Provost's Remarks to Faculty Senate - Monday, January 23, 2023

Provost Heather Norris' Remarks to Faculty Senate


Good afternoon, and welcome to the start of the Spring semester! I hope the first week of classes went well for all of you, and that you were able to enjoy a relaxing winter break with family and friends.

Today, I’ll share updates with you in follow up to the Board of Governors meeting last week and will share updates on our latest plans for the Hickory Campus and our new campus-based performance metric.

Update on Hickory

As Chancellor Everts shared in her message to campus on Friday, she provided an update about the Hickory campus to the Board of Governors last week.

She provided a brief history of App State’s longstanding presence in Hickory, begun by Chancellor Borkowski, the predecessor of her predecessor, Chancellor Ken Peacock. In fact, App State began conversations with the System Office and with the City of Hickory about expansion in Hickory more than 20 years ago. I’ll share a few of the slides she shared now. Carrie, can you please bring up the first slide? 

Distance Learning Presence in Hickory

As many of you know, we’ve had what we called a “distance learning” presence in the Hickory area for many years.

We operate the North Carolina Center for Engineering Technology and the Small Business & Technology Development Center in the Hickory area, and we have co-admission programs with Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson and Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton, which provide a seamless pathway for students enrolled at partner community colleges to complete their degree at App State.


In 2018, myFutureNC, a statewide commission on educational attainment, set a goal to ensure that 2 million North Carolinians have a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030. (You may be aware that Chancellor Everts was a commissioner and co-chair of the myFutureNC Higher Education Task Force at the time the commission set the goal, and that UNC System President Peter Hans serves on the myFutureNC Board of Directors, and his leadership with the commission dates back several years, including serving as the board vice-chair.)

Educational Attainment Statistics

  • In Catawba County, 19% of the adult population ages 25–44 have earned a bachelor’s degree; 13% have an associate degree.
  • In Caldwell County, 13% have a bachelor’s degree; 12% have an associate degree.
  • In Burke County, 11% have a bachelor’s degree; 15% have an associate degree.

 Hickory Campus Overview

As I shared with you all at our Faculty Senate meeting in December, we are planning to take a phased approach to rolling out academic programs and student support services in Hickory.

 Listening Sessions

As Chancellor Everts has shared with campus and as I’ve shared with this group, we held multiple listening sessions in spring and summer of 2022. From these sessions and from the website we use to share progress updates on the Hickory Campus, we gathered more than 400 comments. In my November update to you, I shared that the Faculty Hickory Task Force synthesized these comments and made recommendations based on that input.

This slide represents what we heard from the listening sessions, including, in particular, what the Hickory representatives told us they need from their public university. As Chancellor Everts said in her address to the Board of Governors, it is very important we respond to the needs of the area with the programs we offer on the Hickory Campus.

We began implementation plans for our Hickory program offerings in Fall 2022, and our work continues.

Hickory Campus Fall 2023

At the end of last semester, we launched a web page, which lists more than 100 undergraduate majors that will be available for students who wish to begin or continue their 4-year degrees at App State, with the understanding that we will work with students to take courses in Boone or online as needed to complete their degrees on time.

Students who attend the Hickory Campus can live at home and save on room and board costs. (This has consistently been an option for students who live within 30 miles of Boone and live at home.)

As the Chancellor shared in her Friday message, the Hickory campus is now staffed Monday through Friday.

We have begun offering on-site services, and will focus heavily on meeting prospective and current students where they are, in order to ensure their success. Admissions, Enrollment Management and Student Affairs team members are on site now, and services will expand to also include Advising, Career Services, Financial Aid, Transfer Student Support & Tutoring and more.


Enrollment at Hickory Campus

The target for enrollment for the Hickory campus in Fall 2023 is 300-500 students, based on capacity and demand. My team also provided Chancellor Everts with best-case scenario targets for future years, which she shared as preliminary targets. These best-case scenario projections would double enrollment on the Hickory Campus — including students taking online courses utilizing resources and support offered at the Hickory Campus — each year for the first five years.

You may recall that the original timing for the Chancellor’s update to the Board was to be in November, and it was moved to January.

We dialed in the preliminary enrollment projections and the list of available programs in mid-late December. At that time, I shared first year projections with Deans who have programs listed on the website, and they held conversations and scheduled meetings with their Department Chairs and leadership teams.

Vice Provosts Ginn and McKenzie began meeting with Associate Deans as soon as they returned from the winter break, and it’s my understanding that Associate Deans have been working with Department Chairs and faculty on the program offering logistics.

While the impacted Deans were informed prior to the information being shared publicly, the timing was unfortunate, given that faculty were on winter break.

I want to take a moment now to apologize for not providing you with the information about the program offerings and enrollment projections earlier.

