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Board of Trustees works to improve facilities, expand research and continue outreach

<p>Board of Trustees meeting on April 12, 2019 in the Hotel at Auburn.</p>

Board of Trustees meeting on April 12, 2019 in the Hotel at Auburn.

On Nov. 11, the Board of Trustees held a meeting in which they approved several facilities-related measures, as well as several research and outreach efforts.

While the Property and Facilities Committee successfully pushed nine items, one stood out: the final project approval for the new College of Education building.

The 167,000 sq. ft. building is estimated to cost $77 million and to be completed in 2024. Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Dan King said the project has been in the works for years.

"This is a project that we have been working on for a number of years, and it is finally coming to fruition," King said. "It will be one of the major projects to be built at Auburn University in the next several years."

King said the initial resolution to approve the project came about in a 2018 meeting. In 2019, architects were selected, and several more steps were taken to finally allow the University to approve this construction.

"It is expected that the new building will enhance the student experience and facilitate a strong college identity," King said.

King also noted that the project will be funded by a combination of gift funds, university bond funds and public school and college authority funds. The $36.4 million in public school and college authority funds require no reimbursement from the University.

While the Gulf Coast Engineering Research Station was part of the Property and Facilities Committee's presentation, the project has larger implications about Auburn's research efforts.

The board approved the new building and an architect, but this building highlights efforts from the University to expand its research throughout the state.

Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Vini Nathan also announced a proposal to create the Applied Research Institute, which was approved. The institute will be based in the new Research and Innovation Campus in Huntsville, Ala.

Nathan noted that three colleges are currently set to work within the institute are the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, the College of Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

"We do anticipate that other colleges would be participating in the institute as well, but these three are the lead colleges that will be moving forward with the institute," Nathan said.

Additionally, the board unanimously voted to close the in-person and online Master of Education and education specialist degrees in library media and technology in the College of Education. 

The programs prepare students to support teachers by providing the most up-to-date information while teachers build their annual curriculums. By doing so, the service reduces time gathering these materials so teachers can focus on specific lesson plans and classroom administration.

The program failed to meet previous enrollment projections.

"It has graduated 18 students over the last five years," Nathan said. "We currently do not have any students in the program, so a detailed plan is not needed."

Although the degree programs will no longer be available at the University, Auburn students can still attend some of the program's courses. 

"There are a couple of extremely popular courses that our students take in this field, so we will continue to just offer these stand-alone courses," Nathan said.

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Trustee Elizabeth Huntley gave the final address, echoing the university's mission "to improve the lives of the people of Alabama." Huntley recognized Rural Studio for receiving the 2022 architecture and interior design award from the Cooper Hewitt Museum of Design.

Led by Director Andrew Freeaar, Rural Studio "seeks to support sustainable rural living" by building low-cost homes, refurbishing existing structures, and overcoming the problems rural Americans face, such as access to food.

"We live in a food desert," Freeaar said. "We took this issue on for ourselves with a strategic plan for our property, to turn it into a productive landscape. Today…we produce 7,000 pounds of vegetables a year."

Based in Newbern, Ala., the program has completed over 200 projects under the banner of the Auburn College of Architecture, Design and Construction. Some of those projects include building a firehouse for Newbern, the town's first public building in 110 years, and providing low-cost single-family homes for "families under the welfare radar."

Rural Studio also maintains the "Front Poarch Initiative," which provides housing products and technical support for external housing providers across 8 Southeastern states.

Tucker Massey | Content Editor

Tucker Massey, junior in journalism, is the content editor for The Auburn Plainsman.

Ethan Flynn | Campus News Editor

Ethan Flynn, sophomore in journalism and finance, is the campus editor at The Auburn Plainsman. He has been with The Plainsman since Fall, 2022.

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