Provost Norris’ Remarks to Faculty Senate – Nov. 13, 2023

Provost Norris’ Remarks to Faculty Senate – Nov. 13, 2023


Thank you, Chair Anderson, for the opportunity to address this group today.

It’s good to see all of you this afternoon. 

In my remarks today, I will cover four topics:

  • Ongoing discussions about faculty compensation that I am having with the chair of the Faculty Senate Budget Committee;
  • Academic Affairs’ recent formation of an artificial intelligence steering committee and task forces;
  • An update on two initiatives in our Office of Research and Innovation; and
  • A recent visit to App State by NC Innovation — hosted by the Provost’s Office.


Faculty Compensation

This fall, I have continued ongoing discussions about faculty compensation with Jim Westerman, chair of the Faculty Senate Budget Committee. At the October Faculty Senate meeting, I gave an update on faculty salaries — and today I want to share additional information about our continuing efforts focused on faculty compensation.  

As I noted in October, App State recognizes that competitive salaries are key to attracting and retaining outstanding faculty — a hallmark of the university. Compensation for faculty and staff has been a priority for Chancellor Everts since she arrived at App State in 2014. She remains dedicated to leveraging any authority granted to her by the legislature and the Board of Governors to increase compensation for our faculty. 

In her September 22 budget update message, Chancellor Everts shared the good news that university employees will enjoy an across-the-board 4% salary increase this year, which will be retroactive to July 1 — followed by a 3% increase next year. App State will also increase adjunct faculty pay by 4% in the spring. 

The Chancellor and I continue to be committed to establishing and maintaining competitive salaries for all of our faculty — including part-time, full-time, tenure line and professional faculty. This allows us to recruit, develop and retain outstanding faculty members. 

To that end, Chancellor Everts also increased the amount of promotion values for tenure-track faculty promoted to Associate Professor or Full Professor. Faculty who were promoted to Associate Professor will receive a salary increase of $6,000 — up from $4,000 in previous years. That’s a 50% increase. Faculty promoted to Full Professor will receive a salary increase of $8,000 — up from $5,000 in previous years — representing a 60% increase. 

In addition, App State has increased starting salaries for new nursing faculty positions by 10% … and Academic Affairs has provided the Beaver College of Health Sciences with an allocation to fund salary increases for current nursing faculty — based upon the UNC System’s allocation from the state appropriation. 

On top of these increases, App State’s supplemental pay cap is one of the highest of any university in the UNC System.

We also recognize that affordable housing is critical to recruiting and retaining faculty. As Chancellor Everts noted in her State of the University Address on Sept. 15, construction is underway on nearly 160 units of faculty and staff housing — thanks to a public-private partnership project. The one-, two- and three-bedroom units will be cost-efficient and will help meet the housing needs of App State employees amid housing scarcity and cost inflation in Boone. Units will be open in the fall of 2025.

And App State has a very high faculty retention rate — as I noted in my remarks at the October Faculty Senate meeting. Compared to the average rate of voluntary faculty turnover for UNC System institutions for the four fiscal years from 2017-18 through 2020-21, App State’s rate of 3.5% was the second lowest faculty turnover in the System — behind only North Carolina State University. And our faculty turnover is nearly 3 full percentage points below the 3-year average CUPA median of 6.3%.

We anticipate having a robust budget allocation next academic year due to record enrollment and performance funding metrics, which will further enhance our ability to reach our goals.


Post-Tenure Review

Also in the area of faculty compensation, the Chancellor and Board of Trustees approved changes to the Post-Tenure Review process — and these are documented in our Faculty Handbook section — 3.11.9 Exceeds Expectations PTR.

The changes allow recommendations for salary increases when a faculty member exceeds expectations in the post-tenure review. 


Artificial Intelligence Steering Committee and Task Forces

I have formed a Steering Committee on artificial intelligence to study the issue in light of its rapid proliferation in business, government, higher education and virtually all aspects of life. The committee will lead the development of recommendations for the university across the full spectrum of academic areas that could be impacted. The committee is led by Vice Provost Mark Ginn, Senior Vice Provost Neva Specht and Interim Vice Provost of Research and Innovation Christine Hendren. 

Within that committee structure, I have also charged two task forces to develop university guidelines for AI. 

