February 20, 2003

Cornell Examines Land Grant History and Legacy

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After a year of investigation and discussion, the Land Grant Mission Review Task Force presented Cornell’s trustees with recommendations on how to incorporate the Land Grant mission into the University’s plans for the future.

At the request of President Hunter R. Rawlings III and Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin, the review began in early 2002 as an investigation into “what it means to be a land grant institution, and what should it mean for this century,” said Francille Firebaugh, vice provost for land grant affairs and special assistant to the president.

“We wanted to begin the process of having the university’s land grant mission reassessed and rejuvenated in light of the region’s, state’s and nation’s changing needs,” said Martin.

Firebaugh worked with five panels of reviewers — composed of faculty, staff, and administrators — to look at college-specific outreach attempts. Their general purposes included evaluating existing programs, and recommending new programs that would address pressing state needs, foster a connection between basic and applied research, and involve both undergraduate and graduate students.

The findings of these panels, after review by a faculty forum, the presidential commission that oversaw the work of the panels and by the Land Grant and Statutory Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees, simplified to two over-arching themes.

According to Firebaugh’s summary of the recommendations, these themes included the need to “clarify roles, responsibilities and status of the land grant mission throughout the university” and to “strengthen entrepreneurship and relations with industry” by developing effective partnerships and seeking new sources and strategies for funding outreach.

Founded as New York’s land grant institution under the Morrill Act of 1862, Cornell University has a unique mission.

In accordance with the text of the 1862 Act, land grant institutions must “without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and mechanic arts