The Board of Trustees met in the Legacy Ballroom of the The Hotel at Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center Friday, Nov. 17 in their last meeting of the year.
Beginning at 8:30 a.m., the full board was present, save for Elizabeth Huntley, who attended via telephone. Many Auburn deans were in attendance, as well as relevant faculty members, university staff and delegates from various student government organizations.
Progressing quickly, the meeting ended at 10:45 a.m., 30 minutes earlier than expected.
Multimillion dollar renovation for Lowder Hall Advising Suite approved
The Harbert College of Business’s Lowder Hall Advising Suite will soon see a $5.5 million upgrade following unanimous approval by the trustees.
According to documents submitted by university officials, the renovation will work to “accommodate the growth of student enrollment and improve departmental efficiency.”
Lowder Hall was built in 1992. As of 2023, the college has the largest enrollment across the university, with 5,887 enrolled in 2023. Dan King, associate vice president for facilities, said the renovations will transform the current office to a welcoming and modern environment.
Planning for the project just began, with construction bidding and contracting likely to begin soon.
The Union Housing Rates approved for 2024-2025
In a move to increase housing availability for students, the Board approved housing rates for the university’s partnership with The Union, an off-campus apartment for the 2024-25 academic year. This partnership will join two others — 191 College and 160 Ross — in offering students a combination of on-and-off-campus housing. Rates for the rest of university housing were approved at the previous Board meeting held Aug. 25.
The apartment complex is located at 900 W Glenn Ave., near several other popular off-campus apartments and the RO parking lot. Rates currently advertised on the university housing website range from $6,400 to $6,620 per semester.
The partnership between the apartment and the university was finalized Oct. 19. The university is master leasing the complex, which is set to house 501 students, according to Nyerere Tryman, executive director of University Housing.
Tryman said the university has seen an increase in housing applications, and he expects to see a housing standby list once again.
Engineering college program cuts and additions
The Board voted to close the Bachelor of Science in Wireless Engineering, a program which Vini Nathan, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said no longer fulfilled enrollment requirements. The university plans to help approximately 20 current students transition to other departments in the college, according to Nathan. Current courses in the major will be integrated throughout the college as well.
Part of the university’s attempt to stay on top of technological advances, the Board also approved a new Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence Engineering. Nathan anticipates 20 students in the program at its maturity. The program will be housed in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering. The department will also offer related undergraduate and graduate certificates.
The changes will not take effect until the Alabama Commission on Higher Education acts on it, leaving the wireless engineering major in limbo for the next few months.
Best year for external funding in university history
“Auburn University just finished the best year in our history for external funding,” said Steve Taylor, senior vice president for research and economic development.
Trustees and attendees in the audience applauded Taylor, noted this year’s funding was a 25% increase over fiscal year 2022. $218 million of the $300 million secured for fiscal year 2023 was classified as research funding, a 45% increase from the previous fiscal year, according to Taylor.
Taylor said 10 of the university’s 13 colleges set their own records for external funding. While he appreciated the audience recognition, Taylor said the funding was due to “outstanding faculty, staff and students [who] are conducting amazing research, creative scholarship, extension and outreach.”
External funding comes in a variety of forms, often in research grants, donations and industry partnerships.
College of Human Sciences begins fundraising for new buildings
Occupying one of the oldest buildings on campus, the College of Human Sciences can now look forward to an upgrade. Spidle Hall, which was built in 1962, currently hosts most of the college. The Board greenlighted plans to begin fundraising efforts to either construct new buildings or renovate the existing human sciences buildings.
This move clears the way for future projects, but any construction or renovation efforts still must receive Board approval. Human sciences will join a growing number of colleges that will receive new buildings over the coming years. Currently, construction continues on new buildings for the Colleges of Education, Science and Mathematics and Forestry, Wildlife and Environment.
Specific details for the fundraising efforts have not yet been released.
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Connor Copeland, freshman in English literature, has been with The Plainsman since fall 2023