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From a New Mountaineer Campus to a Solar-Powered Championship: Reflections on an App State Year of Continued Innovation

As the Appalachian State University Community celebrates its Fall 2021 graduates, it also celebrates another year of Mountaineer innovation and progress, including several firsts and many sustained successes under the leadership of Chancellor Sheri Everts.

The university lauded its largest enrollment to date — with 20,641 students in fall 2021 — and a record high enrollment of students who identify as underrepresented.

The university announced its future App State Hickory Campus in November, which Everts said has the “potential to be the most significant advancement in App State history” since the university became a University of North Carolina System institution in 1967.

App State stepped up to become a COVID-19 vaccination site — administering more than 6,000 vaccine doses since hosting its first community clinic in March — and honored the Class of 2020 with a belated in-person commencement ceremony in September. The university also unveiled its first residence hall dedicated to transfer students.

Team Sunergy, App State’s solar vehicle team, returned to the podium with a first-place win in the Cruiser Class at the 2021 American Solar Challenge and a second-place finish at the 2021 Formula Sun Grand Prix.

Read on to learn more about App State’s 122nd year of educational leadership.

Students Put Their Trust in App State During Pandemic: Landmark Enrollment of 20,641 Students, Record High Number of Underrepresented Students

Appalachian State University announces a landmark enrollment of 20,641 students in fall 2021 — the largest enrollment to date — which includes historic numbers of first-year and underrepresented students. The 3.1% increase in overall enrollment supports the university’s continued slow and steady growth since 2014.

“The data speak directly to the dedication of our faculty and staff in supporting and encouraging future generations of Mountaineers,” said App State Chancellor Sheri Everts. “Our steady increases in the enrollment of underrepresented and transfer students reflect our university’s commitment to making higher education accessible for all students.”

She continued, “These enrollment successes are particularly meaningful since they were accomplished amid the immense challenges presented by a global pandemic.”

App State has a total of 4,099 first-year students, marking the first time the university has enrolled more than 4,000 first-year students. Of note, underrepresented students compose 19.1% of the total first-year population, or 784 students, an increase of 5.7% since 2020.

App State’s Team Sunergy Wins Big in US Solar Racing Challenge — No. 1 in Cruiser Class

Solar-powered ROSE glides by a wind farm during the first leg of the 2021 American Solar Challenge. Photo courtesy of Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University’s solar vehicle team, Team Sunergy, blazed through the 2021 American Solar Challenge (ASC) — finishing in first place for multiple-occupant vehicles (MOV), winning all three stages of the race from Missouri to New Mexico and clocking a total of 964.8 miles. The team also took top awards for teamwork and electrical design.

App State Chancellor Sheri Everts applauded Team Sunergy, saying they “are the epitome of true Mountaineer spirit. Our App State team excelled among a roster of highly elite institutions. I am extraordinarily proud of their ingenuity, perseverance and teamwork.”

App State was one of nine university teams — including MIT, University of California, Berkeley, and Georgia Tech — that qualified to compete and among only two universities that do not offer engineering programs. Six of the vehicles were new this year; three, including App State’s, had been in ASC competitions before.

Team Sunergy began in fall 2013 as a class project to build a solar-powered golf cart and developed into an interdisciplinary team of App State students, faculty and staff working together to research and develop solar-powered race cars. Supported by faculty from its inception, it was institutionalized and funded by Chancellor Everts — recognized as the team’s No. 1 fan. Team Sunergy is recognized by the international solar racing community.

App State Purchases 5-Story Building, 15-Plus Acres to Establish Hickory Campus

Chancellor Sheri Everts, sixth from right, poses with her leadership team inside the new App State Hickory Campus building on Nov. 19. Photo courtesy of Appalachian State University.

Appalachian State University announced the purchase of a 225,800-square-foot building to establish the App State Hickory Campus in the state’s largest metro area without a public university.

The former Corning Optical Communications building at 800 17th St. NW in Hickory is five stories and is larger than any building on App State’s Boone campus. The building sits on 15.7 acres of land and features large open spaces, a cafeteria and nearly 700 parking spaces.

“Hickory is a vibrant, growing city, just a short drive from Boone, that offers opportunities for App State to continue the mission we have had since 1899 — to increase access to education,” Chancellor Sheri Everts said at an event announcing the purchase.

