Provost’s Remarks to Faculty and Staff - Friday, February 10, 2023

Provost Heather Norris' Remarks to Faculty and Staff


Good afternoon. It’s great to see so many of you here today. I appreciate your joining us for the Spring Faculty and Staff Meeting — an opportunity to learn more about the university and connect with colleagues from across campus. 

I would like to thank Chancellor Everts for joining us, and for her leadership. In my remarks today, I will include an update on the Hickory campus — just one example of her visionary continuation of our founders’ mission to increase access to education for the people in our state and region. Immediately following today’s meeting, Chancellor Everts will host a reception, and we hope you will stay for continued conversation.

I would also like to extend thanks to Dr. Andy Koch, who will bring an update from the Faculty Senate on behalf of Chair Louis Gallien (who shared earlier this week he would be unable to attend), and to Sarah-Davis Cagle, who will share an update from the Staff Senate.

In addition to providing an update on App State’s Hickory campus, I will discuss the metrics that the UNC System will use to assess our performance as a university.


I will also share highlights of:


  • Innovations in teaching and learning, as well as faculty development,
  • Our Student Success efforts,
  • Our SACSCOC accreditation efforts, including our institutional Quality Enhancement Plan, and
  • The latest news about App State’s research enterprise.


App State Hickory Campus

We have begun renovations on the beautiful App State Hickory facility, and we have made significant progress in determining the academic programs and support services that will be available to our first students who enroll there this fall.

Some of you may have noticed the marketing materials we have launched to promote the new campus. The most obvious are the advertising and billboards in the area, but we also have extensive direct mail, targeted digital advertising and social media advertising efforts underway.

All of these efforts — and our new building — are creating a lot of new excitement about our presence in Hickory. But as Chancellor Everts has shared, App State actually has a long-standing presence in Hickory. It was started by Chancellor Borkowski, who served before Chancellor Ken Peacock, who was Chancellor Everts’ predecessor. In fact, App State began conversations with the UNC System Office and with the City of Hickory about expansion in Hickory more than 20 years ago.

As many of you know, we’ve had what we called a “distance learning” presence in the Hickory area for many years.

We operate the North Carolina Center for Engineering Technologies and the Small Business and Technology Development Center in the Hickory area.

And we have co-admission programs with Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson and Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton. These programs provide a seamless pathway for students enrolled at partner community colleges to complete their degrees at App State.

In 2018, myFutureNC — a statewide commission on educational attainment — set a goal to ensure that 2 million North Carolinians have a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030. You may be aware that Chancellor Everts was a commissioner and co-chair of the myFutureNC Higher Education Task Force at the time the commission set that goal. In addition, UNC System President Peter Hans serves on the myFutureNC Board of Directors, and his leadership with the commission dates back several years, including serving as the board vice-chair.


The following educational attainment statistics speak to the opportunity we have to increase access to education through our Hickory campus:


  • In Catawba County, 19% of the adult population ages 25–44 have earned a bachelor’s degree; 13% have an associate degree.
  • In Caldwell County, 13% have a bachelor’s degree; 12% have an associate degree.
  • In Burke County, 11% have a bachelor’s degree; 15% have an associate degree.


Lots of room for us to good work there.

As I’ve shared with campus beginning in December 2021, we will take a phased approach to rolling out academic programs and student support services in Hickory.

As Chancellor Everts has shared with campus, we held multiple listening sessions in spring and summer of 2022. From these sessions and from the website we use to share progress updates on the Hickory campus, we gathered more than 400 comments. The Faculty Hickory Task Force synthesized these comments and made recommendations based on that input.

I would like to take a moment to thank this team for their continued work and guidance. They met again earlier this month and will continue to meet monthly.

The committee members are:


  • Dr. Stefan Frisch of the Beaver College of Health Sciences and Faculty Senate;
  • Dr. Brooke Hofsess of the College of Fine and Applied Arts and the Council of Chairs (representing department chairs);
  • Dr. Andy Koch of the College of Arts and Sciences and Faculty Senate;
  • Dr. Cathy McKinney of the Hayes School of Music who is also a Graduate Program Director;
  • Dr. Pam Shue of the Reich College of Education and Faculty Senate;
  • Dr. Jim Westerman of the Walker College of Business and Faculty Senate; and the most recent addition
  • Dr. Sandy Vannoy, representing the college deans.


As Chancellor Everts said in her address to the Board of Governors last month, it is very important that we respond to the needs of the area with the programs we offer on the Hickory campus.

