Provost Heather Norris' Remarks from the 2022 Spring Faculty & Staff Meeting

Provost Heather Norris' Remarks to the Faculty and Staff - Friday, February 4th 2022


Thank you, Chancellor, Chair Gallien, & Chair Coffey, for your remarks.  And thank you, Chancellor, for your ongoing support of our academic mission. 


In the Enrollment Symposium on December 1, 2021, and again in the Faculty Senate meeting on December 13, 2021, I highlighted our approach to the academic affairs of our institution.  In particular, I shared that, as we look at the ways in which we can meet the educational needs of the citizens of North Carolina and beyond, we are doing so through the lens of:

  • Our mission
  • Our faculty expertise and interest
  • Our students’ interests and needs (of the market-place/region)
  • Resources needed to support the growth.  

This applies to all of our academic programs - in Boone, online, and at other site-based locations, including those we will grow in Hickory.

The process we’ve established is an iterative, open and transparent one that involves 

  • faculty, 
  • program directors, 
  • department chairs, and 
  • deans
  • prospective student/market research


I, along with Vice Provosts, have been meeting with Hickory City representatives to learn about the educational needs of the area.

I am also working closely with my Cabinet-level colleagues, including Vice Chancellor JJ Brown and Interim CIO Tom Van Gilder, to plan for the appropriate student support services and technology infrastructure going forward.

Deans have been reaching out to their school or college Hickory partners, businesses, agencies, and organizations to further understand the educational needs and opportunities.

Deans have also been actively discussing Hickory opportunities and ideas with their department chairs, and they, with their faculty.


As I’ve mentioned before, this is an iterative process.  During our recent monthly Provost Council meetings, (which includes vice provosts, deans, Faculty Senate Chair Gallien, Council of Chairs Chair Murrell, Interim Chief Diversity Officer Parson, and others), deans have been giving updates on discussions happening within their departments, schools, and colleges, so that we can begin to discern common themes of interest upon which to build.  

It is important to ensure that departmental input gets shared across the academic affairs leadership team, as we begin to align faculty interests and expertise with the needs of the Hickory region. 

I have been asked often over the last couple of months what new or current academic programs will be located in Hickory. This is under discussion now, which is why as yet, no decisions have been made.  

I hope that you will take the opportunity to be involved in the discussions within your department, school, and/or college.

I greatly appreciate the participation of all, to ensure we continue to stay true to our mission, serving the educational needs of the citizens of North Carolina with excellence.

I’d like to take a moment now to recognize all who have contributed to the broad planning our future -


The University Planning & Priorities Council (UPPC) has been actively seeking input into our next 5-year strategic plan:  

  • Campus open listening sessions were held Nov 18 & 29, ‘21.
  • Additional listening sessions took place with:
    • Graduate Student Gov’t Assn (November 9, 2021)
    • Student Affairs Leadership (November 18, 2021)
    • Faculty Senate Executive Cmte (November 22, 2021)
    • Council of Chairs (December 2, 2021)
    • Provost Council (November 2021 and January 2022)
    • Student Government Association (Feb 1, 2022)
    • Staff Senate Exec Committee (February 3, 2022)
    • Alumni Council (February 26, 2022)
  • Round 2 listening sessions will be scheduled after the rough draft of the plan is updated.
  • A Feedback Link will be available here:

Thank you, Drs. Ball and McKenzie and Heather Langdon for leading these conversations, and to all of the members of the UPPC, and all of the faculty, staff, and students who provided input into this important work.  By your participation, you are helping to shape our future.


In the 20-21 academic year, the General Education Listening Task Force, chaired by Professor of Biology and Director of General Education Dr. Ted Zerucha, with faculty representation from every college as well as student and staff representation, held a series of 10 campus-wide listening sessions to gather input from students, faculty and staff on ideas for revisions and improvements to our General Education program.

