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LOOKING FORWARD TO 2022

App State chancellor on plans for new Hickory campus

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As we start a year full of promise, we are excited to be realizing a long-term goal — the opening of Appalachian State University’s Hickory campus — and eager to work with community leaders in the months ahead to determine how App State can best serve the citizens of the Hickory, Lenoir and Morganton areas.

Finding a Mountaineer home in Hickory

In November, the university finalized the purchase of the former Corning Optical Communications building on Highway 321, an expansive five-story building on nearly 16 acres that will be the future home of the App State Hickory Campus.

Hickory is a vibrant, growing city, and local leaders are focused on equipping the local workforce for the jobs of tomorrow. Hickory is also the largest metropolitan area in the state that, until now, did not have a major, public university campus.

Leroy Lail, founder of the Hickory Furniture Mart, has been a longtime advocate of educational expansion in Hickory, particularly during his time on the UNC System Board of Governors.

When I arrived at App State in 2014, Leroy immediately initiated conversations with me about the possibilities for our university in Hickory, and he and I have been working together to bring an App State campus here ever since.

We look forward to offering new educational avenues and to contributing to the Greater Hickory community.

As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, App State consistently receives national recognition for academic excellence and overall value.

We are known for small class sizes that allow for high quality student and faculty interaction, for excellent undergraduate research opportunities and for service to our local and regional communities.

Our retention and graduation rates exceed the national averages and our graduates have college debt rates that are far below the national average.

Increasing access to high-quality, affordable education

Our future Hickory campus will allow App State to continue the mission we have had since 1899 — to increase access to education for the citizens of North Carolina.

State leaders are focused on increasing the number of North Carolinians with a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree to 2 million by 2030 and App State is a proud partner in achieving this goal for our state.

Catawba County has recognized this important need as well, with the establishment in 2017 of the K-64 initiative, which brings education, business and government together to connect people of all ages with the skills needed to fill jobs and build careers.

At App State, we continue to increase the number of critical workforce credentials in the fields of health professions, teacher education, science, technology, engineering and math.

Our mission to increase access to a high-quality, affordable education has led us to focus our recent efforts on increasing the number of rural and first-generation students who attend and graduate from App State, while also increasing the diversity of our university population.

About one-third of our undergraduate students are first-generation college students and about one-third come from rural areas.

Three nearby institutions — Catawba Valley Community College, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute and Western Piedmont Community College — participate in the Aspire Appalachian Co-Admission Program, which provides a seamless pathway for students enrolled at partner community colleges to complete their degrees at App State.

Looking ahead

Before significant building renovations can begin, App State will seek additional input from the Hickory community and from the university’s academic leaders to determine the best options for program offerings and utilization of this much-needed space.

In early 2022, a Hickory Task Force — consisting largely of local community members — will be convened to share input on the area’s needs and the plans for the App State Hickory Campus.

I want to thank the City of Hickory and Mayor Hank Guess for a warm welcome, and on behalf of App State, we look forward to working with your community in the year ahead and the years to come.

Sheri Everts is the chancellor of Appalachian State University.

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