West Virginia’s 1862 Land-Grant Institution: West Virginia University @WestVirginiaU

Founded in 1867 as the Agricultural College of West Virginia. In 1868, West Virginia lawmakers renamed the school West Virginia University. The campus was built on the grounds of three former academies, the Monongalia Academy of 1814, the Morgantown Female Academy of 1831, and Woodburn Female Seminary of 1858. The limited amount of space available to the university prompted the purchase of land for the Evansdale and Medical campuses that exist two miles north of the original campus. The geographical divide among the campuses resulted in the opening of the Personal Rapid Transit system in 1973, the world’s first automated rapid transit system.

President: E. Gordon Gee became the president of West Virginia University for the second time in 2014. His first presidency at WVU began in 1981 and ran through 1985. Gee has held more university presidencies than any other American. His land-grant credentials are impressive, having served as president two times both at WVU and The Ohio State University, and he is the co-author of the 2018 book Land-Grant Universities for the Future: Higher Education for the Public Good. @gordongee



West Virginia’s 1890 Land-Grant Institution: West Virginia State University @WVStateU

The school was established as the West Virginia Colored Institute in 1891, providing vocational training and teacher preparation for segregated public schools. In 1915, it became the West Virginia Collegiate Institute and began to offer college degrees. In 1929, the school’s name was changed to West Virginia State College. In 2004, the school’s name was changed again to West Virginia State University.

President: Anthony L. Jenkins became president of West Virginia State University in 2016. The land-grant credentials of President Jenkins include a doctorate from the land-grant institution Virginia Tech University and his service as vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at the land-grant institution University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Dr. Jenkins also served in a variety of administrative roles at Virginia Tech during and following his doctoral program pursuits. @JenkinsWVSU11


Day 2 of Washington State University’s Land-Grant 2019 Symposium

Day 2 of Washington State University’s Land-Grant 2019 Symposium


So be sure when you step.
Step with great care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.

Dr. Seuss Oh, the Places You’ll Go


For reasons not entirely clear to me, I woke up thinking about Theodor Seuss Geisel, the American children’s author who wrote under the pen name Dr. Seuss. And that got me to thinking about one of the last books that Geisel wrote: Oh, the Places You’ll Go. As it turns out, it was a great foreshadowing of how I would like to describe the main outcome of the day’s events.

The second day of WSU’s Land-Grant 2019 Symposium began with some introductory remarks by President Kirk Schulz, followed by my presentation entitled Land-Grant Universities: Mission in Service to the Well-Being of Communities. To oversimplify, I posed a question – why should a land-grant university care about communities? – and then discussed how it is built into their core DNA through the tripartite mission. Three panels were then convened in order to discuss these three mission components.

The first panel – focusing on teaching well – discussed how land-grant universities were most successful when their faculty members were teaching those members of the community who most needed it and yet could least afford it. The big takeaway for me from that first panel discussion centered on ways to rekindle or otherwise support and enhance faculty members’ passion for teaching, with special emphasis on what teaching excellence looks like in the face of the growing diversity of the student body.

The second panel – engaging the community – focused on the land-grant university being most successful when meaningful partnerships were developed with community stakeholders. A great deal of attention was given to the role of Cooperative Extension Services in the realization of such collaborative relationships at a state-wide level.

The third and final panel – doing research that matters – discussed how land-grant universities were most successful when scholarship pursuits in all their forms were framed directly in terms of meeting societal needs. While many issues arose in this conversation, particularly noteworthy was the pressing need to create narratives that would allow the public to better understand the significant impact that research efforts were having on the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities.

The day ended with a fireside chat between me and President Schulz. This included a review of the day’s events and themes, as well as a discussion about connections to the Drive to 25 initiative and upcoming activities surrounding the systemwide strategic planning effort.

What was abundantly clear to me was the extraordinarily amount of enthusiasm among the faculty, staff, and students in attendance across all the campus sites – as well as those participating in social media discussions throughout the day – to connect with one another on the topic of the land-grant mission. To be certain, several important issues will require stepping with great care and great tact, and there indeed must be a great balancing act struck between the tripartite land-grant mission components of teaching, research, and engagement with the community. If done correctly, however, Cougars… Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Washington State University’s Land-Grant 2019 Symposium: Day 1 Proceedings

Day 1 of Washington State University’s Land-Grant 2019 Symposium centered on the topic of healthy campus-community (town-gown) relationships. Approximately 35 campus and community representatives who had a vested interest in the relationship between the WSU Pullman campus and its host community, Pullman, WA gathered together at the WSU Welcome Center. Opening remarks were given by Paul Kimmell (Avista Corporation), and next Marie Dymkoski (co-chair of the Pullman Town-Gown Collaborative and executive director of the Pullman Chamber of Commerce) introduced me to the audience.

Most of the initial remarks I gave were focused on the main topic of what it takes to create the healthiest (termed “harmonious”) town-gown relationships, and was based mainly on The Optimal Town-Gown Marriage book that I wrote in 2016. As seen in the graphic illustration provided here, harmonious relationships come about through the combination of high effort levels and high comfort levels on the part of both partners. All other types are thought to be sub-optimal.

We also discussed the need for data collection. Some of the work I have done in this regard with a measure known as the Optimal College Town Assessment was presented, including the more recent work on measuring certain factors related to student partying behaviors. We also discussed the mobilization cycle (as seen below) that can help guide and direct the activities of campuses and communities that become involved in such data collection efforts.

The audience actively participated in discussion surrounding a final question that I posed: what does a harmonious town-gown relationship look like when the campus partner is a land-grant university? One dominant theme expressed by community representatives was the desire to better understand what the term “land-grant” really meant. In reaction, we covered a variety of issues for further consideration, including perhaps most importantly the role that Cooperative Extension Services plays in addressing community needs. The community’s hunger for more information about land-grant universities is a significant finding to take forward into tomorrow’s proceedings.

Washington State University’s Land-Grant 2019 Symposium: Day 1 Background

It’s Day 1 of Washington State University’s Land-Grant 2019 Symposium, and I’m going to blog the highlights of events over the next several days. This genesis of this story began several months ago when someone had posted a tweet expressing her thanks to WSU president Kirk Schulz for purchasing her a copy of the 2018 book Land-Grant Universities for the Future that I had co-written with West Virginia University president E. Gordon Gee. Intrigued, I “liked” the tweet and asked the individual how the president had come to buy her a book. She replied with a URL of President Schulz’s own blog post that said the following:

“I have been reading an excellent book about institutions such as ours in recent weeks. Land Grant Universities for the Future—Higher Education for the Public Good by Stephen M. Gavazzi and E. Gordon Gee examines how land‑grant universities have both thrived and struggled in recent decades. As I have reflected on the authors’ conclusions, it has challenged me to think about how we can expand WSU’s mission to meet the future needs of the state of Washington. It’s a question we might all consider. If you are interested in reading the book—and I encourage you to do so—please contact me directly. I will also share additional insights from my own reading in upcoming campus letters.”

As you might expect, I posted an immediate thank you to President Schulz for his interest in my work and for the generosity he displayed in making the book more easily accessible to his university community. I also offered to visit his campus to do a book talk if he thought that would be helpful to the efforts he was undertaking. In short order, I was connected to Chris Hoyt, the president’s Chief of Staff, as well as Ideas for Action’s Jean Frankel, who was facilitating a strategic planning process for Washington State University. We quickly developed a plan for a campus visit that would touch on several topical areas deemed to be of great importance to WSU at this moment in time: first, the evolving relationship between Washington State’s Pullman campus and its immediate host community of Pullman, WA (Day 1 events); how WSU could continue to advance its land-grant mission to meet the 21st century needs of the state of Washington (Day 2 events); and what this all meant for their strategic planning efforts (Day 3 events).

The leadership team at WSU decided to dub these activities #WSULG19 for purposes of social media. I nicknamed these events #landgrantapalooza a couple of days later after witnessing the vibrant responses to some of the pre-event tweets being posted and discussed. One particularly interesting dialogue resulted from my having posed the question: What’s your definition of what it means to be a successful land-grant university? The responses were so rich and varied that I decided to construct a word cloud. Readers will quickly spot the three-part land-grant mission here – teaching, research, and community engagement – among the many related thoughts expressed by contributors.

My hope is to frame the next two days of activities around this central theme of building definitions of success. In our panel discussions tomorrow, you will see that question applied very specifically for each of the 3 components of the land-grant mission. For the events surrounding the Day 1 events today, however, I’m going to slightly alter the question to: What’s your definition of what it means to have a successful campus-community relationship? Most exciting (for me, at least) is to examine this issue within the framework of the land-grant mission. More to come following today’s events!


Washington’s 1862 Land-Grant Institution: Washington State University @WSUPullman

Established in 1890 as the Washington Agricultural College and School of Science. In 1905, the school changed its name to State College of Washington, although it was commonly known as Washington State College. In 1959, the Washington State legislature changed the school’s name again to Washington State University.

President: Kirk Schulz became the president of Washington State University in 2016. President Schulz has extensive land-grant bona fides, including having received his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from the land-grant institution Virginia Tech. Dr. Schulz also held several positions at the land-grant institution Mississippi State University and was appointed president of the land-grant institution Kansas State University in 2009. @WSU_Cougar_Pres


Washington’s 1890 Land-Grant Institution: Northwest Indian College @NWIndianCollege

Established in 1973 as the Lummi Indian School of Aquaculture in order to support Indian-owned and operated fish and shellfish hatcheries in the United States and Canada. In 1983, the Lummi Nation chartered the Lummi Community College to fulfill the need for a more comprehensive post-secondary education for tribal members. The school changed its name in 1993 to Northwest Indian College.

