Paul Meggett – Appalachian State University
In the intricate tapestry of higher education, the choices available to students extend far beyond academic curricula. As prospective students embark on the journey of selecting their ideal university, a myriad of considerations beckons, transcending the conventional boundaries of classrooms and textbooks.
It is a captivating panorama of student amenities, programs and services that universities strategically deploy to entice the next generation of learners. From state-of-the-art facilities to innovative academic programs and a spectrum of extracurricular offerings, universities are actively crafting environments beyond education— shaping holistic experiences.
At Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, General Counsel Paul Meggett’s legal team is at the forefront of the institution’s efforts to provide more opportunities to students statewide.
“As we continue to drive progress and provide a top-notch educational experience for students, we’re doing so as a highly functional team that focuses on taking a holistic approach in all that we do,” Meggett says.
That approach works fine as the school launches a new campus in Hickory, works on completing a new faculty and staff housing project in Boone and grapples with the challenges posed by artificial intelligence and the ever-changing collegiate athletics landscape.
Enhancing the student experience
To help bring my opportunities to students across North Carolina, Meggett realized the need for expertise in real estate matters.
Meggett realized the need for Appalachian State to be more flexible and take advantage of real estate opportunities to serve students better across North Carolina. So Meggett worked closely with the Division of Finance and Operations to launch a property office jointly owned and operated by the Finance and Operations division and Meggett’s Division of Institutional Integrity.
The new property group works closely with the legal team to identify areas of growth and development for the university. Meggett observed that there were under-resourced regions that presented great potential for expansion.
Appalachian State’s new campus in Hickory aims to fill a void for the largest metropolitan area in the state lacking broad access to public higher education. The acquisition of the old Corning operations center building marked the first step in this ambitious venture. Meggett and his legal team played a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth transition of the building into the university’s portfolio, an asset that hinted at the innovative direction the institution was headed.
Simultaneously, Meggett has helped lead the development of a campus innovation district that includes a Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research and the development of faculty and staff housing units, which will help meet App State employees’ housing needs amid housing scarcity and cost inflation in Boone, and a net-zero carbon district energy system, exemplifying a commitment to sustainability and value-driven outcomes. With 156 condo-style apartments across five buildings, the employee housing facility is set to open its doors in the fall of 2025, providing a modern and eco-friendly living space for faculty and staff.
“These projects will have a lasting impact, and we’re building for the future by doing the heavy lifting now,” Meggett says. “Modern times call for modern solutions.”
Meggett understands the significance of having a cohesive and strategic approach to managing the university’s assets. Previously, property matters were handled reactively, sometimes without a long-term outlook. With the close partnership between the Division of Institutional Integrity and the Finance and Operations Division, Meggett and his team can navigate the complexities of real estate and seize opportunities in the market. Their efforts allow them to stay abreast of potential property sales and off-market transactions.
Navigating modern challenges in academia
In response to the ever-shifting regulatory landscape in higher education, which was exacerbated by the advent of COVID, Chancellor Sheri Everts authorized the creation of a new division at Appalachian State in the Fall of 2021—the Division of Institutional Integrity—to provide enterprise-wide legal, risk, and compliance support for the university.
The various units within the division report to Meggett as the general counsel. As part of this new division and drawing from his experience in enterprise risk management, Paul launched an ERM program to drive growth and address compliance-related issues. However, he realized there was still a crucial role to be filled in the form of a chief compliance and ethics officer.
Meggett emphasizes the importance of establishing a compliance office to ensure that the university operates ethically and in adherence to regulations, and he is currently undertaking a search for a chief compliance and ethics officer to round out his team.
In addition to being a strategic partner to help bring Appalachian State’s programs to more people in North Carolina, Meggett is also working on some challenges in modern education related to artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and collegiate athletics.
“I have had a lot of conversations with university leadership about the need to develop policies related to AI,” Meggett explains. “It can be a great tool, but AI poses many challenges, especially academically.”
Meggett says that handling routine matters on the business side of Appalachian State’s operations can be a good way to use AI. On the academic side, Meggett and others across the campus continue to discuss how professors and students deploy artificial intelligence.
“We aren’t thinking of how to prohibit its use, but we are thinking about ways to manage using AI in ways that are appropriate for our campus,” he adds.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2021 that collegiate athletes could earn money off their name, image and likeness, the college sports landscape has dramatically changed. Athletic directors, school presidents and in-house attorneys are grappling with the different policies related to NIL activities—in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order issued on July 2, 2021, places further regulations on what student-athletes at North Carolina institutions can earn with their name, image and likeness.
Meggett says the legal department works with the athletics department to navigate the NIL challenges. The university tracks all NIL activities from Appalachian State athletes—but Meggett says the legal team does not help negotiate any NIL deals.
“We try to ensure they’re not using our name and service marks in their deals,” he says.
Loving the Tarheel State
Meggett graduated high school from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, earned a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University and a J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law. It was there that he quickly realized he wasn’t interested in being a law firm lawyer—but not because of the long hours typically associated with an attorney trying to make partner in a firm.
As a product of the University of North Carolina System, Meggett says he always believed in giving back to the institutions that gave him so much. While in law school, he got excited about the idea of teaching law and saw the value of what he was taught and how important it would be to pass that knowledge on to a new generation of promising attorneys.
”One of the things I always told my students was ‘Don’t be afraid to be great,’ because I always wanted them to be their best, for themselves and their future clients,” he says.
Meggett was an associate professor of law for six years at Charlotte Law School, and he spent over 12 years as assistant university counsel at UNC-Chapel Hill and another 12 years as associate general counsel for UNC Healthcare. He joined Appalachian State University in June 2018.
Most recently, Meggett received the John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award from the North Carolina State Bar. The Distinguished Service Award honors members of the North Carolina Bar who have demonstrated exemplary service to the legal profession.
Much has been accomplished in his five years in Boone, but Meggett knows there is a lot more to do. A recent economic study showed that the school’s economic impact on the state has been around $2.2 billion—locally, the school has generated about $573 million in economic impact.
“We’re doing something of value here, and we want to continue bringing about change for the community,” Meggett says. “The return on investment is great, and we’re just getting started.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter II 2024 Edition here.
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