Recognizing that App State’s growth potential in Boone is limited, the university has been looking for areas that have growth capacity and market potential for both on-campus and online programs. The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metro Area — with a population of more than 370,000 — was identified as the largest metro area in North Carolina without a state university presence.

Reimagined App State Residence Hall to Offer Community for Transfer Students

An aerial view of Appalachian State University’s Appalachian Panhellenic Hall, which the university has designated for transfer students. Photo courtesy of Appalachian State University

Students who are transferring into Appalachian State University will have the opportunity to live in the university’s first residence hall designated for transfer students.

“We are committed to supporting the distinct needs of both new and continuing transfer students,” said App State Chancellor Sheri Everts. “Our transfer students enrich campus with varying perspectives, backgrounds and experiences, and they have distinct needs as they pursue their educational goals. We actively work to streamline and expand transfer-specific services, including housing, and these efforts support our strategic enrollment and retention initiatives identified as part of the University of North Carolina System’s strategic plan. Importantly, for some of our transfer students, a strong residential component is central to their academic experience.”

The transfer hall — currently known as Appalachian Panhellenic Hall — can accommodate 248 students in hotel-style rooms. It features laundry facilities, air conditioning, a large lobby, meeting spaces, a communal kitchen and a university-owned market. The building is slated to be re-named.

“With Chancellor Everts’ support, we have prioritized increasing our housing options for transfer students,” said J.J. Brown, App State’s vice chancellor for student affairs. “We want our transfer students to have a true and meaningful Appalachian Experience. Providing a shared community is a natural extension of the intentional services and resources we provide to help them make App State their home.”

Dr. Heather Hulburt Norris named provost and executive vice chancellor at App State

Dr. Heather Hulburt Norris has been named provost and executive vice chancellor at Appalachian State University, effective May 7. Photo by Marie Freeman

Dr. Heather Hulburt Norris has been named provost and executive vice chancellor at Appalachian State University, effective May 7. Norris assumed the role in an interim capacity on Feb. 10, 2020.

“Heather’s leadership throughout the pandemic has been exceptional,” said App State Chancellor Sheri Everts. “She has risen to each challenge, building consensus, leading by example and fostering innovation and creative solutions under immensely difficult circumstances.”

Norris joined App State as a faculty member in the Walker College of Business in the fall of 2003, in the Department of Finance, Banking and Insurance. She was named assistant dean for undergraduate programs in 2005, associate dean for undergraduate programs and administration in 2008, senior associate dean in 2012, acting dean in 2014 and interim dean in 2016. In July 2016, following a national search, Norris was named permanent dean of the Walker College.

“Heather’s career has been characterized by her strong, collaborative leadership and service to App State and the greater community,” Everts said. “She is an inspiration to the faculty, staff and administrators who have worked alongside her, as well as the students she has taught and mentored in her time here. She has earned respect and trust across campus, and I appreciate her passion for advancing the success of our great university.”

Prior to App State, Norris served on the faculty at Bowling Green State University, Pennsylvania State University and West Virginia University. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in finance from James Madison University, as well as master’s and Ph.D. degrees in finance from Penn State.

App State Police develops new unit to specialize in diversity, inclusion and community engagement

The Appalachian Police Department (APD), Appalachian State University’s official policing agency, has created a new Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement Unit to help build meaningful relationships and trust between APD officers and campus and community members from underrepresented groups.

APD Officer Cashae Cook ’14, who has served on the APD force since 2018, was appointed to her new role as the unit’s diversity, inclusion and community engagement officer in January.

“The introduction of this unit and Cashae’s leadership extend APD’s commitment to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion — enhancing the department’s mission to equitably serve everyone on campus,” said Andy Stephenson, App State’s director of public safety and chief of police.

The unit’s development and specialization also align with strategic university initiatives put in place by Chancellor Sheri Everts upon her arrival at App State in 2014, including the creation of programs designed to make campus equally welcoming for everyone and the implementation and improvement of services and resources to attract and support a diverse campus community. The university’s Appalachian Police Officer Development Program — initiated by APD in 2018 to facilitate reform and have significant, positive impact on the policing profession — also aligns with these initiatives.

