Provost Heather Norris' Remarks from the 2021 Fall Faculty Staff Meeting

Provost Heather Norris' Remarks to the Faculty and Staff

I am excited in my current role as provost to lead our collaborative efforts, advancing our core academic mission, and in particular, building upon our national reputation for innovation. 

As the Chancellor showed in her slides, we are recognized nationally for our many strengths.  We are:

  • Among the US News Best Colleges 

  • Among the US News Best Online Programs

  • #1 in Most Innovative Schools

  • #2 in Best Undergraduate Teaching 

  • #2 in Best Colleges for Veterans

  • #3 in Top Public Schools

We are these, and many more, at the university, college, school, and department levels. Here are some of the regional and national rankings at our department, school, and college levels:


  • #7 in Graphic Design Schools of the South (and #2 in North Carolina for our Graphic Design program)

  • #15 in Construction Management programs among STEM careers

  • #4 in Best Master’s in Sustainability Degrees

  • #25 in Master’s of Public Administration programs

  • #4 in Best Value Actuarial Science programs

  • Top 5% Worldwide in Environmental & Experimental Economics

  • Largest undergraduate enrollment in Business in the UNC System 

  • National Leader for alumni who are National Board Certified Teachers

  • We also have one of the largest Geological & Environmental Sciences programs and one of the largest Anthropology programs in the nation, just to name a few.

What makes us the best?  Our,

  1. Innovation in teaching & learning opportunities coupled with 

  2. Hands-on research, scholarship, & creative activities, and 

  3. Deeply meaningful outreach & engagement with our communities

We have a plethora of examples of these, some of which you’ll see in the upcoming slides.  

Within the Beaver College of Health Sciences, we have The Blue Cross Institute of Health and Human Services, which supports outreach and clinical services to over 4,500 clients and patients annually. Some of the outreach includes, health education and training programs for CPR, First Aid, community health and fitness assessments and even a summer program for high school students to be introduced to the world of working in healthcare at Camp Med. Some of the clinical services offered include counseling services for faculty and staff, a communication disorders clinic, music therapy clinic and an aging-well support program. This support is offered to community members throughout the High Country. This has enabled 100% of Beaver College students to participate in some form of experiential learning or internships.

We are also thrilled to begin our new partnership with UNC Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy in the 21-22 academic year. The Early Assurance Program guarantees a cohort of App State students, who meet the necessary requirements, admission into the Pharmacy program. Through this program, students will have opportunities to engage with the PharmD program and faculty, and connect to other early assurance students at UNC Chapel Hill. Celeste Crowe, Director of Health Professions Advising, is leading this effort in partnership with Kim Holley, Senior Director of Admissions.

The Belk Library had a successful Children’s Literature Symposium this year where it showed students that they have stories to tell in their writing and illustrations, and helped teachers understand the impact and importance of using multicultural literature in their classrooms, with Newbery award-winning author Meg Medina and Caldecott honor winner Lauren Castillo.

The College of Arts and Sciences is excited about the Department of Rural Resilience. The grants received for this department are to fund research or service-learning class collaborations that incorporate a team and transdisciplinary approach to work on at least one of three grand innovation challenges that face rural American communities today and in the future. Those challenges include, Rural Health and vitality, Sustainable, resilient growth and continuity; and Rural Urban interdependence, agency and shared knowledge.

In the College of Fine and Applied Arts; The Department of Theatre and Dance has the Appalachian Young People’s Theatre which brings high-quality, affordable live theatre experiences to young audiences who otherwise would not have the opportunity. In the Spring, they tour schools, libraries and museums, performing for over 7,500 young people. The Sustainable Development teaching and research farm on the Blackburn Vannoy Estate is an historic site devoted to sustainable farming practices and preservation initiatives, offering students the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the classroom. Faculty use the farm to showcase sustainable agriculture techniques, including intercropping, permaculture design, crop rotation, sustainable livestock husbandry and more. Harvests can be found in our campus dining offerings, and are also sold to local restaurants and donated to food pantries. Students and alumni in the Applied Design programs are recognized nationally and winning awards for their approach and design. 

The Hayes School of Music has been sharing their knowledge and expertise at the Community Music School in the Hub Station Arts Center in Hudson, North Carolina. This program is a lab for learning, teaching, marketing, promotion and development and eventually will offer classes and private lessons to members of that community.

Our Honors College has been recognized as a national leader in Honors education inclusivity. The past five entering Honors College cohorts have averaged 21.1% traditionally underrepresented students and our past 5 entering Chancellor's Scholar cohorts have averaged 38% traditionally underrepresented students.

The Reich College of Education began a multi-partner program to support National Board candidates from across the state and nation, free of charge through virtual support groups, mentor partnerships, and professional development.For the 5th year in a row, they have been a national leader for the number of alumni who are National Board Certified Teachers. The Reich College of Education, at the helm of Andrew Koricich, is also leading the Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges, which focuses on increasing research and appreciation for regional colleges and their contributions to students and communities they serve. The RCOE is also practicing innovation at its best through our free, public lab school serving grades K-5 at the Academy at Middle Fork.  Performance measures have improved markedly with the guidance and support of our RCOE faculty and staff.

