Waded Cruzado, President, Montana State University
Seaman A. Knapp Lecture, APLU annual meeting on November 11, 2012
"Who needs Extension, anyway?" The Relevance and Values for our Next 100 Years of Engagement
Thank you very much for the immense privilege of addressing you this morning. I would like to thank Peter McPherson, President of APLU, and Doug Steele, Director of AgriLife Extension System at Texas A&M, for making it possible for me to honor Seaman A. Knapp, one of the most respected educators in our history and, in every way, an innovator of premier order. I would also like to recognize the members of the Cooperative Extension System and especially Mary Burrows, from Montana State University, who will be receiving the APLU Western Region Award for Excellence in Extension. Thank you to all of you, members of the audience who, in one way or another are engaged in the vital and forward-looking work of providing higher education of exceptional quality to our citizens in America and around the world.
As a proud alumna and as a servant of the land-grant university system, I remind myself that our constituents hold high expectations about what our particular brand of universities can, should and must bring to their lives today and to the generations that will inherit the land tomorrow. Please allow me to start with some relevant biographical notes as a point of departure, proceed with a chronological review of the impact of Seaman Knapp's legacy, and present some implications for the future of his paramount contribution, the Cooperative Extension System.
Once Upon a Time
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, in the western city that is home to the only land-grant university in the Caribbean, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, which is also the only land-grant university in a Spanish-speaking country. Since the turn of the 20th century, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez has been preparing the engineers, the scientists and the professionals that have transformed, forever, the economic landscape of the island and of the Caribbean Basin. Therefore, as a child, I always aspired to attend Puerto Rico's land-grant university.
Like many of you, I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. My grandparents were farmers, my father was a coffee merchant and my mother was a homemaker, endowed with intelligence and drive. So what was it that made it possible for me to explore a life path different from that of my family? The answer is simple: I was given an opportunity to go to college. As a result, I am determined to ensure that no other young man or woman is ever deprived of the wonders of a college education, because education truly transforms lives.
The education that many of us have received in a land-grant university has provided us with opportunities we could have never envisioned. In my case, it enabled me to start my career at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, giving me an opportunity to give back and to pay forward. My education made it possible for me to work at another land-grant university when I moved from the Island of Enchantment to the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico. And most recently it allowed me to live and work in the majestic state of Montana, serving the first land-grant university of the state. Thanks to Congressional legislation passed in 1994 — and to the advocacy of an APLU committee that was chaired by then President of Montana State University, Michael Malone — the third Land-Grant Act benefitted tribal colleges. Montana has eight land-grant campuses, the largest number of any state.
To give you a sense of perspective, my native Puerto Rico has a total area of 3,500 square miles. By my hurried calculations, it could fit into the state of Montana about 42 times. Keep in mind, however, there are 4 million people living in Puerto Rico and less than one million in the Big Sky State. So, I have known the densely and the sparsely populated, the tropics and the desert, some climate extremes in different latitudes and then the wonderful weather of Montana.
Last May, I was invited to serve as the keynote speaker at an 8th grade graduation ceremony in a rural community outside of Bozeman. The occasion required the combination of three rural schools to reach the celebratory quorum for the happy graduates — all eleven of them.
At the end of the ceremony, while enjoying cake and ice cream with the members of the Class of 2012 and their families, a second grader approached me. There he was, with his wild blond hair, wearing long pants that were already too short for him. When the time came for me to bid farewell, this farm boy, still enjoying his cup of ice cream, looked up with the brightest blue eyes you have ever seen and said to me: "I hope you have a wonderful life."
I think we can say that, thanks to our land-grant education, we have had a wonderful life.
Providing a good life for all Americans was on President Lincoln's mind when he signed the Morrill Act. With that signature, President Lincoln changed the lives of millions of individuals, not only on the American continent, but beyond its shores, for centuries to come. Today, 150 years later, the promise of access to higher education for the sons and daughters of the working families of America keeps us strong. It was the stroke of Lincoln's pen that brought us here today.
I believe it is very fitting for us to meet in the Mile High City. I hope the altitude will inspire us to elevate our thoughts and provide a clear perspective as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1862 Morrill Act, 125 years of the 1887 Hatch Act, and, next year, the 100th Anniversary of the 1914 Smith-Lever Act that gave us the national treasure that we call Extension.
While traveling from my home in Bozeman, along the spectacular Rocky Mountain Front — the backbone of our nation — I could see from the window of my plane a silver ribbon below: the beautiful Yellowstone River. Calmly winding its way from its headwaters in the monumental National Park that bears its name, it runs to the east and joins with the Missouri River, becoming an important water source for some of our country's most productive agricultural land.
I remembered how nearly 18 months ago, that scenery of spectacular beauty looked very different when it experienced historic flooding. People were hurting. The enormity of the devastation was almost impossible to comprehend. Immediately, there were many heroes striving to mitigate the impact of the disaster. Among them were Extension agents who quickly took to the airwaves to explain how Montanans could save livestock from the floods, salvage property and rebuild their lives.
A year later, Extension agents in nearby counties were again providing much needed resources and objective information to residents whose land had been plagued by severe drought and resulting wildfires. There were extensive losses in crops and livestock for farmers and ranchers around Montana. Families watched stoically as years of hard work and effort were reduced to a dark, smoldering pile of ash.
At Montana State University, we asked ourselves: how could we help those students whose families have experienced such tremendous loss? How could we communicate with them rapidly and efficiently? The answer came quickly: "MSU Extension can help." Our agents knew the impacted families — they know them by name. So when they arrived at students' homes offering a one-year tuition remission from Montana State University, people recognized the helping hand and smiling face.
Seaman Knapp: the Father of Extension
So, how did this all start? How was it that this nation, rich in natural resources and vast in land, came to design a system that reached to each corner of its territory with access to education and service? ? The name behind this extraordinary accomplishment — the name of the man whose work inspired a distinctive trait of land-grant universities and whose hands-on outreach is now replicated around the globe — is Seaman A. Knapp. During his life, Seaman Knapp was recognized for innovations that changed the course of history in America. His story is well known, especially to many in this room, yet it deserves to be told one more time.
Seaman Asahel Knapp was born in northern New York on 1833. He grew up working on the family farm and attended a one-room school, where his schoolmaster lit the fire of knowledge and curiosity in his mind and in his heart. According to one of his biographers, young Seaman discovered "the existence of the world of books… and the unseen horizons of the imagination."1
College was, of course, the next logical step, but Seaman's father and his brother, Alonzo, opposed his plans. "It is too expensive," said his father, tuition equal to a year-worth of the family's income. Besides, added Alonzo, it would mean "the spoiling of a fine cabinet-maker to make a poor scholar."2
But Seaman's mother understood his passion for learning. Secretly, she encouraged her son to pursue his dream, and his sister Mary ultimately sacrificed the contents of her hope chest so that her brother could go to college.
Seaman Knapp graduated from Union College and married Mary Hotchkiss. Life became complicated very quickly and one adversity followed another. While working in Vermont, he suffered an accident that destroyed his knee, almost crippling him for life. The young couple moved to Iowa and invested all their savings in acquiring the finest herd of Merino sheep that money could buy… only to have the entire flock of sheep die in the first winter storm. The harsh, cold weather in the Iowa plains was very different from the hilly landscape of Knapp's native countryside. "Destitute, crippled, with wife and two children," his daughter wrote, "these details of his life… are given to show his indomitable will and energy when most men so afflicted would have given up."3
But better days were in store for Seaman Knapp. He was appointed to head the department of agriculture at Iowa State Agricultural College, where he later served as the second president of the institution. It was while he was there that some friends encouraged him to cultivate a tract of land in Louisiana. His life was about to be transformed.
Meantime, America was being transformed in its own painful way. The Civil War, which had threatened to unravel the nation's very fabric, culminated in a renewed social pact: no longer half slave and half free, as a nation we finally understood that a house divided against itself would not prevail.
In the midst of this conflict, the people's representatives were hard at work. In fact, in the year of 1862 — right in the midst of the Civil War-the U.S. Congress produced several pieces of legislation that would have an enormous impact on the country. The federal Department of Agriculture was established in the month of May of that year, in the same month that saw the passage of the Homestead Act. Congress approved the Pacific Railroad Act on July 1st, 1862, just one day before lawmakers approved the Morrill Act. The Homestead Act and the Railroad Act would provided us with geographical and horizontal mobility, while the Land Grant Act gave us the vertical and social mobility that strengthened American democracy in an everlasting manner. What a wonderful lesson for all of us! Rather than being constrained by the difficult circumstances of their time, those elected officials chose to envision a better and brighter future for the sons and daughters of the working families of America.
Back in the South, a decade after the conclusion of the Civil War, Seaman Knapp was becoming impatient. It appeared, he said, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was not living up to its expectations. Increasingly frustrated with the lack of scientific research that would result in meaningful contributions to the advancement of agricultural production, Knapp became an advocate for the passage of the Hatch Act. With its approval in 1887, agricultural experiment stations were established at land-grant universities across the country. The U.S. became the first nation in the world to establish such a cohesive system in which teaching and research strengthened each other.
After his life-long friend, Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson, retained Knapp's services, he became interested in the development of the rice industry and traveled the world to research his topic. He visited Japan, China, the Philippines, India, Mexico and the Island of "Porto Rico." The island had become part of the United States in December of 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American War. Exactly two years later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture delivered to Congress a report entitled "Agricultural Resources and Capabilities of Porto Rico." The report proposed, among other developments for the impoverished island, the creation of a federally-funded agricultural experiment station to be established in the Western city of Mayaguez. The author and proponent was Seaman A. Knapp.
Another opportunity was in the horizon for this indefatigable visionary, when the South suffered the disastrous effects of a boll weevil infestation, which was rapidly destroying hundreds of acres of cotton plantations. Cotton — the king of the Southern industries — was brought to its knees; the economy of the region, still recovering from the devastation of the Civil War, was on the verge of total collapse.
Historical accounts tell us that Seaman Knapp rescued the cotton industry from the boll weevil. When we take a closer look at his role, an interesting fact comes to the surface. Through research, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had already developed a plan to control the pest by accelerating the point of maturity of the cotton plant. The department had disseminated the results through reports and pamphlets, but growers were skeptical. Farmers then — as many farmers now — did not believe in "book farming." So Seaman Knapp was appointed as "Special Agent for the Promotion of Agriculture in the South," with the specific charge to take the plan directly to cotton growers.
Let me insist on this point: It was clear that a solution to the pest problem had been identified, but implementation of the proposed plan necessitated something more than just science. It required good and effective communications. In order to create the desired change, the plan needed a person who would earn the good faith of growers and businessmen alike. It needed someone who could provide objective and relevant information, who could show farmers how to replicate the proposed solution and, in the process, build a trusting relationship for the future. The plan needed an intermediary who would bridge geographical and cultural differences. It was then that the figure of the Extension agent was born. "The farmer," said Knapp, "must solve this problem on his own farm and with his own hands."4
Knapp developed his famous Demonstration Work on a farm in Texas and soon afterwards, on November 12, 1906, W.C. Stallings became the first farmer agent. By 1912, one hundred years ago, farm agents were traveling many miles demonstrating better production methods. By 1914, there was at least one agent in almost every county in the nation.
