The UA's Land-Grant Mission: Its Contemporary Relevance

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The often-evoked land-grant mission represents the foundational basis for the University of Arizona's bond with Arizona communities along with its efforts to expand educational opportunities while helping to address important societal concerns.

But the mission – a 150-year-old charge enacted with the passage of the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862 – was drafted during a time of widely different social contexts, financial and intellectual resources and national priorities.

So stands the question: How can the UA adhere to its land-grant mission given a contemporary, global context and as students, faculty and staff are engaged in research, teaching and service initiatives not constrained by state or even national boundaries?

"As when reading the U.S. Constitution, you have to put the Morrill Act document in its timeframe," said Leslie P. Tolbert, UA's senior vice president for research.

"What makes us a land-grant institution are two ideas that come through to me loud and clear in the Morrill Act: education that is accessible to the general population and a rational, evidence-based approach for the conduct of daily business – business with a lowercase B," Tolbert said. "The University of Arizona provides both."

In addition to the Morrill Act, the subsequent Hatch Act of 1887 and Smith-Lever Act of 1914 informed the evolution of public land-grant institutions, said Shane Burgess, dean of the UA College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences, the UA's historic signature land-grant college. At the onset, the UA focused on teaching, research and outreach efforts in agricultural sciences, engineering, military sciences and classical studies.

But a change has occurred. It is not that the land-grant mission itself has changed with time, but its intended impact has.

At the UA, the land-grant legacy emphasizing educational access, research and outreach remains. But given societal shifts, demographic changes, enhanced technologies and also global and cross-border connections, the mission today is also about having simultaneous local and global impact in a broad range of areas.

Read the rest of this August 27 UANews article at the link below.