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University College History

Appalachian State University's University College, authorized by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors on September 7, 2007, marks the third in a series of major institutional reorganizations for undergraduate education since Appalachian State Teachers College became Appalachian State University in 1967. At that time, four colleges were established, including General College, which comprised admissions, financial aid, medical services, the registrar, the student union, security, advising, and other functions, some of which moved to Student Development, Academic Affairs, and Business Affairs in the early 1970s. The General College also contained several academic programs, including International Programs, Interdisciplinary Studies, Freshman Seminar, and the Honors Program.

In 1991, as the university grew rapidly, a second major reorganization occurred, which brought admissions and the registrar together with the Office of General Studies (including orientation, advising and learning support) to form a Division of Enrollment Services. In the meantime, the academic programs that had been in the General College moved to Academic Affairs either as full departments (the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences) or as programs that reported directly to Academic Affairs (International Programs, Honors, and Freshman Seminar). Between 1991 and 2006, staff in General Studies and other areas in Academic Affairs created and enhanced many of the academic support programs that have brought Appalachian State national recognition, including Freshman Seminar, Freshman Learning Communities, Learning Assistance Programs, Summer Reading, and College Awareness Programs.

Between 2005 and 2007, a variety of institutional changes, including new leadership in the divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Development, presented opportunities for creating a new framework that would support and broaden the success of General Studies with a stronger relationship with the academic side of campus, increase cooperation among a variety of student support services, and provide a home for university-wide academic programs, including General Education, co-curricular programs, and interdisciplinary degree programs.

During this time, several of the concentrations within the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies initiated proposals to become autonomous degree programs, and the administration proposed to dissolve the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and move cross-college interdisciplinary programs into a university-wide context. The first thorough review of our core curriculum in 15 years led to a proposal for increased faculty involvement in a more interdisciplinary and integrated General Education program. Support for the Honors Program increased substantially through a major donation from the Heltzer family, and a task force made recommendations for changes in the program's structure. Watauga College (an interdisciplinary residential learning community of about 100 students) and other programs in the Living Learning Center began to reinvent themselves with a conscious emphasis on internationalization. Co-curricular programs such as student research, residential learning communities, the University Writing Center, and Service Learning expanded in scope and significance. A broadly conceived model of student success, crossing divisional boundaries and encouraged by the UNC system's demand for higher retention and graduation rates, evolved through the Student Achievement Team and other collaborations between the divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Development. During these changes Appalachian closely followed the elevated state and national focus on transferable knowledge, skills- and outcomes-based learning, and accountability.

In the summer of 2006, the Provost began examining the possibility of a University College as an appropriate unit to support many of these changes. The specific model was developed over the course of the 2006-2007 academic year amid conversations with all the units involved. Many of the units in the University College already reported to an Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, whose title was changed to Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. However, several reporting lines were changed: The offices of Advising, Orientation, and Learning Assistance Programs moved from Enrollment Services to the University College, and Advising and Orientation were combined into the Office of Advising and Orientation. The Service Learning program moved from Student Development, while retaining its partnership with the other student community service programs in the Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT) program in Student Development. The Office of Student Research, which already had a close relationship with Service Learning through its community-based research programs, moved from a direct report to the provost to the University College. The Testing Center moved from Student Development to the University College, while the interdisciplinary degree programs and Watauga College moved from the College of Arts and Sciences. The Freshman Seminar and Learning Communities offices were absorbed into a new General Education office, led by a full-time Director and Assistant Director of General Education, in partnership with half-time faculty coordinators of General Education and the First-Year Seminar.

Upon its founding, the University College immediately began working on the implementation of the new General Education program, the establishment and authorization of interdisciplinary degree programs, the inauguration of a major university-side lecture series, the development of a Writing Across the Curriculum program, the initiation of a variety of faculty development opportunities, and the inauguration of the University College Council.

While the University College houses many of the units that emerged from the old General College, it exists in a very different institutional context. The General College housed a broad range of programs in a small but rapidly growing institution, providing an incubator from which many of those programs could develop on their own. The new University College, operating in a much larger institution and a different environment of institutional accountability, offers these and other programs opportunities for collaboration and sharing of resources. At the same time, it allows interdisciplinary degree programs, general education, and other programs to develop in a university-wide rather than a department context, reflecting the world's growing need for interdisciplinary knowledge, skills, and habits of mind.