Auburn University is preparing to launch an internal search for a vice-president to lead a new institute that will coordinate AU's agricultural and natural resource programs.

The Board of Trustees approved creation of the new institute on June 30, capping more than two years of study that included input from major agricultural, forestry and related constituent organizations as well as faculty and staff of the campus units that will be part of the new institute.

Interim President Ed Richardson says he hopes to have a new vice-president on board by early fall to lead the organizational efforts of the institute. The institute will unite agriculture, forestry and natural resource programs from three AU divisions — AU main campus, Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

The new vice-president will report directly to the president on administrative matters, but Richardson says academic matters in the College of Agriculture and the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences will still go through the Office of the Provost. Richardson says programs with connections to AAES or ACES through other colleges and schools will remain in the same colleges and schools as in the past.

While the initial focus is on improving the ability of Auburn's relevant research and Extension programs to meet the changing needs of Alabama agriculture, forestry and natural resources, Richardson says AU will organize and operate the institute's administrative structure in accordance with agreements in effect with Alabama A&M.

AU is the third major land-grant institution in the Southeast to consolidate its agriculture-related programs into an institute.