Tag Archives: land-grant

Extension educators reach nontraditional audience at Great Lakes Folk Festival

When you think of Michigan State University Extension educating the public, you might picture an educator giving a demonstration at Ag Expo or a specialist holding a workshop in his or her district. Extension educators Joyce McGarry and Linda Huyck found an audience in a nontraditional setting when they gave food preservation demonstrations Aug. 12 at the Great Lakes Folk Festival.

Every year, the MSU Museum presents this celebration of cultural heritage in downtown East Lansing. It’s a time when blocking off the streets is a welcome sight. Instead of making way for road construction, workers make room for booths staffed by food and craft vendors and artists. Nearly 100 culturally diverse musicians and dancers perform on four performance stages.

MSU Extension educators Joyce McGarry (left) and Lindy Huyck prepare to demonstrate canning methods

MSU Extension educators Joyce McGarry (left) and Linda Huyck prepare to demonstrate canning methods Aug. 12, 2012, at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Roger Huyck.

This year, Lynne Swanson, MSU Museum collections manager, asked Joyce and Linda to present in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Morrill Act, which created land-grant colleges. The two Extension educators gave demonstrations in the outdoor “Test Kitchen” on canning jams and jellies, and canning salsa.

MSU Extension educator Joyce McGarry demonstrates the directions for making strawberry jam

MSU Extension educator Joyce McGarry demonstrates the directions for making strawberry jam Aug. 12, 2012, at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Roger Huyck.

Joyce said, “All 20 chairs were filled with standing room only under and outside the tent. We had a lot of comments and questions: Can you reuse lids? I didn’t know about adding lemon juice to tomato products! What are low-acid foods?”

The educators came prepared with handouts on salsa and Michigan Fresh bookmarks – both quite popular with the crowd. Joyce and Linda took time during the demonstration to promote the Michigan Fresh website and fact sheets.

MSU Extension educator Linda Huyck stirs salsa during a salsa canning demonstration

MSU Extension educator Linda Huyck stirs salsa and waits for it to boil during a salsa canning demonstration Aug. 12, 2012, at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Roger Huyck.

What’s most significant about this is that it reminds me that I’m running out of time to get some salsa put up. I never had training from someone like Joyce or Linda, so I play it safe and freeze mine.

MSU Extension canning demonstrations attracted standing-room-only crowds

MSU Extension canning demonstrations attracted standing-room-only crowds Aug. 12, 2012, at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Roger Huyck.

1 Comment

Filed under Food

Happy Birthday to us: The 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act

By Kurt Schindler

This week I’d like to welcome guest author Kurt Schindler, Michigan State University Extension land use educator. Please read our colleague’s reflections on the Morrill Act below:

On July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law, creating a national network of colleges and universities meant to serve the higher education needs of farmers and laborers across the nation. This radical investment was also meant to foster economic development by stimulating the transfer of knowledge from research into practice on farms, in factories and in families (agriculture, home economics, public policy/government, leadership, 4-H, economic development, natural resources, coastal issues and many other related subjects). The uniquely American aspect of the act was the direct investment of resources into the creation of these institutions by grants from the U.S. government. And those grants came in the form of publicly owned land that was turned over to the state government, which in turn could use that land grant to house the university, to sell for capital to use in building the university or both. From that unique concept came the common name for this act and the institutions it helped to support: the Land Grant Act and land-grant colleges and universities. Michigan State University is Michigan’s land-grant institution, which is why Extension in Michigan is part of MSU, and why Extension provides service to Michigan residents.

We at Michigan State University like to point out MSU was the first land-grant university to be formed (although Penn State wrongly also makes that claim). (Hey, we are supposed to have this particular bias.)

The Morrill Act was expanded with the passage of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, which created a nationwide Extension system and directed the nation’s land-grant universities to oversee its work. This resulted in an Extension office in virtually every county in the United States. MSU Extension work began before the system was officially organized (and one might say the idea of Extension was copied from the idea born in Michigan). Michigan State College (now MSU) hired its first livestock field agent in 1907. In 1912, the Michigan Legislature authorized county boards of supervisors (now county commissioners) to appropriate funds and levy taxes to further teaching and demonstrations in Extension work. Eleven agricultural agents were named that year. Today, Extension is still funded through Smith-Lever federal funds, state matching funds, county funding, grants, contracts and fees for service. That three-way partnership, federal-state-county, is still a vitally important cooperative effort.

With the passage of the Smith-Lever Act, the first statewide home economics and 4-H youth Extension workers were appointed in Michigan; county home economics agents were appointed beginning in 1915. In the early years of Extension, “demonstration agents” showed or demonstrated new farming or homemaking techniques. Today, Extension agents use a wide variety of information systems to deliver educational information.

The land-grant and Extension idea worked. Many other countries copied the popular concept with India now supporting the largest Extension-like system in the world.

It is inspiring to be part of a vision that was created 150 years ago and that is still alive, transforming and improving to meet today’s needs. It’s hard to imagine what President Lincoln’s or Vermont Senator Justin Morrill‘s expectations may have been back in 1862. And it’s just as hard to anticipate how our organization and our mission may change and how it may remain the same 150 years into the future.

To view a copy of the Morrill Act and to find out more about it, visit the following websites:

Copy of the Morrill Act: http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=33&page=transcript

Ten-minute video posted on the home page of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU): http://www.aplu.org/page.aspx?pid=2190

Exhibits and information associated with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which will feature the anniversary of the Morrill Act on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., June 27–July 1 and July 4–8, 2012: http://www.festival.si.edu/2012/campus_and_community/

Comments Off on Happy Birthday to us: The 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act

Filed under Guest bloggers

Morrill Act, 150 years later

On July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law, creating a national network of colleges and universities that were meant to serve the higher education needs of farmers and laborers across the nation. This radical investment was also meant to foster economic development by stimulating the transfer of knowledge from research into practice on farms, in factories and in families. The uniquely American aspect of the act was the direct investment of resources into the creation of these institutions by grants from the U.S. government. And those grants came in the form of publicly owned land that was turned over to the state government, which in turn could use that land grant to house the university, to sell for capital to use in building the university or both. From that unique concept came the common name for this act and the institutions it helped to support: the Land Grant Act and land-grant colleges and universities.

On July 2, 2012, we will celebrate the sesquicentennial of President Lincoln’s historic endorsement, and given the spirit of the time (it’s only two days before July 4), I thought it would be fun to take some time during our biweekly Michigan State University Extension Update Webinar that day to share reflections about what the Land Grant Act meant and what it means today. From within our staff and among the stakeholders we serve, there are many differing expectations of what it means to be a land-grant university and how we realize those expectations. I think we would all benefit by hearing some of those ideas. We’ll foster dialogue and sharing of these perspectives in several ways.

First, you may want to do some research on the Morrill Act. You can read the actual wording of the law here. You can hear other perspectives on what land grant means today through a 10-minute video posted on the home page of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) here. And you may want to explore some of the exhibits and information associated with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which will feature the anniversary of the Morrill Act on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., June 27–July 1 and July 4–8.

Second, we have opened a discussion forum on the SharePoint site for MSUE All Staff where you can share your reflections on the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act.

Third, we will have time for sharing via chat pods during our July 2 MSUE Update Webinar. If you would like to share your thoughts with your colleagues on the webinar verbally, please let me know and we’ll arrange access for up to five individuals to speak on the webinar and share their perspectives with the rest of us.

It’s inspiring to be part of a vision that was created 150 years ago and that is still alive, transforming and improving to meet today’s needs. It’s hard to imagine what President Lincoln’s or Vermont Senator Justin Morrill’s expectations may have been back in 1862. And it’s just as hard to anticipate how our organization and our mission may change and how it may remain the same 150 years into the future.

Comments Off on Morrill Act, 150 years later

Filed under Uncategorized

Celebrate the Morrill Act

It’s been 150 years since Abraham Lincoln singed the Morrill Act. Named after its sponsor, Rep. Justin Morrill, the act granted federally controlled land to states for development or sale to raise funds to establish and endow land-grant colleges. Michigan Agricultural College, established in 1855 and a model for the act, was designated as the federal land-grant college for Michigan in 1863. Part of the land-grant mission is to find practical applications for scientific research and technological innovations. Today, we in MSU Extension use a wide variety of information systems to deliver education information, helping people improve their lives and helping grow Michigan’s economy. We have a lot to celebrate!

 A Morrill Act Sesquicentennial celebration takes place today from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Rock on Farm Lane. The Rock will display a painted image of Abraham Lincoln. Enjoy a special MSU Dairy Store ice cream flavor created for the occasion, Morrill Mint Madness, and receive a free Justin Morrill T-shirt. I’m told that Rep. Morrill and President Lincoln will be there.

