Auburn University Outreach forms Government and Economic Development Institute

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Assistant Vice President for University Outreach Royrickers Cook has announced the formation of the Government and Economic Development Institute, or GEDI. Longtime outreach director Joe Sumners will serve as executive director for the institute.

GEDI unifies the resources and programs of two existing University Outreach units, the Center for Governmental Services, or CGS, and the Economic and Community Development Institute, or ECDI, to form a higher capacity unit with a broader range of coordinated services for Alabama communities.

"Auburn University is the recognized leader in this state for providing high quality training and assistance to local governments and economic development agencies," said Cook. "The new GEDI will allow us to leverage the strengths of the separate units into more robust and comprehensive support for community development in our state."

The units comprising GEDI have existed in University Outreach for many years, serving respectively state and local government offices and economic development agencies separately. However, in today's economy, that separation is no longer as distinct.

"Community growth and sustainability is not confined to developers; this is one of the most significant issues that mayors, commissioners, and state officials must address," Cook said. "You cannot promote the economic development of a community without addressing the effectiveness of its governmental administration, and vice versa."

Increasingly, the two units were seeking opportunities to work collaboratively together along with other university partners towards joint training and service programs for community officials and developers.

Don-Terry Veal directed CGS until his recent departure to become administrative chief of staff in the president's office of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.

"I would like to thank Don for his many years of service to Auburn University," said Cook. "He provided solid leadership for the Center for Governmental Services and helped advance the Outreach mission."

The transition provided an opportunity for a thorough evaluation of the organizational direction of the unit as well as the leadership.

"We conducted a great amount of research into best practices at leading universities, and sought advice from a broad range of authorities and constituents," Cook said. "We determined the environment was moving the units along similar paths, and we could achieve greater outcomes if the programs were unified under one cohesive and proactive strategic direction."

Joe Sumners comes to the executive director position with experience in both units. He directed the former ECDI since 2000 and also worked as a program administrator in CGS for almost 10 years prior. He is a member of the graduate faculty in the Public Administration program on campus and serves on many institutional and agency boards across the state.

"Joe Sumners is highly respected both in the academic community as well as across Alabama in government and development circles," Cook said. "He has both the experience and the strategic vision to develop a unified, high capacity program for governmental service and economic development outreach at Auburn."

"Ensuring economic prosperity is one of the most important responsibilities for leaders in all sectors of the community," Sumners said. "This is a great opportunity to increase Auburn's capacity to serve our stakeholders across Alabama."

For more information contact Joe Sumners at 334-844-4704 or

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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.