Remarks from the November 22, 2019 Meeting of the Board of Trustees

Friday, November 22, 2019

Board of Trustees Meeting
Friday, November 22, 2019
Plemmons Student Union, on the campus of Appalachian State University

Remarks by Sheri Everts, Chancellor

Good afternoon, Trustees, and welcome again to the members of Appalachian’s Board of Visitors, who are joining the meeting today. I echo Chair Blackburn’s comments and know I speak for the entire room when I say we are so pleased you are here. Your excitement and enthusiasm extended to your attendance to the committee meetings, and we thank you for that!

It’s hard to believe the end of the Fall semester is a few short weeks away! We do expect a few exciting things to happen in the next three weeks: a win against Texas State on Saturday; another win next week against Troy; a Championship game on December 7th; and a Bowl Game win!

I’m (not really) joking, but I know we are all so proud of our football student-athletes, Coach Drinkwitz and the entire coaching staff for getting us ranked number 23 in the AP Poll and number 22 in the Coaches Poll.

In fact, ALL of our student-athletes make us proud, with their athletic AND academic success! Our student-athlete cumulative GPA has exceeded 3.0 for 14 semesters running, and we hold the highest graduation rate in the Sun Belt Conference. They are smart and athletically talented!

Athletics success brings with it exposure to Appalachian that benefits the entire institution. In October, Appalachian was the recipient of continued philanthropy from Board of Trustees Secretary Mark Ricks, who not only has made each of our home games a little sweeter with his contributions of Mars candy and ice cream to our students and Mountaineer sports fans, but also continues to demonstrate the power of giving back to his alma mater. He always finds a way to make it fun!

Ashley Thomasson, a junior Global Studies major from Mooresville, and Taylor Houston, a first-year Apparel Design and Merchandising major from Matthews, were the recipients of scholarships from Mark’s Double Wood Farms.

After attending a free tailgate party and concert sponsored by Mars, Ashley and Taylor, who were qualified by their excellent academic records and commitment to service, faced off during halftime for a snowy game of Connect 4 on the football field.

Ashley – who unknowingly had been preparing for the moment by playing Connect 4 regularly with the children she babysits – won a scholarship for a year of free tuition, and Taylor, who also played quite competitively, received a scholarship for a $2,500 meal plan credit.

It was great fun, and a wonderful surprise to these remarkable students, and they enjoyed the view from the Chancellor’s Suite. Thank you, Mark, for your continued generosity.

On Tuesday, we held the first of what will become an annual Chancellor’s Service Awards event. We celebrated more than 120 staff members, who have worked for Appalachian for 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 45 years. Combined, these dedicated professionals have served Appalachian and the state of North Carolina for nearly 3,000 years! It was a lovely event, made even more special by the fact that two sisters – Sheila Perry in the Office of Athletics and Kathy Deas in the Office of General Counsel – shared a 30th anniversary year and two brothers, Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Randy Edwards and Terry Edwards, who recently retired from the Office of Internal Audits, were recognized for 35 years of service. Randy, congratulations and thank you for your decades of service to Appalachian.

I am so appreciative of Appalachian’s hard-working staff members, who continue to make real and powerful differences in the lives of our students, faculty and other staff. They elevate the Appalachian Experience, and for that, our university is so very, very grateful. I would like to recognize and thank Mallory Sadler for her leadership of Staff Senate – Mallory, thank you for your very thoughtful remarks at the event on Tuesday. Thanks also, to Mark Bachmeier and the entire Human Resources staff for the work they do every day – often behind the scenes – to support staff at Appalachian.

Our faculty continue to distinguish themselves for excellence. Dr. Kathryn Kirkpatrick, who is a literary scholar, award-winning poet and professor in the Department of English was recognized again recently for her work. The North Carolina Literary and Historical Association presented her with the 2019 Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry for her newest collection — “The Fisher Queen: New & Selected Poems.” The award recognizes one North Carolina poet for the best book of poetry. This is the second time Dr. Kirkpatrick has won this prestigious award.

