Last Updated on September 3, 2021 1:56 pm
Friday, September 3, 2021
It is with profound sadness that I share Dr. John E. Thomas passed away yesterday. A beloved member of our campus community, he served as chancellor of App State from 1979–1993. 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 championed the importance of teaching, research and service and, for so many who knew him, he was the embodiment of what it means to be a Mountaineer: kind, thoughtful and community-focused. For me, personally, he was also a trusted mentor and dear friend. Through conversations over a cup of coffee, surprise visits and lighthearted emails, we stayed engaged in one another’s lives for nearly a decade. I will always treasure the time I spent with him. He will forever occupy a special place in my heart and the heart of our campus community.
Earlier this week, we welcomed UNC System President Peter Hans to our campus. He met with students, faculty and leaders from across the university, who put together engaging tours and presentations underscoring why App State is the premier public undergraduate university in the Southeast. I am incredibly proud of all President Hans saw firsthand: our high-quality academic programs, our impressive facilities and, most importantly, our faculty, staff and students, who are truly the heart of our university. As we shared with President Hans what we have accomplished, we also demonstrated the potential our campus has to achieve so much more with a funding model that matches our caliber and the distinction we have earned.
We remain vigilant and data-driven in our approach to managing the effects of the pandemic. Our goal is to keep classes in person and, at this time, we have no plans to move our in-person classes online. We will continue making data-driven decisions, informed by public health guidance.
- The vaccination rates of our students (currently 52%) and employees (currently 89%) are increasing and exceed those of Watauga County.
- So far this week, we have tested 1,345 people, with a positivity rate of 5%, well below North Carolina’s latest reported positivity rate of 12.6% and below the national rate of 7.7%.
- None of the active cases in our students, faculty or staff are hospitalized.
- We will continue to keep the university community informed via weekly messages from me, our campus operations updates and our COVID data dashboard.
As positivity rates and hospitalizations rise across the state, the key to managing the severity of the impact is the COVID vaccine. We are focused on vaccinating our campus community because vaccinated individuals are less likely to contract COVID and if they do contract it, they are less likely to be hospitalized, experience long-term effects and die of COVID-19. The vaccine reduces the severity of the illness, lowers the stress on our medical system and allows the university, our community and our state to remain open and fully functional.
To gain a more complete picture of the spread of COVID-19 on campus, we will adjust our testing strategy, beginning next week. Rather than placing those who have not reported their fully vaccinated status into a randomized testing pool, beginning next week everyone who has not reported their status as fully vaccinated will be required to get tested each week. Our weekly COVID-19 testing events held each Wednesday are one opportunity to fulfill this requirement, and they are also open to any student, faculty or staff member who would like to get tested, regardless of vaccination status.
If you are not yet fully vaccinated, or if you have not yet reported your vaccination status, please do so as quickly as possible.
Last Friday marked the UNC System’s census day, during which we officially determined our enrollment for the 2021–22 academic year. I am pleased to share some remarkable milestones that demonstrate that students have put their trust in App State during the pandemic. In particular, our landmark total enrollment of 20,641 and our steady increases in the enrollment of underrepresented, transfer and App State Online students reflect our university’s commitment to making higher education accessible for all students.
- First-year enrollment growth has broken a new record at more than 4,000 students, undergraduate enrollment is up nearly 3%, and graduate student and App State Online enrollment are each up more than 6% from 2020.
- Underrepresented student enrollment has reached an historic high. Just over 19% of the total first-year population identifies as underrepresented, an increase of 5.7% since last year. We have more than doubled our first-year underrepresented enrollment since 2014 and, in the same time period, we have increased our total underrepresented student population by 66%.
- Enrollment from rural populations has surpassed our goals three years early with 34.3% of in-state, degree-seeking undergraduate students from rural populations. First-generation undergraduate students compose 32% of the undergraduate student body.
- The transfer student population has grown by nearly 5% since last year.
Our slow and steady growth since 2014 is critically important to the future of App State. It directly impacts our financial stability and our ability to attract and retain high-caliber students who will go on to make positive contributions to North Carolina’s workforce and far beyond.
Over the last week, Mountaineers from near and far engaged in the Queen City Takeover, which culminated with last night’s App State football game against East Carolina University. It was incredible to see Bank of America Stadium filled with black and gold fans cheering on our team — an experience topped only by our first win of the season! We look forward to many more this season!
Each year, new generations of Mountaineers entrust our university with their education. Our faculty and staff foster lifelong relationships with these students as they help shape their Appalachian Experience. We are grateful for the opportunity to guide our students as they grow personally and professionally — now and long into their futures.
Sheri Everts, Chancellor