The year of 1906 is also important because Seaman Knapp visited Tuskegee Institute under its founder and first president, Booker T. Washington. There he met with George Washington Carver, an emancipated slave who became a scientist, educator and innovator extraordinaire. Sharing the same passion for Demonstration Work as Seaman Knapp, Carver had developed a hands-on program employing a mule-drawn wagon. The Jessup Wagon, as it would come to be known, was the first moving classroom of its kind, a marvelous roving laboratory that exposed rural communities to the latest in farm machinery and equipment. According to his grandson, Roger Knapp, this development was instrumental in preparing "a system of Black agents that would help the Black farmers. By 1914 there were over 100 black agents covering eleven states."5 Who would have thought that, in such an unforeseen manner, the Demonstration Work would become a bridge for interracial collaboration? Robert Mouton, the second president of Tuskegee, summarized the feat in this manner: "No other two men have done more for the Negro in the lower South since Emancipation than did Seaman A. Knapp and Booker T. Washington."6
So powerful was this simple demonstration methodology that, in a very short time, it swept the nation with a wave of optimism and prosperity. "Every man that had been helped by the agent invariably wanted to help his neighbors," asserts Roger Knapp, "The people took on new confidence and hope. The period of the Demonstration work from 1906 to 1914 was precisely the period of the most rapid development in public education."7 The Demonstration Work also resulted in prosperity in ever expanding circles: agricultural communities started buying products manufactured in urban centers, which resulted in economic growth and a better quality of life for all.
In this thriving environment, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed the Commission on Country Life, which recommended the addition of "the third coordinated branch" of Extension work to complete the branches of teaching and research in land-grant universities. The language included in this recommendation deserves to be quoted in its entirety: "Each state college of agriculture should be empowered to organize as soon as practicable a complete department of college extension, so managed as to reach every person on the land in its State, with both information and inspiration"8 (emphasis mine).
The rest, as they say, is history: the pathway to the Smith-Lever Act had been carved out. Championed by Congressman Asbury F. Lever of South Carolina and Senator Hoke Smith of Georgia, in 1914 Congress approved the bill that gave life to the Cooperative Extension System. On the occasion of its signage, President Woodrow Wilson described it in a powerful manner: "Next to the Federal Reserve Act, this is our greatest contribution to the national welfare."9
It is obvious that Seaman Knapp was a man ahead of his time: an advocate for a dignified quality of life for the underserved, a tireless innovator in the improvement of agriculture and an adviser to legislation that would foster social and economic advancement through science and service. That is why we celebrate the man who has been hailed as the father of the Extension system, the schoolmaster of American agriculture and one of our greatest agricultural leaders.
Extension: Our Relevance and Values
Yet, it is undeniable that despite the devotion, the best efforts and the incredible accomplishments of thousands of Extension agents documented in every corner of our country, Extension has faced and continues to confront many challenges. Some of them, like those associated with budget constraints, are nothing new; sadly, we have almost become accustomed to attrition being the normal way of conducting our business. Some of the circumstances Extension faces today are, however, unprecedented. Challenges such as:
- Changes in demographics, with the aging and diversification of a critical population served by Extension;
- Different agricultural patterns, with larger corporations and fewer independent farmers who are an important base for Extension;
- Increasing difficulty recruiting young agents who often find more lucrative careers elsewhere; and,
- An overwhelming amount of information, mostly free and readily available on computers everywhere.
Some dedicated agents and users fear, once again, that the best days of Extension "have come and gone." I know that many of us have had interesting conversations with those unfamiliar with Extension (and even with some elected officials) who question the value of Extension today. Here are some of the statements that are commonly heard:
"I had no idea that Extension was part of your university."
Many people are surprised to learn that Extension was designed to complete and complement the educational mission of land-grant universities. Extension was conceived as the vehicle that would transmit the research conducted in the labs and in the fields, the lessons that were taught in the classroom, to those individuals who were not "residents" of the land-grant universities.
This third branch of our tripartite mission has an unbreakable bond with land-grant institutions. The founding commission described it almost as a condition sine qua non, "without which, no college of agriculture can adequately serve its State. It is to the extension department of these colleges, if properly conducted, that we must now look for the most effective rousing of the people of the land."10
Because of Extension, and the nature of its geographical presence, we can rightfully assert that our entire state is our campus. Actually, Extension occupies not only the dimension of "place" but the dimension of time as well, with programs and services offered year-round. With almost no restrictions in place and in time, Extension provides access to all, sharing the land-grant value of serving every man, woman and child who can benefit from the fruits of our educational labor. Finally, Extension is the component that enables land-grant universities to break away from the isolation of the Ivory Tower. It builds bridges and connects us to our communities in a meaningful way. John Campbell explained eloquently the transformation that was brought to our universities by Extension, when he said:
"The university campus came to be recognized as one of the most heavily traveled, cross-roads in America — an intersection traversed by farmers and ranchers, by homemakers, by persons in other businesses and industries, and by politicians as well as by students from every part of every state, not to mention many other states and nations."11
Looking toward the future, in addition to the questions we are being asked by others, we should be asking even tougher questions of ourselves. Such as: if our Extension programs are partners in our scholarly endeavors, if they are one crucial element in our three-dimensional mission, do we hold the Extension initiatives in the same level of esteem as our academic and research endeavors? Do we value them and reward them in a manner that is consistent with our aspirations as engaged land-grant universities?