We began implementation plans for our Hickory program offerings in Fall 2022 and our work continues, as many of you know. 

At the end of last semester, we launched a webpage that lists more than 100 undergraduate majors that will be available for students who wish to begin or continue their 4-year degrees at App State. This extensive breadth of programs represents all of our degree-granting colleges. Some students may need to take courses in Boone or online as needed to complete their degrees on time. We are working individually with each student as they apply and enroll so they understand the quickest and most efficient path to degree completion. 

The page is linked directly from the university homepage. Since the new page launched on December 21, it’s the fifth most visited page on the domain. There are several information sessions coming up over the next few months, in addition to outreach events planned for area high school counselors and teachers, and community college advisors. 

Students who attend App State on the Hickory campus can live at home and realize significant savings on room and board costs, utilizing the same option that has been available for students who reside at home and live within 30 miles of Boone. Later today, Chancellor Everts will announce a new Hickory First Scholarship for the first 500 students who meet academic requirements and enroll on the Hickory campus. This means that students on the Hickory campus have the same opportunity to offset the cost of their App State education as students on the Boone campus for their first year.

We have begun offering on-site services and will focus heavily on meeting prospective and current students where they are, in order to ensure their success. Admissions, Enrollment Management and Student Affairs team members are on site now, and services are expanding to include Advising, Career Services, Financial Aid, Transfer Student Support and Tutoring, and more. 

As the Chancellor shared last week, Academic Affairs will soon begin hiring faculty members to teach on the Hickory campus. I have been meeting with Deans regarding faculty positions, and for fall 2023, we will hire 23 all new (not reassigned from Boone), full-time-equivalency faculty positions to meet the needs for the Hickory campus.

Applications are steadily increasing, and we are on track to meet our target for fall enrollment for the Hickory campus of 300 to 500 students. We have set some preliminary targets based on capacity and demand for upcoming years, which are on this slide. Our best-case scenario projections would double enrollment on the Hickory campus — including students taking online courses utilizing resources and support offered at the Hickory campus — each year for the first five years. We have planned for adequate classroom space for 500 students for fall and have the flexibility to adjust as needed. Thank you, Nick Katers, Dan Layzell and their teams, for all their work.

As the Chancellor shared in her Friday message a couple of weeks ago, the Hickory campus is now staffed Monday through Friday, and we held the first open house for prospective students and their families last month.

Attendees enjoyed tours of the building, including model classrooms and a sneak preview of the on-site library facilities.


Performance Metrics and Institutional Assessment

Last month, Chancellor Everts reminded us that the UNC System undertook a “refresh” of the System Strategic Plan last year, and that App State’s current five-year strategic plan, which was approved by the Board of Trustees last June, is aligned with the System plan.

Our campus-based performance metrics include a strong emphasis on degree efficiency and reducing student debt.

As shared by Chancellor Everts, our assessment metrics for the System strategic plan include campus-based performance metrics. App State’s performance will be assessed using:


  • The institutional four-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time bachelor’s degree-seeking students;
  • Undergraduate degree efficiency — the number of undergraduate degrees awarded by an institution per 100 full-time equivalent (or FTE) undergraduates;
  • First-time students’ debt at graduation;
  • Transfer students’ debt at graduation;
  • Education and related expenses per degree; and
  • Four-year graduation rate for Hispanic/Latine students. This last metric was the one we chose from a list of options for institution-selected metrics.


Each of these metrics reflects our commitment to increase access to a high-quality, cost-effective App State education, and we are performing well.

For each metric, we have:


  • A baseline, which is derived from our historical performance;
  • A threshold goal, which is our minimum expected performance; and
  • A stretch goal.


We are performing very well overall.


  • For the first metric, the institutional four-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time bachelor’s degree-seeking students, we have surpassed our 2022 threshold goal.
  • For undergraduate degree efficiency — the number of undergraduate degrees awarded by an institution per 100 full-time equivalent (or FTE) undergraduates — we did not meet our threshold goal, which in part is due to our growth, coupled with the effects of the global pandemic.
  • For first-time students’ debt at graduation and transfer students’ debt at graduation, we have surpassed our stretch goals.
  • For education and related expenses per degree, we have surpassed our threshold goal.
  • For the four-year graduation rate for Hispanic/Latine students, we have surpassed our stretch goal.


