Remarks from the Fall 2015 General Faculty and Staff Meeting
Fall 2015 General Faculty and Staff Meeting
Friday, August 28, 2015
Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, on the campus of Appalachian State University
Remarks by Sheri N. Everts, Chancellor
Good afternoon and thank you for listening, either here or in a remote location.
Last year at this time, I introduced myself, thanked you for all you do for our students, and mentioned that I would primarily spend my first year, listening. Some of you have been asking recently, what did you hear during your first year and what have you done with that information? So, with your permission, I’ll structure my remarks around those two questions.
What did I hear during my first year?
I heard that Appalachian State was a different kind of university with care and concern for students at the forefront of our decisions. I heard that we all worked together and felt fortunate to be able to live in this glorious location. I heard that we had better faculty than we deserved. I also heard that we had a faculty morale issue and that we were losing talented faculty to other institutions, some because of salary issues, or lack of raises, some because of housing issues, some because they didn’t feel valued or listened to.
I’ll remind you of what the administration did as a result of those early conversations. We found, that is, we “reallocated” internal institutional funds, Appalachian State University funds, for a 2.5% merit salary pool increase for the year. Additionally, I testified before the Board of Governors for a tuition and fees increase primarily to fund the next two years of additional merit salary increases, providing us with an approximately 2.2% pool per year for faculty merit raises.
At the core of the university’s work are the faculty and staff. I listened carefully to identify how I could support you this year and as we move forward together.
Central to facilitating the work of faculty and staff across campus is an engaging and responsive Office of Academic Affairs and a key priority was supporting the campus’ search for a new provost and executive vice chancellor. I welcome Dr. Darrell Kruger to Appalachian and look forward to joining the provost and the faculty in identifying areas where we can work together to further support our core academic mission. Such as those already identified by Darrell: Budget Hearings, (that may not sound as exciting to you as it does to me?) I will offer those will be open to the entire community, including students. I thank Darrell, and the other members of the administrative leadership team for leading those budget discussions. I’d like to recognize the other Vice Chancellors, as you’ve heard from our Provost, Darrell Kruger; Vice Chancellor and Chief of Staff, Randy Edwards; Vice Chancellor Greg Lovins; Vice Chancellor Susan Pettyjohn, and Vice Chancellor Cindy Wallace; thank you all for your leadership and service to Appalachian State.
Darrell also outlined a campus conversation regarding our strategic plan, as well as progress towards our next campus Master Plan. Those discussions will be co-chaired by Darrell and Dr. Randy Edwards.
Many of you told me, before I even arrived, that one of the ways faculty felt unappreciated was the lack of a faculty home, or a faculty club. Since those conversations, we have found a permanent home for the Faculty Club in Plemmons Student Union in the Whitewater Room and I greatly enjoyed getting to know you better during those monthly Friday afternoon gatherings. I also enjoyed listening to colleagues share teaching, research, and service collaborations across disciplines. Our next Faculty Club will be Friday, September 25th from 3-6 p.m. in the Whitewater Room and I hope to see you all there. We’ll be joined by members of our excellent and supportive Board of Trustees and I’m assured we’ll have at least one faculty band, as well.
Amy, a staff club has also been mentioned to me several times during the spring semester; I heard you and we are working towards that end, as well.
We have also surveyed the faculty and staff regarding housing issues asking the question: “how difficult was it to find affordable housing nearby?” The answers were heartbreaking. Additionally, a more formal study will be launched very soon by Brailsford and Dunlavey. I want to thank Senate Chair Paul Gates, and many other folks who are working together to make faculty and staff housing a tradition, again, for Appalachian State.
Many of you shared that identifying and creating opportunities for professional development were vital for Appalachian. Recently, I announced the inaugural class of the Leadership Development Program for Faculty. I would like to thank the faculty who stepped forward to lead this new program that will provide this learning opportunity to even more colleagues across campus as we add cohorts. I am open and supportive of your ideas for new ways to strengthen professional development and Provost Kruger and Academic Affairs have illustrated this commitment, as well, as outlined in the Provost’s remarks. Also you shared other priorities in this vein, the need for additional funds for research and travel; student research, and interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaborations. I’m still listening.
Since last we talked, we searched for, and found, a new athletic director with a focus on collaboration across the campus, Doug Gillin. Doug, recruited from the University of Missouri, has lived through an athletic conference change. He knows first-hand some of the challenges that we have addressed in joining the Sun Belt Conference. Our new FBS affiliation brings with it a brighter spotlight with increased scrutiny. Last year, our first year in the conference, we won the highest academic honor the Sun Belt gives: The 2015 Institutional Graduation Rate Award. . .and that rate is going up at Appalachian! The higher voltage spotlight also brings opportunity. We will have two Thursday night football games this year with TV coverage to highlight the academic strengths of this university. I’d also like to thank Doug for not only negotiating an impressive new contract with Nike, at five times the benefits of our previous contract, but for hosting numerous meetings around those Thursday-night football games. Doug, our colleagues in the Athletics’ Department, faculty, staff, and students met many, many times to create the Thursday night game plan. . .not for the football team, but for parking. We knew this was not going to be easy, but I thank them for their work, and the campus community for your patience. We continue to work towards additional solutions for parking while keeping in mind that we have multiple constituency groups.
Another conversation I had often over the last year involved the Broyhill Inn. Many campus colleagues, as well as community partners, asked me to please bring back the Broyhill in its original glory. Many spoke of the white papers outlining plans for the site as well as more recent plans associated with an Innovation Campus. We are making progress towards these initiatives. The Board of Trustees has granted permission for the old hotel and conference center to come down, renovations are just too costly, and last week we sent the request for Millennial Campus designation from the Board of Governors on to the System Office. Among other things, Millennial designation allows us to spend other people’s money developing the site. Discussions include an Innovation Campus transitioning faculty and student research into economic development in the region through our expertise in sustainability, and a Conference Center. Please look for the outcome of our request from the Board of Governors at their September meeting, and please be involved in conversations associated with the use of the Broyhill Campus.
I have already asked Faculty Senate Chair Paul Gates to be involved in these planning conversations and look forward to many campus and community conversations on said topic as well.
- Wellness, Health, and Safety
Students, faculty and staff all shared their strong dedication to ensuring a healthy and safe community. The Interpersonal Violence Council coordinated in-person sexual assault/interpersonal violence training for almost 800 faculty and staff supervisors. More than 3,300 students have participated in on-line or in-person sexual assault/interpersonal violence training. These are just two examples of what our work accomplished this year and other programs that educate about interpersonal violence and raise awareness of resources have been expanded and strengthened. In addition, more than 1,100 students, faculty and staff have participated in suicide prevention training and more than 3,600 have participated in substance abuse prevention training. I have heard that members of this community do not want to be bystanders, but rather, engaged partners working for the health and safety of our Appalachian Community.
To better strengthen our work with students, the Office of Student Development has moved toward a public safety model with the establishment of the Office of Wellness and Prevention Services. Last year, Appalachian strengthened our counseling services by increasing the amount of counseling hours available to students and a strengthened approach to prevention will assist in education and reaching early those who can benefit from the deep resources we have made available to our community.
Increasing the diversity of our students, faculty, and staff came to the forefront in multiple conversations throughout the year. I am proud that our campus is committed to furthering these important conversations as seen in the increased activity of student groups dedicated to these issues as well as the academic forum held in April.
In the interest of moving from conversations to action, I charged the Chancellor’s Commission for Diversity to provide recommendations focused on recruitment and retention of students, staff and faculty from underrepresented groups. The Commission provided six proposals that are being implemented this fall semester, and additional proposals are being evaluated for implementation moving forward. In addition to enacting the Commission on Diversity’s recommendations, we are also reviewing and creating an implementation timeline for recommendations provided by a number of student groups, including the Appalachian Social Justice Educators, students who attended the Black Lives Matter conference in Tucson and the Chancellor’s Student Advisory Committee on Diversity Recruitment. Thank you, all.
While increased diversity is important to addressing issues of equity and accessibility, a more diverse community of students, staff and faculty is also critical to the health of our campus. The expanded dialogue and varying perspectives found in diverse communities further strengthens an environment of academic inquiry. I am pleased to share that, through numerous initiatives, 15% of 2015’s first year class are students from traditionally underrepresented groups. This is an increase of 3 percentage points in one year, and is the largest percentage in Appalachian’s history. Let me repeat that, it is the largest percentage in Appalachian’s history. 15% of our first-year class. While we have accomplished much in a single year, I know there is still much to be done and our campus will endeavor to broaden the diversity of our community, beginning with specific recruitment and retention initiatives directed at students, faculty and staff.
You have told me that sustainability is one of our important areas of traditional excellence; Appalachian’s leadership in sustainability, or stewardship, is known nationally. The Princeton review in honoring Appalachian State as a one of the best universities in the southeast cited our excellent faculty as the top reason and also cited that “students enjoy the school’s focus on green initiatives and sustainability, noting that their education is strongly influenced by the surrounding environment,“ the report said.
It is perhaps important to note that our campus’ work in sustainability grew out of years of grassroots efforts by students, faculty and staff and that longstanding commitment is evident in the depth of engagement throughout our community.
This past July, our campus hosted the 4th Appalachian Energy Summit. The summit’s ultimate goal is to save the state one billion dollars over twenty years. To date, cumulative savings total $499 million with the expectation of hitting $1 billion by 2020. Appalachian’s stewardship this year saved $700,000 in energy costs and reduced water usage by almost 6 million gallons.
