Provost Norris' Remarks to Faculty Senate - Jan. 22, 2024

Provost Norris’ Remarks to Faculty Senate – Jan. 22, 2024

Thank you, Chair Anderson. 


It’s been an interesting beginning to the semester, and I’d like to begin with a thank you to our faculty for adapting to the weather and accommodating the varying needs of our students. We do everything possible to reduce disruptions in our student's learning experiences, recognizing this is especially important during the first week of classes — thank you!

Today, I will provide updates on several initiatives and discuss a new one we will launch later this month.  These include:

  • The AI task forces that were formed last semester;

  • Implementation of the Strategic Plan for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities;

  • Our new professional development partnership with Academic Impressions;

  • The Strategic Plan for Academic Programming;

  • The Quality Enhancement Plan, and 

  • Next steps for the ROI study I discussed at the December meeting.

Update on AI Task Forces

As I shared in my Faculty Senate remarks from November 13th, 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 and in many other ways in our daily lives.Within that committee structure, I charged two task forces to develop university guidelines for AI. 

  • Since November, Task Force 1produced a document encompassing AI principles and guidelines along with sample AI statements from other universities and colleges. The task force delivered this document to the AI steering committee — which shared it with deans and department chairs. And they, in turn, have passed it along to faculty to help them develop AI statements for their syllabi this spring and  inform their teaching going forward.

  • This spring, Task Force 1 will turn its attention to developing AI guidelines for faculty and staff conducting and evaluating research, scholarship and creative activities. The task force may consult with others on campus in order to produce future guidance that will be most useful to the App State Community. With the understanding that AI usage is inherently dynamic, this group anticipates that guidance will need to be regularly evaluated and revised.

  • Task Force 2 has begun to monitor and explore the broader effects of generative AI on the higher education landscape. They held two planning meetings in the fall and have started to build a repository of academic journal articles, media articles and websites focused on the future impact of AI in higher education.

  • This task force will continue meeting regularly throughout the spring and will articulate a concept of the long-term impact AI could have on App State faculty, staff and students in the years ahead —from pedagogical approaches to philosophies of education and teaching.  

We will share continued updates about the work of the AI committee and task forces later this semester.

Implementation of RSCA Strategic Plan

Last fall, the university created our firstStrategic Plan for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities, which we refer to as RSCA (RISK-uh). The overarching goal of this plan, which is also one of six priorities outlined in App State’s 2022-27 Strategic Plan, is to advance knowledge and promote discovery and the application of findings that benefit our region, state, nation and world.

Later in this meeting, Dr. Christine Hendren, Interim Vice Provost of Research and Innovation, will share more information about opportunities for faculty and staff to engage in the implementation of the RSCA Strategic Plan this spring.

I’d like to extend my thanks in this setting to Christine and the other implementation committee members:

  • Dr. Gabe Casale, Faculty Fellow in the Office of Research and Innovation and Professor in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences;

  • Karen Fletcher, Director of Grants Resources and Services; and

  • Grace Marasco-Plummer, Interim Managing Director of the Research Institute for Environment, Energy and Economics.

Academic Impressions Launch

The Division of Academic Affairs has secured a universitywide membership with Academic Impressions— an organization specializing in professional development resources for higher education faculty and staff.

We made this investment to provide easy access to robust, on-demand, higher ed-focused professional development with a goal of helping our faculty and staff to better serve our students and advance the educational mission of App State.

This partnership will provide App State employees with access to a host of training resources designed specifically by and for higher ed professionals, including access to live and recorded virtual training, webcasts, on-demand learning, virtual conferences and individually customized learning plans on a full range of higher ed topics.. 

Senior Vice Provost Specht will provide more details about this new partnership soon. 

Strategic Plan for Academic Programming

We have taken significant strides in developing App State’s Strategic Plan for Academic Programming — thanks to the leadership of Senior Vice Provost Specht and Associate Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School Ashley Colquitt. Since September, Neva and Ashley have hosted 12 listening sessions, allowing our community members to share thoughts for the new plan in general, as well as ideas for specific academic programs that will distinguish App State in the years ahead.

