Auburn, Gulf Shores partner on academic complex

Centerpiece of Auburn Education Complex will be referral center for Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine.

Auburn University and the city of Gulf Shores, Ala., are moving forward with plans to build an educational complex in Gulf Shores that will serve as both an academic outpost for Auburn and a resource for Gulf Coast residents.

A number of Auburn's academic programs are expected to operate out of the new 24,000 sq. ft. building, which will be adjacent to land the city acquired for a new high school and the planned Coastal Alabama Center for Educational Excellence.

The centerpiece of the Auburn Education Complex will be a referral center for the College of Veterinary Medicine. It will serve as an extension of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Auburn, Ala., to provide specialty veterinary services and related educational opportunities in south Alabama and the surrounding region.

Calvin Johnson, dean of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, said the Veterinary Teaching Hospital has provided south Alabama and the Gulf Coast region with specialty veterinary services and continuing education for veterinarians for many years.

"We see this as an opportunity to more efficiently serve regional veterinarians and advance animal health while providing an expanded educational experience for our students and residents," he said.

By having a base of operations in Gulf Shores, Auburn can enhance its student engagement in veterinary clinical education and laboratory training in disciplines unique to Alabama's Gulf Coast, such as marine mammal medicine, aquatic animal pathology, zoological and wildlife medicine and emergency response.

"We appreciate the opportunity to engage in Auburn University's educational initiative in Baldwin County and to better serve the veterinary community along the Gulf Coast," Johnson added. "We look forward to being a good academic neighbor for the proposed Coastal Alabama Center for Education Excellence and a strong community partner for the city of Gulf Shores."

The Coastal Alabama Center for Educational Excellence is part of the "Small Town, Big Beach Vision 2025 for Sustainability" strategic plan adopted by Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and the Gulf Shores City Council in 2014. With education as a top priority, Gulf Shores plans to establish the Coastal Alabama Center for Educational Excellence to promote access to higher education. The academic campus will feature a new high school and a new location for Faulkner State Community College and will encourage affiliations with four-year universities.

"We are honored that Auburn University has decided to invest in Gulf Shores and are thrilled to welcome them as a significant partner in education and the future of our community," Craft said. "This announcement is a major step forward in making the Coastal Alabama Center for Educational Excellence a reality and advances our mission to enhance the educational opportunities and services available to our residents."

Additional Auburn programs that are expected to use the facility include:

* College of Agriculture — for ongoing teaching and research activities related to marine fisheries and aquaculture and ornamental horticulture;

* Auburn Aviation Center — for non-credit training courses such as an unmanned aircraft systems certificate; specialty courses such as mapping/surveying, precision agriculture and public safety, and K-12 outreach through the Striped Wings student ambassador program and camps for various grade levels;

* Office of Research & Economic Development — for coordinating research in additive manufacturing and training highly skilled technical personnel heavily focused for aerospace and providing collaboration opportunities with selected research institutions, community colleges, Airbus and its suppliers, GE Aviation and other manufacturers in the Gulf Coast region, and

 Alabama Cooperative Extension System — for a plant diagnostic laboratory to support the local commercial market and homeowners, master gardener resource office and various 4-H activities and extension meetings for area residents.

"The Gulf Shores complex supports Auburn University's mission of serving as an academic and economic resource to Alabama," Auburn University provost Tim Boosinger said. "We are excited to expand our reach to another part of the state and increase our capacity to better serve the citizens of south Alabama."

The Auburn University Board of Trustees agreed at its September meeting to authorize president Jay Gogue to execute a lease agreement with the Gulf Shores Public Education Finance Authority, which will purchase the property in Gulf Shores, build a structure and lease it to Auburn for the university's needs.

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