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!

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