Auburn University named finalist for 2015 Economic Prosperity University Awards

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The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, or APLU, has included Auburn University among the six public research institutions identified as finalists for its third annual Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Awards.

The finalists – Auburn University, Clemson University, Ohio University, University of Illinois, University of Maryland and University of Minnesota — are competing for four different awards that recognize different components of economic engagement. The award categories include place, talent, innovation and connections.

"Public research universities have a core responsibility to take their wide array of expertise and put it to work in their region by helping to grow businesses, strengthen the economy and advance society," APLU President Peter McPherson said.

"The six institutions that are finalists for the 2015 APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Awards have all demonstrated a clear commitment to economic engagement and have followed through by delivering results. APLU applauds them and looks forward to sharing their good work with other institutions as a resource for all public research universities to expand their economic engagement activities and help grow their regional economies."

In June, Auburn was one of 18 universities nationwide named in APLU's third annual class of Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities and was the only university named in the state of Alabama. The designation identifies institutions working to advance the economic well-being of their states, regions and the nation through a variety of efforts.

Each year at the APLU annual meeting, four of the institutions that were designated as Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities also receive awards recognizing exemplary work in this arena. The winners will be announced Nov. 17 at the association's annual meeting in Indianapolis.

The "place" award (finalists: Auburn University and Ohio University) recognizes a university that is excelling in community, social and cultural development work. The "talent" award (finalists: Clemson University and University of Maryland) honors an institution with exemplary initiatives in education and workforce development.

The "innovation" award (finalists: University of Illinois System and University of Minnesota) honors an institution demonstrating outstanding work in technology transfer, entrepreneurship and business development. The "connections" category (all six finalists are eligible for this award) recognizes the institution that is doing the most to build connections between categories of economic engagement — innovation and entrepreneurship, talent development and social, community and cultural development.

Auburn's application for a "place" award highlighted three programs that help drive economic prosperity through the social, cultural and developmental aspects of communities — the Auburn University Rural Studio, the National Poultry Technology Center and the off-bottom oyster farming initiative at the Auburn University Shellfish Lab.

The Rural Studio, part of the College of Architecture Design and Construction, affords students the opportunity to apply their skills as designers while also learning about the nature, history, culture, economy, architecture and community in the unique educational landscape that is rural West Alabama. There, student projects serve to cultivate local business and social networks, as well as create spaces for gathering, recreation and entertainment.

In Alabama and across the U.S., the National Poultry Technology Center works hand-in-hand with poultry growers and industry to improve the bottom-line profitability and quality of poultry production by providing timely applied research and education in housing, equipment, energy and environmental controls.

The Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory on the Dauphin Island provides instruction, research and outreach in the area of shellfish ecology and production. Through their efforts, a 32-acre oyster farm "business park" along with hands-on training programs where participants establish commercial oyster farms on site has been established in Portersville Bay, Alabama.

"Understanding local culture and social norms, workforce needs and public priorities is critical to providing communities with tools needed to prosper. As a land-grant university, Auburn is committed to statewide outreach, public service and engagement programs," Auburn University Vice President for Research and Economic Development John Mason said.

"We work alongside entrepreneurs, industry leaders and government officials as an engine of economic opportunity. We were pleased to have been recognized for these efforts by the APLU earlier in the year when we received their Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation, and it is an honor to now be among the finalists for these prestigious annual awards."

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.