This concept art provides an aerial view of the former Corning Optical Communications building in Hickory, North Carolina, which App State purchased on Nov. 19, 2021. The five-story, 225,800-square-foot facility is the largest in App State’s buildings portfolio and will be home to the App State Hickory Campus. Click on the image for a full view. Graphic by Jim Fleri
The App State Hickory Campus is one of several major construction projects underway at Appalachian State University to enhance the App State Experience.
The project supports the strategic plan of App State and the university’s goals and metrics associated with the University of North Carolina System’s strategic plan. It will benefit students, academics and the region.
Recognizing that App State’s growth potential in Boone is limited, the university has been looking for areas that have growth capacity and market potential for both on-campus and online programs. This growth will allow App State to continue to fulfill its educational mission and its responsibility to educate the citizens of the State of North Carolina.
App State is establishing a new initiative in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metro Area — the App State Hickory Campus — to expand public higher education access and outreach in this area.
On Nov. 19, 2021, App State closed on the purchase of the former Corning Optical Communications building, located at 800 17th St. NW in Hickory. The building will house the future App State Hickory Campus.
At 225,800 square feet, the five-story building is larger than any building on App State’s Boone campus, including the 203,000-square-foot Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences. The building sits on 15.7 acres of land and includes large open spaces, a cafeteria and nearly 700 parking spaces. It is only a short drive from the second North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics campus, which is slated to open in fall 2022 in Morganton.
The App State Hickory Campus has frontage along Highway 321, is located less than 2 miles away from the Hickory Regional Airport and 4 miles away from Interstate 40, and is close to downtown Hickory as well as two regional hospitals.
Until Nov. 19, Hickory was the largest metropolitan area in North Carolina that did not have a major, public university campus.
On Nov. 19, the university’s academic deans toured the building with App State Chancellor Sheri Everts and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Heather Hulburt Norris.
An audit of the building will be performed to assess energy and efficiency needs as well as opportunities to advance the university’s sustainability mission.
Who will benefit?
In 2018, when Chancellor Everts was a commissioner and co-chair of the Higher Education Task Force for myFutureNC, a statewide commission on educational attainment, the commission set a goal to ensure that 2 million North Carolinians have a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030.
Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson and Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton are all within a 30-minute drive of the App State Hickory Campus, and all three are partners in the Aspire Appalachian Co-Admission Program, which provides a seamless pathway for students enrolled at partner community colleges to complete their degree at App State.
When the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) Western Campus opens in Morganton in fall 2022, App State and NCSSM will be able to develop partnerships on research projects, particularly related to sustainability and resilience in Western North Carolina.
How does it support UNC System Goals and Metrics?
Positioning an App State campus in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metro Area aligns with the university’s mission to increase access to higher education and with the UNC System Strategic Plan priorities of:
- Increasing the number of rural and first-generation students who attend and graduate from App State, while also increasing the diversity of the university's population.
- Serving the needs of North Carolina by increasing the critical workforce credentials in the fields of health professions, teacher education, science, technology, engineering and math.