are aggressively examining ways to bring our numbers in line with the System’s expectations, in order to be on track to make our five-year goal.

The plan also dictates improvement in low-income enrollments, overall undergraduate degree efficiency and research productivity. We are significantly ahead of the mark in two areas.

We are on track to surpass our 2021 goal for increasing enrollment of low-income students. And we are also well on our way toward our goal for improving efficiency of degree completion for the overall undergraduate population.

We need to improve a bit in the area of research productivity. Again, initiatives are in place, and I am confident we will meet our goal.

Finally, we have been asked to sustain our five-year graduation rates, and while this is a goal we must sustain through 2020, we will far exceed it by then. Please note that number - 77%! This is my fourth year, and I remember here when we hit 70%, so to top that for the first time is a major accomplishment. Congratulations to the campus for all that this represents!

We are doing well, and have the leadership in place to exceed these goals, which will bring untold value to the state of North Carolina. We know Appalachian compares most favorably in affordability reviews, but we are all keenly aware of the cost of a college education and the debt some of our students incur as a result of their time with us. You will hear much in the future about University Advancement’s goals for both need-based and merit-based scholarships. The emphasis on these will be a focus for our fundraising efforts as we seek to provide students with the support they need for success in college and beyond.

Student success in the classroom and lab, combined with postgraduate success, contributes greatly to our excellent reputation as a national leader in higher education. As we continue growing at a slow and steady rate, the inclusion of some of the best young minds our country has to offer strengthens our academic mission and helps retain students, faculty and staff.

The well-being and success of the members of our Appalachian Community are first and foremost as we go about planning for expanding and improving our campus — my final topic for today’s remarks.

For several months, the vice chancellors and I have hosted planning and listening sessions with campus and community members to gather valuable feedback and direction around those plans. Our local paper, the Watauga Democrat, noted we were “listening and listening well,” but the real contribution came from those who took time to share their ideas and hopes for our future.

As our plans for expansion and improvements come together, they will prioritize innovative research and learning, benefit the community, and position Appalachian as a leader among our peers.

“Sustaining for tomorrow” was the theme of our recently published Appalachian Magazine. The words are significant, particularly as we deal with growth, in that they emphasize the university’s sustainability initiatives as solid business practices, ones which secure our place in the crowded and complex higher education market.

Eight major projects are in the works:

Let’s begin with the newly named Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences, which, as you know, is the largest capital project to date in our history and will be the first completed Connect NC Bond project. It is proceeding on time and on budget.

The five-million-dollar commitment from The Leon Levine Foundation goes a long way in furnishing and outfitting the laboratories and offices. Moving five of the six departments of the Beaver College of Health Sciences into one building will enhance collaborative efforts across the disciplines, foster a patient-centered practice model, AND open much needed space on campus for other initiatives.

We plan to host two opening events at the end of September and will advise you as soon as the dates are firm. The building will be open to students for the fall semester in August.

Built in 1968, Sanford Hall is visited by 4,600 students per day — 23,000 students per week. In fact, every student at Appalachian takes at least one class in the building.

Sanford Hall is structurally sound and meets the basic safety codes established in the late 60s, but as we have discussed, it lacks 21st-century fire suppression and air conditioning, and its HVAC and electrical systems are, shall we say, vintage. Classrooms and office spaces are outdated and not up to the task for such an important academic resource. Renovation will extend the life of the building by as much as 40 years. While I know fee increases are not easy decisions to make, I want to thank you— on behalf of those who are using the building now and who will use it in the future — for supporting the fee increase necessary to fund the much-needed renovations to this building, which are slated to begin in May of 2019. The Board of Governors will vote on the proposed fee increase next week.

The acquisition of the former Watauga High School — or Appalachian 105, as it was dubbed by Trustee Wilson — allows us to make deliberate choices about growth and to build an intentional community that is even more inviting. Proposed options for development, which we gathered during three, interactive listening sessions this academic year, will soon be published on the Institutional Research Assessment & Planning website. The options we discussed included student residence halls, a day care facility, student recreation fields, and athletics’ fields. By next semester, we will make use of the property’s current parking configuration, which accommodates 500 spaces.

We also have approval from the Board of Governors to enter the design phase for the north end zone project at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The mixed-use development will replace the 45-year-old Owens Field House and will include an array of amenities that will benefit App State Athletics. I’d like to take a moment here to acknowledge Doug Gillin for the efforts he is making to be sure this facility will be available for use by the entire campus community. The recent 10-million-dollar commitment from alumnus Mark Ricks to support the university’s “A Mountaineer Impact” initiative is a significant step toward launching this project and encouraging other donors to follow suit.

As you know, the university’s 2015 Master Plan calls for the renovation or replacement of seven residence halls: Bowie, Coltrane, Eggers, Gardner, Winkler, Justice and East, which will net 400 new beds for a total of approximately 2,200. We are currently reviewing developer proposals to finance and manage the replacement construction. Later in today’s meeting, you will receive a presentation for your support.

Under this plan, we will lease the rooms from the developer, but I want to emphasize we will operate the halls like our existing residences — with residence advisors, housekeepers and room assignments handled by University Housing.

We will build efficient buildings, which will result in less impact on housing costs for our students. And, at the end of the lease period, ownership of the properties reverts back to the university.

We expect to begin the first project at the Winkler site, with 300 to 400 beds ready for occupancy in the fall of 2020. University Housing is in outstanding financial shape, and this project will allow us to maintain that strong financial position.

