Remarks from the June 21, 2019 Meeting of the Board of Trustees
Board of Trustees Meeting
Friday, June 21, 2019
Plemmons Student Union, on the campus of Appalachian State University
Remarks by Sheri Everts, Chancellor
Good afternoon – and welcome home on this lovely summer day!
Before I begin my report today, I would like to introduce to you Toussaint Romain, who joined Appalachian as Deputy General Counsel in April, filling the position left vacant by Barbara Krause. Toussaint is a former public defender in Charlotte who has taught at UNC-Charlotte. He is also a community advocate and a civil rights leader who has spoken across the country about his experience as a peacekeeper during the Charlotte protests following the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in 2016. Please join me in welcoming him. We are glad you are here, Toussaint! I’d also ask Chief Counsel, Paul Meggett to please introduce the other attorneys he has recently hired in the Office of General Counsel.
In a few minutes, you will hear reports from today’s productive committee meetings. On behalf of the entire Appalachian Community, I would like to thank each of you for the work you do on behalf of our university every day.
With summer in full swing, we are busily preparing for the fall semester.
- The Sanford Hall renovation is about to begin – in fact, you may notice furniture and equipment being moved out of the building even as we speak. If you cross Sanford Mall while on campus – or even look out the window here, you will see the work commencing on this vital academic building.
- Phase one of the residence halls construction is well underway. Foundations are being poured, and in the next month, we will see the steel skeletons begin to take shape.
- For those of you who do not check the web cam every day (like I do), the Stadium End zone project is also underway and university staff are working diligently to ensure as seamless an experience as possible for the students who will be living among the residence hall construction as well as the many Mountaineer football fans, who are looking forward to another exciting season- and another conference championship – no pressure, Doug!
One key aspect of legislation that has the potential to have an impact on football season is North Carolina House Bill 389, which allows for controlled consumption of beer and wine in athletics venues at UNC System schools. Research on universities that sell beer and wine at athletics facilities shows significant decreases in alcohol-related arrests and incidents after implementation. As you know, Board of Trustees approval would be required should this option become available to UNC System schools, and I appreciate your thorough review of the options available to Appalachian.
Appalachian excels at completing construction projects on time and on budget. The opening the Levine Hall of Health Sciences last year serves as a showcase example of our success in this area – and I will remind you once again, it is the largest academic building ever to be built on our campus. It is not an easy feat to grow our infrastructure quickly and efficiently, but it is critically important to do so in order to empower the tremendous human potential on our campus. Vice Chancellor Forte’s team, in particular, continues to find more innovative ways to do this and we all appreciate their work.
I hope you are regularly visiting the Appalachian’s Future website and following along as we continue to build our infrastructure and empower human potential.
This is the time of year when we are hosting new students for orientation, and we are giving tours to prospective students, nearly every day. Certainly, meeting current students, faculty and staff gives them a sense of the welcoming environment here that will help them succeed as students and as graduates. Of course, we can all attest to the academic benefits provided by our stunningly beautiful location as well. It is nice, however, when we receive external validation of what we already know to be true. You have likely seen that Peterson’s — the world’s leading educational services company — named Appalachian in its “The 20 Best Colleges for Outdoor Enthusiasts” list, published May 1. The university placed 13th out of the 20 recognized schools nationwide, which were ranked based on the academic and recreational opportunities they provide.
We have both anecdotal and empirical evidence that our location, academic offerings and community are deciding factors that make Appalachian the university of choice for our slowly yet steadily growing – and increasingly diverse – student population. While we won’t have firm numbers until the UNC System census date of September 3rd, I am pleased to report a few promising preliminary numbers:
- We have confirmed nearly 10% more rural students than last year;
- The number of first-generation college students is up almost 13% over last year; and
- The number of traditionally underrepresented students is up more than 18%.
