Remarks from the June 22, 2018 Meeting of the Board of Trustees

Friday, June 22, 2018

Board of Trustees Meeting
Friday, June 22, 2018
Plemmons Student Union, on the campus of Appalachian State University

Remarks by Sheri Everts, Chancellor

Good morning. Welcome back to Appalachian’s campus at such a beautiful time of year. I am told that in June, we have more flowers blooming on our campus than at any other point of the year, so I hope you have been able to take a few moments to enjoy the beauty of campus during your time here.

I’d like to welcome DeJon McCoy Milbourne to his first full board meeting in his new role as Student Government Association president. DeJon, congratulations again – I know I can speak for this entire board when I say we are looking forward to working with you in the year ahead.

I’d also like to welcome Katie Howard, our new Staff Senate Chair. Katie serves as Assistant Director for Grants Resources and Services in the Office of Research, and also was instrumental in organizing Staff Council’s first Super Hero 5K to support AppKIDS, the senate’s service project. For nearly 40 years, AppKIDS has provided new winter clothes and school supplies for local children.

I would also like to acknowledge Paul Meggett, who began in the role of general counsel for the university on Monday. Paul comes to us with general counsel and academy experience, as well as a solid history of volunteering his expertise and guidance to the communities in which he has lived. We are fortunate to welcome him to the Appalachian Community.

I am pleased to share some updates on key university initiatives. First, I’d like to share a few accomplishments of our students, faculty, staff and alumni.

With the whirlwind of May Commencement behind us, we look to the future, with a solid base of nearly 127,000 living alumni. Our graduates can be found making real and powerful differences across the globe, and, it is important to note, more than 94,000 of our graduates are living and working right here in North Carolina, contributing to our state’s communities and economies. We are immensely proud of each of our graduates, and – like them – are appreciative of the entire Appalachian Community that helped bring them across that commencement stage.

Our extraordinary faculty continue to earn accolades and publish research that garners attention far and wide.

At Spring Commencement, Dr. Joseph Gonzalez, associate professor in the Department of Cultural, Gender and Global Studies, received a 2018 Award for Excellence in Teaching by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. Dr. Gonzalez received the award for his innovative and creative teaching methods. Governor Byers presented him with a commemorative bronze medallion and a cash prize.

Dr. David Nieman, director of Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Laboratory on the North Carolina Research Campus and professor of health and exercise science at Appalachian, recently completed a study that was written up in The New York Times and Men’s Health, among other prominent media outlets. The study showed that after a workout, banana carbohydrates work equally to a sports drink to fuel athletes and help them with recovery. Additionally, his findings revealed that eating a banana potentially mimics the way ibuprofen works to reduce pain and swelling during intense exercise.

A cross-disciplinary team of faculty members from our College of Arts and Sciences and the Reich College of Education recently received a one-million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a program for high achievers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM.

The program will help address the need for a high-quality STEM workforce and increase success for low-income, academically talented students who are pursuing degrees in STEM fields. Dr. Neva Specht, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Dru Henson, senior associate dean for the college and professor in the Department of Biology, will serve as the grant's administrators.

Our staff and faculty are furthering critical work over the summer months.

Nearly 75 employees participated in Appalachian State University’s daylong Inclusion Infusion Summer Institute earlier this month. At this second annual event, organized by Chief Diversity Officer Willie Fleming, participants focused on strengthening awareness of how our campus community can encourage inclusionary practices and relationships that support a community in which everyone is valued, respected and supported. Dr. Elicka Sparks and Dr. Nancy Love, faculty in the Department of Government and Justice Studies, each spoke at the event about their areas of expertise related to diversity and inclusion. The event also included panel and group discussions about ways to improve our students’ experiences.

Also this month, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs JJ Brown represented Appalachian at the UNC System Safety and Security conference. This event brought campus officials from each of the UNC System institutions to focus on safety and security. Officials shared best practices and resources throughout the state to help keep our campuses safe and continue fostering healthy learning environments. In addition to representing Appalachian at the conference, Vice Chancellor Brown also appeared in Asheville television media, sharing information about the important work taking place at the conference.

Our students continue to set standards for success:

Next month, we will again cheer on our champion Solar Vehicle Team, as they race in their third Formula Sun Grand Prix on the track at Motorsport Park in Hastings, Nebraska… before embarking on an 8-day, 1,700-mile cross country race along the Oregon Trail in the 2018 American Solar Challenge. Team Sunergy will unveil their new car this afternoon, and we are all looking forward to seeing the new vehicle!

I am very pleased to share that the first three Wilson Scholars, Lily Shaw, Sarah Aldridge and Emma Labovitz, graduated from Appalachian last month. As many of you know, the Wilson Scholars Program is the university's premier, merit-based scholarship program that blends academic excellence, leadership and service, and covers full institutional costs as well as an additional $10,000 experiential learning stipend. These young scholars embody the Appalachian spirit, blending academic excellence with leadership and service. I know you join me in wishing them the best in their future endeavors.

We also recently announced the newest cohort of six scholars who will begin classes in the fall. For those of you who don’t know, the scholarship was established in 2013 with a generous donation from Brad and Carole Wilson. Carole, thank you for your investment in these students, and in Appalachian.

I am also pleased to report we have selected ten incoming first-year students to receive Appalachian’s prestigious Chancellor’s Scholarship, which covers full institutional costs for four years of study. The Chancellor’s Scholarship is Appalachian’s oldest and most academically competitive merit-based scholarship. These incoming Chancellor’s Scholars represent individuals eager to engage in and embrace the life-changing Appalachian experience. Their ambitious academic goals and demonstrated dedication to community service and leadership have earned them this honor. Appalachian will provide them an environment where they can thrive and become engaged global citizens.

Our alumni continue to make us proud, bringing added value to the Appalachian degree.

Rosemary Messick, a 2017 graduate of our Psychology-Business degree program, credits the diverse experiences she had at Appalachian for preparing her to work as a business development associate for Three Wheels United, a financial technology company aimed at establishing a pollution- and poverty-reducing urban transport system in India. In addition to her finance work, Rosemary is also leading a project aimed at onboarding more female drivers in order to provide financial independence for economically challenged women and a safer commuting for female passengers.

Carmen Lowe, a third-generation Appalachian graduate who received her Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice in 2015 and her Master of Public Administration in 2016, is currently a special agent trainee at the NC Alcohol Law Enforcement Special Agent Academy. A $5,000 grant from the State Employees’ Credit Union Public Service Fellows internship program helped Carmen bridge her classroom work with an internship at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation her senior year, preparing her for the training and work she is doing now, and earning her a feature story in SBI Magazine.

Appalachian is on track to prepare more students for careers in law enforcement. Last month, University Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Andy Stephenson opened a new, innovative police academy for Appalachian students. The 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. 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. Our program will continue efforts to build strong and positive relationships between our officers and students, will increase diversity within the department, and will be key to increasing rural student enrollment at Appalachian.

I’d like to thank you for your participation in #iBackApp day on April 19! Many members of the Appalachian Community stepped up, and in one day, 2,500 donors raised nearly$178,000! As we all know, the funds raised make important differences in the lives of our students – from providing internship opportunities to – in some cases – bridging the gap so a student can complete his or her degree. So, we understand the incredible significance of the fund drive even as we celebrate the excitement of exceeding our goal.

As we plan for Appalachian’s future, we use as our guide the UNC System strategic plan. The UNC System has recently implemented an online dashboard to provide real-time performance data for all UNC System campuses. You can view Appalachian’s page at As you will recall from my March presentation, and as you will see when you visit this page, we are performing very well toward meeting the objectives President Spellings and I agreed upon last Fall. We are already meeting – and exceeding – many of these goals, which will continue to bring untold value to the state of North Carolina.

We continue to place emphasis on exceeding our performance goals, which focus on the areas of increasing enrollment and achievement for low-income and rural students; increasing critical workforce credentials in programs such as health care, STEM and teacher education; and increasing research & development sponsored program awards and licensing income.

Earlier this month, Governor Byers and Chair Barnes joined me in making visits to our legislators in Raleigh. We were honored to have been recognized by House Speaker Tim Moore and extended the “courtesy of the gallery.” It is clear that state lawmakers are passionate about higher education issues and supportive of Appalachian’s strategic goals.

President Spellings recently praised the General Assembly for a budget that will allow the University of North Carolina System to build on the UNC System’s strongest budget in a decade. I am heartened to see our legislators recognize the importance of compensation increases for our hardworking faculty and staff, yet I recognize we will be facing resource challenges in order to equitably implement raises, particularly for our lowest-paid employees. While there is still much to be determined, I am committed to seeking solutions that will meet the intent of the legislation.

The budget reflects support for initiatives key to our strategic mission, including retention and recruitment of students for whom earning a college degree is a challenge. Appalachian has many initiatives in place to attract and support students who want to achieve, stay enrolled, graduate and go on to be productive and proactive citizens. Our Early Intervention Team, Upward Bound program and services and supported by the Student Learning Center are just a few of the programs that have led to Appalachian’s impressive overall retention rate to reach sophomore status. At 89 percent, Appalachian is performing 20 percent above the national average! I applaud the dedication to success our faculty and staff demonstrates every day.

Additionally, our legislators continue to recognize the importance of responding to our funding needs as we work toward opening the Appalachian Academy at Middle Fork in August.

In her State of the University remarks in Asheville this spring, President Spellings called attention to our work at the Academy as helping to fulfill the Legislature’s vision for centers of innovation, research and teaching excellence. We are making excellent headway with the Academy’s staffing and curriculum design, and while we are enmeshed in the many, many details and flurry of opening the school in August, we are excited to begin this new step in teaching and learning together.

Before closing, I’d like to share a brief update on some expansion and improvements:

The Levine College of Health Sciences building is on budget and on schedule and will open for students in August. You will recall this is the largest capital project to date in our history and will be the first completed Connect NC Bond project. I encourage you to drive past the building while you are here. The impressive progress being made is symbolic of the remarkable impact this building will have on Appalachian’s ability to meet health care needs in our state.

