First, a little background. “Initiatives” are a relatively new animal on campus, organized around a specific interest or a strategic commitment to a particular topic. If the initiative is successful (and this can be measured in various ways), the initiative is formalized as a center or an institute. And AUFSI has been successful in various areas, from bringing in some $11 million in extramural funding to bringing together Working Groups of faculty from different disciplines to getting the Virtual Food Systems Training Consortium. We’re also working to create a Virtual Food Entrepreneur Initiative.
According to the Centers and Institutes Policy passed by the Auburn University Board of Trustees in 1990, a center or an institute represents a well-defined area of instruction, research, or outreach and involves faculty and resources from more than one discipline, department, college, or school. So far, of course, the Auburn University Food Systems Institute involves faculty from nearly every college and school as well as from other universities. Both initiatives and institutes are established when a university has existing strengths and resources in the programs, including a critical mass of faculty and a demonstrated commitment from involved faculty and administration to actively participate. Being named as an institute, however, provides the program with greater visibility and increased potential for extramural funding, as well as a degree of permanence.
Ordinarily, all centers and institutes are the responsibility of a vice president or the provost, but according to the policy it is essential that academic deans be directly involved in the administration. The director of the center or institute reports to this administrative board, which, in turn, reports to the appropriate vice president. One of the accomplishments we’re proud of this year is the establishment of just such a board.
Are we proud? You bet we are. AUFSI staff and core faculty have worked hard this last year—and we’re not resting on our laurels just yet!
Patricia Curtis, PhD
Director, Auburn University Food Systems Institute