A second statement we frequently hear is, "I like Extension programs, but I am not willing to pay for them."
The word "cooperative," as in "Cooperative Extension," is in the name for a very good reason. It denotes a funding model that goes back to the manner in which Seaman Knapp first supported his Demonstration Work. In order to make things happen, the passionate and impatient Knapp accessed funds from private and public sources at different levels, including General Education Board monies provided by John D. Rockefeller to expand educational opportunities in the South. The Smith-Lever Act preserved this mechanism for different sources of funding, including matching requirements. The legislation described Extension as, "a cooperative venture among federal, state, local, and individual funding support-a system of adult and youth education that has become a model for the rest of the world."12
Certainly at the time of its creation, and even today, Extension offers a distinctly entrepreneurial approach to a federally established program. This program reflects its origins: Extension was born out of necessity and grew based upon the age-old principles of collaboration and partnership.
Looking towards the future then, we should ask: Where in our funding priorities is Extension? If our budgets are a reflection of our values, how do we — or even do we — help make its case not only at the county, state and federal levels, but also at our own institutions? Next time someone asks Extension to embrace one more great project, are we ready to apportion an adequate level of funding to make it happen?
A third common assertion is, "Extension programs are dated; we are not an agricultural society anymore."
A hundred years ago, when Extension was founded, one-third of our nation's population was involved in agriculture. Today, about one percent of our population feeds our entire nation. This is a very important one percent.
This one percent includes hundreds of thousands of individuals who, today, use and need the products, programs and services provided by Extension throughout its history. American families in this segment of the population still find immense value in 4-H, in the responsiveness of Extension's local advisory boards, in the empowerment that results from our community development efforts and in our agricultural and natural resources programs. The farmer boy I met at this summer's graduation belongs to this group: he, his family and hundreds of thousands like him around the nation look up to our programs as a source of stability for the present and hope for the future.
Thanks to the advancements of the agricultural research that is conducted in our universities and at our experimental stations, we have increased productivity and quality in food, fiber and fuel in unprecedented ways. At the same time, we have protected pricing structures and ensure that farmers and ranchers will receive a profitable return on their investment and enjoy, as Seaman Knapp envisioned, a more satisfying and comfortable quality of life.
It is important, however, for us to be more vigilant than ever, to strive for reasonable agility and to be not too set in our ways. There have been moments in our history when the dissemination means for the research conducted at land-grant universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has not been particularly well respected. Wayne Rasmussen reminds us of times when prominent farmer and agricultural associations who have voiced concerns about the relevance and utility of the research produced by faculty and researchers, "criticizing the reports as compendiums of old, useless materials; farmers said that the research reports could not be applied to meet their needs."13 Even in his time, Seaman Knapp had some strong words of caution that still resonate today, "It is a sad commentary on our land-grant institutions of higher learning" he bemoaned, "when they devote more time to their bureaucratic needs than to the people trapped in the cluster misery of poverty!"14
The promise of our future will depend largely on how well we continue to adapt to our new realities. Being responsive to the changing face of our national demographics, several Extension programs have already implemented urban projects in which a strong interest in agriculture is having a transformative effect. The local food movement and a new widespread interest in urban gardening are making a difference in the nutrition, health and well-being of these communities. In essence, the Local Food cause is a grassroots movement for which Extension is a perfect collaborator and — just as we were challenged to be — a source of inspiration.
Some of the questions for our future are: How can we help Extension continue to strengthen its agricultural programs? How can we better market the exciting programs that have provided legitimacy to Extension among the agricultural producers of the nation and the world? How do we tell our story in a way that honors our traditions and integrates the new voices of society today? How do we expand our circle and bridge differences so that we include the values and the assets of the traditional rural landscapes as well as of those of the urgent urban realities?
This brings up another challenge we frequently hear, "It looks like Extension is losing its mission."
The Agricultural and Natural Resources programs were the first base of support of Extension, followed by programs in Youth Development like 4-H, as well as programs in Family and Consumer Science and Community Development. Extension excels in providing educational and service programs that have relevancy for people from different backgrounds, ages, and socioeconomic status. However, in their survey of 1981, Paul Warner and James Christenson reported, "Some individuals see Extension as moving too far away from its traditional programs and clientele."15 At some times and in some places, some more socially or service-oriented programs have been considered as deviations from Extension's intended mission.
Classifications, thick as walls, have been erected to separate the "traditionalists" or "ruralists" (those who advocate for the original agricultural programs) and the "expansionists" or "urbanites" (those who provide service in community development programs). This exercise provides little more than a divisionary nomenclature and a false distinction between service and education. Again, citing Warner and Christenson, "Extension is in the business of communicating ideas, practices, and technologies to whomever is interested in using them."16
Yet, on more than one occasion, some of us have devoted precious time and resources determining whether a program is "agricultural enough" or "diversified enough." It seems to me the crux of the matter ultimately boils down to this: Did Seaman Knapp propose research-based agricultural programs as the foundation for an enhanced quality of life only for those in the countryside, or was he advocating for a better quality of life for a larger number of people? In essence, then, is agriculture to be perceived as a means or as an end? I think it was — and it still is — both.
For people who are in need, all our programs are needed: Agricultural Education, Youth Development, Family and Consumer Sciences and Community Development. Still, let's accept that in some occasions a sense of "sibling rivalry" gets in the way of what we have to do. This is nothing but an unnecessary slippery slope. "Your mission," said Seaman Knapp, "is to solve the problems of poverty, to increase the measures of happiness, and to harness the forces of all learning to the useful and needful in human society."17
We recently witnessed a timely example of Extension's ability to address immediate human needs with the rapid response that was immediately deployed in helping citizens stricken by Hurricane Sandy with education and outreach, particularly in the area of food safety. Extension organizations in the East Coast will continue to help storm victims in coming weeks by providing them with information about the most effective science-based strategies to prevent and reduce food-borne illnesses. Such objective and immediate personal response to crisis points to Extension's value in America today. This is our best answer to those who might be confused about Extension's mission; this is how we continue to anchor our credibility and enhance our basis of support.
The questions for our future should be less about the nature of our programs and more about the impact of our projects on the people we serve. Are our programs relevant? Do our programs make a difference? Are we communicating in the best possible ways the latest results — agricultural, financial, developmental — to our users? Is this information changing behavior and results? Is it improving lives?
Extension: the Next One Hundred Years of Engagement
A fifth statement that I know we all hear frequently is, "Why do we need Extension, anyway?" This question comes with a particular sting, because it goes to the core of our souls and the labor of our days. It questions our existence and our very reason for being.
We need Extension today because it is a well-rounded program that, at the national level, provides consistency as well as the pooling of resources and expertise, while preserving a local sense of identity and responsiveness.
We need Extension today because it is among the most effective mechanisms for individual and social empowerment. As Campbell has asserted, "Not only does this system communicate new research findings from the agricultural experiment station staff to farmers and others, it encourages problems identified on farms and ranches and other areas to be brought to the attention of the station staff for research, study and resolution."18
Extension was among the first programs to encourage the direct participation of its users in the process of planning, implementation and assessment of its programs. Extension is not only about service and outreach: it is truly about engagement. "Extension," explains Rasmussen, "went even further when it moved from the simple transfer of knowledge to the idea of helping people identify their problems and find the tools with which to solve them, This approach remains a capstone of the land-grand concept."19 The vectors of Extension do not point just in one direction; Extension provides a two-way street promoting an exchange that strengthens the skills and the self-confidence of the user as much as the talents, expertise and knowledge of its providers.
We need Extension today, more than ever, because our society is growing not only in size, but also in the nature and complexity of its problems. The recent and painful lessons of natural disasters, the threats of man-made catastrophes, of pandemic diseases, and the fragility of the technological systems on which our trust and welfare so blindly reside, give us reason to be concerned. But we also need Extension not only for the times of deprivation and sorrow, but also for those of prosperity and happiness. People in Extension know that the future will always be better, of necessity, if it finds us with the unwavering commitment to learn from each other and to help each other.
Plain and simple, we need Extension and we are all called to be agents who transmit the message that a better, healthier, happier world is within our reach. One hundred years from now, we will still rely on the individual-to-individual contact that Seaman Knapp recognized as the most transformative tool for change that humans have at their disposal. There is a structure in Washington D.C., that, rich in symbolism, commemorates Seaman Knapp. It is not a building with thick walls: it is a bridge.
We salute Seaman Knapp today as one of the sources of inspiration for land-grant universities and as the pioneer of the Extension system. Let's affirm today our commitment to the powerful legacy we have inherited: the land-grant university system with its inseparable tripartite mission of teaching, research and service. Let's recommit to being even more extended, more engaged, more meaningful institutions. Seaman Knapp encouraged us with his words, "Now let us have an education for the masses, one that will fit them to become a great, honest, faithful, intelligent, toiling, thrifty, common people, upon which alone great nations are founded."20
Happy 100 years of Extension, dear colleagues! I salute all of you for your dedication and for your many extraordinary accomplishments. I should mention that there is one last statement that I commonly hear, and that is: "Extension agents are the unsung heroes of this nation and have the best people skills that one can find."
That's why I feel so certain that we can exult in celebration for today and for the future: Here's to Seaman Knapp and the next century of Extension!
(Actually, what I am saying is: "I hope you have a wonderful life.")
2 A.M. Mayo. Biographical Sketch. Dr. Seaman A. Knapp Brief Sketch of the Life Work of the Great Farmer-Statesman. The Seaman A. Knapp Collection, Collection No. 009. ereserves.mcneese.edu/depts/archive/knapp009.htm
9 Burlingame, Merrill & Edward J. Bell, Jr. The Montana Cooperative Extension: A History, p. 33.
10John R. Campbell, Reclaiming a Lost Heritage. Land-Grant & Other Higher Education Initiatives for the Twenty-first Century, East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1995, p.
11 Campbell, p. 26
12 Smith Lever Act, www.csrees.usda.gov/about/offices/legis/pdfs/smithlev.pdf
13 Wayne D. Rasmussen, Taking the University to the People. Seventy-Five Years of Cooperative Extension. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1989, p. 27
15 G.R. Westwood, "Seaman A. Knapp: Won't You Please Come Home?" The Journal of Extension. Fall 1973: p 37.
16 Paul D. Warner & James A. Christenson, The Cooperative ExtensionService. A National Assessment. Boulder: Westview Press, 1984, p. 24.
17 Warner & Christenson, p. 21.
18 Westwood, p. 35.
19 Campbell, p. 23.
20 Rasmussen, p.
Acker, Duane. "Knowledge, Wisdom, and Freedom: The Role of Extension." Seaman A. Knapp Lecture
Burlingame, Merrill. A History: Montana State University. Bozeman: Office of Information, 1968.
