Community Profile

Classroom space at App State has been adjusted to ensure six feet of physical distance between students. All available space on campus, including the Plemmons Student Union meeting rooms, conference rooms and other meeting room spaces, are being used as classroom space in order to accommodate physical distance requirements. Classrooms are being cleaned multiple times a day, and heating and air systems are being optimized to provide the greatest possible fresh air exchange. Photo by Marie Freeman

3,333 feet up, 6 feet apart

By Elisabeth Wall

Monday, Aug. 17 — Appalachian State University’s lead photographer is on campus to capture the first day of class. She reports from the scene: “It’s a beautiful day! A hint of fall and a light cloud hangs over Howard Knob. Each of the eight classrooms I visited this morning had a positive vibe. Students are distanced by spacing between seats and they are wearing face coverings and following traffic flow markers.

It’s lunchtime now — students at the food trucks are placing contactless orders and calling out to friends they haven’t seen since March. The Counseling Center is open and the university is offering free COVID-19 tests at a pop-up station. I sense anticipation and excitement.”

A month has passed since the start of the fall semester. Students, faculty and staff are on campus, in classrooms and labs. Here are some factors as to why.

Immediately following Gov. Roy Cooper’s March stay-at-home order to help slow the spread of COVID-19, Appalachian Chancellor Sheri Everts convened a leadership team to work closely with the Chancellor’s Cabinet, Emergency Management Task Force, faculty and staff within the divisions, and more than 20 working groups and committees to identify, allocate resources for and return students and faculty to classrooms and laboratories. Everts meets daily with her leadership team to assess and plan, sends weekly updates to faculty, staff, students and their families, and attends regular meetings with faculty, staff and student leadership.

“We are charting new territory, for certain. Every aspect of university life has been assessed with safety at the forefront — from academics, to dining, to residence life,” Everts said. “The academic mission is our greatest endeavor and the work of our students is our greatest legacy. I am proud of the ways our campus community has shown its commitment to work together to keep everyone as safe as possible, and I continue to be inspired each day by our faculty, staff and students.”

Classroom space at App State has been adjusted to ensure six feet of physical distance between students. All available space on campus, including the Plemmons Student Union meeting rooms, conference rooms and other meeting room spaces, are being used as classroom space in order to accommodate physical distance requirements. Classrooms are being cleaned multiple times a day, and heating and air systems are being optimized to provide the greatest possible fresh air exchange. Photo by Marie Freeman

Before returning to campus, every faculty, staff and student was required to complete a community health and safety course that included facts about COVID-19; how to protect oneself and others and how to access health services and other resources. Each day before coming to campus, students, staff and faculty perform an online health assessment.

Course delivery options were developed to include fully remote, hybrid and in-person options for instruction. Department chairs and academic advisors worked with students and faculty to find the best possible options to meet their needs.

A student survey of attitudes regarding safety practices during COVID-19 indicates students are “very willing” to wear face coverings and engage in safe hygiene practices. Presidents of Appalachian’s fraternity and sorority councils developed safety guidelines for their organizations, which included strict adherence to group sizes for gatherings, Violations are addressed through the organizations as well as the university’s Organizational Code of Student Conduct. App State Police are assisting the Boone Police Department with monitoring, responding to and addressing off-campus gatherings that violate requirements related to COVID-19.

University Housing implemented policies and procedures to ensure physical distancing, intensified cleaning and other safety precautions. Special move-in instructions and a new visitation policy were enforced. Housing plans and accommodations were identified for students who would need isolation and quarantine.

Each student, faculty and staff member received three free face coverings, with extras available for those who found themselves without while on campus. Pop-up testing sites provide free testing for Appalachian faculty, staff and students. Daily data for the university are reported in partnership with AppHealthCare on an online dashboard.

The university partnered with AppHealthCare on the High Country “Show Your Love” public health campaign, with billboards, avenue banners, newspaper ads, and local radio and TV spots featuring Chancellor Everts and App State students. Student Government joined in with public health messages on social media, and students were hired to help serve as wellness ambassadors to promote positive behaviors across campus.

The future is uncertain, but Mountaineer spirit prevails.

