BOONE, N.C. — At Appalachian State University’s Spring 2022 Faculty and Staff Meeting, held Feb. 4. on App State’s campus, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Heather Hulburt Norris provided updates on multiple university plans and initiatives and the ways in which all members of the App State Community are collaborating to shape them — and the future of App State.
This shared governance, which involves the work of faculty, staff, students, administrators and the App State leadership team comprising Chancellor Sheri Everts and the members of her Cabinet, ensures the university meets — and continues to meet — the educational needs of the citizens of North Carolina, and beyond.
According to Norris, as App State explores ways to achieve this goal, it does so through a multifaceted lens that includes:
- App State’s mission.
- Faculty expertise and interests.
- Students’ interests and needs.
- Resources needed to support App State’s growth.
This lens is applied to all of App State’s academic programs, Norris said — those at the main campus in Boone, those available through App State Online and those located at the university’s other site-based locations, including the App State Hickory Campus.
The established approach to App State’s academic affairs is an open, transparent and repeatedly examined and refined process, Norris said, and is shaped by input from App State faculty and staff, academic program directors, department chairs and deans, as well as prospective students and the latest market research.
Planning for App State’s future
App State Hickory Campus
In preparation of opening the App State Hickory Campus, which the university acquired in November 2021, Norris and App State’s vice provosts have been meeting with Hickory City representatives to learn about the educational needs of the area. Norris is also working closely with her colleagues to plan for the appropriate student support services and technology infrastructure for the Hickory Campus.
In addition, Everts has been meeting with state and local government officials and education and business leaders to ensure the university is envisioning the best academic support to meet the needs of the region.
Academic programs to be housed in the campus are under discussion, according to Norris, and App State deans have been reaching out to their school’s or college’s partners, businesses, agencies and organizations in Hickory to further understand the educational needs and opportunities. The deans have also been actively discussing Hickory opportunities and ideas with their department chairs, who, in turn, are doing so with their faculty.
App State’s target date for opening the Hickory Campus is fall 2023.
App State’s next 5-year strategic plan
The University Planning and Priorities Council (UPPC) — a group of nearly 60 individuals, representing faculty and staff from every college and division, and including the heads of Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and the Student Government Association (SGA) — has been actively seeking input for the university’s next five-year strategic plan, which will provide direction for campus priorities over the next five years, beginning in 2022–23.
The current Bridge Strategic Plan, in place through 2021–22, was created as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and supports critical initiatives necessary to sustain the university’s mission and vision.
Listening sessions open to the entire campus were held in November 2021, followed by meetings with constituent groups that included Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, SGA and the Alumni Council. Feedback from these listening sessions is being incorporated into the draft of the plan now.
The plan will again be shared with campus for feedback and the final version will be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval in June.
A draft of the plan in development is available through App State’s Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning website.
Research and creative activities
“The advancement of knowledge through scholarly and creative activities is one of our fundamental responsibilities as a university,” said Norris, who added that such pursuits keep faculty current in their fields, leading to valuable classroom experiences for students, and also provide significant benefits to society through the generation of new knowledge, inventions, discoveries and processes.
Norris has tasked Vice Provost of Research Ece Karatan to develop a Research Strategic Plan this summer, which will include extensive input from faculty, staff, department chairs and deans. This plan will provide a roadmap to further grow and support research and creative activities at App State.
App State’s research and creative activities enterprise has grown substantially in recent years, according to Norris, who offered the following examples:
In 2021, App State received a record amount of external funding from grants and contracts — $36.82 million — as well as a record $79.06 million for proposal submissions.
App State’s institutional expenditures supporting research and creative activities in 2020–21 totaled $4.9 million — the largest amount in the university’s history. These expenditures include funds from sponsored grants and contracts and institutional funding in support of research such as seed funds, start-up funding, equipment, research staff salary and assistantships.
In fall 2020, App State’s Office of Student Research funded a course-based undergraduate research experience, which assists in expanding student research opportunities. This led to an award of more than $26,000 from the University of North Carolina System Office in fall 2021 to further enhance the experience.
App State has expanded its human resources infrastructure to better support research and creative activities:
Two new positions were added to App State’s Special Funds Accounting team to accommodate the increase in App State's external funding portfolio from grants and contracts.
A new data scientist research position was created in the Research Institute for Environment, Energy and Economics.
General Education program revisions
In the 2020–21 academic year, the university’s General Education Listening Task Force, which included faculty representation from every college as well as student and staff representation, held a series of 10 campuswide listening sessions to gather input from students, faculty and staff on ideas for revisions and improvements to App State’s General Education program.
The program takes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning, through which students learn to adapt to new environments, integrate knowledge from diverse sources and continue learning throughout their lives.
App State’s General Education Revision Task Force — also comprised of faculty, staff and staff representation — will recommend curricular changes to the General Education program based upon data compiled by the General Education Listening Task Force.
The General Education Revision Task Force will then share their recommendations with various campus groups throughout the spring 2022 semester, with the goal of adopting a framework for the program by the end of spring, leading to approval of courses in the 2022–23 academic year and a fall 2023 implementation. These recommendations were shared with Faculty Senate during its March 14 meeting.
Quality Enhancement Plan
App State’s next Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) — an initiative that focuses on an area of student learning or student success — will be determined this year. According to Norris, the university plans to announce the final selected QEP topic by the end of the spring 2022 semester.
The university’s open call for QEP topic proposals will close later this month and finalists will be selected by the QEP Steering Committee, which is chaired by Dr. Carolyn Edy, associate professor in the Department of Communication, and includes vice chancellors, deans, faculty and staff. Finalists are scheduled to give campus presentations on their ideas in April.
App State’s QEP is required by the university’s national accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and will take effect by fall 2024.
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About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, 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 nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.