Burlingame, Merrill & Edward J. Bell, Jr. The Montana Cooperative Extension Service: A History 1893-1974. Falcon Press, 1985.
Campbell, John R. Reclaiming a Lost Heritage. Land-Grant & Other Higher Education Initiatives for the Twenty-first Century. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1995.
Farnsworth, Kent. A. Leadership as Service. A New Model for Higher Education in a New Century. American Council on Education: Praeger, 2007.
Fogel, Daniel M. and Elizabeth Malson-Huddle, eds. Precipice or Crossroads? Where America's Great Public Universities Stand and Where They Are Going Midway Through Their Second Century. State University of New York Press, 2012.
Mayo, A.M. Biographical Sketch. Dr. Seaman A. Knapp Brief Sketch of the Life Work of the Great Farmer-Statesman. The Seaman A. Knapp Collection, No. 009, ereserves.mcneese.edu/depts/archive/knapp009.htm
Morse, George W. Cooperative Extension's Money and Mission Crisis. The Minnesota Response. Bloomington: iUniverse, 2009.
Rasmussen, Wayne D. Taking the University to the People. Seventy-Five Years of Cooperative Extension. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1989.
Rydell, Robert, Jeffrey Safford and Pierce Mullen. In the People's Interest: A Centennial History of Montana State University. Bozeman: Montana State University, 1993.
Warner, Paul D. and James A. Christenson. The Cooperative Extension Service. A National Assessment. Boulder: Westview Press, 1984.
Westwood, G.R. "Seaman A. Knapp: Won't You Please Come Home?" The Journal of Extension. Fall 1973: pp. 35-41.
Waded Cruzado, Montana State University
Presidential Inauguration Address delivered on September 10, 2010
Empowering People, Transforming the World: Today's Land-Grant University
Good morning, Honorable Governor Brian Schweitzer, Mayor Jeff Krauss, Members of the Montana Board of Regents, Commissioner Sheila Stearns, Distinguished Elected Officials and Public Servants; good morning to our Presidents Emeriti, faculty, students, staff, alumni and to the colleagues, friends and family who have traveled from near and far to join us today. Welcome to Montana and to its first land-grant university, Montana State. We are honored to have you here with us.
It is with a profound sense of gratitude, joy and humility that I address you today. After eight months in this majestically beautiful state, I come to work experiencing awe and respect for what this university has done for its people. I have started many days admiring what nature and the legendary work ethics of Montanans have accomplished in this old territory that pioneer Hans Koch described as, "splendid on a large scale."1 Last October, minutes after learning about my appointment, a dear colleague asked: "Why is it that you only get to work in the most spectacular places on the face of the earth?"
Every single day, I remind myself that throughout this Last Best Place our citizens hold high expectations about what Montana State University can, should and must bring to their lives today and to generations in the future.
I want to thank all of you for joining us today. Please let me acknowledge the people who have shared my life journey: my mother, Daisy, and my daughter, Brenda. Other members of my family who were not able to attend: my son, Gerry, my father, Morgan, and my stepfather, Roberto, my brother and the two great women who are my sisters. My grandmother Julia, who greatly contributed to my formation by teaching me how to read and how to listen, would have rejoiced in this moment.
There are people from my native Puerto Rico with whom I have an eternal debt of gratitude, some of whom are here with us. And then, there is a contingent of absolutely marvelous friends whom I had the pleasure to meet in New Mexico, who will always occupy a special place in my heart: thanks for enriching my life in so many wonderful ways.
The Morrill Land-Grant Act
One hundred and seventeen years ago, Montana State University was founded as the state's land-grant college. Its birth was part of an unprecedented effort to expand access to higher education.
In 1858, a U.S. Congressman from Vermont by the name of Justin Morrill proposed legislation that would educate the sons and daughters of the working class "in the several pursuits and professions of life."2 His plan called for the government to grant tracts of land for the purpose of building at least one college in each state. It was a controversial proposal, only passing the House 105 votes to 100. Members of the Senate passed it by a mere three votes and viciously attacked it along the way, calling it:
"… one of the most monstrous, iniquitous and dangerous measures which have ever been submitted to Congress,"3 and
"… one of the most extraordinary engines of mischief … an unconstitutional robbing of the Treasury for the purpose of bribing the states."4
The bill would have to wait until 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed it into law. The Morrill Land-Grant Act saw the light of day in America's darkest hour: in the midst of our Civil War when brother fought against brother and the nation's very fabric threatened to unravel. What vision it took to look beyond that conflict and imagine a brighter future with peace and prosperity nourished by an educated citizenry!
When we read the Morrill Act, we hear echoes of our Declaration of Independence. As a new nation, first we wanted freedom. As a young country, we secured education. Together, these two pillars would protect each other. We would be free to educate and be educated--and this, in turn, would make us free.
Up until then, only a privileged few had the means to attend the handful of private colleges that were mostly clustered on the east coast. In giving our citizens the education necessary to prosper in their careers and their lives, the land-grant university strengthened American democracy, transforming our lives forever.
As a proud alumna and servant of the land-grant university, I believe deeply in what it stands for and what it can accomplish. I also believe that the great lessons from its past illuminate our great projects for the future of MSU.
The One Montana State University
Since my arrival last spring, we have explored the pervasive nature of what we now call, "The One MSU": with our four campuses, one museum, seven agricultural centers, and extension offices serving all 56 counties, the state of Montana is our campus. The One MSU is a big house with many doors to welcome our students and serve our communities. We accomplish these tasks through our tripartite mission devoted to outstanding teaching and learning, exciting research and creativity, and outreach and service that enriches lives. Allow me to tie each of these elements to our past and our future.
Teaching and Learning
Since their inception, teaching was the primary focus of land-grant institutions and access was their defining trait. To this day and every day, we are called to demonstrate that access and excellence are not two mutually exclusive terms.
Montana State University's excellence in teaching and learning is manifest in its faculty, staff and students. For two years in a row, our average ACT score for the incoming class has been 25.1 — a record high — even when this year we have an additional 300 freshmen. Of the top 200 Montana high school seniors that earned the Montana University Honors Scholarship, 122 decided to come to MSU. Women's Volleyball as well as Men's and Women's Track and Field were honored for academic excellence (marking the 15th consecutive year for the women) and Matt Adams, from Seward, Alaska, was named Academic All American. We are ranked 14th nationally for the number of Goldwater Awards, the premier scholarship for undergraduates in math, natural science and engineering. And what a pleasant surprise for me to be welcomed by Luis Serrano Figueroa, a former student of mine who is now completing his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at MSU. We attract the best and the brightest and we will continue to do so.
There is a group of courageous students who adds luster to our university: the 928 men and women in uniform and their dependents who, throughout the One MSU, fill us with gratitude and admiration.
In our quest for excellence, we do not forget our commitment to inclusiveness. The founding of land-grant universities was not limited to regions where the educational system was established and mature or where students would be better prepared for college education. The fundamental principle of the Morrill Act was not to exclude the ones who perhaps would fail, but rather to invite everyone to succeed.
Therefore, the fact that we lose almost a third of our students in their first year and that slightly less than half graduate after six years is, simply, unacceptable. Our faculty and staff are ready to engage in meaningful projects that will improve educational attainment. We can do this without sacrificing quality or compromising standards. We will give our students the tools to be successful by rethinking course content and pedagogy in terms of how they learn (which is different from the structures and strictures from when we learned) and by being of a single mind and heart in our goals of monitoring their progress towards degree completion.
As part of our mission, this institution is eager to expand its commitment to 2-year education, to workforce development, to undergraduate programs that exude enthusiasm and relevance, and to a renewed attention to new graduate programs that can build on the discovery that occurs in the classroom and laboratory, contributing to economic development and to the advancement of knowledge.
A very specific call to action for MSU has to be in regards to online education. Twenty years ago, in his inaugural speech, President Michael Malone stated this need in prophetic terms, "… we are now faced with wholly new electronic delivery systems that will revolutionize off-campus instruction. We can rest assured that these new media will be used by a variety of campuses, with and without 'walls,' and many of these providers will be of dubious distinction." That was two decades ago.5
Today I am announcing that MSU will embrace, once and for all, this vehicle that enables us to reach out and meet the diverse educational needs of students in every corner of this state. And we will do it with strict attention to the quality and rigor that characterizes everything MSU does. I am proposing the designation of funds to give motivated faculty the time and support to develop on-line courses or transform existing ones into on-line applications. We can make a difference and we must.
Research and Creativity
In 1858, when Morrill first proposed his idea, there was a crisis looming because of the nation's lack of readily available education for the people. In his appeal to Congress, Morrill noted that despite America's great wealth of land, it had imported $100 million of agricultural goods the previous year. The cause? We did not know how to farm in an effective manner. The land was being exhausted, soil was eroding and crop yields were plummeting.
It was also common for local companies and the government to hire engineers from Europe to build bridges, factories, and railroads. There was little to no place in America to train our own engineers or scientists. The land-grant university was the response to address these problems and to correct the dependence on external means to fuel the economy. It was the answer then; it should be part of the answer now.
This summer, we learned that MSU set a new record in research expenditures: 109.5 million dollars for the last fiscal year. We are proud to see how our faculty and researchers are tackling the challenges of today and finding solutions that will save lives and bring prosperity.
Montana's resources are abundant. The big blue sky, the magnificent mountains and the open plains, all epitomize Joseph Kinsey Howard's "High, Wide and Handsome" state. By working on impactful solutions based on sound science and engineering — balanced by our tradition of excellence in the humanities, business, art, nursing, education, and the social sciences — we can enhance the educational experience of our students, develop exciting new enterprises, significantly contribute to the economic development of our fine state and improve the lives of all of our citizens.
As we move forward, I envision a significant expansion of interdisciplinary programs at MSU. Today I am announcing my commitment to "MSU Moving Mountains," an initiative that will challenge faculty to develop new research and creative projects that will reinforce our success rate for competitive external funds in interdisciplinary initiatives. The vibrant programs that can result from this effort will significantly enhance our recruitment and retention of students and faculty interested in comprehensive topics involving multiple disciplines linked through integrated approaches. Such a project will also capitalize on opportunities for collaboration between all our campuses and with universities throughout the entire state.
For example, MSU has more than 75 faculty conducting microbiology related research, from microbes in infectious disease to environmental microbiology to biofilms. In addition, we have more than 65 faculty researching various aspects of ecosystems, including gathering critical information to help guide policy decisions. We have nationally and internationally recognized faculty in every college at MSU. What our talented faculty and staff have told me is that we are ready to think beyond our departmental or college lines to provide big solutions to big problems. They are excited about the new pathways that an interdisciplinary-system based approach can open to new external funding, to students and society, and to the advancement of knowledge.
I will propose setting aside funds derived from our research endeavor to be re-invested in research and creativity. The faculty, research staff and students will guide us in the design and implementation phases of this initiative that will create teams of great minds working together. We can make a difference and we must.
