Provost's Remarks at Fall Semester Faculty and Staff Meeting

I would like to start by recognizing some of the outstanding faculty accomplishments and achievements over the past year. This list is representative of all the great accomplishments of our 900 faculty members, and by mentioning the outstanding work by faculty in each college, school and library, I intend to honor all of you.

  • In the College of Arts and Sciences, Phillip Ardoin, the chair of Government and Justice Studies and Paul Gronke, the Dan German Distinguished Visiting Professor of Government and Justice Studies, will serve as co-editors of the journal PS: Political Science and Politics. This is the journal of record for American Political Science Association and the Political Science Profession. Phillip and Paul are two examples of over 75 faculty members who are editors, associate editors, special guest editors or members of editorial boards. Currently at Appalachian, we have 14 editorial offices on our campus.
  • Chad Everhart, C.A. Debelius, Jeff Ramsdell, Jamie Russell, and Ok-Youn Yu, all from the College of Fine and Applied Arts, were awarded a National Science Foundation grant for the "IDEXlab or the Integrative Design Experience Laboratory." The IDEXlab is a pilot curriculum funded through a NSF grant designed to reposition the pedagogical approach to the study of the built environment in higher education through design-build-analysis studios that incorporate learning objectives from several courses into a collaborative project environment focused on experiential learning.
  • From the College of Health Sciences, Dr. Sarah Jordan, Professor of Nutrition and Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Health Care Management, was appointed to the Board of the North Carolina Institute for Medicine.
  • In the Hayes School of Music, Suzi Mills, professor/coordinator of music education, was selected as an American Council on Education Fellow for 2014-2015. She is the second fellow to be chosen in the last two years from Appalachian.
  • Allan Scherlen and Xiaorong Shao, from the Library, traveled to China in early summer with four faculty members to deliver lectures and lead discussions during American Cultural Week at two Chinese universities. The theme of the cultural week and the second year of the American Cultural Center grant is "People and Nature for a Sustainable Future" which ties in well with Appalachian State's global learning and sustainability outreach goals.
  • Baker Perry, Associate Professor of Geography, received an NSF CAREER Grant for his project "Multiscale Investigations of Tropical Andean Precipitation." This grant provides support for Baker, our students, and involves members of the community in his work in Peru.
  • Cindy McGaha and Andrea Anderson from the Reich College of Education are opening an Appalachian Lucy Brock Classroom at Parkway School. This will serve children in Watauga County who are in need of Pre-Kindergarten services. It will significantly expand the reach of the early childhood laboratory.
  • In the Walker College of Business, Jim Westerman, Professor of Management, was awarded the Holshouser Ethics Professorship. Jim's research on ethics has won a number of awards from the Academy of Management.
  • The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill sponsors BRIDGES, a leadership academy for women faculty and senior administrative staff. The program provides an intensive professional development opportunity for women who seek to strengthen their academic leadership capabilities. Appalachian State University had four faculty members accepted for the fall of 2014. They are:
    • Jennifer Burris, Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director in Physics and Astronomy;
    • Sue Edwards, Professor and Chairperson in Biology;
    • Kelly McBride, Associate Professor and Lead Librarian for Information Literacy in the Library; and
    • Lauren Renkert, Associate Professor and Chair in Social Work.
  • There are so many transitions this time of year with new freshmen, new faculty and staff, and this year a new Chancellor. I wanted to recognize a group of faculty who had another type of major transition. In March, the Board of Trustees approved emeritus or emerita status for 19 members of our faculty. The individuals in the group have made significant contributions to Appalachian, to their academic fields, and, most importantly, to our students. My congratulations to all new emeriti faculty. You will find a complete list of names on the Academic Affairs News and Events website.

We offer our congratulations and thanks to the individuals mentioned today. They are a few of the examples of all the faculty who contribute to Appalachian's excellence in teaching, research and service.

I would like to share some thoughts about the new strategic plan. Our plan was approved by the Board of Trustees in March and we are in the process of developing a business plan for implementation of the six strategic directions. We titled this plan, "The Appalachian Experience: Envisioning a Just and Sustainable Future" and we hope to use it to renew and strengthen our commitment to sustainability, but also to lead us in becoming an even more relevant institution. The plan is built on the framework of sustainability and offers us guidance on energy, environment, economics and social justice initiatives. We have the chance to further transform our campus and educate students to become global citizens who understand their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all.

The work on the strategic plan was strengthened by the 2013 Quality Enhancement Plan on Global Learning, titled, "A World of Opportunities for Appalachian Students." That plan, along with our strong service learning outreach, lends real significance to the idea that we provide opportunities for our students to "make local to global connections."

