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The Land-Grant University

Your new employer, North Dakota State University, is a land-grant institution. But what does that mean?  A land-grant university is mandated by federal law to educate the people of its state and solve problems through academic, research and Extension programs.

NDSU Land Grant Mission

With energy and momentum, North Dakota State University addresses the needs and aspirations of people in a changing world by building on our land-grant foundation.

History of Land Grants - Teaching, Research and Extension

History of the NDSU Extension Service - Video (3 min. 42 seconds)

In 1862, agriculture had a remarkable year under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. The first thing that happened is there was established early in that year the US Department of Agriculture. Later in that year, the Justin Smith Morrill Act was passed which has provided the basis for the land grant university system and in that very same year we began seeing research reports out of the USDA. By 1875, some of the states began to have experiment stations of their own and by 1887 Congressman Hatch established the experiment station system for the United States.

These were the most important pieces of legislation for American higher education in the 19th century. For the first time, American's working class and minority citizens had the opportunity to pursue higher education.

The Morrill Act of 1862 - Teaching

In 1862, Congress'  first Morrill Act, championed by Rep. Justin Morrill of Vermont,  granted each state 30,000 acres of federal land for every senator and representative. Each state was to sell the land and invest the proceeds in an endowment, the interest to be used, in the language of the Act, to establish:

...at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts . . . in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life (Brunner, 1962, p. 55).

The mission was - and continues to be today - to incorporate the traditions of the liberal arts and sciences with those of the practical, mechanical and industrial. Today 56 1862 land-grant colleges exist across the U.S.

The Hatch Act of 1887 - Research

But textbooks and research to support the teaching were sorely lacking. The 1887 Hatch Act, sponsored by Rep. William Henry Hatch of Missouri, created experiment stations:

...to conduct original and other researches, investigations, and experiments bearing directly on and contributing to the establishment and maintenance of a permanent and effective agricultural industry of the United States, including researches basic to the problems of agriculture in its broadest aspects, and such investigations as have for their purpose the development and improvement of the rural home and rural life and the maximum contribution by agriculture to the welfare of the consumer.

As part of their mandate when established, experiment stations are required to publish bulletins about the research projects conducted at their center.

NDSU Research Extension Centers (REC) and Research Extension Center Descriptions

    Review the names of Extension and Research Extension Center Staff in your area. Call on them to answer your questions.

    The Morrill Act of 1890

    In 1890, the second Morrill Act provided additional federal funding for the original land-grants and also created 17 more land-grants with 17 predominantly black colleges in the southern states. These schools are often referred to as the 1890 land-grants.

    The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 - Extension

    In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many of the land-grant universities were taking their information off campus with demonstration farms, corn clubs for boys, tomato growing and canning clubs for girls, and home management demonstrations for rural women.

    Seaman Knapp, a professor of agriculture and eventually president of what was to become Iowa State University, is considered the Father of the Extension Movement. He left Iowa to establish demonstration farms in Louisiana and Texas with local initiative, involvement and support. When the cotton boll weevil threatened to devastate southern agriculture, he worked with 20 special agents to create demonstration farms, and within three years the weevil was controlled.

    President Theodore Roosevelt's Country Life Commission, in 1909, called for a national Extension Service to be organized in each land-grant institution and "to reach every person on the land in its state with both information and inspiration." By 1912, Extension departments had emerged in 43 land-grant institutions.

    After much debate regarding Extension's organization with federal, state and local cooperation, its mission and its methods, the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created the Cooperative Extension System. Supported by Rep. Asbury Francis Lever of South Carolina and Sen. Michael Hoke Smith of Georgia,  the original Smith-Lever Act (it has been amended many times since 1914) called for:

    ...cooperative agricultural extension work between the agricultural [land-grant] colleges...and the United States Department of Agriculture, in order to aid in diffusing among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects related to agriculture and home economics, and to encourage the application of the same.

    Extension work moreover shall consist of the giving of instruction and practical demonstrations in agriculture and home economics to persons not attending or resident in said colleges, ...and imparting to such persons information on said subjects through field demonstrations, publications, and otherwise; and this work shall be carried on in such manner as may be mutually agreed upon by the Secretary of Agriculture and the state agricultural college or colleges receiving the benefits of this Act.

    Equity in Education Land-Grant Status Act of 1994

    In 1994, 30 Native American tribal colleges were designated as land-grant colleges by Congress.  This act provides funding for the 1994 institutions to conduct non-formal education and outreach activities to help meet the needs of Native American people and to provide essential services to their communities.

    The Land-Grant History in North Dakota

    Dakota Territory was founded in 1861, one year before passage of the Morrill Act. During the 1883 territorial legislative session, Grand Forks received the university, the penitentiary went to Bismarck and Jamestown secured the insane hospital. The location of an agricultural college at Fargo was agreed on, but no money was appropriated for it. As a new state in 1890, the Constitutional Convention passed a bill providing for an agricultural college only if a federal Experiment Station appropriation was secured. The governor appointed a Board of Trustees for the new institution, and North Dakota Agricultural College(NDAC) was started in 1890 as the state's land-grant university.

    NDAC immediately embarked on its land-grant mission.  The first faculty member was C.B. Waldron, a horticulturist. Horace Stockbridge was appointed to the dual role of president of the college and director of the agricultural experiment station. Other early faculty included Henry Bolley and Edwin Ladd.  The faculty immediately began agricultural research and also conducted extension-type activities long before the Smith-Lever Act created a formal Extension Service.  The first county agents, sponsored by the Better Farming Association, were appointed in 1912.

    NDAC became North Dakota State University of Agriculture and Applied Sciences upon passage of a proposed amendment to the state constitution in the election of 1960.

    In 1994, these North Dakota tribal colleges earned land-grant status: 

    1. United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck
    2. Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates
    3. Fort Berthold Community College, New Town
    4. Turtle Mountain Community College, Belcourt
    5. Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Fort Totten

        When you visit the NDSU campus you will see many buildings that carry the names of early pioneers in research and Extension. You will also visit NDSU Morrill Hall which is home to Extension Administration and Ag Communication.

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