November 4, 2010

Letter to the Editor: Land-grant mission intact

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To the Editor:

Re: “Strategic or Predictable?” Opinion, Nov. 4

I read with great interest The Sun’s editorial regarding the planned closure of the Department of Education in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Understandably, strong emotions have come to the surface regarding this difficult decision. I’d like to take a moment to address the main concern of the piece, that “Cornell seems to be abandoning its land-grant mission and its commitment to providing the best instruction possible in the agricultural field.”

The land grant mission, the creation and application of “knowledge with a public purpose,” is of paramount importance to both the college and university. As an alumna of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the daughter of New York dairy farmers who routinely took advantage of Cornell Cooperative Extension resources, I am keenly aware of the importance of the land grant mission and the college’s responsibility to public engagement and service. The reality is that by restructuring we are protecting our ability to continue to fulfill the college’s land grant mission.

In the broadest sense, the land grant mission is the guiding principle for everything we do at CALS: for example, our PRO-DAIRY program supports the state’s leading industry from cow to cup; our biofuels researchers are leading the charge in renewable energy; the Community and Rural Development Institute works directly with elected officials and community leaders to offer training on topics like land use and regional development; while Cornell Cooperative Extension continues to provide educational opportunities around the state, including 4-H youth science workshops.

More specifically, at the core of the land grant mission is our continuing commitment to provide students fundamental knowledge across the full range of scientific disciplines, including agriculture. In this way, we are contributing to the educational mission of the college and preparing the most highly qualified graduates (including those who teach and share that knowledge in the communities we serve). In fact, our popular agricultural sciences major epitomizes how our academic offerings contribute to the land grant mission.

Accordingly, we fully intend to provide the disciplinary knowledge (e.g. agricultural sciences, biology) upon which effective teaching must be based and to craft ways for students to obtain teacher certifications.

In closing, I’d like to emphasize that only one decision in this process has been made to date: the closure of the Department of Education. There are many more decisions that lie before us and we will seek the creativity and expertise of the faculty, staff and students of the department to guide us.

I invite your feedback. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected].

Kathryn J. Boor, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences