Auburn's current strategic planning process began in fall 2012 with four primary objectives:

  1. To engage members of the campus community and those beyond in an inclusive process of discussion and visioning;
  2. To provide a strategic foundation designed to
    expand the institution's ability to fulfill each area of its mission;
  3. To reaffirm our institution's commitment to ongoing strategic directions; and
  4. To identify priorities and strategies that could
    uniquely advance the University.

Using a bottom-up approach, this process engaged key members of the Auburn Family in a constructive and comprehensive dialogue that significantly enriched the University's strategic planning endeavors. The design of the strategic planning process thus focused on developing a viable plan benefiting from the feedback of Auburn's stakeholders, both on and off campus.

Following a charge from President Gogue, Provost
Timothy R. Boosinger convened a Strategic Planning
Steering Committee, consisting of 25 representatives of the University's senior administration, faculty, staff and student body, including elected leaders of key governance groups.

To organize its work, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee identified key areas of emphasis, forming five key work teams. Each work team focused on completing a strategic analysis in one of the following areas:

  • Student Success
  • Faculty Success
  • Research Enterprise
  • Outreach and Extension
  • Revenue Enhancement and Business Operations

Each strategic analysis included (1) an assessment of Auburn's current performance benchmarked against aspirational peer institutions, (2) a situational analysis to describe the internal and external environments, and (3) an identification of key opportunities and potential barriers to success. Following completion of this SWOT analysis by each work team, the planning process then broadened to engage groups of institutional stakeholders from across the state.

Beginning in January 2013, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee conducted several off-campus listening sessions to collect ideas for Auburn's future. Held in each legislative district of the state, these facilitated sessions were well attended and included representatives from the University Senate, the Board of Trustees, alumni, the Cooperative Extension System, and elected officials. Participants received preliminary information including accomplishments from the 2008-2013 Strategic Plan and a composite of the SWOT analyses completed by the work teams. Participants were asked to respond to the question “What should Auburn University aspire to be in 2018?”

In total, 12 listening sessions were completed with more than 150 participants providing substantive feedback and ideas that have been incorporated into the 2013-2018 Strategic Plan.

Following the off-campus sessions, the Strategic
Planning Steering Committee conducted 28 on-campus listening sessions at the Auburn and Montgomery campuses. In total, these sessions involved more than 350 participants representing faculty, staff and students. The on-campus focus groups provided a tremendous amount of data for the Strategic Planning Steering Committee to consider as they began drafting the strategic priorities.

To involve even more people, a structured Strategic Planning Survey was administered in late spring to further solicit the opinions of Auburn faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, administrators, community partners and other members of the Auburn Family. This survey provided an opportunity for the Strategic Planning Steering Committee to test the appeal of ideas developed earlier in the process. The survey results affirmed key themes and provided additional areas of emphasis for the Steering Committee.

Finally, themes emerging across the whole planning process were shared with members of the campus community during an open forum held in late spring. The forum offered an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to refine many of the strategic priorities and ideas developed.

Throughout the planning period, the universit community received regular updates on the strategic planning process through monthly letters sent by the Provost to the faculty and made available on the Provost's website. Elected faculty leaders attended each statewide listening session and provided additional updates to the University Senate. An initial draft of the strategic plan–outlining priorities, goal and commitments–was presented to President Gogue and a team of university leaders who had not served on the Steering Committee for review and feedback. These individuals provided additional viewpoints and considerations for the final list of strategic directions.

Strengths

Early in the planning process, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee conducted an analysis of Auburn's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). Opinions and comments on this analysis were solicited from faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, elected officials, and members of the Auburn Family. Essential in developing priorities, the SWOT analysis helped to pinpoint environmental factors likely to challenge the institution over the next five years as well as external opportunities to support new and ongoing initiatives.

The development of strategic priorities must be
grounded in a reliable assessment of our institution's current strengths. Our strengths include:

  • Auburn University maintains a strong undergraduate academic reputation and high quality of incoming students, resulting in a consistent top 50 ranking by U.S. News and World Report. It has won accolades for academic programs including Engineering, Architecture, Business and Education.
  • Auburn's campus provides a friendly small-town atmosphere in close proximity to Atlanta, enabling it to remain a desirable higher education institution among prospective students from surrounding states (40 percent out-of-state enrollment).
  • Auburn University has a historically strong or a developing national and international reputation for research in the areas of Cyber Security, Energy and the Environment, Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, Health Sciences, STEM Education, and Transportation. Most recently, Auburn's establishment of the Research and Technology Foundation (ARTF), the Auburn Research Park, and an Auburn University Research Center in Huntsville have added new potential for growth in the institution's research enterprise.
  • Auburn University maintains a strong institutional brand with very loyal alumni support and participation in Auburn Clubs, resulting in strong community relationships throughout the state. Alumni connections to their former academic programs are strong and a high percentage of alumni report a positive academic experience and career placement upon graduation.
  • Auburn University has an enviable track record of strong fiscal management and is actively engaged in the next institution-wide development campaign.
  • Auburn University boasts a stable, experienced faculty, with a high proportion of full-time and tenured faculty who enjoy a satisfying academic work environment. The campus administration supports a strong shared governance process.
  • Auburn University provides excellent and well-maintained campus facilities, many of which are
    new. The campus has outlined a prioritization process for replacing older buildings as part of the Campus Master Plan.
  • Auburn University maintains a substantial commitment to serving K-12 education and engages in numerous community partnerships throughout the state.
  • In collaboration with Alabama A&M University, Auburn operates the Alabama Cooperative Extension System that takes research-based applications and knowledge into every corner of the state.
  • The Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station continues to emphasize interdisciplinary projects through the development of new institutes and centers.
Weaknesses

Early in the planning process, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee conducted an analysis of Auburn's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). Opinions and comments on this analysis were solicited from faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, elected officials, and members of the Auburn Family. Essential in developing priorities, the SWOT analysis helped to pinpoint environmental factors likely to challenge the institution over the next five years as well as external opportunities to support new and ongoing initiatives.

