Monday afternoon at Tuskegee University, Auburn and Tuskegee initiated a Memorandum of Understanding between the two Universities in a signing ceremony held in Margaret Murray Washington Hall. This MOU would expand the existing partnerships between the two institutions and collaborate on community outreach.
This is the first time the Universities have had an institutional MOU but have had departmental MOUs and partnerships with the College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Communication and Journalism and the School of Aviation.
The ceremony was small and featured an introduction from S. Keith Hargrove, the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Tuskegee, and Royrickers Cook, the associate provost and the vice president for university outreach at Auburn.
"I can say today that it only makes sense that we come together and validate decades of collaborations with the awesome potential to do more," Hargrove said. "We recognize that we can do more and impact the communities where we live, with regard to the quality of life, and having the opportunity to collaboratively impact healthcare, social and economic conditions and produce graduates to change the world is an affirmation of this occasion."
Both Hargrove and Cook said this MOU has been more than a year in the making, starting with Zoom calls during the height of the pandemic until it reached its conclusion in the ceremonial signing.
"This memorandum of understanding will allow our students and faculty who work with Tuskegee University to explore, outreach-related efforts in the space of health care and health care access," Cook said. "So we're starting a committee, a collaboration, that will be comprised of five officials from Tuskegee and five from Auburn that will meet on an ongoing basis to look at what are some areas of synergies where faculty and students can engage in partnerships."
Right now, Cook said, the primary focus is on healthcare and healthcare access, but there are other areas that the institutions are looking at. Auburn and Tuskegee will address, through institutional resources and intellectual capacities, the lack of adequate access to healthcare and other factors that impact health in communities of color across the state.
The ceremony also included remarks from University Presidents Charlotte Morris and Christopher Roberts.
"This MOU speaks specifically about addressing disparities in the communities across our state," Roberts said. "Auburn and Tuskegee have been working for some time to improve these disparities. However, there is a unique opportunist before us to bring in even greater access to healthcare and serve underserved communities in Alabama."
For Morris, the MOU held such importance to Tuskegee and the community because it formalized what had already been happening between the two institutions for a long time.
"This just formalizes it and gives us an opportunity to do more things together," Morris said. "Because we know that together, we do great things. It also gives us the opportunity to talk about the needs for each institution, and our strategic plan for calls for us to give our students what they need to become productive citizens."
With the MOU, they could now formally check Auburn and see if they have some of the things or programs that they did not have. They could send Tuskegee students there to get that specialized training while they would still have the opportunity to get a degree from Tuskegee University.
"It also gives Auburn University more diversity in their specialized programs of study," Morris said. "We look forward to participating with them in our STEM areas and some of those areas that are unique that our students would like to get into."
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