Message from Interim Chancellor Heather Norris

Friday, May 24, 2024

The university will be closed in observance of Memorial Day on Monday. As we head into Memorial Day weekend, I encourage us all to remember those — especially the members of our App State community — who have died in service to our country. On behalf of the university, this morning, Caitlin Langley, a U.S. Army veteran who graduated this month, placed a wreath at App State’s veterans memorial to honor the fallen members of the U.S. military. I appreciate Caitlin for performing this annual tradition, and I hope you'll take time to read her story.

Some important information to share:

  • This week, the UNC System Board of Governors met and approved two key action items.

    The board approved a recommendation from the Committee on Educational Planning, Policies and Programs to establish a new Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity in App State’s Walker College of Business. This is the only such degree available at a UNC System institution in the Western region of North Carolina and the only one in the UNC System to be housed within a college of business. The new program will prepare graduates for in-demand roles in the information security sector by providing them with a strong business background, communication skills and comprehensive cybersecurity expertise. The program will be offered beginning in fall 2024.

    The board also repealed and replaced Policy 300.8.5 in the UNC Policy Manual, which was adopted in 2019 and was called the Policy on Diversity and Inclusion Within the University of North Carolina. The new policy, which was adopted yesterday and can be read here, is called Equality Within the University of North Carolina.

    President Hans spoke about the policy at length, emphasizing the importance of principled institutional neutrality, that the role of higher education is to host, rather than settle, debates about the challenging issues facing our democracy, and in particular, that ensuring that everyone is included and supported is core to our educational missionI encourage everyone to read his full remarks, but I’d like to share one quote in particular:

    “Non-discrimination, institutional neutrality, free expression and academic freedom are all mutually reinforcing concepts and values. We are here to serve all, not just those who agree with us. When these principles are faithfully held, they allow diversity in all forms to thrive.”

    The President and Board clearly stated the new policy reaffirms academic freedom and doesn’t touch or impact what is taught in our classrooms or researched in our labs.

    We expect System Office guidance related to the new policy soon. Upon receiving this guidance, we will reach out to individuals across campus as we work together to implement this new policy. I appreciate the faculty and staff and your longstanding support of student success and employee wellbeing, and I know this long-held Appalachian principle will guide our future work.

  • On Monday, App State’s Board of Trustees and I hosted Boone, Watauga County and High Country leaders for the inaugural Community Partnerships Breakfast.

    In our many different roles, we all recognize some of the challenges that lie before us. Some are larger than others, but we hear the members of our shared communities tell us they have concerns about affordable housing, quality child care, safety, and traffic and parking. We share these concerns. We don’t have all the answers, but together, we can seek creative and collaborative solutions. While I don’t pretend we will always arrive at decisions we will all agree to in unanimity, we are committed to a pragmatic, forthcoming and transparent approach to decision-making. My leadership team and I want to partner with all of the communities we serve, and we are engaging in open conversation and discussion.

  • Vice Chancellor of University Advancement Jane Barghothi has left the university. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jane for her service to App State, and wish her well as she begins the next chapter of her career. Will Sears, who has been at App State since 2012, has assumed the role of Interim Vice Chancellor of University Advancement. For more than three years, Will has held the role of Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Development at App State. Will has a proven track record of successful fundraising, including being the lead fundraiser on five distinguished professorships, and he has developed strong relationships with hundreds of donors and alumni. Please help me welcome Will, and thank him for stepping into this leadership role.

A few recent highlights:

  • Last Friday, I joined App State Trustee Jamie Harris, an App State alumnus and a former first-team Academic All-American for the Mountaineer baseball team, as he threw out the first pitch on Senior Day versus Georgia Southern. Trustee Harris helped lead App State to the 1984 Southern Conference Championship and a top 25 ranking. Standing on Beaver Field at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium — one of the most beautiful stadiums in college baseball — and then joining Mountaineers cheering on the team made for a fantastic day. I congratulate Coach Kermit Smith, his staff and the team on an excellent regular season, which included the most wins since 2012! We all wish the team the best of luck as the Sun Belt Conference baseball championship continues this afternoon.

  • Also last week, I joined a reception recognizing our retired faculty and staff. It was great to spend time with longtime friends and colleagues who helped shape this institution. During our 125th anniversary year, it’s particularly meaningful to reflect on the many generations who have strengthened the foundation of App State and developed leaders for communities around the world. Many continue to support this university with pride, and I know we all thank them for being dedicated to App State.

I hope everyone is able to enjoy this long weekend as we prepare for the first summer session to begin on Tuesday!

Heather Norris
Interim Chancellor