In assessing the University's relative weaknesses, it is important to identify deficiencies that can be targeted and minimized:

  • Although Auburn University successfully recruits academically prepared students, its current four- and six-year graduation rates lag behind those
    of leading peers despite tuition restructuring to enable students to complete more hours per semester at no additional charge. Additionally, advisor-student ratios remain high in many of the colleges.
  • While the institution has weathered the recent historic decreases in state funding, significant new revenue streams other than tuition have not been identified. With fiscal uncertainly, a continued area of weakness involves lower salaries for Auburn's ranked faculty than for their counterparts at peer institutions (ranked 13th among 24 SREB peers in 2012), a discrepancy which could diminish the institution's ability to recruit and retain faculty.
  • Although Auburn University alumni report high levels of participation in Auburn Clubs, relatively few alumni provide philanthropic support of their alma mater.
  • While it conducts more funded research than most American colleges and universities, Auburn currently produces lower levels of research revenue and productivity than the very best peer institutions nationally. Reasons cited for this include inconsistent research administrative support, insufficiency of resources to encourage and support collaborative and interdisciplinary programs, and lower research expectations than those at aspirational peer institutions.
  • Auburn University currently offers no formal course designation and little academic credit for service learning, and engagement in extension and outreach is not uniformly encouraged at the departmental levels. Many campus disciplines are not engaged in extension programs, appointments or continuing education.
Opportunities

Early in the planning process, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee conducted an analysis of Auburn's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). Opinions and comments on this analysis were solicited from faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, elected officials, and members of the Auburn Family. Essential in developing priorities, the SWOT analysis helped to pinpoint environmental factors likely to challenge the institution over the next five years as well as external opportunities to support new and ongoing initiatives.

It is important to recognize some of the numerous external factors that carry the potential to benefit the institution in crucial ways:

  • New techniques for cost analysis and budgeting are emerging in higher education. Opportunities exist to examine strategic enrollment increases in targeted programs.
  • Potential exists for instructional, research, and outreach partnerships with higher education institutions throughout the state to enhance programmatic opportunities and activities that would address pressing social needs, particularly in underserved communities throughout Alabama.
  • Growth in demand for eLearning opportunities (including distance education) has created new markets for both start-up and traditional institutions of higher education. Carefully planned hybrid or distance education programs at the undergraduate and professional Master's level may expand Auburn University's reach and provide a new source of net revenue, particularly in nontraditional and international markets. Even for on-campus students, growth in web-enhanced technologies, such as enabling Auburn's ePortfolio project, present new ways for students to envision, organize and display their learning and accomplishments.
  • The importance of active and collaborative learning has become widely accepted in higher education. Enhancing learning communities and common courses for first-year students may better integrate campus programs and support services (academic and non-academic) and can impact students earlier in their academic career, when it may matter the most.
  • Globalization is making possible many new international partnerships among institutions of higher learning. Opportunities exist to increase students' global awareness and international competence through increased connections with alumni who are making a global impact, new international student enrollment, and enhanced integration of study abroad opportunities with curricular and co-curricular experiences.
  • Leading academic research and development enterprises have developed new methods to support and coordinate faculty research expertise. Growth and improvement of Auburn University's research leadership and support services may seed future opportunities and promote faculty success.
  • While expertise in a field of study remains the defining feature of a successful faculty member, faculty roles and the concept of scholarship have evolved, making it possible to tailor assignments for faculty and to maximize what Auburn faculty currently do best and what they might do even better in the future, such as engaging undergraduate students in their own research projects.
  • Alumni and friends have untapped potential to support Auburn University's mission through their philanthropy. Strengthened financial support of Auburn should result from the Leadership and Public Gift phases of the current comprehensive campaign.
Threats

Early in the planning process, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee conducted an analysis of Auburn's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). Opinions and comments on this analysis were solicited from faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, elected officials, and members of the Auburn Family. Essential in developing priorities, the SWOT analysis helped to pinpoint environmental factors likely to challenge the institution over the next five years as well as external opportunities to support new and ongoing initiatives.

Threats include those environmental factors that carry the potential of hindering Auburn's success:

  • Public higher education is becoming increasingly privatized, resulting in increased cost to students and families. While the demand for high quality college education remains undiminished, universities will experience increasing pressure to restrain the growth in costs to students while improving quality through such means as providing experiences in research for all undergraduates. Failure to respond to this challenge could affect student demand and financial stability.
  • Auburn University faces competition for desirable students both from other Alabama institutions and from out-of-state. The projected supply of capable in-state high school graduates is level. Meanwhile, Auburn faces increasing competition for out-of-state students, both from less expensive alternatives in students' home states and other institutions that are seeking to increase their own out-of-state enrollments and even, potentially, from online education providers.
  • The University's intercollegiate athletics programs are large and have been financially self-sustaining. However, since most intercollegiate sports do not produce revenue, financial downturns in one or two sports can affect the entire intercollegiate athletics program and the University more generally.
  • Other auxiliary or separately funded activities of the University face similar challenges to operate without continuing general funds. Without access to revenues from student tuition and fees, ACES and the Agricultural Experiment Station are especially vulnerable to declines in state appropriations.
  • Like other public research universities, Auburn University faces stiff competition for the best faculty from advantaged private institutions at a time when federal and other sources of funding for academic research and development are becoming more precarious. Loss of research-active faculty or of sources of research funding could harm the institution's ability to carry out one part of its mission.

 

Last Updated: Aug. 13, 2013

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