We have discussed how this leadership and expertise may fit into an Innovation Campus on the Broyhill site. Also, this year, Ged Moody agreed to serve as Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Sustainability. Dr. Lee F. Ball Jr. has assumed the position of Interim Director of Sustainability; Doctor Ball is also a faculty member in the Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment Department.
Appalachian has the second highest score in the nation on the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System [or STARS], second in the nation, only to Colorado State. We received the maximum number of points in the engagement category, particularly cited was the Appalachian Energy Summit. Also we received 39 out of 40 points in the academics category which focuses on academic courses, learning outcomes, undergraduate and graduate programs, and immersive experiences.
- Global Learning
You also told me about our success in global learning, often mentioning the Quality Enhancement Plan. In the latest ranking, Appalachian is ranked fourth nationally among the top 40 master’s degree granting institutions for the total number of students who studied abroad for credit, and SECOND nationally for the number of students who participated in short-term programs for academic credit.
Global learning brings a rich diversity that greatly enhances a worldwide understanding of sustainable practices through new dialogues, diverse perspectives and research. In the years ahead, Appalachian will continue to deepen the accessibility to international experiences for students and strengthen the international interaction here at home.
- Student Research
Student research has been a strength and priority at each of the campuses at which I’ve served so it has been particularly exciting to witness Appalachian faculty’s commitment and dedication to mentored research experiences for our students. That is not true everywhere, and our faculty are to be applauded and rewarded for such.
Since arriving at Appalachian, I have seen students challenged to take what they learned in the classroom and apply creative and innovative approaches to develop solutions. Many times over this year, I have heard employers laud the many ways in which our students are prepared to lead professional lives and are driven to make a difference. This is in large part due to the rich and deep experiences they have with their faculty mentors, the majority of whom, according to our students, even share their cell numbers with students. I can assure you that never happened at the Research 1 institution I attended, (granted there were no cell phones when I was an undergraduate), but I digress.
- Community and Civic Engagement
Many of the conversations over this past year included Appalachian’s focus and quality in areas of civic engagement and service learning. These make us a very different kind of institution and lead us all to value how our lives, no matter our professions, can be made more meaningful and fruitful through service.
Our campus’ community engagement classification by the Carnegie Foundation was reaffirmed in 2015 and is evidence of Appalachian’s partnership with the High Country community, partnering in more ways than can be listed. It is in our very DNA.
Our enrollment growth is steady and sure. We, because of you, enjoy applications from talented and well-prepared first-year and transfer students who could attend college anywhere they wanted. The increased dollars associated with the enrollment growth need to follow the needs created by the slow and steady growth. I have heard that repeatedly from you, and I assure you that the previously discussed budget hearings, as well as current conversations in the senior administration, and the Provost’s Council reflect such. Faculty offices, high tech classrooms, and academic buildings, are a priority for any growth in student enrollment. Further, carry-over dollars will be focused on academic facility priorities. Let me repeat that, the nearly 2.2 million dollars we are allowed to carry-over, that is, one-time dollars, will be spent on ACADEMIC facility priorities. Provost Kruger is working with the deans to determine the most pressing needs and a process has been developed to ensure this prioritization continues and is shared at the aforementioned budget hearings.
Speaking of budgets, as I write these remarks the General Assembly is still working hard on our behalf and getting closer to a budget.
I thank them for their service to the citizens of North Carolina.
We have just completed the most successful campaign in the history of Appalachian, raising over 200 million dollars; but a campaign never really ends. We need to continue to focus on raising dollars for need-based scholarships, merit-based scholarships, for faculty support—distinguished professorships, facilities both academic and athletic and other priorities addressed in our strategic plan, this may require some new positions in the division of Advancement, but will require filling existing positions in Advancement. We have a very, very good story to tell and that leads me to the number one thing I heard from you over the last year: “Appalachian hides its light under a basket.” We are resolved to do a better job of telling our story, whether that be through increased visits down the mountain to Raleigh, through additional publications, or through the changes you’ll soon see to the University website, we are taking the basket off this shining example of excellence where students are at the very center of our academic enterprise.
I’ve named a number of priorities today, and while this speech will be available at the website, I’ll mention them again:
- Support for Faculty and Staff
- Wellness, Health, and Safety
- Global Learning
- Student Research
- Community and Civic Engagement
- Slow and steady enrollment
I listened to what you said, I took action on what I heard and learned, and we have a clear direction ahead. Together we will move forward to reach and exceed our goals.
Thank you for your attention and thank you for all you do, each and every day, for our students.
I’ll remind you of the reception to follow, please join us if your schedule permits.