Auburn University Strategic Planning Update

February 2024

Dear Colleagues,

As we reach mid-February, we are writing to provide you with an update on the progress of our strategic planning efforts. From November to February, we hosted 19 statewide listening sessions and additional on-campus sessions with various stakeholder groups. In total, more than 700 members of the Auburn Family have taken the time to share their ideas, feedback, and vision for Auburn University’s future. In addition, we launched a survey in January 2024 to gather broad input on areas of focus that emerged throughout the last few months of listening sessions. Together, the input and insights gathered from the survey and sessions with faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, and university partners are invaluable and critical in shaping the direction of what will become our shared goals and initiatives. The steering committee’s working groups continue to assess this data to identify priorities that reflect the broader vision of the kind of institution Auburn is now and the type of institution we aspire to be as a land-grant R1 institution.

Without question, the most impactful part of this process has been the meaningful conversations with our institution’s stakeholders. This level of engagement has enabled us to identify critical areas of strength while outlining our opportunities to improve as an institution. Of course, the visionary direction for our institution must be balanced with attention and investment in current efforts to enhance our processes and policies. As we prepare to complete our data collection process, we are immensely grateful to the university community for the time, energy, and effort many of you have contributed.

As we transition into framing the goals that will define our plan, we will continue to engage your ideas and feedback in this continuous process. We will continue to update the campus in the process and invite you to reach out if you have any additional questions or ideas.

War Eagle, 

Vini Nathan, Co-Chair
Provost & SVP Academic Affairs

Kerry Inger, Co-Chair
Associate Professor, School of Accountancy

Hari Narayanan, Co-Chair
Chair and Professor, Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering

The following summarizes key themes and trends from discussions during one or more of the institution’s statewide listening sessions.

Prompt: Auburn’s core strengths and competencies

Key Themes:

  • Auburn has a special and unique culture, featuring the “Auburn Family” and the Auburn Creed, sharing “War Eagle” with Auburn people around the globe, Aubie, and other important traditions.
  • Auburn students arrive with increasingly high credentials (ACT and GPA) and a desire to join the campus community. A balanced student experience features academics, extracurricular activities, and social and athletic activities. Upon graduation, Auburn students are prepared to work hard in their chosen field and represent the university well.
  • Auburn faculty are dedicated to both students and research endeavors. Many academic programs have strong national reputations. Faculty are engaged in impactful research with widespread benefits.
  • The leadership team is well-respected by faculty, the Board of Trustees, and alumni and is pushing the university in the right direction.
  • There is a positive relationship between the campus and the Auburn community.
  • Auburn’s focus on serving Alabama students is consistent with our land-grant mission. Extension services are making a positive difference in all 67 counties in Alabama and are noted by many as having an exceptional impact on the state. Auburn students, faculty, and staff are also making a positive impact with their involvement in outreach missions across the state.


Auburn alumni are proud of academic and athletic programs and want to be a part of the university and give back with their resources and time. The Auburn Family encompasses a broad network of people in many places across various careers and industries. Auburn attracts increasingly talented students from the state of Alabama and other parts of the country. There is a sense of belonging for students, and there are many ways for students to be involved in campus life while also being embraced by the Auburn community. Faculty and staff care deeply about students and provide a diverse and rigorous curriculum to help students find what they are passionate about. Students overwhelmingly would attend again and highly recommend attending Auburn to others. The land-grant mission to train the workforce is being achieved, with Auburn having a great reputation with employers across many industries. Auburn has a tremendous impact on the state through extension and outreach activities. Auburn’s receipt of R1 status and growth in the research enterprise benefit all parts of campus, Alabama, and the broader global community.

Prompt: Auburn’s Capacity to Improve

Key Themes:

  • The disparity of experiences and resources negatively impacts groups of students, faculty, and staff in certain colleges and programs.
  • Auburn needs to do more to tell our story and highlight our achievements.
  • The demographics of Auburn do not match the state of Alabama.
  • Admissions decisions should be balanced on high academic standards and students with a strong desire to attend Auburn who will excel if given the opportunity. There is a perception that student recruitment needs to be improved and we are losing the best students to other universities.
  • The cost of attendance is a hardship for many potential students, and scholarships are not competitive with other regional universities.
  • Auburn is missing an opportunity to educate students in important life and professional skills, and there is a lack of interdisciplinary education spanning programs across colleges. More students should participate in high-impact practices (internships, co-ops, service-learning, study abroad, etc.).
  • A more strategic and coordinated effort to alumni giving is necessary, with only 13% of alumni currently donating each year.
  • There are concerns that off-campus housing overdevelopment could negatively impact the connection between the university and the Auburn community.


Although being humble is a tenet of the Creed, Auburn is modest to a fault, and we do not do a good job of telling our story outside the Auburn family. The siloed culture at Auburn negatively impacts the student experience. Auburn’s demographics do not match the state, and there is a strong feeling that a diverse set of people makes a university stronger. The high cost of attendance, lack of scholarships, and uneven student experience are inconsistent with the university’s land grant mission. There are concerns about academic programs not producing the appropriate number of graduates to meet industry demand. All academic programs should focus on high-impact practice opportunities and job placement for all students. Auburn should capitalize on emerging research fields in many areas, and more research faculty and staff are needed to meet the demand for Auburn research. State-of-the-art facilities must be maintained for all academic programs, and sufficient affordable student housing must be available for all students who want to live on campus. There is a sentiment of a lack of transparency surrounding admissions decisions and enrollment targets. There are concerns that enrollment growth and overdevelopment could negatively impact the quality of the Auburn student experience and the connection between the university and the Auburn community. Leveraging extension could lead to more success. There are missed advancement opportunities, particularly with recent graduates and young alums.

Prompt: Auburn in 10 years

 Key Themes:

  • Auburn is on the cutting edge of emerging trends, serving as a thought leader in the southeast. Auburn’s overall ranking has risen, and many programs are individually ranked highly.
  • The demographics of Auburn students, faculty, and staff more closely match those of the state of Alabama.
  • Auburn has a focused brand, and it is clear to constituents what it is.
  • The exceptional student experience is universal, with students graduating job-ready and securing jobs in their field.
  • Auburn is known broadly for its research enterprise.
  • A strong culture of multidisciplinary work and collaboration moves everyone forward together. There are more partnerships and collaborations with industry, including more (or required) internships and co-op programs.
  • There is greater awareness and leveraging of extension and outreach operations and emphasis on the positive impact they have on the state.
  • Alumni remain engaged and give resources at higher levels than in the past through more strategic and targeted development efforts. Endowment exists to support every/most students with a scholarship opportunity.
  • Auburn remains a major university with exceptional opportunity and a small-town feel. Campus continues to be a beautiful place while having sufficient infrastructure to support strategic growth. Opportunities exist for all students who desire to live on campus.


The exceptional student experience is universal and could be even better with more high-impact practice opportunities, including internships and co-ops, service learning, and study abroad. Awareness exists about academic and research endeavors. Auburn tells its story through traditional and emerging media methods so that people in Alabama, the region, and the world know the great things happening at Auburn. Effective communication exists on campus and with alums. Businesses come to Auburn seeking partnerships because goals and programs align with the state's economic activities. Scholarships support the best and brightest and focus on students who would otherwise be unable to attend Auburn. Alabama students remain prioritized in enrollment decisions with increased access through pathways programs. The research enterprise is consistent with the R1 status, benefitting all areas of campus, Alabama, and beyond. There is a collaborative environment where colleges and departments work well together. Campus facilities and infrastructure strongly support students' academic and extracurricular endeavors, faculty research, and the workplace of the future.

Prompt: Barriers to Success

 Key Themes:

  • A lack of funding and uneven allocation of limited resources is a barrier to achieving strategic goals. Balancing competing priorities including enhancing the student experience, increasing the research enterprise, and creating the learning environment and workplace of the future challenges achievement of goals.
  • Overcoming siloed culture will require buy-in from many stakeholders with varying incentives and priorities.
  • Common challenges to higher education could hinder success, including the decline in students enrolling in college (demographic and value perception driven), student debt, and the regulatory and legal environment.
  • Strategic planning must be a continuing process and requires buy-in from the Auburn family.
  • The lack of streamlined administrative and human resource processes hinder efficiency and improvement.
  • Space and physical building space demands may be impossible to keep up with.


Resources are imperative to success, including stakeholder giving, state funding, new revenue sources, and efficient and fair allocation of resources. A predicted reduction in the number of high school students pursuing a college degree and the affordability of an Auburn degree will require proactive enrollment management to avoid a decline in the size and diversity of the student body. Auburn has successfully navigated the political climate, but it remains a challenge. The university must be agile while knowing what needs to change and what should stay the same to maintain the unique Auburn culture. Willingness to adapt and stakeholder buy-in will be crucial to achieving goals.