President: Justin P. Guillory became the president of Northwest Indian College in 2012 after serving as their Dean of Academics and Distance Learning and Dean of Extended Campus Sites. Dr. Guillory’s land-grant credentials include both a master’s degree in educational administration and a doctoral degree in higher education administration from the land-grant institution Washington State University.




Virginia’s 1862 Land-Grant Institution: Virginia Tech @virginia_tech

Established in 1872 as the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. The school was renamed Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute in 1896. In 1944, the school’s name was again changed to Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and again in 1970 to its present legal name: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. In the early 1990s, university administration authorized the official use of “Virginia Tech” as equivalent to the full legal name.

President: Timothy D. Sands became president of Virginia Tech in 2014. President Sands has impeccable land-grant credentials, having earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics and master’s and doctoral degrees in material science and engineering from the land-grant institution University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Sands also started his academic career at his alma mater as a professor of material science and engineering. He then joined the engineering faculty at the land-grant institution Purdue University, where he also served as provost and acting president before assuming the presidency at Virginia Tech. @VTSandsman



Virginia’s 1890 Land-Grant Institution: Virginia State University @VSUTrojans

Founded in 1882 as the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute. In 1902, the school’s name was changed to the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute. In 1920, the land-grant designation was granted to the school after having been removed from the Hampton Institute. The school’s name was changed in 1930 to Virginia State College for Negroes and again changed to Virginia State College in 1946. The present-day name of Virginia State University was provided by the state legislature in 1979.

President: Makola M. Abdullah became the president of Virginia State University in 2016. Dr. Abdullah’s land-grant credentials include having served as the dean and director of 1890 land-grant programs at the land-grant institution Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. @makolaabdullah

Land-grant universities: losing their way in rural America?

Analyses of Data from the WSJ/THE College Rankings

Data from WSJ/THE US College Rankings raise questions about whether land-grant institutions are living up to their original mission.

From the article:

For Professor Gavazzi, it all goes to emphasize the vital importance of finding ways to show rural communities how their land-grant universities can benefit them, as that would then make it easier to make the political case for state funding. But, for him, that requires a shift in culture in land-grants back towards community engagement.

Check it out by clicking here.

TEXAS LAND-GRANT INSTITUTIONS: Texas A&M University and Prairie View A&M University

Texas 1862 Land-Grant Institution: Texas A&M University @TAMU

Founded in 1871 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. Although originally envisioned as a branch of the University of Texas, the school was never enveloped into the University of Texas System, despite repeated attempts to do so. In 1963, the school was renamed Texas A&M University.

President: Michael K. Young became the president of Texas A&M University in 2015. Previous positions have included presidencies of both the University of Washington and the University of Utah.



Texas 1890 Land-Grant Institution: Prairie View A&M University @PVAMU

Founded in 1876 as the Alta Vista Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Benefit of Colored Youth, and originally was a part of the Agriculture and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University). Several name changes occurred over the years, including Prairie View State Normal School (1879), Prairie View State Normal & Industrial College (1899), Prairie View University (1945), and Prairie View Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas (1947). In 1973, the school changed its name to the present Prairie View A&M University.

President: Ruth Simmons became the president of Prairie View A&M University in 2017, and she is the first woman to lead this school. Previous positions have included presidencies at Smith College and Brown University.



Vermont’s 1862 Land-Grant Institution: University of Vermont @uvmvermont

The University of Vermont was founded as a private university in 1791, the same year Vermont became the 14th U.S. state. In 1865, the university merged with Vermont Agricultural College (chartered November 22, 1864), and became the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College. Of great historical interest is the fact that Justin Morrill, the senator from Vermont who authored the 1862 Land-Grant Act that created the land-grant institutions, served as a trustee of UVM from 1865 to 1898.

President: Thomas Sullivan became the president of the University of Vermont in 2012. President Sullivan has an impressive land-grant heritage. Prior to becoming UVM’s president, he served as Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the land-grant institution University of Minnesota, where he also was dean of the law school. Dr. Sullivan also served as the dean of the law school at the land-grant institution University of Arizona, and he began his career in higher education as a faculty member at the land-grant institution University of Missouri.

Dr. Sullivan will be stepping down as president this year, and his successor has been named. Suresh Garimella, who currently is the executive vice president for research and partnerships at Purdue University, will assume the UVM presidency in July 2019. @SVGarimella


Higher Ed Social Podcast on Land-Grant Universities

The podcast I did with Jackie Vetrano and Lougan Bishop on Higher Ed Social just posted on as well as on Google Play and Apple Podcasts.

We primarily talked about landgrant universities and my Johns Hopkins University Press book with West Virginia University president E. Gordon Gee, but also covered the college rankings and their negative impact on higher education.