Auburn University Strategic Planning Update

November 2023

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier this fall, the university launched a planning process to define our aspirations and create a shared vision to guide our institution over the next decade. As co-chairs of this project, we know that Auburn is uniquely positioned for future success thanks to our dedicated students, faculty, and staff. We determined from the start that we would ask critical questions and include the full range of campus voices and roles in the process. Only then can we understand our true challenges and leverage our opportunities.

During October, the Strategic Planning Committee hosted more than 20 on-campus listening sessions and interviews, offering an opportunity for a cross-section of the campus community to share their thoughts on Auburn’s strengths, perceived barriers to success, and growth opportunities. We thank the more than 300 faculty, staff, and students who participated in the sessions and provided critical feedback that will shape our 10-year vision. A synopsis of comments from the listening sessions outlining shared priorities communicated by the institution’s internal stakeholders is available here. 

As we conducted the listening sessions, the committee began assessing key data and trends associated with those areas we know warrant considerable focus in the plan. These include student experience, faculty and staff success, operational excellence, enrollment, extension and outreach, research and creative scholarship, and facilities. This assessment period will evaluate Auburn’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and the university’s core values within the broader context of higher education.

Because alumni and university partners are an essential part of a thriving Auburn community, our next phase of listening will engage members of the Auburn Family across the state to further shape our aspirations and strategic priorities. Beginning in November, the committee will host listening sessions with alumni, industry and community leaders, parents, and other institutional supporters in various cities across Alabama. We hope that these discussions will generate actionable ideas and closer relationships that will make the implementation of the plan that much more successful.

We are aware that not everyone has had the opportunity to participate in an in-person listening session. Therefore, the committee will disseminate a Strategic Planning Survey to solicit broad feedback on the priorities identified through the sessions. Additional details will be available in the coming weeks. We also encourage anyone with ideas for an interdisciplinary or cross-functional initiative to submit a white paper to describe potential opportunities for new collaborations on research or curricular programs. 

As the committee continues to leverage our core strengths and identify key opportunities to advance our land-grant mission, we look forward to providing additional updates on our progress.

Our thanks to the Auburn Family for your continued engagement and support.


War Eagle, 

Vini Nathan, Co-Chair

Provost  & SVP Academic Affairs

Kerry Inger, Co-Chair

Associate Professor, School of Accountancy

Hari Narayanan, Co-Chair

Chair, Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering

On-Campus Listening Session Summary

6 November 2023

The following summarizes key themes and trends that emerged from discussions during one or more listening sessions.

Prompt: Auburn’s core strengths and competencies

Key Themes:

  • Loyal employees, students, and alumni aligned with the Auburn Creed.
  • Strong Auburn “Family” Culture that supports and invests in student success.
  • Responsive leadership and administrative support that genuinely care for employees.
  • Competitive employee resources that include competitive benefit packages.
  • Active research programs that solve real problems and impact the quality of life while addressing critical societal issues.
  • Strong town and gown relationship with the surrounding communities.
  • Auburn Outreach/Extension/Service is offered in every county in Alabama, promoting strong community engagement.
  • Enrollment demand demonstrates institutional reputation and value-added degrees across diverse programs.
  • Proud of and committed to Land Grant Designation.


Auburn University maintains core institutional strengths and considerable opportunities for impact, bolstered by its land-grant mission, strong alumni base, and reputation for excellence. The institution’s emphasis on student success and delivering a unique student experience are largely defined by high levels of student engagement and faculty and administrative investments in curricular and co-curricular programs. As an R1 university, Auburn maintains a robust research portfolio and remains a desirable place to live and work, offering competitive employee benefit packages and collaborative relationships with the City of Auburn.