 Find out more about the Morrill Act Sesquicentennial here.

 If you miss today’s event, you might want to check out these other events.

Comments Off on Celebrate the Morrill Act

Filed under Uncategorized

Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most

President Lou Anna Simon provided testimony to the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee yesterday and articulated a 21st century vision of what a land-grant university – THIS land-grant university – needs to do. Our mission is still rooted very much in our service to our state, helping to prepare our residents and our institutions for the challenges and opportunities we will face in the years ahead.

 I hear President Simon quite frequently, and occasionally stakeholders will assert to me that they think Michigan State University has abandoned the land-grant mission. It’s always hard for me to hear those comments, and I respectfully disagree when people make that assertion. I’m grateful for her leadership, and now I have her testimony to refer to for those who disagree with me. I encourage you to read her testimony when you have an opportunity and to pass along what she said by sharing this link with others: http://president.msu.edu/documents/2012_House_Higher_Ed_testimony.pdf. You can find a summary and this link on President Simon’s home page as well.

 So that was nice to hear. What blew me away was a brief video that the president insisted on showing to the committee members. It’s title is MSU: Impacts Across Michigan. Sounds pretty straightforward, I know. The shock for me was the lead story – it was a testimonial from Gordon Berkenpas, CEO of Greendorr Greenhouses, Inc. of Dorr, Michigan, who told of the importance of MSU research and Extension for his business’ success. This was the president’s show, and what she chose to feature was our work. Tom Dudek, senior Extension educator, is shown in the video, and Tom was contacted by the president’s office to arrange for a stakeholder who could tell the story of our impacts in a compelling way. Tom, you succeeded! View the video: 
 What added frosting to the cake was to see that the second impact story featured Dr. Carl Taylor, professor of sociology and a resource for our youth development programs. It shouldn’t be a surprise that MSUE would be tied to stories of impacts from MSU. It’s just nice to have the recognition, and I wanted each of you to know about this as well. Tom Dudek’s work with Greendorr Greenhouses and Dr. Taylor’s work with youth are representative of all that we do to help people improve their lives across Michigan. It’s a proud day to be a member of Team MSU.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

It is what it is: Reflections on a land-grant personality

Over the past two years, we have seen a tremendous number of colleagues leave our organization, either through retirement, resignation for other opportunities, death or staff reductions. It’s difficult to not feel devastated by the capacity we have lost as an organization and even more by the personal connections and collaborations with our colleagues. I’ve attended too many farewells, and although with each one, I am reminded of how rich we have been and how much we have been strengthened by our colleagues, I always walk away thinking, “How are we going to get our work done without this person’s skills and passion?” We’ll cope and move on, but it’s tough to swallow.

 So a few weeks ago, I found myself at another one of these receptions and found myself called upon to speak to the person’s career and personality. And as has been so often the case over the past 15 years, my good friend and colleague Frank Fear, senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, helped to remind me of what we do when we leave the retirement reception: we move on. We pick up and continue the work.

 The reception was for Frank. Dr. Fear is retiring from Michigan State University, and although he will be carrying out a number of projects over the next year as part of his retirement consultancy, he will be stepping down from the administrative role he has carried since 2005. There is so much to say about Frank, much of it humorous, but here’s what struck me during his retirement reception: Frank embodies the land-grant spirit. He truly is all about getting the work done that is put before us, whether we like it or not, whether we have all the resources we need or not. Because the ultimate resource we need is within each of us – our compassion and commitment to serve others.

 One of the things I’ve learned from Frank is that whatever situation you find – maybe it’s solvable, maybe it isn’t – the only response that makes sense is to address it. You can analyze it, try to determine the best course of action, base your analysis and action on sound principles, values and up-to-date understanding of how things work, and then act, do, pursue, try, but don’t quit. That’s what I’ve learned from Frank Fear. That’s a bit of what he has taught me about being a land-grant professional. That is his Spartan Saga.

 One of Frank’s many therapeutic phrases (for his therapy or for others, I’ve never been sure) is “It is what it is.” For me, “It is what it is” really captures that spirit of resorting to the only thing we really control – our own actions and our own commitment to serve others. At the end of analyzing a tough situation, as frustrating as a predicament may be, as intransigent as an individual may be, “It is what it is” means that a land-grant professional accepts the circumstance as it is. Angst spent on the circumstance is angst wasted. Gnashing of teeth may be therapeutic, but doesn’t accomplish anything more than wearing down the enamel on your incisors. Angst spent on figuring out how to address the circumstance, how to do so with respect to the individuals involved, that is angst well spent.