In addition to indicating how well App State is fulfilling our mission, our performance in these areas determines the performance funding we receive from the UNC System. Simply put, the better we perform in these areas, the more funding we will receive the next year. 

As you think about these metrics and how we’re doing as a university, it’s important for each of us to consider how we can help boost App State’s performance in these important areas to make a positive impact on our students and, in turn, the university’s overall performance.

Teaching and Learning and Faculty Development

I am pleased to say that we’ve taken some significant strides in the areas of teaching and learning and faculty development this year, led by Senior Vice Provost Neva Specht and her team.

We established the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for Student Success, which replaces the former Center for Academic Excellence.

It’s the primary unit at App State dedicated to enhancing student success through transformative teaching and mentoring and extensive faculty career support. The center supports faculty in making pedagogical decisions and designing meaningful and inclusive learning experiences and environments — all hallmarks of teaching excellence at App State.

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for Student Success represents three distinct areas:


  • Online teaching and learning,
  • Transformational teaching and learning, and
  • Mentoring and career support.


In its first semester of operation this fall, faculty embraced the support offered by the center, which tallied:


  • Nearly four hundred hours of faculty engagement in transformative teaching and learning and civic engagement,
  • More than sixteen hundred hours of faculty engagement in online teaching and learning and learning technologies, and
  • Nearly two thousand hours of faculty engagement in career support and mentoring.


We are currently hiring permanent directors for each area and will soon launch a national search for the Executive Director.

You can learn more about the new center and faculty development opportunities at I am grateful to all of you who contribute the CETLSS programming. Please wave your hand if you work in this area so we can recognize you.


Student Success

I am proud to say that App State continues to be a System leader in Student Success. We rank in the top 3 or 4 System schools in almost all success-related metrics, and we are continuously improving.

Under the leadership of Vice Provost Mark Ginn, we have reorganized existing positions within Student Success to create a new Assistant Vice Provost for Student Success position. The new AVP will supervise a variety of programs, including the Student Learning Center and University Writing Center as well Student Support Services, the ACCESS Scholarship Program and As-U-R. The person in this position will also lead conversations and initiatives across campus to make sure we are keeping student success at the forefront in all we do, including data usage, support resources, policies and curriculum. 

Student Success is currently collaborating with partners across the university on several initiatives. These include:


  • Analyzing performance data so we can identify students who are struggling early — to get them back on the path to success before they fall too far behind,
  • Revamping the university’s student-facing web presence,
  • Increasing coordination between the former Office of Student Success and the Student Learning Center,
  • Creating a new College Success Seminar to better support entering students, and
  • Implementing new policies, such as the Academic Renewal Policy, which will better serve our students.


A special thanks to all of you who contribute to our efforts in Student Success, including Jennifer Dalton, who is currently serving as a UNC System Fellow in the area of Student Success. I know all of you contribute to Student Success. Thank you for your work in this area.

In addition, several task forces have been reviewing our General Education curriculum for the past three years. In the near future, they will recommend a revised curriculum that will then go through the curriculum review process. The goals of this revision include:


  • Reducing the hours in General Education,
  • Simplifying the structure of the curriculum, and
  • Making it more friendly to transfer students, while retaining certain content areas that are emphasized in our university strategic plan. 


We will share more details on this revision soon. 

This has been a truly collaborative effort, and I appreciate all of you who have worked on this important initiative.


SACSCOC Accreditation

As many of you know, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the organization responsible for accrediting all degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states, which includes App State. It’s also known as SACSCOC.

App State has been working hard to prepare for our SACSCOC decennial accreditation review, which will occur during the 2023-24 academic year. Last year, we were approved for a differentiated review, which is essentially an abbreviated review.

We will submit the off-site report of our response to the SACSCOC standards this September. The on-site SACSCOC committee will visit App State in March of 2024. This will include a site visit and review of the Boone and Hickory campuses, as well as the Quality Enhancement Plan, which I will discuss in just a minute.


Special thanks to:


  • Dr. Carolyn Edy, Associate Professor of Journalism in the Communication Department and our Faculty Director, SACSCOC Compliance Certification, and
  • Heather Langdon, Executive Director of Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning and our institutional accreditation liaison.


They are guiding our efforts on the Decennial review report and coordinating the site visits. Carolyn and Heather are currently reviewing and updating drafts for the required sections of the report due this September.


Quality Enhancement Plan

The Quality Enhancement Plan — or QEP for short — is an integral part of our accreditation process with SACSCOC. Last May, I announced that App State selected the proposed topic for our next QEP: "Climate Literacy and Response-Ability: Cultivating Resilient and Just Communities.”

