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Address by Chancellor Francis T. Borkowski

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the 103rd academic year of Appalachian State University. I am pleased to report to you this morning on the State of the University, as I do every year at the beginning of the fall term. I hope and trust that each of you had a rewarding summer.

I particularly want to welcome into the Appalachian family our new faculty and staff who are with us today for the first time. Would each of you please stand and be recognized. You have joined a university with a great heritage of education, scholarship and research, and public service ? and a university that I believe has a strong future.

A year ago, when I cited a “cloud of uncertainty ahead” in my opening address, little did I realize the magnitude of the horrific events that we would soon encounter as a nation and as individuals —both in our private lives and in our various roles at Appalachian. Certainly the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the global war on terrorism that followed have changed life, as most of us have known it. However, in my mind, these events also have strengthened the world’s resolve against such violence and caused many Americans to reexamine their personal values and beliefs.

At Appalachian, staff at the Counseling Center and Health Services responded to concerns of many students following these events, while several student organizations raised money for relief efforts. Meanwhile, the Appalachian Police Department was called upon to investigate more than 15 “suspicious white powder” cases and to implement additional campus security measures.

The university community also has developed an ongoing relationship with the family of Doug Miller, a fallen New York City firefighter. Appalachian has essentially adopted Laurie Miller and her three daughters who were warmly received on campus for a few days in July.

Those are just a few examples of how events that occurred hundreds of miles away have influenced the learning environment here at Appalachian. The anniversary of this tragedy will be commemorated in several events planned on campus and in the community during next few weeks, and I hope each of you will participate, as you deem appropriate.

At the same time, North Carolina and at least 40 other states have seen revenues decline and budget problems only intensify as the economy slumped further in the months following September. In fact, 45 states, including Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina, have cut their higher education budgets in recent months. You may recall that Appalachian last year reverted approximately $4.7 million—or 5.43 percent—of our state appropriation as North Carolina’s budget deficit increased dramatically last year. Given the flexibility to manage such cuts locally, our focus has continued to be two-pronged:

protect our people to the greatest extent possible and, by doing so, protect the quality of an Appalachian education as well as student access.

To accomplish these objectives, dozens of vacant positions have gone unfilled, needed repairs and equipment purchases have been delayed, and travel and other expenses have been reduced substantially. This summer has been very difficult and, frankly, stressful for all of us. During the past several months, we have been awaiting budget action by the General Assembly and are currently operating without a budget ? receiving instead a month-to-month operational allotment. Based on the Senate and House versions of the state budget, which remain to be reconciled, we anticipate additional budget reductions in the range of 3 percent this year and offset somewhat by full funding for enrollment increases. Meanwhile, students and parents are coping with tuition and fee increases amounting to nearly $1,000 for in-state students and even more for out-of-state students.

In short, while the past year was one of perseverance at Appalachian, we accomplished so much more than merely sustaining the university. I want to thank each of you for your understanding and your extra efforts to help preserve, as well as advance, the campus learning environment in the face of such adversity and uncertainty.

For several years, Appalachian has been increasingly recognized as one of the best public comprehensive universities in the South. Being named a TIME magazine “College of the Year” last fall in recognition of Appalachian’s freshman learning programs certainly enhanced Appalachian’s reputation both nationally and internationally. We envision a premier comprehensive university — second to none among our peers — and I believe this objective is becoming more evident as the university gains such prominence for its learning programs, scholarship and creative work, and outreach initiatives. Certainly such recognition reflects both your efforts and the work of many people over many years.

Let me cite several of Appalachian’s other accomplishments that highlighted this past year:

  • Appalachian received resounding praise from members of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ (SACS) accreditation review team following its campus visit in April. The Review Committee noted the university’s quality academic programs and educational experiences, praised the university’s learning communities that so enrich our students’ college experience, and applauded the university’s “longstanding and continued commitment to quality undergraduate education.”

    The final report will be issued this fall. Let me thank everyone who devoted considerable time and personal effort toward the successful completion of the SACS study. Your work will be most important in helping set strategic priorities, especially as we confront diminishing financial resources, and will only strengthen our strong university.

  • The SACS Committee’s findings were consistent with those of a number of other organizations, which assessed the quality of one or more of our programs during the year.

