BOONE—President of the University of North Carolina Margaret Spellings came to the High Country Monday, April 11, as part of her 100-day tour of the state and 17 institutions in the system. Spellings and Appalachian State University Chancellor Sheri N. Everts spent a significant portion of the visit talking to key constituencies of faculty, staff and students and listening to their ideas and concerns.
Over the course of a full 24-hour schedule, Spellings met with the chancellor and her Council, and toured the campus with stops at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, Belk Library and Information Commons, Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, Walker College of Business and the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship.
The president closed out her first day at a celebration of the NC Connect bond passage and a site dedication for a new Beaver College of Health Sciences building. “I am proud that this is the first project from the bond that will come out of the ground,” Spellings said, about the 203,000-square-foot facility funded in part by the bond.
On Tuesday, Spellings met with students, staff and faculty representatives and lunched with Appalachian’s Board of Trustees and other board chairs. A press conference followed Tuesday afternoon.
The president’s three questions
At each institution Spelling asks three questions: What makes you most proud about your institution and the system more broadly? What’s the most important issue facing higher education in North Carolina? Where do we have work to do? Learning about the institutions’ points of pride and concerns, she said, helps her relay that information to the Board of Governors and legislature.
At the closing press conference at Appalachian, Spellings said, “A few impressions I heard were things like, ‘We are a family,’ undergraduate opportunities abound; a high-touch feeling at this institution really comes through. Staff and faculty say, ‘We take care of each other.’ There is a spirit, a camaraderie, that is part of the culture here and it really is palpable.”
About Appalachian’s concerns, she said there are “Obviously people across the state that are concerned about access, completion, affordability… those concerns don’t stop here at this border. In ways, you (members of the Appalachian community) seem proud of doing more with less. Yes, you are on the low end of the per capita funding, but you’ve taken it as a challenge to get as much as you can out of what you have. There are questions about investment, telling our story, advocacy and there are calls to me to be the leader in doing those things.”
Spellings said she talked about staff and faculty pay and that is her No. 1 priority. “How do we keep and retain great students, great faculty and great staff and great chancellors,” she asked.
Other comments included:
On suggestions she is for privatization of education: “I’ve spent my life in public service and education. There is no more fervent advocate for higher education than Margaret Spellings. Give me evidence I’m a privatizer. We have to keep the individual, the student, the customer, at the forefront of our work.”
About growth at Appalachian: “There is great demand. And that is a good thing. We want highly qualified, highly educated people to drive this state and this region forward…We will have challenges around growth. We have to ask, ‘Where is the capacity? How do we use technology? How do we protect institutions that are landlocked?’”
Regarding concerns she is too science/STEM-oriented and does not support the liberal arts: “As a liberal arts graduate and mother of two liberal arts graduates, I put my money where my mouth is. We can produce great students from every field, highly equipped to compete in the world.”
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.
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