Provost’s Remarks at Faculty Senate Retreat – Saturday, August 19, 2023
Thank you, Chair Anderson, for the opportunity to address this group today. I’d like to extend a warm “welcome” to our new faculty senators and a “welcome back” to our continuing senators.
As you all know, the work we do in Academic Affairs is guided by our strategic plan and that of the UNC System, along with the associated performance metrics.
As the Chancellor shared last year, App State will be evaluated using four main criteria, covering six performance metrics. They are:
- Increasing undergraduate student success, as measured by our four-year graduation rate and the proportion of students who graduate compared to the total number of enrolled students;
- Increasing affordability for first-time and transfer students, as measured by their student debt upon graduation;
- Improving university productivity, as measured by expenses per degree; and
- Our four-year graduation rate for Hispanic students, which was our campus-selected goal.
Our performance funding will be based on how well we perform in these areas compared to our baseline and stretch goals. We expect our performance-based funding allocation to increase significantly in year two and beyond, given the guidance of our Chancellor and the great work of our faculty and staff in achieving our goals.
With that context, and being mindful of your schedule, I’d like to provide you with a high-level update on four topics that are at the core of our ongoing work in advancing the academic enterprise.
- The university’s new strategic plan for research, scholarship and creative activities,
- An update on our Student Success efforts,
- Recent accomplishments and future plans for faculty development and support, and
- A look at our strategic academic planning process, which will inform growth in Boone, Hickory and online.
You will hear more about each of these in follow-up communications from me throughout the semester.
Strategic Plan for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities
Over the past year, we developed the university’s first Strategic Plan for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities, which we abbreviate to R-S-C-A. The plan was developed through an inclusive, iterative process that reflects the diverse perspectives of the App State Community. That process — and the many participants and contributors in this effort — are detailed on the plan’s webpage.
The plan has four goals that are supported by strategies and action items:
- Increase awareness and understanding of the vital role that RSCA plays in fulfilling the university’s mission.
- Enhance the overall productivity and efficiency of the university’s RSCA.
- Bolster the university’s capacity for exceptional and innovative RSCA to generate knowledge and address critical issues in the region, state, nation and world.
- Increase external engagement and investment in the university’s RSCA.
The Chancellor’s Council has approved the plan and we will share the final version with the university community in the coming weeks, including what our next steps will be in implementing the plan.
Special thanks to the steering committee and working group members and to all of you who have contributed to this effort. We invite you to continue to engage with this process as we implement the plan.
In the area of Student Success, we recently hired Dr. Shernita Lee, Assistant Vice Provost of Student Success, into a position (vacated by Greg Lester) in University College. In her new role, Dr. Lee will lead a team focused on providing the resources and support outside the classroom that will allow our students to thrive as they develop, commit to and ultimately accomplish their academic goals.
The Student Success unit in University College provides tutoring, academic coaching and academic strategy courses such as the College Success Seminar along with the University Writing Center and Testing Services.
It also provides community-designated programs — including As-U-R, TRIO Student Support Services and ACCESS — which offer scholarships, services and resources to support low-income students, first-generation students and at-risk students as well as those with executive function challenges.
Student Success also partners with academic advising, general education, the Career Development Center and other resources that prepare students to take the next successful step after they graduate.
In addition, Dr. Lee and her team support faculty, program directors, chairs and deans to advance the university’s commitment to student success. They do this by creating and sharing tools and dashboards and responding to the evolving needs of our student community. Beyond that, Dr. Lee’s team strives to serve all stakeholders who are invested in student success — which includes working closely with students, student leaders, the Divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, and others involved in the holistic development of App State students.
Our Student Success resources and programs are designed to meet the strategic goals of the university and the System. As our students show success, performance funding will help support future programming.
Dr. Lee has already met with our deans and department chairs this summer, and I believe some of you may have also had the chance to visit with her.
Faculty Development and Support
In the area of faculty development and support, it’s been a busy summer — with more activities and projects planned for the upcoming school year.
We recently completed the 2023 Chancellor's Chairs Summer Institute, which included an orientation for new chairs as well as a two-week program for all chairs. This program offers opportunities for academic department chairs to engage with one another — as well as with the Chancellor and members of her leadership team — for in-depth discussions about topics ranging from funding for the university, to enrollment goals, to diversity and inclusion strategies, and much more. The Chancellor and her leadership team developed presentations, joined discussions and engaged in individual conversations with the chairs during this intensive two-week period. It was a valuable opportunity for relationship building and meaningful, engaging conversation.
In addition, we recently hosted new faculty orientations in Boone and in Hickory, along with orientations for all faculty teaching in Hickory. Special thanks to Senior Vice Provost Neva Specht for her leadership in these efforts, as well as to our partners in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for Student Success.
At our Deans Council Retreat this summer, we heard from the deans about additional leadership development support that they would like for us to create. These include professional development support for program directors, assistant chairs and associate deans. Neva will lead our efforts to evaluate those suggestions and develop new offerings.
Strategic Academic Plan and Growth in Boone, Hickory and Online
As we continue to grow our academic enterprise, my office has initiated an effort to develop a Strategic Academic Plan for App State. This initiative addresses a need that was voiced by the Faculty Hickory Campus Task Force last summer.
The end goal of this effort is to develop a long-term plan that identifies the academic programs we'll be delivering 3, 5 and potentially even 10 years down the line. This will give us a chance to develop the kinds of Big Ideas that will further differentiate App State from other institutions and provide students and faculty with innovative educational experiences. Those programs need to be relevant to our faculty and our students today, as well as to the career paths and life opportunities available to our students in the future. The decisions and investments we make today will define who we become tomorrow.
To develop the university’s academic plan, we will use a process that is aligned with the criteria and guidelines established by the Board of Governors. The process will include:
- Leveraging current faculty ideas, interest and expertise,
- Addressing student and market demand, as well as workforce needs, and
- Evaluating the level of new resources that would be required.
The guiding principles for the plan will include:
- Supporting the university’s strategic plan and educational mission,
- Ensuring the academic quality of all new programs, and
- Maintaining the high quality of teaching that distinguishes our university.
We will keep as priorities, within the content of our educational mission:
- Preparing our students for the future;
- Meeting the needs of the faculty; and
- Ensuring that we are serving the people of North Carolina — the 9th largest state in the country with changing demographics and workforce needs.
On this subject, I’m reminded of a quote from Chancellor Everts, which she shared last year, and which I continue to appreciate.
"Successful, major universities grow and change over time, and as we continue to innovate in response to the needs of our state and region, we remain true to our founding mission: to provide access to education."
Functional Study of Academic Affairs
On that note, just a quick update on the Academic Affairs functional study that I announced in May.
The first two steps of the study are complete. I sincerely appreciate those of you who contributed in the first steps — either through the questionnaire or focus groups. We expect to receive Huron’s final report of key findings early this fall, after which we will begin sharing the study findings and discussing next steps. We will keep you informed.
This concludes my remarks.
Once again, I am grateful for the chance to be with you today and hope this information has been helpful.
I wish you all a productive afternoon, and I look forward to working with the Faculty Senate to have a successful academic year.