    For example, while achieving NCATE re-accreditation of all teacher education programs for the next five years, the Reich College of Education also completed the North Carolina Institution of Higher Education Performance Report with an exemplary rating from the state Board of Education for the third straight year.

  • The performance of Appalachian students on professional qualifying examinations is another good measure of teaching effectiveness. Graduates of the dietetics program, for example, passed the test at a rate of 91 percent. Accounting students taking the CPA exam for the first time passed at least two sections of it at a rate of 90 percent, with a remarkable 40 percent of them successfully completing all four parts.
  • The number of students engaged in community service through the Service-Learning Program doubled from the previous year to include more than 1,000 students in 39 classes, working with some 80 local agencies.
  • The university’s “learning communities” which represent an excellent example of Appalachian’s commitment to innovative undergraduate education have made the university a recognized leader in the learning communities movement. These learning communities range from a simple model of two “linked” courses to the full residential model of Watauga College. Approximately 90 percent of the freshman class this fall will be involved in one or more learning communities, which should only strengthen Appalachian’s already high retention rate. Furthermore, Appalachian’s nationally renowned Freshman Seminar Program continues to enroll a record number of students in scores of sections. These innovative efforts on behalf of new students were central to Appalachian receiving a Noel/Levitz Retention Excellence Award this summer.
  • The Summer Reading Program is another example of a “model” learning program designed to ease the transition to college for new students and to strengthen the intellectual environment of the campus. This year’s selection, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, was the subject of dozens of discussion groups yesterday on campus. Many of you led those discussions, as I did, and I thank you for your participation. The author will join us September 5 as the featured speaker at Fall Convocation, in addition to scheduled events in the next few weeks related to the subject of the book.
  • Through the Appalachian Learning Alliance and our 10 community college partners, the university provided more than 11,500 funded credit hours of instruction during the past year, while serving nearly 1,000 off-campus students. Demand for such off-campus educational courses and programs should continue to grow at a strong pace, particularly with communities across the region experiencing both an economic slowdown and continuing fundamental changes in the economy.
  • We also announced plans this spring for the Hickory Metropolitan Higher Education Center that will create educational opportunities for citizens of western North Carolina through the collaborative efforts of Appalachian, Lenoir-Rhyne College and Catawba Valley Community College. Building upon existing programs, this Center has been designed to offer graduate and undergraduate degree programs as well as continuing education programs, primarily for adult learners who otherwise could not come to Boone to receive an Appalachian education.
  • Earlier this month, the UNC Board of Governors approved an Appalachian Millennial Campus, which I believe will strengthen the link between our educational and research programs, and regional economic development activities. The recent economic downturn has substantially altered the region’s perceived need for higher education, business and industry development, and new career opportunities for our citizens in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century. I see dynamic potential for coordinated educational, economic development and outreach programs that are possible on a millennial campus. Our Millennial Campus site includes University Hall and will serve as Appalachian’s stepping stone to much broader and extensive efforts in the decade ahead ? creating additional learning opportunities for students, research and consulting opportunities for faculty, and economic opportunities for the region.
  • Increasing the diversity of our campus has become a priority for Appalachian. I am pleased to report that the Board of Trustees last March approved a long-range diversity plan designed to enhance the education of our students by providing them with the advantages offered by a racially and ethnically diverse university experience. Dr. Harry Williams, formerly associate director of admissions, returned to campus last month to head this initiative that will require involvement by the entire campus community if we are to achieve a more diverse campus in the years ahead. As part of these efforts, the Committee on Diversity created a series of videos, including a training video for faculty members, which many of you have seen, in which students of color shared their experiences.
  • Our international programs are directly related to diversity, as we seek to provide students with opportunities to come to understand others with different racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. It is clear that we are moving rapidly into a world of global interdependence and our students must be exposed to international learning opportunities. Appalachian has been selected, along with seven other colleges and universities, by the American Council on Education to demonstrate strategies that are employed to develop internationalization on American campuses. These strategies appear in an ACE publication we received just last week entitled “Promising Practices: Spotlighting Excellence in Comprehensive Internationalization.”
  • In June, the Board of Governors approved a new degree in international business that will be offered in the Walker College of Business beginning this fall. It will provide students a strong foundation in business principles and produce graduates who are fluent in a language other than English. This program will give students a better understanding of the different cultures in which U.S. companies do business and make them very marketable to the business community.
  • For the 22nd time, the men’s athletics program won the Southern Conference Commissioner’s Cup for overall excellence. Academically, nearly one-third of our student athletes made the Appalachian Academic Honor Roll. Six of the university’s 20 athletic teams achieved cumulative GPA’s higher than 3.0 for the year, with all teams earning a cumulative GPA of 2.768. In addition, the Athletics Department completed the NCAA Athletics Certification in conjunction with the SACS Certification.
  • Several renovated areas of the Plemmons Student Union opened during the year, including Whitewater, Blue Ridge Ballroom, ACT Community Outreach Center, Peer Career, and offices for the Black Student Association and Club Council. Construction began on both the new Solarium and, through the generosity of John McElway, the Greenbriar Cinema.