For the 21-22 academic year, a General Education Revision Task Force was formed, again under the direction of Dr. Zerucha and with faculty representation from every college as well as student and staff representation, to recommend curricular changes to the General Education program based upon the data compiled by the Gen Ed Listening Task Force.   

This task force is closing in on recommendations that will be shared with various groups throughout the spring semester, with the goal of adopting a framework for Gen Ed by the end of spring, leading to approval of courses in the 22-23 academic year and a Fall 23 implementation.

Please join me in thanking all who have contributed via the Gen Ed task force(s), as well as AP&P members who will consider their recommendations in the coming months.


The Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP for short, is required by our national accrediting body (SACSCOC), and our next QEP area of focus will be determined this year. 

  • The QEP is an initiative that focuses on student learning or student success. 
  • QEP topic proposals are due Feb. 28 (see
  • Finalists will be selected by the QEP Steering Committee, and those finalists will give campus presentations in April. 
  • We plan to announce the final selected QEP topic by the end of this semester.
  • Please join me in thanking Dr. Carolyn Edy, chair, and the entire QEP steering committee for their work on this effort.


I’d like to turn now to an equally important topic, our research enterprise.  

Research, scholarship, and creative activities are an essential aspect of our education mission. The advancement of knowledge through scholarly and creative activities is one of our fundamental responsibilities as a university. It keeps our faculty current in their field(s), leading to valuable classroom experiences. It also provides significant benefit to our society through the generation of new knowledge and through new inventions and discoveries and new ways of doing things.  Faculty-led research, scholarly and creative activities allow our students to participate in the advancement of knowledge in very real and meaningful ways.


Our research & creative activities enterprise has grown substantially in recent years.

  • Last year, we had a record amount of external funding from grants and contracts with the final number being $36.82 million. We also had a record number for proposal submissions totaling $79.06 million.  
  • Interestingly, we had the lowest number of awards received and the lowest number of proposals submitted with 119 awards and 214 proposals. What this says is that our faculty and staff are going after larger grants and are also receiving larger grants with higher dollar value. This is another indication of positive growth for our research and creative activity enterprise. The proposal and award activity to date this year suggest that this trend will continue.
  • We are looking carefully at our institutional expenditures in support of research and creative activities. It’s important to do this baselining process to determine where, how, and by how much we  improve our support over time. This baselining process is also helping our rankings in the National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development (NSF-HERD) survey.
  • Each year, universities across the nation complete the National Science Foundation HERD survey to report their research expenditures. Research expenditures in this survey include funds from sponsored grants and contracts and institutional expenditures in support of research such as seed funds, start-up funding, equipment, research staff salary and assistantships. Last year, with $4.9 million (of which $2.5 million were institutional expenses), we reported the highest research expenditure numbers in Appalachian’s history and moved up 55 spots in the rankings.  
  • We are also expanding our human resources infrastructure to better support the research and creative activity enterprise.
    • Two new positions were added to the Special Funds Accounting team to accommodate the increase in external funding portfolio from grants and contracts. 
    • We added a new data scientist research position in the Research Institute for Environment, Energy, and Economics, (or RIEEE).

I’d like to thank Vice Provost Karatan for reinstating the Research Showcase, where faculty share with me their latest work.


On March 6, 2020, I met with Dr. Brooke Christian, Dr. Jill Juris, and Don Corey.

  • Dr. Christian is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences.  Her research includes investigation of fat cell differentiation with a long-term goal of reducing childhood obesity and stabilization of protein drugs in order to store and ship them without the need for refrigeration.
  • Dr. Juris  is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Recreation Management and Physical Education. Her research focuses on developing, implementing, and evaluating community-based, intergenerational strategies and technology to increase access to healthy food and decrease social isolation and loneliness for older adults. She is the project manager of a five-year USDA community grant to increase healthy food access, consumption and education, and is also exploring caregiver respite programs for these populations, particularly in Appalachian communities.
  • Don Corey is a Professor in the Department of Applied Design. His creative, industrial design work focuses on creating unique experiences for the user while also commercializing and protecting intellectual assets of the designer through patents and licensing agreements. His work has been distributed around the world and showcased at major industry events such in the US and abroad, including at the NY NOW Gift Show, in New York City.


