Update from the Provost - Fall 2023

Update from the Provost, Sept. 7


Dear App State Faculty and Staff,

I hope you are enjoying the start of the academic year as much as I am. It’s been great to see our students and faculty on our two campuses — and to celebrate the milestone of the first day of classes (ever!) at our beautiful new Hickory campus. 

With the beginning of the semester underway, I’d like to share an update from the Division of Academic Affairs, including some highlights from the summer, as well as upcoming activities to look for this fall.


Guided by Strategic Plans and Performance Metrics

The work we do in Academic Affairs is guided by App State’s 2022-2027 strategic plan and the UNC System strategic plan, along with the associated performance metrics that Chancellor Everts shared last year:

  • increasing undergraduate student success, as measured by our four-year graduation rate and the proportion of students who graduate compared to the total number of enrolled students;
  • increasing affordability for first-time and transfer students, as measured by their student debt upon graduation;
  • improving university productivity, as measured by expenses per degree; and
  • our four-year graduation rate for Hispanic/Latine students, which was our campus-selected goal. 

Our performance funding will be based on how well we perform in these areas compared to our baseline and stretch goals. 

Highlights from the Summer

This summer was highlighted by a number of activities and accomplishments:

  • Academic Affairs brought several new leaders on board this summer to bolster our academic enterprise:
    • Following a national search, Dr. Ashley Walker Colquitt was named associate vice provost and dean of App State’s Williams School of Graduate Studies.
    • Dr. Vicky Klima, who joined App State in 2003 as a faculty member in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, was named interim dean of App State’s Honors College, following the retirement of Dr. Jeff Vahlbusch.
    • In the area of Student Success, we hired Dr. Shernita Lee as assistant vice provost of student success in University College. In her new role, Shernita will lead a team focused on providing the resources and support outside the classroom that will allow our students to thrive as they develop, commit to and ultimately accomplish their academic goals.
    • Dr. Christine Ogilvie Hendren has been named Interim Vice Provost for Research & Innovation, filling the position formerly held by Dr. Ece Karatan, who is returning to her home department of Biology to carry on her teaching and research.
    • The Office of International Education and Development is now reporting to Vice Provost Mark Ginn, and Dr. Jesse Lutabingwa is re-joining his home department of Government and Justice Studies.
  • The Provost’s Office hosted the 2023 Chancellor's Chairs Summer Institute. Since 2021, we’ve held this program, which includes an orientation for new chairs as well as a two-week professional development program for all academic department chairs, and offers opportunities for academic department chairs to engage with one another for in-depth discussions about topics relevant to their leadership roles. During this summer’s institute, Chancellor Everts and her leadership team developed presentations, joined discussions and engaged in individual conversations with the chairs, and the feedback we received indicated it was a valuable opportunity for relationship building and meaningful, engaging conversation. Thank you to all the chairs who participated, and to Senior Vice Provost Neva Specht for her work in organizing the institute.
  • The Provost’s Office also hosted new faculty orientations in Boone and in Hickory, along with orientations for all faculty teaching in Hickory. Special thanks to our partners in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for Student Success for their expertise in planning and hosting these activities.


Upcoming Initiatives for the Fall Semester

This semester, you can expect to hear outcomes from a number of initiatives that are underway:

  • The university’s first Strategic Plan for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities has been in development since the 2022-23 academic year. The plan, which was developed through an inclusive, iterative process that reflects the diverse perspectives of the App State Community, has four goals supported by strategies and action items. That process — and the many participants and contributors in this effort — are detailed on the Strategic Plan for Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities webpage.

We will share the final version of the plan with the university community in the coming weeks, including next steps for implementation, including ways faculty and staff can engage with the implementation process. I appreciate the work of the steering committee and working group members for their leadership on this effort — and to all of you who have contributed so far.

  • Based on feedback received from the deans in Academic Affairs, the Provost’s Office is creating enhanced leadership development support opportunities, including for program directors, assistant chairs and associate deans.
  • The Academic Affairs functional study that I announced in May, is underway. I sincerely appreciate those of you who have contributed to this effort thus far — either through the questionnaire or focus groups. We expect to receive a report of key findings in the coming weeks, after which we will begin sharing findings and determining next steps. 

My leadership team and I look forward to continued collaborations with our many partners in the Academic Affairs Division and beyond 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.




Heather Hulburt Norris
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor




Published: Sep 8, 2023 2:22pm