Update from Appalachian State University
With the last day of classes less than a week away and Fall Commencement on the horizon, many of us will take a few days this week to reflect on what makes us thankful. Recently, many of our students shared their thoughts on what they appreciate in this heartwarming podcast, which is both funny and touching, and reminds us of the importance of recognizing the good in others.
As the year comes to a close, we have significant achievements to celebrate. The best State budget bill in recent history, a new building for our future App State Hickory Campus, a semester in which we have successfully navigated many challenges of coming back together during a global pandemic — these are key accomplishments that are setting the stage for exciting next steps for our university. They are also the outcomes of the dedication to excellence shared by our faculty, staff and students.
- The budget brings with it the ability to begin work on our Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research, which is the beginning of our long-envisioned Innovation District. It also allows us to initiate work to begin the planning for daylighting Boone Creek, a project that will transform a parking lot into a place for education and natural inspiration, while also improving the resilience of our natural ecosystems.
- In the more immediate future, the budget also brings with it pay increases and well-deserved bonuses for our employees. Yesterday afternoon, we received guidance and instructions from the UNC System on the Annual Raise Process (ARP) for both EHRA and SHRA employees. The mandatory ARP base salary legislative increase and the legislative bonuses must be implemented no later than a January 2022 payroll, and we will share more details next week on what that timing will look like for App State employees.
- Beginning with our academic deans and representatives from the City of Hickory and the counties of Catawba, Caldwell and Burke, we are exploring the many possibilities presented by our future App State Hickory Campus. At an event held at our new building on Friday, City of Hickory Mayor Hank Guess lauded App State’s work to “increase educational opportunities in Hickory and to equip our workforce with the skills needed to meet the demands of today’s employers.” The announcement of the campus has garnered media coverage across the state, reaching more than 12 million people in North Carolina and beyond! Conversations about the future App State Hickory campus will also include Catawba Valley Community College, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, and Western Piedmont Community College. These key partners in the Aspire Appalachian Co-Admission Program, which provides a seamless pathway for students enrolled at partner community colleges to complete their degrees at App State, are all within a 30 minute drive of the App State Hickory Campus.
Even with much for our campus to celebrate, our country continues to navigate challenging and divisive situations that also impact our campus community. Interim Chief Diversity Officer Jamie Parson and I have discussed the need for our campus community to have ready access to resources that foster inclusive excellence, including spaces that support both reflection and challenging discussions. Later today, Jamie will send a message to campus with additional information about resources, as well as upcoming forums, for our students, faculty and staff.
Earlier this week, my leadership team and I reviewed our active COVID-19 case counts with Emergency Management Director Jason Marshburn. As we compared our current data to our data from last year, we reflected on how far we have come. Thank you all for your diligence to COVID safety and your care for one another, which is helping us contain COVID on our campus and enjoy so many experiences this year that were robbed from us in 2020 by an aggressive and unfamiliar virus. In particular, thank you for getting vaccinated. This simple act of care for yourselves and others has made a difference on our campus and the surrounding community, and it will continue to do so.
Here are the latest COVID data:
- Our vaccination rates remain unchanged from what we reported on our dashboard on Monday, and they reflect a community dedicated to containing COVID. Our fully vaccinated student rate is 70% and our employee rate is 82%. Watauga County’s rate of those fully vaccinated is 54%, and for North Carolina the rate remains at 56%.
- Because of the holiday week, our on-campus tests results are from a small number of COVID tests, and have not affected the 0.7% positivity rate that we reported on our campus dashboard on Monday. The county’s latest reported positivity rate is 2.9% and North Carolina’s latest reported rate is 7.5%.
Good luck to our students and faculty as they prepare for final exams to begin next week, and to our staff who support them — I know you will all finish the semester strong! I extend my sincere appreciation to each of you for helping make our university the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast. I wish each of you a safe and restful holiday break.
Sheri Everts, Chancellor