The Walker College of Business has been consistently ranked in the top 5% globally in the areas of environmental and experimental economics. They have also had great success in creating an inclusive excellence team to support: Appalachian Advocates, Courageous Conversations and the We are Walker Scholarship, just to name a few.

Within enrollment management, our College Access Partnerships has been committed to building strategic partnerships to strengthen our local communities through college access and success. They have secured over $40M in federal grants to be disbursed over the next 7 years. The College Access Partnerships supports students from the Appalachian region of North Carolina on their path to postsecondary education. They support the work of teachers, counselors, and services to thousands of students through programs like GEAR-UP, College Advising Corps, Young Eisner Scholars & Empowering Teacher Learning. 

Our Information Technology Services have been instrumental to our success by supporting online and hybrid teaching and learning. Some of the many areas they have helped our campus include the AsULearn Expansion, which increased resources to include additional data storage capabilities that gives AsULearn the capacity to keep 25 months of data. 

Institutional Research And Planning hosted App State's 4th Annual Analytics Day this past June with over 588 Higher Ed. professionals nationwide. This was a one-day conference where colleagues shared strategies, practices, and tips for using analytics to support higher education departments and units institution-wide.

The Office of Research has applied for Appalchian’s first patent in 20 years, a collaboration across the university in building infrastructure & programs to foster faculty innovation, entrepreneurship and technology transfer. Our faculty and staff received just over 37 million in external awards and submitted 79 million dollars’ worth of proposals to external funding agencies in the 2020-2021 academic year. Both are records for App State.

As you’ve seen the list of reasons, and we haven’t even included them all, of why we have such a strong academic reputation are many, and growing each year.

Because of our strong academic core, we are well-positioned to fulfill our collective mission.

We are meeting our students “where they are,” all along life’s continuum, providing access to all, adding value to our society through:

  • Our community outreach, education and scholarly support from pre-K through late adulthood.

  • Our traditional undergraduate degrees, niche graduate degrees, 2+2 community college partnerships, certificates, summer bridge programs, and not-for credit options to provide access to educational attainment across all demographics

  • And our faculty-led undergraduate and graduate research, scholarship, and creative activities that benefit our communities & society

We are closing the educational attainment gap in NC, contributing to the goal that by 2030, 2 million North Carolinians will have a high-quality credential or a postsecondary degree.

Now, let’s look further into our future, one that we will create together.

The University community, through the leadership of Dr. Ted Zerucha and the Gen Ed Task Force, is actively engaged in refining our General Education program, to adapt and evolve in response to emerging challenges, changes, and opportunities. Our University community, through the leadership of the University Planning and Priorities Council, is actively engaged in shaping our next 5-year strategic plan. Our University community will soon embark on developing its next Quality Enhancement Plan, through the leadership of our Faculty Director of the SACSCOC Compliance Certification, Paul Orkiszewski.

As the Chancellor shared earlier, we are excited about the possibilities for our Innovation District, which has been included in the university’s master planning process since 2016.  The Innovation District is a concept that will include the structure, function, and form, for us to advance our transformational educational opportunities.  

With faculty-led, boundary spanning teaching and learning projects that give 

  • our students hands-on experiences relevant to their interests, 

  • our communities the benefit of our knowledge and expertise, and 

  • our faculty and students the opportunity to connect their research, scholarship, and creative activities to these projects

…we will magnify our positive impact on society and amplify our standing as the premier undergraduate institution in the southeast.   

We can collectively elevate our academic reputation and our research enterprise, and thereby our ability to attract and retain high ability, high achieving students, faculty, and staff, through the Innovation District concept. With continued investment in people, programs, and physical infrastructure, we will continue to advance our mission.  

With input we have gathered to date, the Innovation District facilities currently being discussed are:

  • A Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research

  • Workspace for transdisciplinary projects that will serve the community, state, region and beyond with increased student engagement in research, creativity, innovation, design thinking and entrepreneurship, including research laboratories, studio spaces, and renewable energy facilities.

  • Conference rooms and expanded exhibition space.

  • Housing that is available, affordable and easily accessible from campus.

The independent advisory firm we have retained to help develop the Master Plan for the Innovation District, Brailsford & Dunlavey, has been engaged with departments across campus, and in the coming weeks, will engage the full campus in refining the development concept for the Innovation District. 

I look forward to your input into the Innovation District, our SACSCOC Quality Enhancement Plan, our Strategic Plan, and our General Education.  With these, we will shape our future success, together.

In closing, I’d like to share my appreciation and thanks to all the faculty and staff who have worked tirelessly over this past year to support our core academic mission and the people who make up our community.  By working together, we will thrive.

Published: Oct 11, 2021 10:49am