    Meanwhile, Housing and Residence Life established a long-term plan to refurbish 14 residence halls, in dire need of renovation, beginning this year.

  • As well as making significant progress on plans for the design and construction of the new Library and Information Commons, Belk Library collaborated with the Center for Appalachian Studies and the Appalachian Cultural Museum in raising $325,000 in matching funds toward an NEH Challenge Grant.
  • The Hayes School of Music celebrated the long-anticipated completion of its state-of-the-art recording studio.
  • Appalachian House, the chancellor’s new residence, opened in January more than 3,500 faculty, students, alumni and other constituents have been our guests. However, due to budget constraints, we anticipate fewer events at Appalachian House this year.
  • Under the leadership of the Office of Graduate Studies and Research, Appalachian was awarded a record $10.8 million in grants, which not only advanced the mission and several academic programs of the university but also provided additional support for students, faculty and staff, and service to the region. For example, one grant of nearly $400,000 is designed to increase the number of computer science and mathematical science graduates from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. My warmest congratulations to those of you who were successful in winning such grant awards last year.
  • Highlighted by Mariam Cannon Hayes’ $10-million gift to the School of Music, the “Campaign for the Second Century” generated cash, pledges and deferred commitments of $83.2 million, surpassing our original $50-million goal by 66 percent. The campaign attracted more than 35,000 individual gifts and provided 240 new scholarship endowments, six distinguished professorships and nearly $8 million for faculty and staff development programs. Forty-three percent of the campaign total represented deferred gifts that will benefit Appalachian and its mission in the future.
  • In addition to their regular assignments, several staff members have been working to select a replacement for the outdated and inefficient software system in use on campus for many years. They also have committed many hours for extensive training necessary for successful implementation of the new Banner Human Resources System, which will involve several changes in policies and practices when it goes “live” in 2003. The new system will be more responsive to the increasing complexity of employment and payroll relationships, provide increased ability for financial analysis, and provide the foundation for improved communications.
  • The physical plant staff continues to do an outstanding job in spite of serious budget cuts, while Design and Construction was pushed to it limits during the year by more than 70 capital projects and 12 interior design projects. These departments consistently demonstrate pride in Appalachian by the beautifully kept buildings and grounds, which we all appreciate, and which directly enhance the learning environment for students.

One cannot walk across campus without noticing numerous construction projects in varying states of completion and, at times, they have inconvenienced us all. Here is a quick update on some of the major projects currently under way:

RIVERS STREET PARKING DECK–This facility, which opened this morning, will provide parking for 750 vehicles and, by mid-September, office space for the Campus Police and Parking Operations. In addition, the Hill Street parking lot behind John Thomas Building created more than 200 new parking spaces on campus in the past year.

Unfortunately, the new parking facility will not offer the benefits originally anticipated for faculty and staff, given the $500 annual fee that we have been forced to impose for parking there. As you may know, a North Carolina Supreme Court ruling last December prohibited state universities from using campus traffic fines to underwrite the cost of campus parking, including the use of those funds to reduce the bond indebtedness of the new parking deck. Setting the deck fee at $500 per year and by raising the registration fee 10 percent to $110, compared with one student-faculty-staff committee recommendation of $180, represents less of a financial burden, especially for employees in lower pay grades. That ruling, by the way, is being appealed. We are not optimistic, however, about it being reversed.

