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Practical, if Not Liberal, Arts
Auburn has weathered some tough times. Its fiscal fortunes have fluctuated, and a parade of university presidents has passed through its administration. But in recent years, the university has bounced back with a renewed focus on its curriculum. While some professors object to the diminished importance of liberal arts, others feel the general education curriculum has retained a sufficient liberal arts component. The majority of students pursue studies in business, education, or engineering, three of the university’s strongest programs. The Economics Department, part of the College of Business, is loaded with some of the best and brightest faculty in the nation. Students who elect not to go the economics route can opt for studies in agriculture, forestry, conservation, and related fields, all of which Auburn has devoted more resources to developing in recent years. Literary and artsy types might be happier at another school, but for devotees of practical arts, Auburn has quite a bit to offer.
Tigers have an air of propriety and southern gentility. While keggers are frequently part of football game fever, the decadence doesn’t go much further than that. The Greek presence is strong, with roughly a quarter of the student population participating, but it doesn’t dominate the social scene. Nearly 70 percent of students are native Alabamians, and legacies reach back two and three generations. While a campus-wide spirit of community exists and is a source of pride among Tigers, ethnic diversity is somewhat lacking. African Americans are the only significant minority, representing less than 10 percent of the student body. Most Auburn students are conservative, but for those who find a niche, the atmosphere is friendly and easygoing.
Campus is a sprawling 1,700 acres of beautiful southern grace. Housing shortages are notorious, and under a quarter of students live on campus. Most head instead for one of the many apartment complexes that have sprung up in neighboring areas to accommodate the university’s growth. For those remaining on the grounds, residence halls vary from the serviceable, Depression-era Quad to recently renovated buildings. The university is by far the biggest action in the town of Auburn, which markets itself as “The Loveliest Village on the Plains.” Auburn has recently become one of the fastest-growing U.S. cities, but urbanites shouldn’t expect cosmopolitan living. The town is closely tied to the university—historically, economically, and culturally—and relations between the two are strong, particularly during football season. For students needing a break from the picnic-and-pie pace, the hopping college hub of Atlanta is just two hours away.