I want to spend a moment on Legends, since there is student, staff and alumni interest in this venue. For more than 20 years, this student concert venue, located in a remodeled Winn-Dixie, has provided space for student entertainment and socializing. As you know, we closed the building for renovations after floodwaters in October caused damage and mold, and reopened last month.

The long-term future of the facility is still being discussed, but our leadership is in agreement we must operate under the fiscally responsible premise that any investment in continuing operation at this location could be relatively short-term. I’ll remind you that the Master Plan calls for the demolition of Legends. Student Affairs is currently leading a group of students, faculty and staff who are examining the potential for alternative venues.

I want to emphasize that decisions about the future Legends venue are separate and apart from the future of the Appalachian Popular Programming Society. APPS is an important part of the Appalachian Community. Our students gain valuable educational and programming experience through APPS, which serves them well during and beyond their student experiences at Appalachian. University leadership is committed to making sure this will continue.

I am particularly pleased to provide you with an update on this project, because our students and alumni have been advocating for this for close to 10 years, and it is gaining significant momentum. For well over 50 years, historically black colleges and universities across the United States have developed a tradition of providing a gathering space for the National Pan-Hellenic Council or NPHC.

Many of you will recall the presentation made in June by student representatives Malik Hargrave and Alan Lee when they shared their research on NPHC plots and gardens on other campuses. Many of you also attended the space dedication for the project, which took place during Homecoming weekend last fall.

The plots and gardens will be located next to the Veterans Memorial garden in front of I.G. Greer. Chief Diversity Officer Willie Fleming is coordinating communications about the project, and fundraising efforts are making good progress.

To date, we have realized $40,000 toward the $100,000 fundraising goal for this project, which includes not only construction dollars, but important leadership development scholarships for our NPHC members.

And finally — a tribute to our founders … B.B. and D.D. Dougherty and Lillie Shull Dougherty. University leadership has been exploring ways to honor our founders for quite some time. A new plaza, located in the area behind the Appalachian sign off Hardin Street, will provide a more prominent home for the university’s sculpture of B.B. Dougherty, and will provide a new outdoor space for studying, small gatherings and scheduled campus events. Since so many prospective students, current students, new graduates and long-time alumni choose the university sign as a location for photographs, we plan to update the sign and give it a larger, more iconic setting. Construction will take place over the summer, with an opening ceremony scheduled for September 5 … on Founders Day. This new tradition will be celebrated each fall to honor our founders and the first day of classes in 1899.

It is exhilarating to think of the opportunities we are creating and humbling to recognize the potential we have to change so many lives.

I want to express how fortunate I feel to have you serve this special place. We rely on your leadership to make it accessible to as many students as possible, to continue on the path of excellence and innovation, and to be good stewards of the campus and its resources. Thank you all so very much.

Before I close, I’d like to make two important acknowledgements.

First, this is the final meeting of the Board of Trustees for Dean of the Graduate School Max Poole. Max, thank you for your service to the university.

And, this is the final meeting of the Board of Trustees for Dayton Cole in his capacity as General Counsel for the university. Dayton has announced he is retiring after three decades of service to Appalachian. I hope you will be able to join in celebrating Dayton’s service and storied career at a reception on Friday, April 20 at 3pm at the Athletics Center.

As you well know, Dayton has dedicated the bulk of his career to supporting our students, faculty and staff. He has received numerous recognitions and honors for his dedication and professional activities. On behalf of the entire Appalachian Community, I would like to take this opportunity to extend our sincere appreciation to Dayton for his commitment to Appalachian and for his contributions to the good work we do each day.

Mr. Chair, this concludes my remarks.


Chart: Rural enrollments have increased 6% from the baseline year, 5,328 students in Fall 2016, to 5,648 students in Fall 2017, nearly reaching the fourth-year goal of 5,715 students to be achieved by Fall 2021.

Chart: Increase number of low income graduates by 24.2% from baseline year. Baseline for Fall 2015-16 was 1,288; we are currently at 1,347 with a final goal in the fifth year of 1,600.

Chart: Increase number of graduates from rural areas by 16.2% from baseline year. We have exceeded our goal of 1,404 for Year 1 and are at 1,432. Our goal for Year 5 is 1,593.

Chart: It is a priority to increase the number of critical workforce credentials (in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math) by 29.6% from baseline year of 1,741. We are at 1,948, ahead of our goal of 1,922 for Year 2, Fall 2018-19. Our Year 5 goal for Fall 2021-22 is 2,257.

Chart: It is a priority to reduce the disparity in academic performance between low-income and the overall population by 50% from baseline year 2015-16 of 19.6% to Year 5 goal of 22.1%. As of Fall 2017 we are at 17.90%.

Chart: We will increase enrollment of low-income students by 9.3% from baseline year 2015-16. The Year 5 goal is 4,911 and we have already surpassed Year 4 goal (in Year 1) of 4,817. Currently at 4,847.

Chart: Improve efficiency of degree completion for the overall undergraduate population by 3.88% from baseline year Fall 2015-16 of 23.3%. We are .1% from meeting Year 3 Fall 2019-20 of 23.8%. Year 5 goal for Fall 2021-22 is 24.2%.

Chart: Increase research and development sponsored program awards and licensing income by 15.8% from baseline year amount of $15,779,664. We are behind in Fall 2017 with a reported income of $13,223,315. Year 5 goal for Fall 2022 is $18,279,664.

Chart: Improve efficiency of 5-year degree completion for the overall undergraduate population by 3.86% from baseline year. We are at 77% of our goal.