You will recall the Board of Governors agreed with you that a student fee increase will be necessary to fund the much-needed renovations to Sanford Hall, the building that accommodates every Appalachian student for at least one class before graduating. Last week, the North Carolina General Assembly agreed. This was the final step in the approval process to fund the building’s renovations, and we are on track to begin renovations in May of next year. We are reviewing designers now and estimated completion is fall 2020.

Last month, the Board of Governors approved our choice to move forward with a private developer on a major housing project that will renovate or replace seven residence halls. After considerable and careful review, Vice Chancellor Forte put forth a model that utilizes a public-private partnership to fund this project, which will allow us to replace nearly 1,800 beds – and add 325 – with better, more efficient parking, while saving more than 73 million dollars over the cost of developing the property on our own.

We will retain control over the buildings, with University Housing maintaining staffing, and all university policies remaining in place for the building residents.

We will also implement sustainability measures in the building and development of this project, and the energy efficiency alone will result in less impact on housing costs for our students. The first phase of the project will begin at the Winkler site, with 300 to 400 beds ready for occupancy in the fall of 2020.

The Board of Governors has also approved $2.5 million dollars for us to enter the design phase for the north end zone project at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The mixed-use facility will provide 80 to 100 thousand square feet of space designed to accommodate various athletics and academic uses, including athletic training, and nutrition science research, as well as conference and continuing education training space, an orthopedic clinic, dining facilities, a team store, hydrotherapy, more than 1,000 club seats, and offices for coaches and athletics staff. Our plan is to open for the Fall 2020 football season.

In recognition of 1989 alumnus Mark Ricks’ $10 million commitment to the university's A Mountaineer Impact initiative, we named the Mark E. Ricks Athletics Complex in April. As you know, Mark’s gift represents the university's largest outright gift to date, and it is already making an impact on the lives of our students.

As part of the Seventh Annual Appalachian Energy Summit, which will take place on our campus July 30-August 1, we will dedicate grounds for a new Biology conservatory on the former site of the Broyhill Inn. We are investigating new ways this site can be used – to support our academic mission and – as the Broyhill Inn did – to continue serving as an economic driver for our region.

A biology research facility and conservatory will offer a new location for faculty and students to conduct research. Connected to the biological reserve, this location is ideal for learning and teaching. This project is a true sustainability initiative, where everyone comes out with a “win,” from the undergraduates engaged in applied and laboratory research, to the surrounding region that will be able to utilize the resources and reap the benefits.

Properties designated by the Board of Governors as having millennial campus status, which often involve repurposing decommissioned property and re-envisioning inactive building sites, are allowing us to think strategically and creatively about how we can operate as a campus and meet the needs of our region in the long term. These millennial status-designated projects present us with opportunities to think and act more creatively, quickly and nimbly in ways that further our research, teaching, and service mission, while also enhancing the economic development of the region we serve.

Finally, an update on the NPHC Plots and Garden. A year ago, student representatives Malik Hargrave and Alan Lee shared their research on NPHC plots and gardens on other campuses. I am pleased to report one year later that under the leadership of alumna Trustee Branch and distinguished alumnus James Tolliver, fundraising efforts for the plots and garden have surpassed $100,000! Chief Diversity Officer Willie Fleming, Vice Chancellor JJ Brown and Associate Vice Chancellor Leroy Wright, as well as many others on our university staff, have been supporting their efforts, which includes not only construction dollars, but important leadership development scholarships for our NPHC members. Construction is underway, and I applaud the leadership of our alumni, and the dedication of our staff to helping realize this important goal. What a remarkable accomplishment for our campus! Thank you, Susan for your leadership with this project.

With these significant accomplishments in the works, I’d like to remind you of a few key dates we’d like you to save on your calendars.

An Appalachian Summer Festival begins in just a few days, and the celebration of the arts, which has been a cornerstone of the region’s summer experience for more than 3 decades, will last through the 4th of August.

September is a busy month, beginning with our Founders Day Plaza dedication and luncheon on Wednesday, September 5th. This new tradition will be celebrated each fall to honor our founders and the first day of classes in 1899. The plaza will be a larger, more iconic setting for the Appalachian sign, as well as for the university’s sculpture of B.B. Dougherty, and will provide a new outdoor space for studying, small gatherings and scheduled campus events.

We will celebrate the opening and ribbon cutting for Levine Hall on Friday, September 21st.

… And the following week is Homecoming! The festivities will include a celebration at our new NPHC Plots and Garden, the Alumni Awards luncheon, and many other traditions and festivities before we BEAT South Alabama in football!

You will receive invitations to all of these events, but please be sure to hold the dates.

Thank you all for your time today, and for the work you continue to do to champion and advocate for our university every day. Mr. Chair, as I conclude my remarks, I have asked Director of Scholarship Giving, Kelli Wilson, to share some important information with you about scholarships at Appalachian.

To further highlight the significant need, I have also asked our very own DeJon McCoy Milbourne to share his scholarship story.