In December, Dr. Shea Tuberty, professor of Biology, was named director of App State’s 2024-29 QEP. He is uniquely qualified to lead this effort. Dr. Tuberty is working with Academic Affairs to develop a budget for the five-year initiative and build the QEP Executive Leadership Team and QEP Advisory Council.

Although we are still 18 months out from the official start of the QEP, Dr. Tuberty has been meeting with individuals and groups on campus to provide guidance and build partnerships with the goal of increasing student learning outcomes related to climate literacy. One of the ways the QEP will do this is by building upon a foundation of existing efforts. This includes a Chancellor's Innovation Scholars project that just completed two video modules about climate solutions. The QEP also will lead development of additional modules that spotlight the climate solutions expertise of many members of App State in the coming years. App State is the first U.S. university to adopt climate literacy as a QEP focus.

If you have ideas for partnering with QEP on its climate literacy work, I encourage you to reach out to Dr. Tuberty to discuss possibilities. Thank you, Dr. Tuberty.


Our Research Enterprise

Our research enterprise has grown substantially in recent years.


  • Last year, we submitted research proposals totaling $73.4 million, the second highest amount in our university’s history.
  • App State received the second highest amount of external funding from grants and contracts at $19.5 million.
  • In addition, we are continuing to expand our human resources to better support the research and creative activity enterprise. To address the increased volume of contracts related to research and creative activities, this year, thanks to the Chancellor’s support, we added a new Assistant Director position to the Sponsored Programs unit to focus solely on contracts and agreements.


I am grateful to our faculty who are studying some of the most pressing problems and perplexing questions in the world, as well as the staff members — and students — who are supporting those efforts. 

I am also excited about the work being done on a new Strategic Plan for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities — a first in App State’s history. The plan will be based on the second strategic priority in App State’s 2022-27 Strategic Plan, which is Advancing Research, Innovation and Creativity.

This process is being led by a steering committee composed of:


  • Vice Provost Ece Karatan,
  • Dr. Gabe Casale, an Associate Professor in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences who is serving as the inaugural Office of Research Faculty Fellow, and
  • Karen Fletcher, the Director of Grants Resources and Services in the Office of Research. 


The steering committee members are tightly coordinating their efforts with a faculty working group composed of:


  • Becki Battista,
  • Doris Bazzini,
  • Gennard Lombardozzi
  • Sheron Price,
  • Lori Medders,
  • Catherine Fountain and
  • Vachel Miller.


This group has representation from all academic colleges. I would like to thank these faculty members for lending their time and expertise to this exciting effort. If you’re here, wave your hand so we can thank you.

The steering committee and the working group are guiding an iterative process in developing its strategic plan, and they are using an inclusive approach that seeks the input of many groups. The University Research Council has already started providing input and will continue to do so throughout the rest of the semester. We will seek additional feedback from faculty members, Faculty Senate, Council of Chairs, Deans and Associates Deans, the directors of campus institutes and centers, students, and external partners. The steering committee is also working with external consultants from the National Organization of Research Development Professionals to facilitate this process.  

The goals of the plan include improved policies and procedures to streamline research activities, increased institutional support and infrastructure, and greater engagement with regional partners.

The steering committee and faculty working group are on track to finalize the new plan by this summer, and we will communicate details of the plan to the App State community once it is approved.




I would like to conclude with special thanks to Chancellor Everts for her critical support of App State’s academic enterprise. The advancements I shared with you today have received critical institutional support — including financial support — because of her advocacy for us every day and night. In her meetings at the System level, with the Board of Governors, with legislators at the state and federal level (in fact she just returned last night from a meeting in Washington, D.C.), with key donors, in every conversation she shares your successes and champions App State. And we feel the difference that makes on our campus every day.

Thanks, also, to each of you. You make important contributions to the fulfillment of our mission in so many ways. Your hard work, unique talents and creative ideas are helping App State accomplish the priorities in our strategic plan and boost our overall performance in the six key metrics that the UNC System has laid out for us. 

Ultimately, our students benefit from these significant efforts, which begin at with the leadership and are fulfilled throughout every department in our organization.

Our work is powerful and meaningful to the people of our region, our state and our nation.

Please remember to continue the conversations by joining us for the reception that is being hosted by Chancellor Everts.


Thank you all.


Published: Feb 10, 2023 2:41pm