Provost Norris' Remarks to Faculty Senate - Feb. 12, 2024

Provost Norris’ Remarks to Faculty Senate – Feb. 12, 2024


Good afternoon. Today, my comments will address a range of topics including:

  • The appointment of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences;
  • The progress of The Foundations of American Democracy Project following the January 25th UNC System Board of Governors meeting;
  • Our exploration of potential partnership opportunities with UNC System-affiliated Project Kitty Hawk; AND
  • Brief updates on the university’s AI task forces and the Quality Enhancement Plan.

I would like to begin by reflecting on our Spring Faculty and Staff meeting held on February 2nd, for which we had record attendance. I’ve received lots of positive feedback regarding the format and content, which included members of my leadership team who reported on key academic affairs initiatives including:

  • The Academic Strategic Plan presented by Sr. Vice Provost. Neva J. Specht;
  • Student Success initiatives presented by Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Mark Ginn;
  • The Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Strategic Plan presented by Vice Provost for Research and Innovation, Christine Hendren; AND
  • The Quality Enhancement Plan, Pathways to Resilience presented by Vice Provost for Academic Program Development and Strategic Initiatives, Mike McKenzie.
  • In addition to updates from the Academic Affairs leadership team, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Management, Nick Katers provided an update on construction and renovations related to academic buildings and facilities.

For those who were unable to attend, I encourage you to review the remarks at

On Friday, I announced that, after a national search, Dr. Mike Madritch has been appointed Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, effective immediately.

Mike has consistently demonstrated excellence in academic leadership, through his roles as Associate Dean and Interim Dean, managing our largest college, while significantly boosting its academic and research output. He is a persistent scholar who has made notable contributions to the field of ecology. His research and teaching work has received support from major organizations including NASA, the National Science Foundation and the National Park Service. Mike is a North Carolina native with degrees from North Carolina State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

Mike’s many contributions to academia, including research, teaching, and administrative leadership, underscore his dedication to advancing the university’s founding mission of access to higher education and excellence. I appreciate his longstanding dedication to leadership within the College of Arts and Sciences, which has earned him the respect and trust of his colleagues and faculty and staff within the college and throughout the university.

I know you all join me in congratulating Mike. A news release announcing his appointment will be issued early this week.

As I shared in some detail at the Spring Meeting, the American Democracy Project marks a pivotal moment for the UNC System, with a proposed amendment to section 400.1.5 of the UNC Policy Manual requiring students entering on or after July 1, 2025, to successfully complete at least three semester credit hours in Foundations of American Democracy.

As President Hans underscored to the UNC Board of Governors at their meeting in January, this work is vital to the mission of the UNC System. We expect the Board of Governors to continue their discussion of the proposal during the Committee on Educational Planning, Policies and Programs, and hold a vote of the full board at their April meeting.

I’ve created a working group that includes representation from First Year Seminar and General Education, as well as the Departments of History and Government and Justice Studies, and Faculty Senate. Their first meeting on February 9 was the starting point for what will be an ongoing conversation on how to effectively meet the proposed requirements. This group is evaluating options for meeting the proposed criteria.

Contingent on the Board of Governors' vote this April, we will progress swiftly and thoughtfully towards implementation for Fall 2025, aligning our educational offerings with the anticipated policy updates.

As many of you are aware, the state budget passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Cooper appropriates $97 million dollars to launch Project Kitty Hawk. This project was designed as a full-scale resource to help UNC System institutions better attract, retain and meet the needs of adult learners over the age of 25 through workforce-aligned, online education.

Last year at around this time, a delegation from Project Kitty Hawk, hosted by Chancellor Everts, shared information about their goals and the resources they could make available to UNC System institutions.

Later this month, we will again host the Project Kitty Hawk team for a visit to campus later this month, so that interested academic programs and associated support services can further engage in discussions around a potential partnership that will further our shared goals of attracting and retaining nontraditional learners.
You may recall, from my updates to this group in November and again last month, that I formed a Steering Committee on artificial intelligence last semester to study the issue in light of its rapid proliferation in business, government, higher education.

Task Forces that have come out of this steering committee include one that has been specifically focused on integrating generative AI into the university's strategic planning, policy, and professional learning. Initiatives include recommending curricular changes, establishing grading guidelines, and creating resources such as video introductions and syllabi examples. I’d like to thank Amy Washburn for her leadership of this group.

Another task force is addressing the challenges in discerning AI's usage in scholarly work. I’d like to thank Dr. Leo Flores with co-chairs Stephanie Bennett and Dr. Chris Osmond for their leadership of this group. Stay tuned for information about an upcoming AI Symposium in April, welcoming contributions from the academic community to delve into generative AI's expansive role in academia.

As you know, as a member institution seeking continued accreditation, we are in the process of a reaffirmation committee review. Representatives from our accrediting body — the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges — will be visiting campus in early March.

Part of the process includes the implementation of our Quality Enhancement Plan.

On February 9th, the App State Quality Enhancement Plan implementation committee, with broad faculty and staff representation across the University’s academic departments, divisions and offices, and currently consisting of about 65 members, convened to advance the Pathways to Resilience initiative. The meeting focused on interdisciplinary groups, including students, discussing how their disciplines intersect around this common topic. Updates included the final submission of the QEP plan to SACS-COC and preparations for the launch of a dedicated website. The QEP, which will begin in Fall 2024 and span five years, builds on App State's commitment to global learning and preparedness, marking a significant step in our reaccreditation process.

As a reminder, there’s much more detail about each of these ongoing initiatives in my remarks, as well as the remarks of the Vice Provosts, on the academic affairs website.

We are excited to move forward with these initiatives to support you and the work you are doing to ensure the success of our students. Thank you.

This concludes my remarks.

Published: Feb 12, 2024 6:00pm