Appalachian is not a quiet campus in the summer! We are looking forward to the opening of the 35th season of An Appalachian Summer Festival next week, the 8th annual Appalachian Energy Summit in July, and we have more than 6,000 elementary, middle and high school students attending academic and athletic camps during the summer months. More than 7,000 students are enrolled in one of our two Summer Sessions, taught by more than 500 faculty, and our award-winning police academy is training a new class of cadets.
Many of Appalachian’s faculty are actively engaging in research and scholarship at home and across the globe. One example, which has garnered media attention throughout the world is the work of Geography Professor Dr. Baker Perry, who, along with Research Assistant Professor of Geography Anton Seimon, scaled Mount Everest to conduct climate research as part of a National Geographic expedition. If you caught the ABC News, Weather Channel or Gizmodo interviews with Dr. Perry this week and last week, you may have heard him talk about how he was on the team that braved record crowding, temperatures of nearly negative 30 degrees Celsius and icing which compromised his oxygen intake, to install the two highest operating automated weather stations in the world. These weather stations are providing scientists an unprecedented level of weather data that will improve weather forecasting across the globe… AND, if you are curious about what the temperature is on Mount Everest right now, thanks to Dr. Perry, you can find out.
It’s hard to tell who is who, but in this photo, Dr. Perry – who you may know is also a direct descendent of D.D. Dougherty – is the tall one in this photo, in the center. I understand he is conducting additional media interviews as I speak, but you can read all about his work and the work of Dr. Seimon, who was on the team that recorded what we believe to be elevation records for at least two insect species. Spoiler alert- Dr. Perry MAY have solved a critical technical crisis at more than 27,000 feet with a shovel and a roll of duct tape. Read it for yourself at Today.appstate.edu!
Closer to home, we recently celebrated the graduating fifth grade class of the Appalachian State University Academy at Middle Fork. As I recently shared in my weekly newsletter to campus, students at the Academy at Middle Fork are making tremendous strides. Early assessments show greater than an 80% increase in this class from their fourth-grade reading scores. This momentum is critically important as this class enters middle school, and the enthusiasm for their progress was evident when all 48 graduating fifth grade students were greeted with cheers and congratulations from a room packed with their parents, families and educators. We have plans to stay connected with these students, and I look forward to seeing them cross the stage again – this time in Boone – in 2030 if not sooner.
The Academy’s accomplishments and Appalachian’s involvement in the National Geographic expedition have been celebrated in the media. Coverage of the work of Appalachian’s faculty is important for them as well as for our students. These successes are also compelling reminders that Appalachian exists on a continuum – preparing, engaging and educating students for a lifetime as Mountaineers.
I had the occasion to share many of Appalachian’s success stories – and make the case for more support for our university – while in Raleigh last week meeting with our Board of Visitors. I took the opportunity to also share our university priorities with more than a dozen legislators, who are currently making important funding decisions. First and foremost among these priorities is a change in the funding model to use a credit completion formula to allocate funding and more equitably represent Appalachian among our peers in the UNC System.
Joining me in this advocacy work is our chief advocate and liaison to the Board of Governors, Phil Byers. Governor Byers had to leave to attend the groundbreaking of the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Morganton, but in his absence please allow me to take this moment to say a public thank-you to him for your tireless work in support of Appalachian.
Before I close my remarks, I would ask you save Thursday, September 5th on your calendars for our annual Founders’ Day celebration. This year we will celebrate Appalachian’s 120th year, and begin a new tradition of ringing the Founders Bell on September 5th, the opening day of classes in 1899. You can see in this photo we are creating a home for the Founders Bell, and a place for our students, faculty and staff to create and foster memories and traditions that will last for years to come.
On behalf of the entire institution, I would also like to thank you, our trustees, for the advocacy work each of you does on behalf of our faculty, staff and students. You make tremendous differences for – and along with – our faculty, staff and students. Together, our collective commitment to Appalachian’s standing as the premier, public undergraduate institution in the state begins before our students receive their degrees and continues long afterward. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my remarks.