Kansas State University soon will begin celebrating its sesquicentennial — 150 years as Kansas’ first public university and the nation’s first land-grant institution to hold classes.
Although our nine-month-long celebration is years in the making, it’s nothing compared to a century and a half of great efforts by K-Staters who have helped make the university what it is today. Our predecessor, Kansas State Agricultural College, was founded Feb. 16, 1863, fewer than eight months after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act.
A land-grant institution is one that champions learning, discovery and engagement. In the past, this meant, in part, an emphasis on military training and sharing knowledge that helped farmers and homemakers do their jobs better.
Today, it’s a bit different. Although ROTC is no longer required of male students, the program, which now welcomes women, plays a vital role as we strive to become the nation’s most military-inclusive university. K-State Research and Extension, through its presence in each Kansas county, still shares research that benefits the agriculture industry and families. But today that knowledge can encompass topics in sustainable energy and programs to combat childhood obesity and help military families.
Now, there’s even more to upholding the land-grant mission. It’s about providing all qualified students the opportunity to be part of a premier undergraduate experience unlike any in the nation. It’s about making discoveries that inspire our imagination as to what’s possible, and discoveries that we experience every time we drive across a safe bridge or enjoy a meal without worry of foodborne illness.
Most of all, it’s knowing that what we’ve invested in Kansas State University education and research comes back to us with measurable results. Look no further than at how many rural grocery stores have been saved or revived thanks to an initiative through our Center for Engagement and Community Development. Look at how many of our most recent graduates are staying in the state to strengthen the workforce — more than 60 percent when surveyed.
Our discoveries also are making a difference across the nation and around the world. Thinking of the land-grant mission’s global implications is imperative as we strive to become a Top 50 public research university by 2025.
Please join us in celebrating the land-grant heritage that’s alive after 150 years. Here’s looking forward to 150 more.
Kirk Schulz is the 13th president of Kansas State University