AAUP Book Review: Institutions for Useful Knowledge


A new review of the Land-Grant Universities for the Future book just came out in the Fall edition of Academe, a periodical published by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). It can be read in its entirety here.

The reviewer made quite a few astute observations about the book, including the following statement:

“Overall, according to Gavazzi and Gee, the public is wary of the intellectual activities of land-grant institutions because they do not see a community gain. Research is a luxury to the public, which prefers good teaching, even over engagement. The public wants efficiency rather than waste, but this can lead presidents and chancellors to reduce essential services and staff or contract out various services to improve resources.”


Harvard Educational Review of the Land-Grant Universities for the Future Book

From the Summer 2019 edition of the Harvard Education Review:

“As the title suggests, in Land-Grant Universities for the Future, authors Gavazzi and Gee explore the role of the modern land-grant university and the perception of land-grant university leaders around the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of these institutions and also offer a vision for how these universities can better serve their communities based on the covenant established in 1862. Readers will appreciate the inclusion of several relevant constituents, such as faculty and students, and will gain a better understanding of the workings of complex land-grant universities that can provide practical insights about how to approach challenges in higher education.”

The entire review can be found here.


Applying Land-Grant Themes to Decision-Making Models: The Alaskan Test Case

Reacting to huge funding cuts from state government, Alaska’s Board of Regents recently voted to declare financial exigency. In the wake of these actions, the president of the Alaska system (Jim Johnsen) has proffered three “structuring models” to governing board members that are meant to guide their decision-making as budget reductions are considered.

The first model would eliminate one or two of the Alaskan system’s three campuses, largely saving the remaining campuses from any cuts at all. The second model might best be called the “peanut butter option,” where cuts are spread evenly across the three campuses. The third model would be to completely redesign the higher education system in order to integrate programs across the campuses, create a common statewide curriculum, and reduce duplication of programs.

Each of these models have pros and cons, of course, as has been recounted in a recent Inside Higher Education article. Left unaddressed in coverage to date, however, is how decision-making processes can and should be influenced by the land-grant mission.

In our 2018 Land-Grant Universities for the Future book, West Virginia University president E. Gordon Gee and I presented readers with seven themes that were derived from interviews we conducted with 27 land-grant presidents and chancellors. We believed these themes captured the essence of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to the land-grant mission of the 21st century. In no necessary order of importance, the themes were discussed as follows:

  1. Concerns about funding declines versus the need to create efficiencies
  2. Research prowess versus teaching and service excellence
  3. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake versus a more applied focus
  4. The focus on rankings versus an emphasis on access and affordability
  5. Meeting the needs of rural communities versus the needs of a more urbanized America
  6. Global reach versus closer to home impact
  7. The benefits of higher education versus the devaluation of a college diploma

How might some or all these themes be applied by Alaska’s governing board members and members of the Alaskan higher education community as they grapple with funding decisions? The first theme is clearly reflected in the models presented by Jim Johnsen and involves the need to balance possible cuts across the board against questions of productivity and competency. Application of the next five themes likely will demand a coherent understanding of how funding decisions would affect the relative balance of teaching, research, and community engagement (the tripartite mission of the land-grant university).

At this point in time, coverage of the situation in Alaska has provided scant information about many of these issues. Perhaps most important in terms of addressing land-grant mission specific aspects is the potential impact all of this has on Cooperative Extension Services. After all, the defining difference between a land-grant university and all other public (and private) institutions of higher learning is Cooperative Extension. How are the lawmakers and university decision-makers thinking about the main connection between the communities of Alaska and their land-grant institution?

Regrettably, the last theme discussed in the Land-Grant Universities for the Future book seems to be emblematic of the Alaskan higher education system and its present predicament. The governor and state lawmakers in Alaska clearly see greater returns on investment coming from their decisions to place funding outside of higher education. How did it come to this? Is it really just the case of the Alaskan governor no longer wanting his universities to be “all things to all people” as reported in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article?