Outreach and Service
Even though the Morrill Act did not originally mention outreach and service, it became, through later legislation and practice, a third and crucial component of our mission, integrating teaching and research in innovative ways.
Extension is the most visible face of our commitment to outreach and service. Our agents bring applied research, educational and public engagement relevant to the needs of Montanans. Extension assists our farms and ranches with a wide range of agricultural issues. It is the secret behind the many leaders that have been prepared by our 4-H program and the engine that propels projects that our communities know and value.
We will continue to follow the advice of M.L. Wilson, one of Montana's first Extension agents, when he encouraged us to "do all we can to make certain we are facing the future and not the past."6 I am proud of MSU Extension programs and their response to today's needs: providing support to grandparents raising grandchildren, educational opportunities for homemakers and inmates, hands-on science and math projects for school children, bringing tangible benefits to all of Montana.
Our commitment to outreach will also continue to transcend state lines, opening our mental and geographical frontiers to the notion and advantages of globalization. We have MSU faculty, students, and staff teaching about Extension in China, working at a hospital in Haiti, bringing water to Kenya, helping mothers fight the devastation of malaria. MSU constitutes a meaningful presence in Europe, Morocco, Turkey, India, Japan, and the Middle East. Certainly we can do more with our neighbors in Canada and Latin America. We can make a difference and we must.
Today, I am announcing that MSU will redouble its efforts in our own backyard, by paying even closer attention to the needs of our tribal and rural communities. I have formed an alliance that includes Superintendent Denise Juneau, Regent Janine Pease, and the office of Commissioner Sheila Stearns, to assist in transforming our current realities. We will do this by working collaboratively on how we educate the next generation of principals and administrators of tribal and rural schools, by addressing health care and education issues on the reservations and remote communities, and by swinging wide the doors that Presidents Tietz, Malone, Roarke, and Gamble opened to our Native American students. We will start by proposing to support intensive student-centered programs for on-campus cultural activities, recruitment and retention counseling, and tutorial services as part of our common agenda.
Of course, in all of these areas, there will be challenges. MSU and this state are no strangers to adversity. One of our first students, Thomas McKee, described the financial dilemmas that have been part of our history: "The College came to Bozeman in that spring-time of 1893 in true Biblical fashion carrying 'neither purse nor script nor shoes.' It needed money to get started and couldn't get money until it did start."7
But we cannot allow fear to stand in the way of our resolve and our commitment to advancing this great university. We must declare, now and forever, this state deserves better.
We will strive toward a model that allows us to hire and retain excellent faculty and staff for the benefit of our students. We will generate additional support for our research endeavor, expand our graduate programs and strengthen our Extension projects. Such a model will involve initiatives to attract competitive funding and I am confident it will include the generosity of our alumni and benefactors in a comprehensive campaign that will allow us to reach beyond our limitations, imagine the possibilities and discover our potential. This effort needs to involve our constituents in a dialogue about the importance of public higher education for the wellbeing and advancement of all Montanans.
In the upcoming months, we will forge ahead with increased attention to maximizing efficiency and effectiveness in our administrative operations. As a university that experienced tremendous growth over the last few decades, we did not have an opportunity to adjust our processes to a model based on integration that will enable us to better meet present and future realities. Together, we will work on an integrated model that will help in streamlining processes, adjust expenditures and invest savings back to academics, which is the heart of our university.
With motivation and resolve, we have begun by reorganizing core elements of the institution. This summer, we took a hard look at the MSU overhead charges that were assessed to our agencies and, through meaningful dialogue with leaders from the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station and Extension, reached an agreement that reduces their overall costs and facilitates budget preparation in the years to come.
In our tradition of shared governance and democracy, we are expanding representation from campus constituencies in everything we do: from strategic plans, to budget discussions, to university athletics. We have added the presence and the voice of community members to further cement our commitment to accountability, transparency, and broad participation.
In the end, perhaps the most extraordinary lesson from the Morrill Act was the powerful call to envision a better and brighter future for all. Everything in the university setting is a teachable moment and an opportunity to aspire to excellence. To this we must add that everything in a land-grant institution is ultimately about community building and engagement.
In the years to come, I will need your help. I am counting on the full involvement of our faculty, students, staff, alumni, emeriti and retirees. I am also extending this invitation to parents, benefactors, our partners in K-12, neighbors, entrepreneurs, elected officials and public servants. This morning, inspired by the history and the mission of the land-grant university, let this be our pledge: We will build, together, an even better and stronger Montana State University that will empower the people and transform the world.
Thank you for the privilege of serving this great institution.
1 Act of July 2, 1862, (Morrill Act), Public Law 37-108, which establishes land grant colleges, 07/02/1862.
2 Kim Allen Scott, ed., Splendid on a Large Scale. The Writings of Hans Peter Gyllembourg Koch, Montana Territory, 1869-1874. Helena, Montana: Bedrock Editions and Drumlummon Institute, 2010.
3 Congressman Clement Clay of Alabama, quoted by Coy F. Cross. Justin Smith Morrill: Father of the Land-Grant College. East Lansing: Michigan State University, 1999, p. 80.
4 Congressman James Mason of Virginia, quoted by Kirk A. Astroth "Justin S. Morrill." Unitarianism in America. http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/UIA520Online/78morrill.html
5 Michael Malone. "Inaugural Address. Michael P. Malone. October 25, 1991." Unpublished.
6 M.L. Wilson
7 In Merrill G. Burlingame, A History. Montana State University. Bozeman, Montana: 1968, p. 12.