  • One task force will focus this semester on AI as it relates to teaching and learning. In the spring, this task force will turn its attention to understanding the potential impact of AI on research, scholarship and creative activities. This group will deliver a number of helpful resources — including general guiding principles, ideas for structuring assignments and grading student work, and draft AI statements faculty can use in their syllabi for the spring 2024 semester. They will also develop AI guidelines for conducting and evaluating research next year. 
  • The second task force will monitor and explore both the near-term and long-term effects of generative AI on the higher education landscape. They will articulate a broad vision for the impact AI could have on the teaching, learning, research, productivity and other work activities of App State faculty and students in the years ahead — as well as how AI could eventually transform our pedagogical approaches and overall philosophies of education and teaching.  


The task forces have broad representation across App State’s faculty and staff in our colleges and schools — as well as staff members from University Libraries, the Dean of Students Office, Information Technology Services and University Communications.

I will share more details about the work of the AI committee and task forces as they prepare to share their initial recommendations for the spring 2024 semester.


Implementation Plan for RSCA Strategic Plan

Interim Vice Provost Hendren and her Research and Innovation Team are working on two strategic initiatives.

First, they have completed the implementation plan for the university’s first Strategic Plan for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities. In the coming days, Christine will share details of the implementation with the campus community — including opportunities for employees to engage in the rollout. 

  • She and her team will give a series of campus presentations on the implementation plan that will allow faculty and staff to ask questions about the plan and provide feedback.
  • They will also visit different academic departments and units that are interested in learning more about the plan and would like the chance to provide input.
  • In addition, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to share ideas via an online submission process to help identify App State’s existing, emerging and potential areas of excellence in research, scholarship and creative activities.


Innovation and Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program

The second initiative is called the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program — and it’s a collaboration between the Office of Research and Innovation, the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Small Business and Technology Development Center. This program is designed to educate faculty and staff about resources and opportunities to pursue entrepreneurial ideas, develop and protect intellectual property, and transform discoveries into marketable solutions. 

This is a 9-week, cohort-based program in which we incubate and develop ideas to understand their industry potential. During the program, attendees learn about key steps required to cultivate ideas into impact. These include:

  • Conducting market research;
  • Developing viable business models and commercialization models;
  • Identifying potential investors; and
  • Determining necessary intellectual property ownership and protections — among others.


The 10 participants of the program’s first cohort include researchers across 3 colleges and 1 research institute — representing a range of disciplines, from agriculture technologies and sustainable construction to machine learning and biodiversity education and research.

With increased understanding of how to garner support, resources and funding, employees will be able to introduce their innovative research, discoveries and ideas into markets that can leverage their ideas to solve pressing local, regional and global problems. 

This program speaks to the core of who we are in our DNA. By formally establishing the support structures, funding sources and universitywide focus, it will elevate innovation, tech transfer and commercialization at App State and build upon our well-deserved reputation as the Most Innovative School in the Southeast.

Special thanks to Teresa Spangler, the Technology Transfer and Innovation Specialist in the Office of Research and Innovation, and Erich Schlenker, the Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship — who designed and are delivering the program.


NC Innovation Visit to App State

On the subject of innovation at App State, Academic Affairs recently hosted a visit by officials from NC Innovation, as shared by Chancellor Everts in late October. NC Innovation is a private enterprise backed by more than $23 million in capital from North Carolina businesses and philanthropies, as well as a $500 million appropriation from the state. It has three primary objectives:

  • To develop and optimize regional innovation networks to connect industry, academia and entrepreneurs across the state;
  • To provide grant funding to support emerging applied research technologies; and
  • To enable support services to commercialize research successes and create economic development across North Carolina.


NC Innovation is visiting all UNC System schools and engaging in conversations about applied research, areas of innovation, programs that would benefit from tech transfer and commercialization as well as other kinds of entrepreneurial activity. 

We hosted the NC Innovation team on October 24th for a full day of activities. They met with vice chancellors and other key university leaders. We took them on a tour of our research facilities and hosted them for lunch. In addition, faculty members gave “lightning presentations” on their research. 

I sincerely appreciate the time and energy that App State faculty and leaders spent preparing for and participating in our day with the NC Innovation team. The variety and depth of innovative work we were able to share with them was impressive. We will stay actively engaged with them in the coming months as they build out their structure and process — and I will keep the Faculty Senate apprised of new developments and next steps in this exciting public-private partnership. 


I appreciate the opportunity to share this information today and look forward to our continued work together.


This concludes my remarks.

Click here to view the presentation slides.

Published: Nov 13, 2023 5:00pm