Remarks from the March 9, 2021 Staff Senate Meeting

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Staff Senate Meeting
Tuesday March 9, 2021

Remarks by Sheri Everts, Chancellor

Good afternoon. I always look forward to sharing university updates with this hard-working and enthusiastic group. 

I am also pleased that Scott Lampe, the chair of our Board of Trustees, is able to join us today. You will hear from him shortly. Thank you for being here, Chair Lampe!

I want to begin by thanking everyone who supported iBackAPP Day last week. Our Vice Chancellor for University Advancement reports this was our most successful iBackApp day yet!  We generated nearly $250,000, with more than 2,350 donors. Countless more Mountaineers showed their support by wearing black and gold and by sharing their pride and love for App State on social media. I saw many of the departments here today join in this important day for the university. Thank you! 

Thank you, also for supporting our men’s and women’s basketball team. Both certainly made us proud during the Sun Belt Conference Championship.

For nearly 415 days, App State has been planning, preparing for and responding to COVID-19. I have been — and continue to be — so appreciative of your unwavering leadership, energy, support and empowerment of others through this most challenging year.

Although we are continuing to use teleworking to the extent possible, in accordance with Governor Cooper’s latest executive order, I am very encouraged by the news that we can expect a nationwide increase in vaccinations, and am thrilled that we will open our vaccination center on campus later this week.

It is our staff who have been planning and preparing for this incredibly important effort for months, and who will be on-site, managing the center and getting vaccines into arms.

Of course, as you know, COVID testing is also key to our efforts to contain the spread of the virus, and our staff have been champions in this critical work. Since our first on-campus testing events last summer, we have steadily increased our testing. Now, our multiple testing events each week, as well as targeted testing as-needed and our wastewater testing at residence halls provide important, consistent data that allow us to quickly respond to contain the virus.

Our low weekly positive case count, which has not exceeded 3.3% so far this year, is a testament to our university’s commitment to prioritizing safety. I see your vigilance in wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing, and I appreciate it. 

Our vaccine clinics are part of the statewide vaccination efforts, and we will follow the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services’ vaccine prioritization schedule. This week’s clinics will serve Group 3 frontline essential workers — beginning with staff who share workspaces that make physical distancing challenging. Faculty who are teaching in person will follow this group.

Beginning March 24, North Carolina will move into Group 4, and we will offer vaccines to other university personnel, students who are living in residence halls, the broader student population and community as quickly as possible, while staying within the statewide vaccine regulations.

We are working to finalize academic schedules for the fall. As a significant portion of our campus community becomes vaccinated in the coming months, we see the very real possibility of a more normal fall semester — where face-to-face will be the primary mode of instruction.

As the pandemic wears on, I know that questions about compensation are more important than ever, as millions of families, including many on our campus, have faced financial challenges. In April, we will share campus budget presentations and I encourage you all to attend. At the state level, I continue to advocate for our employees and champion the tremendous quality of work taking place on our campus. As I shared at the Spring Faculty and Staff Meeting, UNC System President Hans indicated one of his key operating budget priorities is faculty and staff salaries. He is advocating for us — and for you — as well. 

As we remain focused on ensuring our financial position in the short term, we are looking to a post-COVID future. Exceeding 20,000 in enrollment this year was an important turning point that allowed us to work with the UNC System on assigning a new peer group for App State, so our reference institutions for resource allocations will be more relevant to the App State of today.

Many thanks to all of the staff members who were instrumental in identifying and proposing the institutions for this new peer group, including your Staff Senate Chair, Kelli Wilson.

We continue following the financial and operational guidance provided by President Hans and limiting our non-essential spending. We have also developed a bridge strategic plan that will guide the university through this time of financial and social uncertainty, and provide guidelines for the university's next five-year strategic plan. As you know, Dr. Lee Ball and Heather Langdon have been leading a working group to develop the plan, which is to be presented to the Board of Trustees at the March 26 meeting.

I will conclude my remarks by again sharing my sincere appreciation for your efforts to continually elevate our institution and the Appalachian Experience for all. App State’s future continues to shine because of dedicated staff members like you. Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today, and I know we all look forward to hearing from Chair Lampe.