Message from Interim Chancellor Heather Norris

Friday, May 31, 2024

With classes of the first summer session underway and orientation beginning this week, it’s officially summer at App State! I wish our students, faculty and staff a productive and fun summer session.

I have a few key updates to share this week:

  • You may recall that in my May 3 message, I shared that the university 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. Through this partnership, we will work together to build in-demand degree programs and provide tailored support for nontraditional learners, typically students ages 25–44. I am very pleased to announce that this week, we launched our first Project Kitty Hawk-powered degree program — the online Bachelor of Science in health care management — for classes beginning in August. I look forward to announcing more faculty-developed educational programs with Project Kitty Hawk in the future.
  • On Wednesday, we were pleased to host a reception on the Boone campus for the Board of Directors of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the state’s statewide economic development organization, during their visit to the Boone area for their May meeting. With more than 75% of our 150,000 graduates living and working in North Carolina, we recognize the importance of their efforts to support the economic growth and development of our state. Tommy Sofield, Vice Chair of App State’s Board of Trustees, was among those representing App State. Thank you to EDPNC Board of Directors President Gene Mclaurin and Boone Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Jackson, who also joined the event, for their leadership and work to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for North Carolinians. App State is a proud partner in helping to drive the state's economic engine, particularly in regional, rural economies. App State impacts our state’s economy and North Carolinians’ quality of life by adding $2.2 billion to annual statewide income — including $2 billion in alumni earnings and productivity.

  • Earlier this month, NCInnovation — a new nonprofit created to support North Carolina public university research that has commercial promise — approved research grants totaling $5.2 million for projects at seven UNC System institutions. Dr. Rahman Tashakkori, the Lowe’s Distinguished Professor of Computer Science in App State’s Department of Computer Science, was approved for grant funding from NCInnovation to continue his work in developing an innovative tool for decreasing honeybee hive die-off and increasing hive production. The Beemon System — a beehive improvement and monitoring system — aims to produce turnkey products for commercial and amateur beekeepers to monitor hives while providing data that can be used to preserve the health of honeybees more efficiently and accurately. 

    More than $18 billion in U.S. agricultural production and a third of the food on Americans’ plates depends on the health and well-being of honeybees. The cutting-edge research of Dr. Tashakkori and his teams of App State faculty and students not only has significant potential to improve and sustain the continued health of pollinators and their vital contribution to agriculture and food systems, but it is also positioning our students to be leaders and innovators in consequential fields that combine computer science and biology, including apiary informatics.

    We are proud to be among the inaugural group of UNC System institutions to receive recognition and support for the important work of our faculty. On behalf of Appalachian State University, I extend our appreciation to our state lawmakers and NCInnovation for believing in and supporting applied research at App State, and applaud Dr. Tashakkori and the research team he has led for their continued work to improve and sustain the continued health of pollinators and their vital contribution to agriculture and food systems.

    This is just one example of the recognition App State faculty receive for their innovative research and teaching, which are making positive impacts locally and globally. You can find many more examples here.

  • Today is the last day of school for the App State Academy at Elkin. It has been our privilege to operate the academy, and I would like to thank the North Carolina General Assembly, the UNC System Board of Governors, the members of the Elkin Academy Advisory Board, including Trustees Jeff Chesson and Anita Greene, Reich College of Education Dean Melba Spooner and the App State Lab School Leadership team, Dr. Hannah Reeder, Dr. Amie Snow and Shaylee Rogers-Moore, for their unwavering commitment to the Academy at Elkin staff and students, and their families. A very special thank you to Principal Emma Hatfield-Sidden, Assistant Principal Gilly Hill, and the Academy at Elkin teaching and support staff team for the incredible work you have done with the wonderful children of the academy and their families in the last two years. Excellence in teaching is a hallmark of App State and of the Reich College of Education, and we remain committed to this mission.

It’s my privilege to be among those who can say, “It’s great to be a Mountaineer!”

Heather Norris
Interim Chancellor