Remarks from the June 14, 2022 Staff Senate Meeting

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Good afternoon, and thank you for the opportunity to join your meeting today to share some key university updates.

Before I begin, I would like to thank Clint for his service over the last year, and welcome Sarah-Davis into her new role as Chair. Thank you both for your continued commitment to excellence and for your representation of App State’s fabulous staff members.

While many students and faculty take a break over the summer months, you all are working harder than ever. I appreciate and value your work — thank you!

In the last few weeks, we have completed three national searches, and hired:

  • Dan Layzell, our new Vice Chancellor of Finance and Operations. Dan begins in his role at App State on Aug. 15, and will run the Division of Finance and Operations, formerly known as Business Affairs;

  • Jamie Parson, who has done an extraordinary job in the position of Interim Chief Diversity Officer, has been named to the position permanently; and

  • Jennifer Myers was hired to fill the position of Chief Audit Officer. Jennifer works within the new Division of Institutional Integrity, led by General Counsel Paul Meggett.

As shared by Jamie Parson, this week, the university will commemorate Juneteenth with programming that includes a Unity Vigil honoring the victims and survivors of recent mass shooting events and a “lunch and learn” event with Rodney Dawson, the education curator at the Greensboro History Museum. I hope you will join this first universitywide commemoration of Juneteenth, and I appreciate the work of the many staff who are ensuring the university’s recognition of this important day in our nation’s history.

As I noted on Friday, following Governor Cooper’s issuance of Executive Order 262 for State Employees to receive leave to recognize a Day of Cultural, Religious, or Personal Significance, UNC System President Hans authorized System institutions to provide eight hours of annual paid Personal Observance Leave to all leave-earning staff and faculty. While this is not an addition to the holiday schedule, the leave is available immediately for employees to observe Juneteenth, or any other day of personal significance, cultural or religious importance throughout the year. We will communicate information on how to report this leave soon.

I also noted in my campus update on Friday that we await instructions from the UNC System about implementing the across-the-board legislative salary increase for the upcoming fiscal year. The Office of State Human Resources and the Office of State Budget and Management issue formal instructions for implementing the Annual Raise Process each year. This information will allow the UNC System to address any technical changes that may take place in the legislative short session, and to incorporate them into the University Annual Raise Process guidance. Once we have these final instructions, which we anticipate will be after the conclusion of the legislative short session, we will share the information with you and will quickly implement the annual raise process for App State employees.

At a reception last week, we thanked members of the General Assembly as well as representatives from Governor Cooper’s office for the best budget in App State’s history, which included these salary increases, as well as nearly $123 million to support capital projects, including:

  • The first academic building in the university’s Innovation District;

  • the renovations of Peacock, Edwin Duncan and Wey Halls; and

  • repairs and upgrades for Walker, Chapel Wilson, John Thomas, Anne Belk and Smith Wright Halls, among other one-time repairs.

I hope you will join the App State Board of Trustees meetings on Thursday and Friday this week, where we will provide additional details about these and other capital projects. You can view the full schedule and watch the meeting live streams at

One update I am particularly excited to share with you today, and which we will also share with the Trustees, is the Child Development Center expansion. After several delays, the center will begin opening its new classrooms with increased capacity in July and August. 

The expanded facility will be licensed for 55 additional children, nearly doubling its current capacity. Renovations include five additional classrooms, kitchen and laundry facilities, and additional parking and sidewalks.

Under the direction of Moriah Stegall, our center has earned the highest possible licensure rating of five stars, making it one of the most sought-after child care facilities in the community. This expansion will help meet the high demand for child care with exceptional quality care for the children of staff, faculty and students, but I am well aware there is still significant unmet need for infant and child care, and we will continue working to address this need.

The Trustees will also review and vote on the university’s next Strategic Plan and mission statement.  Nearly 60 individuals came together to develop this plan, with representation from staff and faculty from every college and division, including the Chairs of Staff Senate and Faculty Senate as well as leaders from the Student Government Association and Graduate Student Senate. I extend my appreciation to everyone who has been working on this plan — it has been a comprehensive, transparent and collective effort that has allowed everyone who wants a voice in the process to have one.

As part of our accreditation process, App State is also preparing to initiate a new, five-year Quality Enhancement Plan, also known as a QEP, which will take effect by fall 2024. Last month, Provost Norris announced the new topic, the first step in establishing App State’s new QEP. The topic chosen is “Climate Literacy and Response-Ability: Cultivating Resilient and Just Communities.” Beginning in the upcoming fall semester, Academic Affairs will announce to campus ways to participate in the development and implementation of App State’s next QEP. 

Last week, we concluded the 10th annual Appalachian Energy Summit, which brings together scholars and practitioners from across the state and region to improve energy efficiency across the UNC System, state and beyond. When the summit began, the leaders in attendance set a shared goal to avoid $2 billion in utility costs by 2025, and we are on track to meet that goal.

So far, institutions in the UNC System, together with industry partners, have avoided nearly $1.6 billion in utility costs! App State’s proportion of these savings is $62.4 million. These are impressive financial gains for North Carolina taxpayers, and I’m proud that App State has been the driving force behind creating and presenting the summit each year, which also offers numerous opportunities for students to share their scholarship and learn from some of the most innovative minds in the energy industry.

With a history of podium finishes in international racing competitions since 2016, Team Sunergy, our solar vehicle team, brought home the 2021 American Solar Challenge trophy, beating a roster of highly elite institutions with engineering programs and also earning awards for teamwork and electrical design. Team Sunergy represents the best of App State innovation and dedication to making the world better for future generations, and we are delighted to support them in the 2022 competitions.

In two weeks, Team Sunergy will depart for Topeka, Kansas, and then Independence, Missouri, to compete in the Formula Sun Grand Prix before defending their American Solar Challenge trophy.

Last month, I had the pleasure of addressing the Hickory City Council at their annual retreat, to share a campus update. We are moving forward with plans for the Hickory Campus, in partnership with the City of Hickory and education, civic and business leaders in the area. While Provost Norris is working with her academic leadership team to assess opportunities, I have formed a Hickory Campus Advisory Council to help evaluate the needs of the community and greater area. Their experience and expertise will assist in making App State Hickory a true collaboration supporting the Greater Hickory metro area. I will continue providing regular progress updates about the Hickory Campus.

Before I close my remarks today, I would like to congratulate you on your success over the last year in advancing the AppKIDS project. For more than four decades, you have helped provide clothing, necessities, gifts, kindness and mentorship to local children in need. This year, with generous support from the Vice Chair of our Board of Trustees, Mark Ricks, as well as from donors Donna and Skip Harkrader and Gail and John Yearick, the program this Senate began is offering summer enrichment opportunities to identified children. The growth of this program is providing important services to children in our High Country communities, and the benefits will be felt for years to come. Thank you for your work in building and fostering this valuable service.

As I conclude my remarks today, I hope you take great pride in the accomplishments I have shared with you. App State staff have been an important part of each of these successes. I look forward to celebrating these with you on June 21, at the Staff Service Award Reception, and at the upcoming Staff Appreciation Event on July 13. Thank you for your dedication to elevating our institution and the Appalachian Experience for our students. Your work and your efforts are recognized, valued and greatly appreciated.

Thank you.