And did he simply wake up one day and decide this? Or instead did university leaders fail to respond to warning signs that their relationships with state lawmakers were less than ideal? And were they perhaps negligent in their duty to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk” of their land-grant mission? Perhaps more important than an exercise in finger-pointing in Alaska, however, is the need for higher education leaders in the other 49 states to take stock of their own relationships with lawmakers and their own articulation of how their universities are carrying out the land-grant mission of the 21st century.

New Article on Land-Grant Universities in Governing Magazine

How Land-Grant Universities Can Enrich the Future of Communities

These institutions offer statewide resources that municipal leaders should take more advantage of.
July 1, 2019

“Your community’s future can be greatly enriched by taking advantage of the resources offered by your state’s land-grant institutions. Mr. Lincoln would be pleased to see how, more than 150 years later, his original vision for America’s growth and development continues to be led by its original public universities.”

Check out the article here.

Land-Grant Institutions in all 50 States Now Covered!

Land-Grant Fierce has covered all land-grant institutions across the United States!

We began with Alabama’s three land-grant institutions (Auburn, Alabama A&M, and Tuskegee) in May of 2018.


We crossed the halfway point by covering Missouri’s two land-grant institutions (University of Missouri Columbia and Lincoln University) in August of 2018.


And now in June 2019 we finished up with Wyoming’s single land-grant institution (University of Wyoming).


In the near future, we will be archiving all of these land-grant institutions in alphabetical order. Stay tuned!



Wyoming’s 1862 Land-Grant Institution: University of Wyoming @UWyonews

Founded in 1886, four years before the territory was admitted as the 44th state. The University of Wyoming is unusual in that its location – Laramie – is written into the state’s constitution.

President: Laurie Nichols became president of the University of Wyoming in 2016. Dr. Nichols has an extensive land-grant background. She has a bachelor’s from the land-grant institution South Dakota State University, a master’s in education from the land-grant institution Colorado State University, and a doctoral degree in family and consumer sciences from the land-grant institution The Ohio State University. As well, she was a faculty member at the land-grant institution University of Idaho, the dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences and the provost at South Dakota State University.


WISCONSIN’S LAND-GRANT INSTITUTIONS: University of Wisconsin Madison, College of Menominee Nation, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College

Wisconsin’s 1862 Land-Grant Institution: University of Wisconsin @UWMadison

Founded in 1848, the same year that Wisconsin was incorporated as a state. Much of what we understand about the land-grant institution’s tripartite mission – teaching, research, and service – follows the “Wisconsin Idea” first articulated by UW-Madison president Charles Van Hise in 1904, who famously stated that “I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every home in the state.”

President: Rebecca M. Blank became the president of UW in 2013, following a long stint in U.S. government, including positions as Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, Head of the Economics and Statistics Administration, and Deputy Secretary of Commerce. Dr. Blank has an impressive land-grant lineage, including a bachelor’s degree in economics from the land-grant institution University of Minnesota and a doctoral degree from the land-grant institution MIT. @BeckyBlank

Wisconsin’s 1994 Land-Grant Institutions: College of Menominee Nation, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College


College of Menominee Nation @cmn_live

Chartered by the Menominee Tribal Legislature in 1993. The College of Menominee Nation was granted full accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in 1998, and is a member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. The main campus of CMN is on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Keshena, with a second campus in Green Bay that serves students from the Oneida Nation.

President: Paul F. Trebian became president of the College of Menominee Nation in 2018. President Trebian is a native of Alaska and a member of the Tlingit tribe. Dr. Trebian earned a doctorate in educational leadership and a MBA in technology management from the University of Phoenix, and he earned both a master’s and bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.



Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College @lcoocc

The college was founded in 1982 by the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians to serve the tribe and the local Hayward community. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

President: Russell Swagger became president of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College in 2018. President Swagger is a member of the St. Croix Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Dr. Swagger earned an associate degree from United Tribes Technical College, a bachelor’s degree from Minot State University, a master’s degree from the University of Mary, and a doctoral degree from Capella University.





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!