Message from Interim Chancellor Heather Norris

Friday, May 3, 2024

Good afternoon,

Final exams began today, and Spring Commencement ceremonies will take place in a week. Soon-to-be graduates are taking photos they will look back on many years from now, students are spending the last few days of the semester balancing finals and the remaining activities they want to be sure to do with friends — and everyone is enjoying the beautiful spring weather. Also, Hickory campus students, faculty and staff are celebrating the completion of their first academic year. It’s such a busy time, but I hope everyone can find some time to be in the moment.

Some important information to share:

  • Given the civil unrest on many college campuses across the nation, I want to share that as part of an ongoing reciprocal agreement that includes many levels of support, including operations, police, emergency and communications, App State joined our sister institutions in responding to a request from the UNC System to send police officers to assist with the disbursement of an encampment on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus this week.

    Five of our police officers were at UNC-Chapel Hill on Tuesday morning, and we participated in making one arrest, with no injuries, of an individual who was not a UNC System student.

    Our university’s approach to on-campus protests and demonstrations has been to proactively engage with the demonstrators prior to any event, with a goal of balancing safety and free speech. App State Police and Student Affairs work to engage rally organizers in conversations about safety, expectations of conduct and possible counter-demonstrations. Our aim is to get to the heart of our students’ concerns and goals before, during and after any demonstrations that involve them. I greatly appreciate the work of Jamie Parson and Jeff Cathey, App State’s designated Free Speech Officers, as well as our App State Police, throughout this semester, as they have spent many hours in meetings and sacred spaces with our students, particularly since the Hamas attack on Israel in October and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. They have also met with our new Student Government leadership and will continue to engage with them about this and other issues.

  • The Free Expression Working Group has concluded its meetings and has developed a recommendations report related to the Rivers Street tunnels renovation project, which I expect to receive by early next week. I appreciate their work, and next week I will share our next steps on this project, which will be based on their recommendations.

A few highlights of the week:

  • On Monday, App State signed an agreement with Project Kitty Hawk, a nonprofit ed-tech startup funded by the General Assembly, to begin collaborating on workforce-aligned online programs. Under the leadership of Vice Provost Mike McKenzie, we are working with deans and department chairs to finalize program offerings for the initial launch year, to begin this fall. Later this month, Academic Affairs will share more detailed information about the programs that will begin our collaboration. We look forward to working with the Project Kitty Hawk team to meet the online education needs of more adult learners across North Carolina. Watch a short video of the signing ceremony.
  • This week, we were proud to host the North Carolina State Board of Education for its Bi-Annual Planning and Work Session. Dean Melba Spooner and members of her team from our Reich College of Education were able to showcase the great work taking place in our laboratory schools centered around strategic staffing, and the many ways we are partnering with community colleges and public schools to create a teacher pipeline that continues to benefit the students of North Carolina.
  • On Tuesday, the university’s Board of Trustees and I hosted an end-of-semester pizza party for students, faculty and staff on Sanford Mall. We served 4,900 pieces of pizza and 4,000 drinks! A balloon artist handed out 1,000 balloons (in the form of 350 balloon designs), and thanks to our zero waste efforts, 14 bags of compost and 3 bags of recycling meant only 1 bag of trash. Thank you to App State's Trustees for hosting this fun, community-building event! Watch a video of the event, featuring our students, faculty and staff.

Good luck to everyone during finals — I look forward to celebrating with our graduates next week!

Heather Norris
Interim Chancellor