App State leads climate research at the top of the world

Dr. Baker Perry, professor in Appalachian State University’s Department of Geography and Planning, right, and his expedition team member Dr. Tom Matthews, work on the automated weather station at the Mount Everest Base Camp. Perry and Matthews were members of the 2019 National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition. Learn more at www.natgeo.com/everest. Photo by Freddie Wilkinson, National Geographic.

Appalachian State University has stepped onto the world stage as the lead institution to coordinate the operation and maintenance of weather stations at the highest elevation on the planet — Mount Everest. Managing the stations and the data transmitted — funded by the National Geographic Society (NGS) — is creating new opportunities on App State’s campus and impacting climate research worldwide.

Dr. Baker Perry, professor in App State’s Department of Geography and Planning, was part of the 2019 National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition team that installed the network of meteorological stations on Mount Everest. This installation was recently recognized in the Guinness World Records book as the highest altitude weather station on land.

Now Perry, who is recognized as one of the world’s top experts in high altitude precipitation and climate change, continues the research in collaboration with partners from the installation expedition.

Weather data from the stations — including real-time wind, temperature and precipitation measures — are improving climber safety on the main Mount Everest climbing routes. Longer term, the data are enabling scientists to learn more about climate at high altitudes — which affects everything from glacier health, to water supply, to agricultural growing seasons, Perry said.

Another benefit of the Mount Everest work occurs in the classroom. Perry said, “I incorporate our findings and experiences in my teaching, and the students at App State connect what we’re doing on Mount Everest to what they’re learning about climate change and climate science.”

App State mourns the passing of former Chancellor John E. Thomas

Former Appalachian State University Chancellor John E. Thomas outside Appalachian State University’s John E. Thomas Hall. Photo by Mike Rominger

John E. Thomas, who served as Appalachian State University’s chancellor from 1979–93, died Thursday, Sept. 2, at the age of 90.

“Words cannot adequately express the profound impact the passing of Dr. John Thomas has on the Appalachian Community,” said App State Chancellor Sheri Everts. “He was the embodiment of what it means to be a Mountaineer: kind, service-oriented and community-focused.

“His legacy of innovation — and his strong belief that teaching and research work hand in hand — will be upheld on our campus for centuries to come. He will forever occupy a special place in my heart and in the heart of our campus community.”

As a former chancellor, Thomas is remembered for recruiting a first-rate faculty — believing that strong, effective teaching should be supported by research and community service. John E. Thomas Hall on App State’s campus is named in his honor.

Honoring the legacy of a distinguished Mountaineer

Former Appalachian State University head football coach Jerry Moore, second from right, mimics the pose of the bronze statue in his likeness, which was unveiled during the dedication of Jerry Moore Plaza in front of App State’s Kidd Brewer Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 18. Chancellor Sheri Everts, far left, applauds. App State Director of Athletics Doug Gillin is pictured at far right. Photo by Chase Reynolds

Excitement was electric in the air on Saturday, Sept. 18, as the Jerry Moore Plaza was dedicated and its eponymous statue unveiled in the shadow of Appalachian State University’s Kidd Brewer Stadium.

The event took place just a couple of hours before kickoff of the Mountaineers’ home opener football game — a fitting time to honor the coach who impacted scores of young student-athletes, including the Mountaineers’ current head football coach, Shawn Clark, who played for Moore in the late 1990s.

App State Chancellor Sheri Everts lauded Moore’s legacy both on and off the field — from being named to the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame and earning multiple Coach of the Year honors, to receiving the prestigious North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine award.

Of Moore, Everts said, “He leads and inspires. He is tough yet fair, and, above all, he helps lift up those around him as they pursue their dreams.”

Moore served as App State’s head football coach from 1989 to 2012, leading the Mountaineers to three consecutive national championships and 23 winning seasons in 24 years.

‘The future of policing’ — 14 recruits graduate from Appalachian Police Academy

The 2021 Recruit Class of Appalachian State University’s Police Officer Development Program gathers outside Rosen Concert Hall before the Sept. 11 graduation ceremony. Pictured, from left to right, are (front row) Captain K.C. Mitchell, Haley Bain, Emylee Rhodes, Hailey Dehn and Master Police Officer Bettina Dunn; (second row) Holly Swofford, Kira Green and Chasey Baremor; (third row) Anthony Ross and Ryan Carroll; (fourth row) Brooks Tipton, Skye Clark and Michael Smuda; (fifth row) Garrett Jones, Erica Barley and Justin Allegretto. Photo by Anna Oakes

Fourteen new recruits have graduated from Appalachian State University’s Police Officer Development Program and are on their way to entering the criminal justice job market with college degrees, North Carolina law enforcement certification and up to two years of policing experience.