Our plan calls upon us to be purposeful about living upstream – a metaphor for life. Larry Shinn, the former president of Berea College, shared that living and thinking upstream requires a mindset that focuses on our actions as the legacy we put in the stream for future generations. Shinn says: "we must act as though we are inextricably linked with our natural environment and the people who share it with us now – and in the future."

The sustainability platform came about from our long term commitment to sustainability as well as from input from faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and the community. The location of our campus in the beautiful High Country of western North Carolina draws students to our campus but the quality of the academic experience offered by our faculty and staff is what keeps them here and what changes them forever.

Our statement of sustainability creates a significant challenge and a far-reaching opportunity for Appalachian. The first part of the statement reads: Sustainability at Appalachian is not a trend, it is a tradition. We developed the statement as a way to expand the conversation from care of the environment to care for the planet and its people. When we add the phrase, "...and its people", we move beyond a single focus on the environment to encompass all the concepts of social justice, including equity, equality, civility, human rights, quality of life, health, education and more.

We have an obligation to educate our students to understand their roles in creating sustainable societies. Our graduates, regardless of their disciplinary study, should become leaders in all aspects of sustainability. We want them to make connections through the transformational liberal arts experience. Our students must understand the moral imperative for equity and inclusion. We want, as our mission statement states – to create rich environments where our students thrive. We want them eager to acquire and create knowledge and to act with passion and determination. Our work here matters – it matters to our students, our state and our world – for our future.

We seek to educate our students to be leaders and innovators. We have a long history of caring for the environment. We have actively reduced, reused and recycled for many years. We have reduced our energy costs significantly. However, even if we continue to successfully manage our energy resources – which is a significant accomplishment at Appalachian – our success is limited. We must have graduates leaving the campus with sustainability as a guiding value. This can only be accomplished through academic and co-curricular experiences so students learn to look beyond their own experiences and to understand the circumstances of others. We remain committed to offering truly transformational experiences, and a more focused attention on the concepts of sustainability, broadly defined, will allow our campus to stand out in terms of a quality, liberal arts-based education.

I am optimistic about the opportunities that the plan will provide. We have already begun considering which initiatives to focus on first. I'll share a few of those with you.

  1. A group of faculty with broad interests in social justice has been invited to come together to develop a Social Justice Collaborative, starting first with the academic and research missions and then moving into service. We have faculty in the library, colleges and schools with expertise in many aspects of social justice: equity, equality, human rights, food security, access to education, access to clean water, health and a focus on improved quality of life for all. We hope to include the campus – faculty, staff and students – as well as the community.
  2. The Office of Research will be hiring the first University Statistician as a half-time assignment for a faculty member. This individual will be responsible for providing statistical input in the design, execution, and analysis of scientifically conducted studies for research grant/contract preparation.
  3. ITS and Cisco Systems are partnering to address the need for research computing resources at Appalachian. Cisco is donating equipment that faculty will be able to access when their research requires database and storage space, web server resources or more intensive high performance computing resources. The partnership includes support for two graduate assistants to work with faculty on technology support needs.

The plan challenges us to create more connectedness between specific disciplines and the broad principles of sustainability. We know that students who understand the broad concepts of sustainability and how they apply to their lives also have a deep knowledge of history, an appreciation of great literature and the arts as well as specific disciplinary knowledge. The accounting student understands the triple bottom line and the importance of sustainable business concepts. Our health care students recognize their commitment to improving the health and quality of life of others. Our education students know they must advocate for social justice and equity in education in their communities.

I would like to conclude my remarks with an excerpt from Anthony Cortese, former Senior Fellow of Second Nature, from the book titled "Boldly Sustainable." Cortese writes:

"Now, imagine that all current and future generations have the opportunity to pursue meaningful work and realize their full potential. Imagine that we have dramatically reduced resource consumption, pollution and waste so that everyone – including those in the developing world and poorer communities within the United States – are healthy and enjoy a decent quality of life. Imagine that communities are strong and vibrant because they celebrate cultural diversity, encourage collaboration and participation in governance, and emphasize quality of life over consumption of stuff. Imagine a future in which we have increased the education and the social and economic status of women worldwide, resulting in stabilization of the population at a level that is within the earth's carrying capacity. Think of what it could be like if globalization was humanized to support democracy, human rights and economic opportunity for everyone."

For this plan to be a living guide to the campus, we must devote resources – time, talent and funding – to achieve the strategic directions. I believe that we are committed to the creation of a true culture of sustainability on our campus that models to our students and our communities, not only our commitments, but our actions to create a more Just and Sustainable Future. I look forward to working with each of you in 2014-15 and with our strong faculty and staff senates, advisory councils, task force groups, committees and of course, the new Chancellor. The work of the university is always complex but the Appalachian community has the imagination, creativity, talent and passion to succeed.

Thank you.

Published: Aug 18, 2014 12:00pm

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