Prompt: Auburn’s Capacity to Improve

  • Institutional silos exist that hinder interdisciplinary work and prevent the integration of resources, connections, and collaboration.
  • Ensure students receive lifelong learning skills, in addition to discipline-specific skills, as well as adaptive workforce readiness.
  • Automate manual institutional processes or use AI where possible.
  • Auburn needs to mature into a 21st-century land-grant institution.
  • Inequality in the student experience is based on resources, especially - facilities, classrooms, faculty, and co-curricular opportunities.
  • Discrepancies in scholarship opportunities that emphasize merit over financial need and an awarding process not aligned with peers.
  • Understanding the careers of tomorrow and how Auburn is preparing students while offering future-focused majors.
  • Graduate student stipends that are not competitive with peers, in addition to the lack of graduate student housing and other resources.
  • Reviewing Auburn’s outdated core curriculum and requiring all students to complete at least one High Impact Practice.
  • AI must be integrated into every curriculum, including students and faculty.
  • Auburn’s branding lacks a narrative regarding student success in diverse majors, especially post-graduate.
  • Increases in student mental health resources are needed to support current student and employee demand.
  • Increased support and resources for non-tenure-track faculty.
  • Faculty inability to engage in pedagogical and professional development due to teaching and research loads.
  • Concerns over faculty retention.
  • A strong demand still exists for affordable childcare among faculty, staff, and graduate students.
  • Institutional incentives are needed to encourage and support faculty interdisciplinary work.
  • Lack of emphasis and value for outreach work in the P&T or annual review processes.
  • The cost of living in Auburn has increased considerably, impacting the ability to compete for prospective faculty.
  • More awards are needed to recognize faculty contributions, particularly at the pre-tenue/NTTF levels.
  • The university does not offer enough Professional Improvement Leave (PIL) for faculty to conduct funded research and contribute to their scholarly field/industry.
  • Faculty “Service” has a negative connotation and should be considered “Leadership” instead.
  • Considerable inequities exist among groups of staff and A&P who are permitted to work remotely as opposed to those who have to be on campus.
  • The process of hiring candidates and reclassifying employees takes too long, with unnecessary steps required.
  • Lack of promotion opportunities exist for staff in the “middle tier.”
  • Students from rural counties are often underprepared for academic rigors – how will Auburn address this?
  • Questions over Auburn’s growth and its impact on campus infrastructure, faculty availability, and resources (especially auxiliary and student spaces).
  • The transfer credit process takes too long and places students at a disadvantage.
  • Considerations for enrolling students who are fully online or enrolled on a hybrid basis.
  • Additional housing is needed to support students, especially in their first year.
  • Support for grant submissions is inconsistent and needs to be increased, especially post-award support.
  • Faculty expectations of research and scholarly work need to be clarified and supported if this is to increase.
  • Research communication: inconsistencies and inadequacies in how Auburn’s research narratives are presented.
  • Auburn needs to decide what research areas we want to focus on, particularly those relevant and necessary in a decade.
  • Need for additional research facilities, including animal research facilities.
  • Electronic processes/automation is needed for all compliance committees, including the IRB and IACUC.
  • Need a plan to address older buildings with high maintenance costs, including extension facilities.
  • Assess how Auburn utilizes classroom spaces and teaches beyond the traditional window of 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.


Key questions surround growth in enrollment and how it may potentially impact campus resources/infrastructure and employees. Key issues that impact all areas of campus include silos that are resource-driven and affect the faculty, staff, and student experiences. A substantial need for diversity exists across all facets of the institution, including student, faculty, and staff recruitment and retention. Greater need-based student financial support and a more efficient scholarship awarding process is necessary. Student housing and other campus resources (mental health, dining, transit, etc.) are inadequate to meet current needs and remain in demand. Reviewing Auburn’s core curriculum will ensure the university offers relevant courses and majors that support competitive graduates with adaptable skills. Concerns exist regarding competitive compensation for all current and prospective employees, which impacts recruitment and retention. Additional employee issues include benefit concerns such as childcare, cost of living, and available mental health resources. Questions exist regarding future remote work policies and ensuring efficient HR processes. Increased support for research is needed centrally, and expectations for faculty research, scholarship, and creative work should be articulated for future growth and to strengthen the culture for interdisciplinary work. Additional and improved facilities are needed to sustain current growth, including increased spaces for students, housing, and academic and research facilities.


Prompt: Auburn in 10 years

  • Auburn redefines what a land-grant institution means while serving the state and larger global community through education, research, outreach, and extension endeavors.
  • Student, faculty, and staff demographics more closely match the state of Alabama.
  • Auburn takes bold and innovative actions to succeed, maximizing impact by understanding and adapting to opportunities and trends and implementing processes that fit the changing environment.
  • Auburn exhibits leadership through mindful and critical usage, education, and research surrounding artificial Intelligence and data.
  • All-encompassing vision of the Auburn family incorporates all members of the Auburn community.
  • Auburn is a leader in sustainability, including topics across the curriculum and problem-solving research that answer important societal questions and establish models for .
  • All students are welcome, engaged, and supported with opportunities and personal attention to thrive at Auburn.
  • Auburn students are prepared for careers of the future, have “adaptive workforce readiness,” and have skills for life-long learning.
  • Students are supported to achieve career goals, and employers desire Auburn graduates and are willing to partner with the university for mutual benefit.
  • Auburn exhibits smart use of resources for traditional, hybrid, and remote learning environments while maintaining students’ connection to the university community.
  • Maintain focus on liberal arts education to supplement STEM, acknowledging employers desire students with humanistic training and a well-rounded experience.
  • Auburn values great teaching and research and offers faculty and staff a great place to work, develop, and progress in their career.
  • Auburn is known for shared governance and achieving greatness through collaborative and data-informed decision-making.
  • Abundant opportunities exist for staff to feel connected to faculty and staff within their departments and across the university.
  • HR and other processes are efficient and enable students, faculty, and staff to focus on the university's education, research, and extension mission.
  • Smart enrollment management serves students in Alabama under our land grant mission while strategically bringing in out-of-state students to create a diverse student body, allowing for growth that does not hinder the quality of student experience and recognizing the capacity of faculty and staff to serve students.
  • Proactive enrollment prepares for the future student body, including understanding future student demographics and needs.
  • Auburn is nationally and internationally recognized as a research-focused institution and exhibits a broad range of areas for research excellence.
  • Interdisciplinary research occurs across campus through central support, industry partnerships, and funding opportunities.
  • The research environment at Auburn attracts scholars, aiding in our recruitment efforts for and retention of new faculty, eminent scholars, graduate students, and undergraduate students.
  • Commitment to infrastructure improvements and necessary resources enables innovative and impactful research.
  • Affordable housing exists on or near campus for undergraduate and graduate students and other stakeholders who need a place to stay during their endeavors at Auburn.
  • Auburn continues to be known as a beautiful campus that enhances the quality of living, learning and working for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and prospective students.



Auburn is proud of its land-grant heritage and perceives service as a responsibility. The Auburn family reflects the demographics of Alabama and welcomes, engages, values, and supports all its members. Artificial intelligence and the data revolution are embraced, included across curricula, and integrated into all aspects of Auburn life. Students experience a learning environment suited to their needs and are prepared for the careers of the future. A well-rounded education leads employers to prefer hiring Auburn students. Faculty endeavors in teaching and research are valued and supported while staff can grow throughout their career. Faculty and staff have an excellent experience from hiring through retirement with supportive and efficient HR processes. Smart and proactive enrollment management allows for growth that does not hinder the quality of education. Auburn is a collaborative environment with interdisciplinary research solving important real-world problems. Responsive and innovative research leads to Auburn being known as a research powerhouse. Auburn should remain a beautiful campus, offering housing and common space that meet the community’s needs.


Prompt: Barriers to Success

  • Limited resources create challenges across the university.
  • Perceptions of silos exist at many levels – across academic and support units, leadership v. rank and file, faculty v. staff.
  • Leadership and the university community resist change, are too humble, and lack accountability, while concerns exist about a lack of transparency around decision-making.
  • Broad challenges for universities include devaluing of higher education, prohibitive legislation, and dwindling state funding.
  • The budget model creates a competitive mindset and hinders collaboration, while perceptions of administrative bloat and bureaucracy create tension.
  • There is a failure to connect across campus and with a broad set of alumni and stakeholders.
  • Lack of continuous strategic planning and buy-in is a barrier to Auburn’s long-term success.
  • There is a lack of data governance, centralized data, data accessibility, and data sharing.
  • Inequity in the student opportunity set begins well before students arrive at Auburn and remains when students arrive on campus.
  • The costs of attending Auburn can be staggering and prohibitive of an excellent student experience.
  • Students do not have a consistent place to go for information, resources, and other aspects of university life.
  • There is not enough time for effective teaching, innovative research, service, and work-life balance among faculty and staff.
  • Lack of support for grants, leadership and professional development, mental health, collaboration, etc., hinder faculty success.
  • Faculty complain but do not offer solutions, with some not feeling empowered.
  • Limited opportunities to advance is a barrier to attracting and retaining talent.
  • The drawn-out hiring process, insufficient onboarding, promotion, reclassification, and demotion obstacles, and lack of accountability were all highlighted as barriers to efficiency, attracting and retaining talent, and making Auburn a great place to work.
  • There is a lack of shared governance in and knowledge of HR policies.
  • The inability to recruit students into majors is a barrier in the admissions process.
  • Growing enrollment strains the current capacity of faculty, staff, facilities, and resources.
  • A dwindling college-age demographic is a potential threat.
  • There are incentives to push out and publish research quickly, and research that is rushed can be sloppy, inaccurate, and unethical.
  • There is a lack of institutional support and resources to double the research enterprise.
  • Housing, shared common space, event space, collaborative research space, labs, animal facilities, and office space are all infrastructure limitations.
  • Auburn cannot grow without limit due to the physical space available on and surrounding campus.



Limited resources and university silos challenge the achievement of goals. Complacency, inertia, and risk aversion of leadership and the university community hinder innovation and deemphasize the vision. The devaluing of higher education, prohibitive legislation, and dwindling state funding are potential external barriers to Auburn’s success. The budget model effectuates silos by making it difficult for central units or colleges that do not have similar levels of affluence to work collaboratively. A lack of connection within and externally weakens the strength of the Auburn family. Strategic planning needs to be ongoing with constant evaluation of the current environment. Inequity in student opportunity and experience disadvantages some students, while costs are prohibitive for many. Faculty lack the time and resources to be successful at everything they are expected to do. Limited promotion and professional development opportunities harm employees. HR processes created frictional losses. The inability to recruit students and growing enrollment are short-term challenges, while demographic shifts will become a long-term challenge. A lack of infrastructure and physical space constrains the ability to grow prosperously.