 This place won’t be nearly as fun without Frank’s wit to spice up meetings. But inevitably, I know that there will be many times in meetings when we’ll find ourselves stuck with frustration over the predicament we’re in and someone’s going to be Frank and say, “Well, it is what it is, so let’s deal with it and get done what needs to be done.”

1 Comment

Filed under Retirees

Charging for one-on-one programming

During our September 26 Redesign webinar, we shared information about the draft policy that is being developed on cost recovery for programs in our new structure (you can advance to this section of the September 26 webinar by moving to the 31:50 time mark in the webinar). During the webinar and afterwards, colleagues have shared questions and concerns that are quite welcome and helpful as we think through this policy and design it well. One of my greatest concerns is that we apply this policy consistently throughout the organization. As with any policy, we ultimately must rely on the judgment and integrity of everyone in Michigan State University Extension to apply the policy consistently and yet remain consistent with our other values and policies as well. We are still refining the policy and communications about the policy, but I thought it might be helpful to share a perspective that I didn’t share during the webinar.

 Some see the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and some see MSUE as the stewards or safeguards of the land-grant mission at MSU. My personal opinion is that President Simon holds that responsibility, and having listened carefully to her speeches and having read her communications over the past six years, I am convinced as ever that she is not only committed to our land-grant mission, but she is its chief advocate and proponent. Still, some see changes such as our move to apply fees for repeated education and visits with individuals – whether farms, businesses, families or communities – as an erosion or even abandonment of the land-grant mission. I would argue that this policy is not about the mission. We are stewards of public investments to have access to the resources, experts, research and extension programs, that equip us to translate research into practice. This remains at the core of what we’re doing in our programs – whether we are delivering to one individual or to a group of hundreds through online programs. The issue is about applying those public investments fairly and judiciously to public needs and then applying private investments to the application of these publicly funded resources to private interest needs.

 Reflecting back a few decades, the education mission of MSU was highly subsidized by public funds. In the 1960s, the state of Michigan appropriations covered 65 percent of the cost of MSU’s academic programs. Private funds – tuition and fees – covered the other 35 percent. As public investments have weakened in the past four decades, the burden of that funding has shifted more and more to the private interest that benefits from education – the individual students. Today, tuition and fees cover 65 percent of the cost of MSU’s academic programs and public funds cover the remainder. That has been achieved through a series of increases in tuition and fees. If the Board of Trustees had not increased tuition over that time, the ability of MSU to fulfill its education mission and to deliver the quality of education expected from the state’s land-grant university would have been undermined. From the perspective of someone who paid tuition in 1965, the university seems to have moved away from its principle of remaining accessible to the children of all of Michigan’s mothers and fathers. From the perspective of someone paying tuition in 2011, the university seems to be operating like other universities, trying to balance accessibility to all with the need to ensure the integrity of the university with funds need to operate a 21st century university. And as tuition and fees have increased, MSU has become more aggressive about increasing the amount of financial aid available for those who are qualified to study at MSU, but whose resources otherwise limit them from attending.

 MSUE has faced reductions in public investments over the same period. We do not charge tuition, and we do not benefit from the university’s collection of tuition. As we look ahead, it’s not likely that we’ll see a return to higher funding levels for MSUE in the near future. Yet the costs of delivering on the Extension leg of the land-grant mission continue to increase. As stewards of the Extension mission for MSU, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are developing other funding sources so that we can fulfill our mission. There are multiple sources of funding we need to pursue, including contracts and grants from state, federal and non-government sources, gifts from donors (individuals, companies and foundations), and fees for services that serve a specific individual need. So while charging for repeated visits with a farmer or a community or a family may seem out of line with our past practices, it is not out of line with our mission. As long as we are balancing the public investment to serve public needs and expecting private investments for serving private needs, I think we are not only consistent with our mission, but we are acting responsibly to ensure the ongoing availability of our education and applied research services.

 As part of our commitment to serve all residents, we must acknowledge that there may be some individuals who do not have the resources to pay for what clearly serves a private need. In that case, we need to develop a companion policy and set of resources – perhaps resulting from gifts from donors or sponsors – to subsidize the needs of those who lack the ability to pay. Your thoughts on how to develop and implement an explicit “financial aid” policy would be welcome.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized