Not only did the Morrill Act make our land grant university system possible, but it established the mission to promote education, research, service and extension in local communities. Today, its scope has expanded farther than even its originators imagined. Agriculture and Life Sciences has gone global. And our mission is no longer isolated to agriculture and mechanics, but reaches throughout numerous areas of technology, medicine and social sciences.
Just as our land-grant mission has evolved to serve a global community, let us revolutionize our own concept of what it means to be a land-grant university and plan for what lies ahead.
In many states, public support for state colleges and universities is diminishing. Many believe the land-grant model no longer fits the 21st century and that many land-grant universities have focused too heavily on outputs such as grants and contracts rather than focusing on making a meaningful impact on society.
All the while the need for land-grant universities has never been greater. Currently, one sixth of the world’s population suffers from chronic hunger. More than two billion people worldwide live in regions facing water scarcity. And global competition for natural resources is becoming fiercer.
In 2001, the vice president for agriculture in Florida, Mike Martin, posed three questions that are as important today as they were then. He said we must ask ourselves: (1) What can we do best in light of 21st century priorities? (2) How do we create partnerships and collaborative arrangements which maximize efficiencies while protecting our public responsibilities? (3) How do we persuade the general public that investments in land grant universities hold payoffs worth accruing?
I believe 2012 will be an exciting time for us, but there are a few things we must do…
- Embrace new ideas and technologies. Our land-grant university is well-suited to meet the pressing and emerging needs of the 21st century, but we must be open to rapid change.
- Explore new partnerships. Our funding model is quickly shifting to “public assisted” vs. “public funded,” therefore we must continue to pursue more public and private partnerships while maintaining our reputation for unbiased programs.
- Communicate our successes. We do a good job of communicating with colleagues, but we can do better at getting our work in publications read by prospective students, parents, elected officials or other decision makers.
The impacts of our programs are powerful and profound. And together, we are well positioned to make a direct impact on our state, our nation and our world.
I applaud you for an incredibly successful year, and challenge you to make 2012 our best yet.
Mark A. Hussey, Ph.D
Vice Chancellor and Dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences