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Service to the Region is Common Tie of Foxx, University

122204foxx_dl.jpgBy Jane Nicholsan

BOONE – U.S. Representative-elect Virginia Foxx and Appalachian State University have similar goals, says Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock.

“Both of us have positions of service to the people of Western North Carolina. We want to be players with you and work together in partnership,” Peacock told Foxx at a meeting outlining research and service initiatives under consideration at Appalachian.

Foxx, who served five terms in the N.C. Senate, was elected to the state’s fifth congressional district in November. She will be sworn into office in January 2005.

Foxx attended Appalachian for two years, prior to graduating from UNC Chapel Hill. She worked for 15 years at Appalachian, in the Department of Sociology and Social Work and later in the General College and Office of Admissions.

“My approach to my job is to do what I can to help Appalachian,” she told the gathering of some 24 deans, departmental chairs and faculty. “You’re very important to the region.”

Foxx heard firsthand from faculty who are developing programs or initiatives to help balance local and regional economic development with conservation of natural resources, support the region’s growing wine industry, develop appropriate allied health programs on campus including a nursing program, establish a three-university collaboration to support the region’s energy security and independence, and expand the research conducted in the university’s Human Performance and Immunology laboratories.

The university will be seeking federal and other support to implement or expand these initiatives.

“I’m very excited to see the kind of the initiatives you are talking about,” Foxx said.

“Appalachian has a tremendous role to play in serving the region. You’ll have no argument out of me in helping you fulfill your role in that respect.”

Following is a summary of six presentations made to Foxx.

Future Initiatives Include Environmental Focus

Appalachian is located at the headwaters of three major river systems: the Yadkin, the New-Kanawha and the Tennessee rivers. Department of Biology Chairman Steve Seagle told Foxx that positions the university to merge research and educational programs that work with local and regional agencies to protect the headwaters and other natural resources, while sustaining economic growth. A key component of this effort would include understanding the ecological and economic value of the region’s biodiversity, he said.

” The Southern Appalachian region is a national hotspot of biodiversity and recognized internationally,” Seagle said. “The question is: What value is it to us?”

To answer that question and more, Seagle and colleagues are proposing the creation of the Southern Appalachian Headwaters Research and Education Center, which would incorporate the expertise of faculty in biology, geology, chemistry, geography and planning, and the College of Business. Through the center, faculty, students and others would survey and map the surface and groundwater resources and biodiversity within the headwaters of northwest North Carolina; define the ecological role and economic value of the region’s biodiversity, including water quality and quantity; develop predictive models of the interaction between development in sensitive ecological areas, and water quality and quantity; and work to promote an appreciation for and understanding of the economic importance of the region’s physical and biological natural resources.

A Focus on Health

Appalachian’s Center for Health and Human Services was established to provide research, clinical services and training programs in the health and human services disciplines to meet the needs of Appalachian’s students, its faculty, and the region. Interim Director John Turner, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Work, said that the center’s most visible work to date has been to determine the feasibility of offering a B.S. degree in nursing at Appalachian. The university hopes to receive approval in the spring to establish an ADN to BSN program. If approved, nurses who have received an associate degree in nursing from a community college could complete coursework leading to the bachelor of science in nursing degree. “There is a nursing shortage as everybody knows,” Turner said. “It is our intent to offer the program in the fall of 2006. That may be a little ambitious, but we are cautiously optimistic that we can do that.”

A model outlining the scope of research, clinical services, education and training that can be facilitated through the center, as well as a proposed organizational structure, also has been created. The model illustrates how the university’s various health and human services programs can interact to expand opportunities for students and faculty for research, training, and clinical opportunities; enhance the visibility of health and human services programs on campus; promote research, training, and service collaborations with other institutions and community partners; and improve access to specialized services for clients and providers.

The center has identified all the clinical services on campus currently offered to students and the community, and looked at staffing, facility and resource needs of those services. In addition, the 31 disciplines on campus dealing with health and human services will be marketed to students interested in allied health careers. “Students applying to Appalachian have difficulty identifying health related and human service related programs because they are embedded in various colleges and programs. This is an attempt to make those disciplines more accessible to students,” Turner said.

Additional information is available from the center’s web site at

Support for the Region’s Wineries

Another proposal under consideration would create the only full-service laboratory on the East Coast dedicated to serving the analytical needs of wine makers in Western North Carolina. Grant Holder, a professor in Appalachian’s Department of Chemistry, said an Appalachian Enology Laboratory would help serve the quality assurance and research needs of the state’s wine makers. Enology is the study of wine and wine making.

“We all know how important the wine industry is potentially to the state,” Holder said. Of the 37 wineries in North Carolina, more than two-thirds are in the western portion of the state and 18 are within a two-hour drive of the university.

The lab would help with the wineries’ quality assurance and research needs. “When you are a small-scale wine maker, you have to worry about reputation,” Holder said. The AEL would provide quality monitoring, data interpretation, and evaluation of the sensory qualities important to wine: aroma, flavor and color. By developing a minimum standard of quality through laboratory analysis and other means, wine makers could better market their product and its quality, Holder said. Currently, many N.C. wine makers send their product to California for testing.

“The most successful wineries in the world are partnered with a large university,” Holder said. “It’s a partnership that has proved to work.”

In addition, the laboratory and its faculty would collaborate with Surry Community College to offer new opportunities for collaboration and education in advanced courses.

Safeguarding the Nation’s Energy Resources

A proposed N.C. Institute for Energy Security and Independence at Appalachian would partner the university with NC A&T, and NCSU to look at the state’s and nation’s increasing energy needs and the energy infrastructure’s vulnerability to disruption from weather events, terrorism, and the rising cost and diminishing supply of fossil fuels.

” The energy system we have in this country is a very vulnerable system,” explained political science professor Dennis Grady. “We are not creating any more oil. In fact, we are now consuming more than we are going to be able to find.”

The three university partners would provide research, and develop and implement energy technology, policy and programming to improve energy security and independence for the state and nation. In addition, the institute would support, coordinate and enhance university-based energy efficiency, including alternative fuels and vehicles, green building, and renewable energy development activities in the state. Educational programming and research would be offered by the three schools.

An additional goal would be to attract top research faculty and develop research facilities for sustainable energy technologies at each school. In the process, the institute would become a model of inter-university program collaboration, Grady said.”No state has the opportunity that North Carolina has with three research centers that are looking at fuel cells, alternative energies and the array of ways that we can start addressing this problem.”

U.S. Army Eyes Appalachian’s Fitness Research

The U.S. Army is looking for ways to bolster the immune systems of soldiers who undertake 3-5 day missions without sleep or food, and Appalachian’s Human Performance Lab may have the answers.

For more than 10 years, professor David Nieman and colleagues at Appalachian have been studying the body’s immune system response to extreme exercise and the favorable influence of walking on the immune system.

They have studied the immune systems of ultra athletes, such as triathletes, the women’s U.S. Olympic rowing team and marathoners, as well as senior women and others.

They have found that walking 30-45 minutes five days a week improves a person’s immune system and reduces the number of sick days normally experienced in winter and spring.

To further illustrate the benefits of exercise on the immune system, Nieman studied highly conditioned senior women. He found they had immune systems comparable to women in their 40s.

Conversely, if a person exercises for 90 minutes or longer at high intensity, the effectiveness of the immune system declines. Incorporating rest periods within the workout lessens the negative effect on the immune system, and drinking a quart of a sport drink for each hour of high-intensity exercise will reduce the inflammation that occurs. Taking large doses of vitamins C and E and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs has been found to increase inflammation, and therefore is not recommended for use by endurance athletes.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is interested in applying Nieman’s research to its Peak Soldier Performance Program.

“When the war fighter goes on a mission, its usually without sleep or food for 3-5 days,” Nieman said. “They have more problems with infection than injuries. The Army wants to find ways to bolster the immune system of these soldiers.”

Appalachian is being considered for a grant to study this problem.


Photo Caption: U.S. Representative-elect Virginia Foxx (R-NC 5th) visits with administrators from Appalachian State University, including Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock (right) to learn about research and service initiatives under consideration. The university will be seeking federal and other support to fund the projects. (Appalachian photo by University Photographer Mike Rominger)