LIBRARY AND INFORMATION COMMONS–With design now about 50 percent complete, we expect to break ground next April for the 210,000-square-foot facility that will become a major focal point for achieving Appalachian’s vision. The $47.6-million project is scheduled for completion in 2005; the Belk Library renovation and Whitener demolition also should occur in 2005; and the associated parking structure to the new facility for 300 vehicles will be completed in 2006. The Library and Information Commons is the largest Appalachian project in the higher education bond package approved by voters in 2000.

LIVING LEARNING CENTER–The residential component of the center will house approximately 320 students and be ready for occupancy next semester. The associated 20,000-square-foot academic building is targeted for completion next March.

BOOKSTORE ADDITION & STUDENT UNION SOLARIUM–When completed in 2003-04, this project will provide a new 40,000-square-foot bookstore and a 10,000-square-foot multi-use solarium addition to the Sanford Mall side of the Student Union.

RANKIN SCIENCE ANNEX–Construction is well under way on this 24,500 square-foot building adjacent to Rankin Science that will house the Biology Department. Estimated completion date is early 2003. The renovation and addition to the existing Rankin Science will be bid early next year and completed in 2005.

STUDENT RECREATION AND WELLNESS CENTER–We expect to bid this $24-million project next spring and complete construction by 2005. The center, which will be located near the corner of Bodenheimer Drive and Rivers Street, will include a swimming pool and a 100 vehicle parking deck.

TURCHIN CENTER FOR THE VISUAL ARTS–The center is scheduled to open next spring after renovation of the former Methodist Church Building, and the addition to the building should open in the summer of 2004.

Now, some of you may be wondering, with the financial dilemma of the university and the state, “how can we be building all of these facilities?”

In fact, we are looking at absolutely two completely different sources of funding. On the construction side, it is bond funds and bond indebtedness for a period of years, and non-state revenue funds going into many of those projects. On the

side – the operating

budget, we are dealing with state dollars and we cannot mix the two.

I could cite many other accomplishments by Appalachian faculty, staff and students in the past year, but I think I have made my point. We have accomplished much more than merely marking time in this a period of economic and political uncertainty. We truly have been pursuing Appalachian’s vision of becoming a premier comprehensive university.

We anticipate an on-campus enrollment of about 12,800 students this fall – roughly the same as last year. The freshman class of about 2,375 students – selected from about 9,500 applicants – will be the brightest ever and the best prepared group of students to enter Appalachian. Our new freshmen achieved an average SAT score of 1110 and a high school grade point average of 3.64. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of incoming students achieved a 4.0 or better GPA in high school, indicating their participation

in advanced placement courses.

Regrettably, and I will say much more about him on a future occasion, Harvey Durham, our good colleague and friend, has announced his retirement as provost effective June 30 of next year. I will be appointing a committee shortly to begin the process of searching for a successor.

In concluding my State of the University to you this morning, let me comment further regarding the issue of funding for public higher education.

My good colleagues, I believe that we are entering an extraordinarily challenging period — a new era — in higher education and in our nation’s history. We are looking at diminishing resources in our budgets. We are not seeing education as the priority that it has been considered in the past. We are looking at new challenges obviously around the globe. We are witnessing challenges to academic freedom as we saw recently at Chapel Hill. One cannot help but be concerned about what our nation and the world will look like 10, 15 or 20 years from now.

Now, I say this to you because I think that we would be absolutely remiss in our responsibility

if we do not continue what you have been doing so admirably–providing an optimum learning environment for our students; being accessible to students and creative in your approaches as you encourage them; providing them with diverse learning opportunities; and working to enhance those opportunities despite limited financial resources. Going forward in such a spirit is, to us, something beyond merely doing a job. It is the very fabric of what Appalachian represents and, indeed, what this wonderful profession in which we are all engaged is dedicated to achieving. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and simply bemoan the loss of funds. To do so would not provide what we owe our students; it would not prepare them to be successful in their careers; and it would not foster the leadership America needs as we move deeper into the unexplored country of a new century. We have the capacity and the intellectual willpower. We must dedicate ourselves in new and creative ways to continue the momentum that Appalachian has gained in recent years as we, and those we teach, undertake the challenges of the present and the future.

I thank you most sincerely for everything you are doing to make Appalachian the best possible learning environment. I thank you for listening this morning. I welcome your creative suggestions and recommendations, and I look forward to working with you in the coming year as we seek to enhance this wonderful environment which we call Appalachian. Thank you.