Academic Affairs Update from the Provost - Spring Semester, 2024

Update from the Provost, January 24, 2024


Dear App State Faculty and Staff,


Although the weather presented some logistical challenges with the first days of classes, I hope that, nonetheless, your spring semester is off to a great start. Each semester, I send an Academic Affairs update to faculty and staff that includes an overview of the latest major initiatives underway in the Division of Academic Affairs. I hope you will find the information below helpful to you as you continue your teaching, research, service and support as, together, we provide our students with an educational experience that has been widely recognized as among the most innovative, highest quality and best value in the nation.

Academic Affairs initiatives underway this spring

This semester, you will see progress from the following Academic Affairs initiatives currently underway.

  • We have taken significant strides in developing App State’s Strategic Plan for Academic Programming, under the leadership of Senior Vice Provost Neva Specht and Dr. Ashley Colquitt, associate vice provost and dean of the Graduate School. Since September, we have hosted 12 listening sessions, during which members of our university community shared their thoughts about the overall plan, as well as specific ideas to distinguish App State in the years ahead. More than 140 faculty and staff participated in these in-person sessions in Boone and Hickory, ensuring that the new plan will reflect a broad range of perspectives across our campuses.

    Earlier this month, Drs. Specht and Colquitt shared preliminary insights from these listening sessions with the deans and vice provosts. These included a range of program ideas and strategies to connect pedagogy to career preparation, as well as skills students will need to succeed in the workforce and resources faculty and staff will need to implement new programs and adapt existing ones.

    Next steps will include discussions about these and other topics among deans, department chairs and faculty. We expect to finalize the new Strategic Plan for Academic Programming by summer, based on the cumulative input from the App State Community and the functional study of Academic Affairs last year, the results of which I summarized in remarks to the Faculty Senate in October.

    I sincerely appreciate the valuable input we have received thus far — thank you to all who have participated.

  • Last fall, the university created our first Strategic Plan for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities (RSCA). The overarching goal of this plan, which is also one of six priorities outlined in App State’s 2022-27 Strategic Plan, is to advance knowledge and promote discovery and the application of findings that benefit our region, state, nation and world.

    In the coming days, Interim Vice Provost of Research and Innovation Dr. Christine Hendren will share detailed information about opportunities this spring for faculty and staff to engage in the implementation of the RSCA Strategic Plan. This will include two campus presentations where employees will be able to learn more about the implementation, ask questions and provide feedback. I invite all of you to engage in the rollout of this plan to ensure that it reflects a broad range of ideas from faculty and staff.
  • App State's 2024–29 Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is an integral component of the reaffirmation of accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Through the Pathways to Resilience Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), App State will build upon our 125-year history as a thriving academic community rooted in active stewardship of our state’s interconnected financial, cultural and natural resources. Led by QEP Director Dr. Shea Tuberty, professor in the Department of Biology, and QEP Associate Director Laura England, practitioner-in-residence in the Department of Sustainable Development, the five-year QEP will integrate the latest climate resilience knowledge and forward-thinking practices into our teaching, research and service activities.

    Shea and Laura are working closely with Dr. Mike McKenzie, vice provost of academic program development and strategic initiatives, to prepare for the QEP launch in the fall. To assist them in these efforts, they have formed an advisory council and an implementation committee with broad faculty and staff representation across App State’s academic departments, divisions and offices, as well as nine students pursuing a range of academic majors. In the coming months, the leadership team will share information about how faculty can participate in the QEP effort.
  • The Division of Academic Affairs is excited to announce that we have secured a universitywide membership with Academic Impressions, an organization specializing in professional development resources for higher education faculty and staff. This partnership will provide all App State employees with access to a wide variety of professional development resources designed by and for higher education professionals.

    Dr. Neva Specht, senior vice provost of faculty policies and development, will provide more details about this new partnership in the coming days, including professional development formats and topics, as well as how you can explore and register for offerings beginning later this month. Access to robust higher ed-focused professional development will enable our employees to better serve our students and advance the educational mission of App State. 

Highlights of UNC System return on investment (ROI) study

In her Nov. 17, 2023, message to campus, Chancellor Everts highlighted key findings released in November from the return on investment (ROI) study commissioned by the North Carolina General Assembly and presented at the UNC System Board of Governors meeting in November.

Of note, the Chancellor referenced overall findings related to the value of a degree from North Carolina’s public higher education institutions, and the return graduates, their families and taxpayers in our state receive on this investment:

  • The median lifetime earnings of UNC System graduates holding bachelor's degrees are approximately $1.2 million — with graduates making about $500,000 more during their lifetimes compared to the lifetime earnings of individuals without a degree.

  • The median lifetime earnings for individuals with graduate degrees are $2.1 million — with a median lifetime ROI that is $938,000 higher than those with only bachelor’s degrees.

  • On average, students break even on their educational investment in less than 10 years.

In her message to the university community on Friday, Jan. 19, Chancellor Everts also noted that more specifics of this study related to App State in particular. Each UNC System institution has been tasked with reviewing their specific results and developing an action plan to report to the president and Board of Governors.

We have assembled an ROI Response Committee that will work with faculty to review the ROI study results for App State and start developing our action plan. That team has representatives from the Provost's Office, the Deans Council, Associate Deans, Council of Chairs, Faculty Senate, Career Development, and Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning. Dr. Jim Westerman is the Faculty Senate member on this team.

As Chancellor Everts shared, the Board of Governors will report comprehensive results of the System institutions’ program reviews to the General Assembly in April.

I will share more specifics about the process and timeline at the upcoming Academic Affairs meeting for all faculty and staff on Feb. 2.

Academic Affairs to host Spring Meeting for faculty and staff Feb. 2

Faculty and staff received an invitation to the Spring Meeting for Faculty and Staff on Nov. 29 and a reminder earlier this week. We will share a full agenda for the meeting next week.

The meeting will be held Friday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. in the Grandview Ballroom of the North End Zone Facility on the Boone campus. A livestream of the meeting will be available at the Hickory Library and Information Commons on App State’s Hickory campus, starting at 2 p.m.

Chancellor Everts is providing a reception after the meeting, in the Grandview Ballroom. For employees on the Hickory campus, she is providing boxed lunches prior to the meeting.

My leadership team and I appreciate the valuable collaborations with our many partners in the Academic Affairs Division and beyond to ensure that our students enjoy the outstanding educational experience that is a hallmark of App State, and that our faculty and staff have the academic resources and support needed to be successful. I look forward to seeing you next Friday.


Heather Hulburt Norris
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor

Published: Jan 24, 2024 5:50pm