May 2020 Appalachian Connections message
Message from Chancellor Sheri Everts
We are nearing the end of our academic year — a year that has been much different than we could have ever anticipated. The end-of-year pressures are certainly exacerbated by our present circumstances, and I greatly appreciate the support you have provided to your students, as well as the many messages you have sent to faculty, staff, my leadership team and me, expressing your support during these unprecedented times. Thank you so much.
While we continue to answer many important questions, we will make every decision with the safety of the Appalachian Community as our top priority. A few important topics we know are currently top of mind:
- Spring commencement. We know this event is as exciting for our Appalachian families as it is for our graduates. We are working thoughtfully and creatively to honor the importance of the day and to make our newest class of alumni proud. Our university’s first virtual commencement ceremony will be broadcast Saturday, May 16, at 11 a.m. on Appalachian’s commencement website, the Appalachian State University Facebook page and the university’s YouTube channel. It will also be broadcast on the university’s student-run television station, AppTV. A permanent YouTube video link will be available after the event. The ceremony will feature remarks by Honors College undergraduate student Olivia Gentry, who is graduating with university honors and a degree in public health in the Beaver College of Health Sciences, and Ann Marie McNeely, who is representing the Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies and earning an Ed.D. in educational leadership. They both have compelling stories to share.
I am also very pleased to announce that alumnus Stephen Dubner ’84, recipient of the Appalachian Alumni Association’s 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award and co-author of the “Freakonomics” book series, has accepted our invitation to speak at this very special event. We are thrilled to welcome — virtually — Stephen home to Appalachian. In addition to being one of our most distinguished alumni, Stephen — a former Chancellor’s Scholar and student in the Honors College program — is a celebrated interdisciplinary thinker. I am certain his perspectives, which are always astute and insightful, will prove meaningful for our graduates and all who join us for this historic ceremony. We are also excited to welcome award-winning country music artist Luke Combs as a special guest performer, joining his alma mater in celebrating the Class of 2020. We are proud to have Luke as part of Appalachian’s first virtual commencement ceremony!
May and August graduates will also be invited to attend a special commencement ceremony in their honor in December.
- Fall semester. In my weekly messages on April 24 and May 1, I shared that we are looking at every option that will allow us to welcome our faculty and students back to their classrooms and labs this fall.
Prepared by the experience of this semester, informed by Governor Cooper’s timeline and supported by the knowledge and experience of UNC System Interim President Roper, we are planning to have students and faculty return to classrooms and labs in the fall. I would like to share with you how we are planning for this.
Our learning environment has been fundamentally changed by COVID-19, and Fall Semester 2020 will not look like Fall Semester 2019. We recognize returning to campus without a COVID-19 vaccine will present new challenges. We will take every precaution to maximize safety and limit exposure for those who are vulnerable. Provided the conditions for re-opening our state are met, we will be ready.
- Personal protective equipment, access to testing and new standards for cleaning and sanitizing our working and learning environments will be in place. We will carefully adhere to recommendations for limitations on crowd sizes, exposure to vulnerable populations and other strategies for mitigation.
- Phase One of our newest residence halls project, which includes Thunder Hill and Raven Rocks halls, will be complete, allowing additional capacity and flexibility for us to manage new challenges presented by communal living environments.
- Community events, experiences and gatherings will be different but will allow our campus to be together, face to face, in ways we will not have been for five months.
- We will develop new incentives for research and teaching practices that are adaptable and responsive to the intrusions of COVID-19.
In the midst of uncertainty, one certainty is our return to campus will be implemented with the safety of our campus community at the forefront of every decision.
I continue to be inspired by the ways our campus community has found opportunity among challenges.
- Adjunct Instructor Donna Akers transformed the final project in her Business Writing class to allow students to give back to their communities by working with local businesses, organizations and causes.
- Students filmed a video of themselves singing “The Song of Purple Summer” — a song from their production of “Spring Awakening,” originally scheduled for this semester — and garnered coverage in Broadway World.
- Jakob Minton, a sophomore communication, electronic media/broadcasting major, turned a routine 30-second video production assignment into a clever 2-minute sketch about his beloved family beagle, who now has his own YouTube channel and Facebook page.
- Dr. Mark Nunes, chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, created a virtual tip jar through which anyone can donate money to local service industry workers affected by COVID-19.
- The Career Development Center is offering new and timely resources designed to help our students as they prepare to enter a rapidly changing global marketplace. The center’s resources are also available to alumni. Notably, the staff held a successful Education Career Fair via Zoom in April, and they are planning a large-scale virtual career fair for mid-June.
We thank you, our Appalachian families, for your support and engagement, throughout this year, this semester and these particularly challenging recent weeks. All of us look forward to the time when our campus will once again be filled with an engaged and vibrant community of learners.