Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University (ASU) has been a part of College STAR since the fall semester of 2011, when Dr. Sarah Williams, Project Directors from ECU and UNCG, and representatives from UNC met with administrators and faculty from ASU to explore a potential role for ASU in expanding and supporting the College STAR mission. Throughout the spring and summer of 2012, plans were solidified and the College STAR program at Appalachian was recognized as the third anchor campus for the program.

Early History

During the fall of 2012, it was determined that Appalachian’s College STAR program would focus on supporting students with Executive Function Challenges (EFCs). Executive functioning is a term describing a set of mental processes that connect past experience with present action. It refers to an individual’s ability to prioritize, integrate, and regulate cognitive function. A combination of complex cognitive skills, EF is the management system of the brain that controls and facilitates cognitive flexibility, initiating appropriate actions while inhibiting others, planning/organizing, working memory, self-monitoring, paying attention to and remembering details, as well as emotional control. At the time, research on students with EFCs was somewhat sparse with even fewer studies focused on college students with EFCs, yet anecdotally, it was clear that students with EFCs struggle in a university setting. This was also identified as a common characteristic of students in both the ECU and UNCG student support programs, and one that needed further emphasis and exploration.

As with the other anchor campuses, the College STAR model at ASU balances two primary areas of support.

  • Student Support: The student-support component at ASU continues to target students who have learning differences-specifically, EFCs. The name of this program is As-U-R; it is staffed by a Director and five graduate assistants, and periodically supports student interns.
  • Instructional Support: ASU provides campus-wide instructional supports for faculty to facilitate learning for students who have learning differences and who may benefit from more focused faculty support. The faculty development plan at ASU is anchored in the principles of Universal Design for Learning. Interested faculty and staff can access training in these principles, along with workshops on course redesign centered on inclusive learning models.

Direct Student Support

Once established, the As-U-R program was moved to the Student Learning Assistance Center, where it has become the sixth program in that unit, joining: University Tutorial Services, Academic Strategy Instruction, Appalachian Commitment to a College Education for Student Success (ACCESS), Student Support Services (the SS TRIO program), Academic Services for Student Athletes, and now As-U-R. As recently as 2015, As-U-R had only six students enrolled. Taking the time to test and learn from different models of student recruitment and support have enabled the ASU team to identify best practices and adopt a a tiered support structure, something that has increased enrollment in the program to 90 students.

Instructional Support

The Center for Academic Excellence (CAE, formerly Hubbard Programs) is home to a variety of programs for improving faculty excellence in teaching, service, and research. College STAR instructional support programs are delivered through CAE. The primary focus areas for those College STAR funded programs have been a Faculty Learning Community focusing on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), UDL workshops and seminars, and course redesign workshops. All of those programs have focused on helping faculty members develop understandings about learner variability and to engage in shared learning that supports diverse learners. Lillian Goudas is a member of the ASU College STAR Campus Implementation Team and holds the title of Director of UDL within CAE.