Update from Appalachian State University — week of Aug. 17–22
Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the entire App State Community, this week we held the first classes of the fall semester. I am incredibly proud of the collaboration across university departments to make this possible. The decision to welcome students back to campus was guided not only by our desire to give students the Appalachian Experience they hoped for, but also by recommendations from public health officials and the UNC System — as I shared in an Aug. 17 message to campus.
A few weeks ago, in my June address to our Board of Trustees, I said this pandemic has necessitated our creating what is essentially a new Appalachian State University. Every aspect of campus life is different: in the ways we teach, deliver books, clean, meet, exercise, sit and eat together, and even where we place our toothbrushes. Since March, teams of staff and faculty have been working to prepare our campus to continue our premier teaching, research and learning experiences under the massive constraints and challenges imposed by this pandemic.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). She called to discuss our plans of action and individual challenges, and she was complimentary of Appalachian’s extensive preparations and safety measures. On Aug. 21, the NCDHHS released updated guidance for institutions of higher education, and our preparation throughout the spring and summer has ensured we are in full compliance with this guidance.
Across the nation, the operations of colleges and universities face daily uncertainties. These first few days are critical in ensuring we are able to flatten App State’s curve. We must all be diligent following the 3Ws, and limiting social gatherings to small numbers. Wear face coverings in compliance with university requirements and when you cannot maintain 6 feet of physical distance; wait to ensure 6 feet of physical distance between yourself and others; wash your hands frequently, scrubbing with soap for 20 seconds, and use hand sanitizer. If you are concerned about your or someone else’s exposure to or illness from COVID-19, you can report it here, and our Environmental Health and Safety and Emergency Management staff will immediately engage a team, including our public health partners, to review and respond as needed.
Thanks to Student Government President and Vice President Michael Davis and Cam Hunter for the messages they shared with students yesterday, reminding students to limit parties and gatherings to no more than 10 people indoors and no more than 25 outdoors. Their messages and leadership are crucial to our success in being able to maintain an on-campus learning experience for our students. Every student can be a leader by example. As Michael and Cam both said, the actions of each individual person make a difference in our ability to stay the course this semester and beyond.
While much of our reporting has been on the intricacies of returning to campus, it’s important to remember our faculty and staff continue to create meaningful experiences for our campus community.
- Dr. Krista Terry, an associate professor in the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies, shared her thoughts on our faculty’s expertise in online instruction and connecting with students through all learning modalities. App State has long been known for its relational culture, and Dr. Terry underscores the importance of that focus now more than ever. Read what she had to say.
- University Recreation’s Erin Sanders and Dr. Becky Battista of the Department of Health and Exercise Science and director of the Office of Student Research provided options and safety tips for outdoor exercise, enjoying the fall weather and learning what the university campus and Greater High Country have to offer in outdoor settings.
- Landscape Services took advantage of our largely empty campus this summer to cultivate more durable turf on Sanford Mall. These grassy areas can now better withstand sustained amounts of high foot traffic and recreational use. Read more about the project.
- During the spring and summer, more than 100 App State employees volunteered to personally call nearly 16,000 incoming and current students as a way to check in with our Mountaineers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, to see how they were doing and connect them to any needed resources. Read more about this initiative.
In the last few weeks in particular, we have received many messages commending our university’s response to COVID-19 and highlighting the tremendous efforts of our staff, faculty and leaders. The parents of a returning student, who moved into a residence hall last weekend, shared one such message. They thanked the university for the “thoughtful planning for the upcoming fall semester during these unique and unsettling times. We feel very comfortable having witnessed the preparedness and precautions in place and look forward to a successful fall semester.”
I, too, want to extend my sincerest thanks to our faculty and staff for your work to elevate the experiences of our students — inside the classroom and beyond. The involvement of our faculty, staff and students is central to our institutional mission, and we are working harder than ever to engage the Appalachian Community in our decision-making processes. Your input is valued and we will continue to seek it as we move forward.
Sheri Everts, Chancellor