August 23, 2005

Land Grant Affairs Vice Provost Seeber Appointment

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Ronald Seeber, professor and associate dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), joined the Cornell University administration last Monday after he was appointed to be the Vice Provost of Land Grant Affairs. Seeber is the successor to former VP Francille Firebaugh, who retired from the position in late June.

“I am excited about the opportunities presented by this appointment,” Seeber said. “I look forward to working with Provost [Biddy] Martin to help shape a more dynamic definition of the contemporary land-grant university.”

Seeber’s new duties as vice provost include overseeing the land grant mission, strengthening the relationship between Cornell and local community organizations, promoting outreach efforts, and acting as liaison between Cornell and the State University of New York (SUNY), among others.

“Ron Seeber has served the university with distinction in [ILR]. I am delighted that he has agreed to apply his extensive experience and considerable knowledge to the position of vice provost for land grant affairs,” Martin said.

“He’s very well qualified, with his experiences in ILR and administration,” Firebaugh said. “I think he’ll do a great job.”

Seeber takes on the vice provost position in addition to his current duties, which include his professorship and associate deanship at ILR. He also continues to serve as the co-director of the Institute on Conflict Resolution, which he helped found in 1997. Seeber was the director of ILR Extension from 1987 to 2000 as well.

“I believe it is critically important for Cornell to fully realize its potential as a critical asset to the future of the state of New York,” Seeber said. “I have observed with great admiration [former] Vice Provost Firebaugh’s tireless work in this position, and I hope to be able to successfully continue her efforts.”

According to a 2002 special report issued from Cornell’s Division of Planning & Budget, Cornell’s unique definition of “a land-grant university” took its shape starting in the mid-19th century. At a time when traditional colleges emphasized a more classical approach to their curricula, tailoring specifically to the professional class, Jonathan B. Turner believed that the industrial class, which made up the vast majority of the American population, deserved higher education tailored to their skills and needs. Less than two decades after Turner openly advocated for this revision, the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act passed in Congress, giving each eligible state a total of 30,000 acres to be used towards establishing and funding such land-grant institutions. Cornell is the only land-grant university within New York State.

“The land-grant mission is central to the heart of this institution,” Martin said upon the announcement of Seeber’s appointment.

During her five year service as vice provost, Firebaugh also served as Special Assistant to the President, a position which consists of developing new faculty orientation, new department chair programs, and sessions for department chairs, among several other duties. She also oversaw the Johnson Museum and Cornell University Press. Firebaugh additionally holds the titles of dean and professor emerita of the College of Human Ecology. Upon her retirement, she became a senior consultant to the provost.