Installation of the Nineteenth President


Auburn will take student leadership to new heights

Employers consistently rank leadership among the top attributes they search for in new employees. At Auburn, we provide real-world learning laboratories where students can gain leadership principles in their communities, better preparing them to compete in the marketplace and make meaningful contributions.

Leadership skills provide our graduates with the tools to be successful in a modern economy. Our students graduate prepared for interviews, to work in team-based environments and to effectively manage their time and resources. Every student is different, so we provide multiple pathways of interest to cultivate these skills and transform our students into leaders.

Information about President Leath

Steven Leath became Auburn University's 19th president on June 19, 2017. Trained as a plant scientist, Dr. Leath served at three universities in teaching, research and economic development posts en route to his positions at Iowa State and Auburn.

Portrait photograph of Dr. Steven Leath

Steven Leath became Auburn University's 19th president on June 19, 2017.

Prior to arriving at Auburn, Dr. Leath served for more than five years as president of Iowa State University (ISU), one of the nation's top research institutions with an international reputation in science and technology. While he was president, Iowa State achieved its highest student graduation rate, lowered student debt, grew research expenditures, set fundraising records and secured the university's largest private gift for an academic facility. He also led efforts for the 200-acre expansion of ISU's research park, creating new jobs and attracting new companies, industry partnerships and government collaborations.

Trained as a plant scientist, Dr. Leath served at three universities in teaching, research and economic development posts en route to his positions at Iowa State and Auburn.

Dr. Leath was vice president for research and sponsored programs for the 16-campus University of North Carolina System. Under his leadership, external research grants and contracts steadily increased and technology transfer activities were streamlined to make the universities more attractive to private sector partners and more responsive to state needs. He also helped develop the North Carolina Research Campus, a private-public venture that fosters advancements in biotechnology, nutrition and health.

At North Carolina State University in Raleigh, Dr. Leath held several positions of increasing responsibility and prominence. Those positions include director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service (ARS), associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, professor, and research leader and plant pathologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ARS.

Dr. Leath began his academic career at the University of Illinois, Urbana, as an extension plant pathologist. He has published numerous articles on plant disease resistance, plant breeding and related areas and has presented his scientific work throughout the U.S. and in numerous countries. He holds a B.S. in plant science from Pennsylvania State University, M.S. in plant science from the University of Delaware and Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of Illinois.

Dr. Leath and his wife, Janet, have two sons, Eric and Scott, and two dogs.

Auburn will expand its role as a partnership university by advancing impactful and transformative research and scholarship

Advancing knowledge is the foundation of discovery and inspires student learning and transformative research. At Auburn, our tradition of innovation serves as a launchpad for entrepreneurs, industry leaders, government officials and others as we improve quality of life and strengthen economic opportunity.

Auburn values all forms of scholarly activity. Whether creative endeavors, such as artistic works and performances, academic publications or inventions, we promote scholarly activity because it prompts intellectual advancement and expands learning.

Auburn will expand its research and development programs to address some of society’s most challenging issues with an emphasis on advancing knowledge in health sciences, improved sustainable resources, advanced manufacturing and cyber security.

To achieve our goals, we will strengthen the culture for faculty to conduct multidisciplinary research. Auburn recently launched the Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research, or PAIR, program to provide funds to support researchers in building competitive teams advancing major technology developments, scientific discoveries or scholarly advances with broad economic, health or societal impact. PAIR will transform our collaboration with leading businesses, industries and government agencies.

Growing research requires increasing and strengthening the quality of our graduate student population, specifically our Ph.D. and professional programs, to cultivate future scholars who will represent Auburn worldwide. We will implement new recruitment strategies targeting top graduate school candidates from across the nation and world.

An important part of that strategy is a new graduate fellowship program to support research and innovation by Auburn doctoral students. These 100 new Presidential Fellows together with PAIR represent a significant investment in the university’s strategic priorities to conduct and bring dynamic research to the national forefront.

Finally, we will elevate Auburn to the Carnegie research one classification, placing us among the nation’s elite. We’re well on our way there now.


Auburn will continue to broaden its commitment to diversity and inclusion

Research and personal experiences clearly demonstrate that diversity and inclusion are integral to creativity and productivity. Better decisions are made with diverse perspectives around the table.

Auburn will continue to foster diversity of thought, culture, interests, insights, knowledge and background. In doing so, we will inspire those around us, make better decisions, derive better outcomes and compete more effectively in the marketplace for students, faculty, staff and partners in business, industry and government.

Through outreach and engagement, we will increase our promotion of higher education access for diverse communities in the State of Alabama, particularly those in underserved regions.