App State’s Campus Dining has implemented safety precautions such as adding hand sanitizer stations and discontinuing the use of the self-serve salad bar. Campus Dining has also expanded its offerings — including a Grubhub pickup option for all on-campus dining locations and local food trucks — to ensure students have a variety of ways to access meal options. Photo by Marie Freeman

Mary Junell

They Also Serve Who Serve Unsung…A Veteran Services Story

By Steve York

When we think of Veterans Day this time of year, we naturally become humbled and nostalgic recalling images and stories of the bravery and sacrifice given by our military veterans; of those who were lost, those who were wounded and the exuberant reunions of veterans returning to their homes and families. Those are the images that naturally come to mind when we think of honoring our many veterans, both past and present.

But there are also many behind-the-scenes heroic services and organizations who help those vets excel in life both during and following military service. One of those here in the High Country is the Student Veteran Services at Appalachian State University in Boone. Proudly designated as one of the Top Military Friendly Schools in the country, App State is affiliated with the Student Veterans of America (SVA) and is currently ranked number eight among large public institutions nationwide for the year 2020 through 2021. 

Located on campus in the Major General Edward M. Reeder Student Veteran Resource Center, this department and its dedicated staff provide an incredible range of educational and advocacy services for veterans. The special relationship between those vital services and the exceptional caliber of the vets they serve may best be illustrated through the following personal stories.

Mary Junell: Mary is an Avery County native, an App State senior majoring in communications and advertising, a U.S. Army Staff Sgt., and a 19+ year veteran with multiple foreign deployments. She joined the U.S. National Guard in 2001 and enrolled at the University in 2002 but found herself deployed as a truck driver to Iraq and Kuwait in 2004, and again as a photographer for Army Public Affairs in 2009. Then, in 2015, Public Affairs sent her to Kosovo.

While with Public Affairs, Mary applied her photography and communications course skills to begin chronicling her military experiences. And, today, as a proud student and beneficiary of Appalachian State’s SVS program, Junell is set to graduate in 2021. To her credit, Mary was also named the 2019 Paul D. Savanuck Writer of the Year as part of the Army’s Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Communications Awards Competition. “I wrote about the PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) stuff, the things you don’t ever let go of. It was cathartic because I was able to share things I hadn’t talked about with anyone. It was really raw, writing that story,” Mary noted.

Grayson Farmer: Grayson is a student veteran at Appalachian State, president of its Student Veterans Association (SVA) and was one of 124 student veterans selected nationally to participate in the 2019 Student Veterans of America (SVA) Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was an active duty paralegal in the U.S. Army’s Fifth Special Forces Group until being released July 2017. As SVA president and a senior marketing major with a concentration in digital marketing, Farmer has been an active advocate for other student veterans on campus and has been commended for his dedication to SVA programs.

As for Grayson’s own experiences as SVA President, “I am so proud to be a part of something that is much bigger than myself. I have watched individuals open up and grow—as better people, advocates and leaders. I’ve made new friends and mentors who I know I can count on anytime that I may need to reach out.”

Chris Boseman: Chris is a native of Morganton, an Iraqi War vet, a father and a cancer survivor who served ten years with Army Psychological Operations. Currently he’s a senior at App State’s Beaver College of Health Sciences, does work within the prison systems and plans to devote his military and educational experience to help foster prison reform.

In looking back on his military service, he noted, “The deployment experiences with your fellow soldiers are the most memorable. There is a level of camaraderie between soldiers that is unmatched.” Regarding some of the benefits offered him by the University’s SVA program, “For me, I would say the use of the Student Veteran Resource Center has been especially valuable. I have made many friends there. And the staff are very helpful in helping student veterans with school issues and many other areas,” Chris added.

Dean Reed: Dean served a quarter of a century in active duty with the US Air Force from November 1981 till August 2007. So, he has seen more than his share of combat, loss of squadron mates and long separations from home, family and friends. On the other hand, being stationed all around the world turned out to be an invaluable cultural opportunity and one of his more positive experiences.

“After 25 years of active duty service plus another twelve providing training to active duty members, I’ve learned the value of applying yourself to any task you attempt; to set your goals, stick with the task, and enjoy the journey. And, as a non-traditional student, the App State SVA program was especially useful in helping me to more smoothly transition from military service back into the world of college academia.”

Mary, Grayson, Chris and Dean represent only four of the many stories connecting our vets with Appalachian State University’s SVA programs. So, as we honor our veterans, both past and present, we should also remember to salute the many “unsung” who serve our vets during and following active duty. For more information and more stories, visit

NOTE:  Special thanks to Jennifer Coffey, Program Director with the Appalachian State University Student Veteran Services, Elisabeth Wall, Managing Editor/Appalachian Magazine, University Communications and our featured veterans for their contributions to this story.

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