On January 21, 2022, I met with Dr. Billy Armstrong, Dr. Katie Mawhinney, and Dr. Tammy Kowalczyk.

  • Dr. Armstrong is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science.  Billy investigates earth surface dynamics— including the behavior of glaciers and rivers— using satellite remote sensing, field study and numerical modeling. Billy’s recent NSF-funded work has focused on glacier basal motion, which dominates the motion of many glaciers and will influence how glaciers change in a warming world.
  • Dr. Mawhinney is a Professor and Assistant Chair in the Department of Mathematical Sciences.  She is currently investigating the implementation of implementing STEM innovations at scale across K-12 state educational systems, and how the process is impacted by instructional visions held by educators. Her current project is examining how collaboratively designed resources promote and support the development of a shared vision of high-quality mathematics instruction across the system.
  • Dr. Kowalczyk is a Professor in the Department of  Accounting and Director of the Appalachian Impact Clinic.  Her primary areas of research include sustainability accounting and performance assessment, carbon accounting, and natural resource economics. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on scaling forest management practices that accelerate carbon mitigation and climate resilience, particularly among small-scale “family” forest owners in the rural Southeast. Her work emphasizes expanding practices to increase economic viability and participation by landowners, as well as connecting private sector investment in these practices to align corporate sustainability goals. She recently led an interdisciplinary team of researchers on a project funded by AT&T focused on creating climate resilience in the communities of western North Carolina in rural Appalachia.  


I’d also like to thank the English Department for inviting me to their Book Publication Party held earlier this week, which recognized 12 faculty and showcased 16 publications and 1 juried art show:  

I was able to join the event for the second hour, and it was a delight to hear authors’ readings and inspirations, and to see the genuine respect and appreciation among the faculty members that the event brought about.


In addition to our faculty research & creative activities, our student research is also growing.

The Office of Student Research (OSR) has supported a wide variety of faculty-mentored student research projects.  Opportunities include research grants, travel grants, and undergraduate research assistantships. 

In addition, in the Fall of 2020 the OSR funded a course-based undergraduate research experience (or CURE), which assists in expanding student research opportunities.  

Assistant Professor Michael Reddish and Associate Professors Brook Christian and Megen Culpepper in the Department of Chemistry were awarded $34,832 to design a biochemistry laboratory that merges an online digital learning (bioinformatics) course component with in-lab research to create a publishable undergraduate research project. 


In Fall 2021, App State was awarded a continuation grant from the UNC System, for the first time since this was an RFP, for implementing a CURE. The grant allowed faculty to increase the reach of the courses and students involved in the original grant.

 While COVID certainly created barriers and challenges to engage students in research and creative activity opportunities these past two years, OSR saw faculty shift, become innovative and move forward with new and ongoing projects.

  • I have asked Vice Provost for Research Ece Karatan to start working on a “Research Strategic Plan” this summer with extensive input from the faculty, staff, chairs, and deans. This plan will provide a roadmap to further grow and support our research and creative activity enterprise.

In closing, I’d like to again thank all who have contributed to our future by participating in shaping our Bridge Plan, our Strategic Plan, our Gen Ed, Innovation District, QEP, department, school, and college discussions about Hickory, and the upcoming Research Strategic Plan.  


I’d also like to make you aware of several important research endeavors that will help provide us with empirical and anecdotal data, including 

Among other things, these instruments will provide comprehensive data that will inform diversity and inclusion strategies.

A special thanks to Interim Chief Diversity Officer Jamie Parson, for leading our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work.  And to the Vice Provosts, Deans and Department Chairs for including every voice as they lead department/school/college conversations that will define our future. 


Published: Feb 8, 2022 1:24pm