On Sept. 11 at Rosen Concert Hall, the recruits’ family members and friends filled the auditorium as App State’s Police Department (APD) recognized its fourth class of graduates from the program’s summer Appalachian Police Academy.

In 2018, under the leadership of Chancellor Sheri Everts, Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety Andy Stephenson initiated the Appalachian Police Officer Development Program (APDP) to equip students with the knowledge, skills and training to become police officers, all while they are completing their undergraduate or graduate degrees. The program — the only one of its kind in North Carolina and the second in the nation — is open to all full-time App State students regardless of major.

“I congratulate the newest graduates of the Appalachian Police Academy,” Everts said. “Through this innovative program, our police academy graduates receive extensive training and hands-on experience so they are prepared to protect and serve communities across North Carolina. These students and this program are the future of policing, and we are proud App State is leading the way.”

“Our 2021 recruits have done an outstanding job completing their training in spite of the COVID-19 restrictions that made in-person learning especially challenging,” Stephenson said, adding that graduates persevered and overcame many obstacles during their training to become certified North Carolina police officers.

App Builds a Home breaks ground on 3rd ‘safe and affordable home’

Appalachian State University’s App Builds a Home (ABAH) and Watauga County Habitat for Humanity hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 6 to mark the beginning of the third ABAH build. Kim Paterno, right, is the partner family for the home. Paterno, who is pictured with her sister, Beth Marlowe, said she is “beyond grateful” for the opportunity to have a safe and affordable home at this time in her life. Photo submitted

The sun shone on a Nov. 6 groundbreaking ceremony hosted by App Builds a Home (ABAH) and Watauga County Habitat for Humanity — marking the beginning of the third build since Appalachian State University partnered with Watauga Habitat in 2018 to build homes with local families.

Mackenzie Millett, ABAH student co-director, described the groundbreaking as a “defining and life-changing moment” for the new homeowner, as well as for herself.

“It’s the moment we shovel some dirt and call it the start of a new house,” Millett said. “But really, it marks the beginning of someone living in a safe and affordable home.”

Millett, a senior Honors College student from Amelia Island, Florida, with an exercise science major and a general business minor, has volunteered with ABAH since her first semester at App State. “The experience with ABAH has helped define who I am,” Millett shared.

Student participation in ABAH has grown in its third year. “Because students are aware of the shortage of affordable housing in the community, more people are looking to participate either by joining our team, hosting a fundraiser, volunteering at the build site or simply donating,” she said.

The fundraising goal for the third home, designated for partner homeowner Kim Paterno, is $50,000. Paterno, who raised her daughter as a single mother, is employed in Boone and has served as a volunteer for Watauga Habitat. As a Habitat for Humanity partner family, she will invest “sweat equity” by participating in the construction of her home and pay a monthly, no-interest mortgage.

App State partners with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to prepare equity-focused school leaders

Appalachian State University has partnered with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS) as part of a five-year, $102 million initiative to prepare school principals who are capable of advancing equity in education.

The Equity-Centered Pipeline Initiative, sponsored by the Wallace Foundation, supports eight large, high-needs school districts in building evidence-based principal pipelines — with the goal of developing principals who can advance each district’s own vision of equity.

“Strong principal pipelines benefit not only the schools, their districts and their students, but higher education institutions as well through informed practice and a network of support,” said Dr. Melba Spooner, dean of App State’s Reich College of Education (RCOE).

Research demonstrates that effective principals have a positive impact on students and schools, making successful investments in principals highly cost-effective. A recent review of evidence on principals identified the need to understand successful strategies for developing and selecting high-quality principals — those with the necessary skills and approaches to be effective, overall, and to be effective particularly for diverse students.

Each of the initiative’s district partnership teams will receive grants totaling $8.2 million over the five-year period, contingent on successful renewal each year. The work, which began this fall, will be led locally by each district in partnership with community organizations, leader preparation programs of two universities and the state education agency. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the state’s Department of Public Instruction join App State on the WS/FCS district partnership team.