Remarks from the April 29, 2019 Meeting of the Faculty Senate

Monday, April 29, 2019

Faculty Senate Meeting
Monday, April 29, 2019
I.G. Greer, on the campus of Appalachian State University

Remarks by Sheri Everts, Chancellor

Good afternoon.

Thank you for the invitation to attend today’s meeting.

My year-end report will not be an entire year-long review — I trust you may appreciate that?

This has the dual purpose of providing context to audience members from outside the college or division, but also to illustrate what can be accomplished with additional resources.

You may have heard me say in other settings that Appalachian is the premier, public undergraduate institution in the state. This is an assertion I take very seriously, and I recognize what it means to say this as a Chancellor in the UNC System. Our retention rates, which are 20% higher than national average, are also third in the system — behind only UNC and NC State. Our student-to-faculty ratio is one of the lowest among our national peers… and even as we push ourselves to continue to set the bar higher, our sustainability accolades set the standard for institutions nationwide. I am immensely proud to be the Chancellor of this fine institution, and I am so proud of how our faculty continue to set — and exceed — standards for excellence.

I will center my report today on my three strategic priorities:

  • Faculty and staff salaries
  • Academic facilities, and
  • Meeting the required needs to support a campus of nearly 20,000 students

We all know these priorities require resources, so I will also speak to acquiring and allocating these resources this afternoon.

I was pleased to see the level of turnout from faculty, staff and students earlier this month at the 4th annual campus budget presentations (although I would love to see the day when we have to hold these in the Schaefer Center to accommodate the attendance! Maybe next year?) These presentations are an important way for our entire campus to be engaged in this critical process as it begins.

In addition to sharing priorities for the coming year, presentations highlighted accomplishments of the past year, demonstrating the good stewardship of the prior year’s allocations.

I mention this as some folks asked me why presentations also included a “commercial” for the college.

It was significant that your deans included faculty and staff pay in their presentations. Leadership continues to prioritize merit salary increases, as we have been able to accomplish 4 out of last 5 years. We focus on merit increases because the university has a solid merit-based system in place for staff, and because this is an area in which faculty in particular have the ability to influence a principled and reasonable application of standards of merit. There has been some discussion about differences among merit processes across colleges as well as parity between non-tenure track and tenure track salaries. I have asked Provost Kruger to work with Faculty Senate to undertake a merit pay study to explore these issues and determine whether Appalachian should reform the merit process.

In his report today, Provost Kruger will address the March study by Doctors Todd Cherry and Ash Morgan of the Center for Economic Research and Policy Analysis.

At the beginning of the academic year, we opened the largest academic facility in Appalachian history, the health sciences building. I will quickly address additional academic facilities. If you haven’t done so, please regularly review the information on the “Appalachian’s Future” website, which is prominently linked from the university homepage. On this site, you will find information about our current and upcoming construction projects that develop the built environment to advance Appalachian’s core missions of teaching, scholarship and service. (You’ll find the updates on Sanford Hall, the Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research, and the Child Development Center expansion; to name a few.) The site outlines key aspects of each project- including funding sources- and also provides the current status of each project. It is updated at least once each week.

Meeting the required needs to support a campus of nearly 20,000 students requires lasting and sustainable funding for the institution.

When I arrived at Appalachian, I immediately recognized the single, most significant impact I can make here – far above and beyond the physical infrastructure changes underway – will be to achieve a change in the funding appropriation model and UNC System reference group for Appalachian. Doing so will create lasting improvements in the quality of life and work for our faculty and staff, and will launch our institution into the future with a strength and capacity we have not yet seen. I remain wholeheartedly dedicated to making this happen, and I advocate for it in Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Boone each day.

This leads me to the next key area I would like to report on: Appalachian’s hosting of the Board of Governors for their March meeting. During this visit, we placed our university on the map for many of the Governors, who make critically important decisions about our future. They will now have a key frame of reference for making these decisions.

The Board of Governors’ visit to our campus was a tremendous opportunity for Appalachian. They have not met on our campus since 1999 – a time when our enrollment was at 12,000 students.

With help from Student Ambassadors, we took several members of the Board – as well as colleagues from other system campuses – on a campus tour.

  • We showed them Sanford and Wey Halls and their level of disrepair;
  • We took them to Levine Hall, so they can see how we deliver a building on time and on budget when given state resources, and
  • We showed them the site of the Innovation Campus, so they can envision what is in our future.

Through one-to-one and group interactions, our Board of Governors learned about our university from our deans, students, faculty and staff.

  • Students from our Solar Vehicle Team, student veterans and Appalachian Community of Education Scholars shared their research and accomplishments.
  • Chief Sustainability Officer Dr. Lee Ball shared ways our university sustainability efforts are making economic, environmental and social impacts on our state.
  • Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Cindy Barr shared some data from our first-year confirmed students for Fall 2019. Of that admitted pool, we have realized significant gains in key populations.
  • The number of rural students in this class is up.
  • The number of first-generation college students is up 2%, and
  • The number of traditionally underrepresented students is up 10%.

Our university is impressive, and this was an enormously successful visit for Appalachian. The Board of Governors left with a clear understanding of our enrollment numbers, our retention rates and other accolades that support my assertion that we are the premier, public undergraduate institution in the state… and should be funded accordingly.

I’d like to leave you with a final thought: I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks that I have a have been a faculty senator. My experience as faculty member, faculty senator, and various administrative positions at four institutions has taught me that a good working relationship between Faculty Senate and university administrators can strengthen our position. The vice chancellors and I are committed to collaboration and transparency, and to fostering an environment of mutual respect. I hold a tremendous amount of admiration for the fine faculty of this institution. We ARE the premier, public, undergraduate institution in the state.

Thank you for the opportunity to address you today, and for the work you do each and every day to ensure this esteemed position among our sister institutions across the state. I wish you the very best as we head into the final days of classes and the busy exam period. I hope you will now please excuse me, as I need to head up to Appalachian House to ensure we are ready for you to join me for a reception in your honor in a few minutes.

Madam Chair, this concludes my remarks.