More than 140 faculty and staff participated in these in-person sessions in Boone and Hickory — ensuring that the new plan will reflect a broad range of perspectives across our campuses. I sincerely appreciate the valuable input we have received thus far and am grateful to those of you who participated.


In the Deans Council Winter Retreat earlier this month, Neva and Ashley shared with the deans and vice provosts preliminary insights from the listening sessions. These included:

  • A range of academic program ideas,

  • Strategies to connect pedagogy to career preparation,

  • Skills students will need to succeed in the workforce, and

  • Resources faculty and staff will need to implement new programs and adapt existing ones.

Next steps will include discussions about these and other topics among deans, department chairs and faculty. We expect to finalize the new Strategic Plan for Academic Programming by summer— based on the cumulative input from the App State Community, along with the functional study of Academic Affairs conducted by the Huron Consulting Group last year. 


QEP Update

Through the Pathways to Resilience Quality Enhancement Plan — or QEP — App State is building upon our 125-year history as a thriving academic community rooted in active stewardship of our state’s interconnected economic, cultural and natural resources. 

Led by QEP Director Dr. Shea Tuberty, professor in the Department of Biology, and QEP Associate Director Laura England, practitioner-in-residence in the Department of Sustainable Development, the five-year QEP will integrate the latest climate resilience knowledge and forward-thinking practices into our teaching, research and service activities. The goal of the QEP is to prepare our students to become proactive leaders and innovative problem-solvers in the face of climate adversity.


This spring, Shea and Laura will continue to work closely with Dr. Mike McKenzie, vice provost of academic program development and strategic initiatives. To assist them in these efforts, they have formed an advisory council and an implementation committee with broad faculty and staff representation across App State’s academic departments, divisions and offices — as well as nine students pursuing a range of academic majors. 

I appreciate the leadership of Shea and Laura, as well as the work of these advisory council members, implementation committee members and students — all of  whom will be actively engaged in this important initiative going forward.

In the coming months, the QEP leadership team will share information about how faculty can participate in the QEP effort.


ROI Study - Next Steps

As Chancellor Everts shared in November and again on Friday, findings released in November from the ROI study commissioned by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2021 illustrate the significant value of public higher education in North Carolina. In my December 4th Faculty Senate remarks, I highlighted some of these findings.

As Chancellor Everts shared, each UNC System Chancellor received guidance earlier this month regarding the review of some of our individual academic programs. UNC System universities are reviewing their ROI study results and developing action plans to address programs with low ROI results. They will then report those action plans to UNC System President Peter Hans and the Board of Governors. 

We have assembled an ROI Response Committee that will work with faculty to review the ROI study results for App State and start developing our action plan to report to the president and Board of Governors. That team has representatives from the Provost's Office, the Deans Council, Associate Deans, Council of Chairs, Faculty Senate, Career Development, and Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning. Dr. Jim Westerman is the Faculty Senate member on this team.

Mike McKenzie is managing the process to review the low-ROI programs — defined as those below zero — and develop action plans. 

  • He has already spoken individually to the deans of each of our low-ROI programs — explaining the response form from the System that must be completed for each program.

  • Mike and the deans have also met individually with the department chairs of the relevant programs — and those chairs are in the process of meeting with App State’s Career Development Center — as well as IRAP — to review and apply data these areas have that could be helpful.

  • The chairs and faculty members of identified programs will work together to complete response forms and then submit them to their deans by February 5th. 

  • After the deans review and approve those forms, they will submit them to my office … and the ROI Response Committee will begin reviewing them on February 9th.

  • I will then review the final response forms with Chancellor Everts and other members of App State’s leadership team, as appropriate.

  • The final action plans for each of the low ROI programs must be submitted in the form of a report to President Hans by the first week of March.

As Chancellor Everts shared, the Board of Governors will report comprehensive results of the System institutions’ program reviews to the General Assembly in April. 

As we move forward together into the university’s one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth year, we have much to celebrate and much to look forward to. My leadership team and I look forward to continued collaborations with our Faculty Senate this spring to ensure that our students enjoy the outstanding educational experience that is a hallmark of App State — and that our faculty and staff have the academic resources and support needed to be successful.

This concludes my remarks.


Published: Jan 22, 2024 5:15pm