Tomorrow, I will meet with the Faculty Hickory Task Force, the members of which are:

  • Stefan Frisch of the Beaver College of Health Sciences and Faculty Senate;
  • Brooke Hofsess of the College of Fine and Applied Arts and the Council of Chairs;
  • Andy Koch of the College of Arts and Sciences and Faculty Senate;
  • Cathy McKinney of the Hayes School of Music. She is also a Graduate Program Director;
  • Pam Shue of the Reich College of Education and Faculty Senate;
  • Jim Westerman of the Walker College of Business and Faculty Senate; AND
  • Sandy Vannoy, whom I’ve added in response to a recommendation from the Task Force to add a Dean to this group.


During this meeting, I will talk with them about ways to better facilitate communication and collaboration with faculty and Faculty Senate, in particular.

Collaboration within Academic Affairs and partnerships across campus will be two keys to our success in Hickory.


College of Education Performance Resolution

You may also be aware of a resolution passed by the Board of Governors at their meeting last week requiring all Colleges of Education within the UNC System to address areas in need of improvement as identified in the legislatively-mandated review in order to comply with the provisions of the Excellent Public Schools Act.

The Reich College of Education takes seriously its mission to educate the educators of our great state. We recognize that literacy is the foundation of learning and a key indicator of lifelong success, and we understand the utmost urgency to improve child literacy in North Carolina.

We recognize our role in advancing the reading improvement goals of the UNC System and the state of North Carolina, and commit that the next review of our programs will indicate full compliance with the legislatively mandated science of reading curriculum, in accordance with the resolution passed by the Board of Governors on January 19.

We are focused on course content that aligns with the science of reading, and we are dedicated to strengthening our students’ ability to teach the science of reading pillars of literacy in a structured way.

I’ll convene a small group with Faculty Senate representation to discuss this further very soon.


System Review of Faculty Policies

Also during the Board of Governors meeting last week, President Hans announced a comprehensive examination of UNC System faculty policies. On Friday, Acting Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer for the UNC System David English sent an FAQ document that provides information regarding this initiative. I’ll share that document with the Faculty Senate executive team. I’ve been asked to submit suggestions for individuals from our campus who can contribute to the review, and I understand that Dr. English is also soliciting recommendations through the UNC Faculty Assembly.

I’ll discuss this further with Senate leadership soon.

The Board also discussed a revision to the Employee Political Activities section of the system’s policy manual.

As you know, the revision has not been passed at this time, and President Hans has also stated publicly that if faculty, staff and students choose to offer an expression of their beliefs on any given topic, they’re within their rights to do so.

I’m happy to discuss this more with you and the Faculty Senate leadership in a small group setting.


Announcing Campus-Based Performance Metric

You will recall that last year, the UNC System undertook a “refresh” of the System Strategic Plan. App State’s five-year strategic plan was also approved by the Board of Trustees in June of 2022.

In September, Chancellor Everts acknowledged that our strategic performance metrics would be tied to those of the UNC System and shared with campus that we can expect new performance metrics for App State to include a strong emphasis on degree efficiency, as well as additional metrics related to addressing mental health, better serving adult students (including veterans and military-affiliated North Carolinians) and reducing student debt.

At the end of last semester, the System provided each campus with campus-based metrics options from which to choose. App State’s campus-based metric will be the Four-Year Graduation Rate for Hispanic/Latine Students.

This metric will allow the university to intensify our collective focus on serving one of the fastest-growing segments not only of App State’s student population, but also within North Carolina and our nation.

It is also aligned with Chancellor Everts’ commitment to diversity and one of the six strategic priorities from our strategic plan: Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Performing well on this new metric will require larger collaborative and innovative efforts among faculty, deans and academic administrators, student support services, the Office of Diversity, the Office of Student Success and many other partners to refine our academic programming, enrollment strategies, and student support services.

I have every confidence that we will succeed in serving this important segment of our student population.

I will provide regular updates on the plans and progress for success with this as well as the other strategic performance metrics:

  • Four-year Graduation Rate
  • Undergraduate Degree Efficiency
  • First Time Student Debt at Graduation
  • Transfer Student Debt at Graduation
  • Education and Related Expenses per Degree

At the February 10th Faculty and Staff meeting, I will provide more extensive information about all of these metrics and our progress towards meeting them.


I will conclude my remarks today by sharing a quote from Chancellor Everts, which she shared last year, and which I continue to appreciate. I quote:

"Successful, major universities grow and change over time and as we continue to innovate in response to the needs of our state and region, we remain true to our founding mission: to provide access to education.

I sincerely appreciate the passion and expertise each of you brings to your teaching, research and service activities and look forward to working with you on a successful spring semester.


Thank you.

Published: Jan 23, 2023 5:01pm