Dr. Kurt Michael, Appalachian’s Stanley R. Aeschleman Distinguished Professor of Psychology will serve as principal investigator for a $2.5 million U.S. Department of Education grant that will expand mental health services in rural schools. The 5-year grant will support developing and sustaining training sites called Assessment, Support and Counseling Centers, of which Dr. Michael is the co-founder. The grant is based on a three-way partnership between the Ashe County School District, Appalachian and RTI International, a nonprofit research institute. This funding will help scale up a long-standing partnership between Appalachian and rural K–12 schools that provides mental health services to youth and families in North Carolina communities while also deepening our students’ pre-professional training.

Our students are gaining valuable professional experience prior to graduation. One additional example comes from the Department of Applied Design. Appalachian interior designs majors Jake Still, a senior from Wesley Chapel, Florida, left, and Grace McCormick, a senior from Greensboro, designed a prototype, 10-by-10-foot pop-up shop that packages key essentials for college students to organize their living spaces. What began as a design project in their applied design studio class led to a collaboration with The Container Store and the opportunity to see their design actually fabricated for retail display. Their winning design was chosen by The Container Store as part of the 2019 Planning and Visual Education GlobalShop Design Challenge. It was installed at The Container Store’s flagship location in Dallas in time for college move-in weekends.

There has been some recent media attention paid to Appalachian’s 2020 enrollment goal of 20,000 students. I’d like to address this, beginning with some broader context:

This summer, Governor Cooper signed into law one of the highest educational attainment targets in the nation: to equip 2 million additional North Carolinian adults, ages 25-44, with a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential by 2030. This legislation codifies an ambitious goal of myFutureNC, a statewide nonprofit organization focused on educational attainment for which I chaired the post-secondary subcommittee at the request of then-President Margaret Spellings.

At last week’s Board of Governors meeting, President Roper addressed the UNC System’s priority to be proactive in the face of demographic trends that are already having an impact across the country, and which indicate a decline in enrollment may be in the future for UNC System institutions. I was encouraged by his commitment to also ensure our state can attract and retain faculty and staff. Specifically, he indicated an upcoming analysis of faculty salaries, a revision of the guidelines for utilizing the Faculty Recruitment and Retention fund, and an assessment of compensation for SHRA employees.

What does this mean for Appalachian?

In short, it means continuing the trend we have been following for 5 years.

I think many of you have heard me repeat the phrase “slow and steady growth” so many times you are tired of hearing me say it! Our goal has been to grow enrollment at a rate of 1 to 2 percent. At the Academic Affairs committee meeting today, Provost Kruger reported information he also presented to Faculty Senate: that Appalachian’s growth over the past five years has ranged from as low as negative 0.5% to as high as 2.8%, with an overall average of about 1.4%.

Reaching 20,000 in fall 2020 will mean a growth rate of 3.7% from this year, and an overall 6-year average of 1.75%, which is consistent with our slow and steady approach.

There are three key points I’d like you to take away from this:

  1. Last year, while we grew at just under 1%, we came in under our target.
  2. In our goals for next year, nearly 60% of our projected growth will be online or at satellite locations.
  3. Moving forward, online and satellite location growth are the areas we see as having the most potential for any increased enrollment.

In September, I shared with campus and with this board that reaching our goal of 20,000 students will bring in tuition revenue we need. I believe it will also bolster our position in Chapel Hill AND in Raleigh, and while I advocate for Appalachian continually in these areas, we all know we cannot control the decisions made there. What we CAN control is enrollment.

Appalachian is characterized by – and proud of – our capabilities to take charge and problem-solve. We are now operating from a position of strength in a volatile market environment, and we will do everything possible to continue doing so.

We will continue to admit qualified students and further our founders’ mission of serving rural areas in North Carolina. I would remind everyone that when we began discussions five years ago about diversifying our student population, we heard questions and even some skepticism that the “quality” of our students would decrease. Our data show that has not proven to be the case. I ask that we all keep this in mind, as we continue the necessary planning and resource allocation to maintain strong recruitment and enviable retention rates.

Planning and resource allocation comes in the form of additional faculty and adviser positions, and Provost Kruger reported to Faculty Senate last week his plans to fund 10 new tenure-track faculty positions and three new academic advisors. In the last five years we have added 43 new faculty lines and 11 advisors. Last year we added 7 new faculty lines, and for the first time in Appalachian’s history we had over 1,000 full-time tenured, tenure-track and instructor faculty.

I am pleased to share we will be able to provide promotion and tenure raises before the calendar year’s end. Those faculty who have earned promotions and tenure this year will see these salary increases – retroactive to July 1, 2019 – in their December paychecks. Thank you, Paul and your staff, for making this happen.

Support for faculty and students also comes in the form of buildings and infrastructure. When I arrived on this campus five years ago, I saw substandard working and learning environments. In the hours I have spent taking tours, I have seen: classrooms and offices subject to frequent flooding, substandard bathrooms, elevators that didn’t work, and broken HVAC systems diminishing air quality.

I care about building physical infrastructure to support and empower the vast human potential on our campus. I believe in thinking big. I believe in shining a light on what has been neglected – then fixing it.

To this end, work on Sanford Hall continues, and the project remains on budget, and the timeline for opening the building remains Spring of 2021. This building had been accommodating 4,600 students per day — 23,000 students per week, and more than 90 faculty whose offices are currently housed in other buildings on campus are looking forward to getting back into a newly renovated building! We expect the work underway will extend the life of this building up to 40 years. Ambassadors may actually include the new Sanford Hall on their tours again!

Wey Hall is another building badly in need of renovation. With state budget approval, we hope to begin construction on the project soon. It is our oldest academic building that has never been renovated.

The Stadium End Zone project is progressing on schedule for completion in Fall 2020. Academic space will be incorporated into the End Zone facility. Spaces that are used for football events will be multi-purpose spaces that will also be utilized for academic needs, events, conferences, and meetings.

Our residence hall project is progressing smoothly and showing visible progress every day. You will recall this project will replace nearly 1,800 beds — and add 400 more. The project is on schedule for Phase I to be online for Fall 2020, and we will see windows installed and exterior brick completed before December Commencement!

Our current construction projects total nearly $250 million, and represent the largest infrastructure investment in the entire UNC System. Each of these projects supports and elevates our educational mission.

Before I close my remarks, I’d like to invite you to join us for Fall Commencement on Friday, December 13, which will be remembered as a VERY happy day for hundreds of Appalachian’s newest graduates.

I’d like to end my remarks today by showing you our latest university institutional ad, which you no doubt have seen during televised football games. Thanks to Trustee Ricks – again – for assisting us with additional advertising placements on ESPN. In addition to reaching thousands of ESPN viewers, this ad, along with companion ads, has reached 12 million viewers, and are also being delivered to prospective students across the state, via targeted digital advertising, as well as on broadcast television and radio in key rural markets.

The pride we all hold for Appalachian stems from many different sources:

  • From our roots in serving rural North Carolina;
  • From our 120-year history of academic excellence;
  • From our athletics’ successes;
  • From our pride in our personal commitment to serving our region and our state;
  • From our students, to whom we are dedicated, and who motivate us to be better each day;
  • From the achievements of our alumni, whose pride and love for Appalachian is inspirational;
  • From our exceptional faculty, who continue to distinguish themselves on a national scale.

These and many other factors continue to bring Appalachian recognition as the premier, public, undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina.

Thank you for your time today, and thank you, Trustees and Board of Visitors members for your continued work in support of our faculty, staff and students.

Trustees, your annual “thank you” gift is at your seats. It is a small token and piece of history commemorating our 120th year and the dedication of the Lillie Shull Dougherty statue.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my remarks.