Appalachian State University

As Chancellor of Appalachian State University, I am privileged to work in one of the most magnificent regions of our state, if not our country. I am awed daily by the beauty of the changing seasons, the mountain vistas, the pristine rivers and streams, and by the Appalachian Community that values and respects the space we inhabit.

Is it surprising more than half of last year’s incoming class told us Appalachian’s commitment to a sustainable future was a deciding factor in their choice to attend Appalachian?  This commitment is engaged through innovation in teaching and research that sets our institution apart. The innovative work of our faculty, staff and students – very often with a view toward sustainability – creates value for the institution, and it makes the degrees of our alumni more valuable as well.

Feedback from employers indicates they appreciate our graduates’ abilities to think critically, build relationships and communicate effectively. At Appalachian, that kind of real-world success for our students is related directly to our campus’ response to this question:

How do we engage our academic mission – teaching, learning, service, research, innovation, creativity and intercampus and intercommunity collaborations in all disciplines – to support the understanding and development of economically, environmentally and equitably sound communities?

Let me share two recent examples:

Last summer, an interdisciplinary team of Appalachian students, called Team Sunergy, raced its solar car Apperion for the first time – and, on a national stage. Team Sunergy placed third in the Formula Sun Grand Prix and sixth in the American Solar Challenge, going up against reputable engineering schools like the University of Michigan, Northwestern University and Polytechnique Montréal. The team is ramping up to compete in Austin, Texas this July.

Our faculty seriously engage in sustainable ideology and action. I recently awarded more than $50,000 to our first panel of Appalachian Innovation Scholars. This scholars program was initiated to complement other innovation initiatives at the university, such as those offered through the Research Institute for Environment, Energy, and Economics (RIEEE), Office of Sustainability, Office of Research, AppLab, Integrative Design Experience (IDEX), and The Center for Entrepreneurship.

The Scholars’ projects are stunning examples of original thinking and collaboration, and many of the projects focus on sustainable best practices around ecology, economy and social equity such as:

  • Promoting biodiversity banking –the use of the marketplace and businesses to promote conservation – to stop deforestation;
  • Biology research to ameliorate preterm labor most likely caused by “food desert” nutritional deprivation;
  • Defining measures to extend the growing season in our area through greenhouses heated by biomass energy; and
  • Developing socially assistive robots.

At Appalachian, it’s not enough to change the world…we want to change it for the better. In a time when institutions of higher education are facing enrollment challenges across the nation, our commitment to sustainability places our university – and our innovations – in high demand.

Appalachian is building upon faculty and staff expertise as well as student passion and creativity to engage our campus and community in innovating a bright future for our region, state and world. And that is sustainable!

Photo: Chancellor Sheri N. Everts admires Appalachian State University’s solar vehicle, Apperion, and its 2017 display of sponsors at an unveiling in early April. Some members of Team Sunergy look on. Photo by Marie Freeman

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