ROBERT HARRISON: Cornell was born nearly 150 years ago with a dual role. The first part was to aspire to be a great world class research institution that valued scholarship and teaching as well as research. But the second part was the notion of applying the results of that research to help people in the real world. And I think that duality has become part of our identity, it's become part of our DNA, it's become part of our spirit.
REBECCA STOLTZFUS: The land grant mission was born in the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era. Our nation needed universities that word educate more citizens and would educate them to address the very real problems of society.
The heart of the land grant idea, the idea that began with Morrill in the time of Abraham Lincoln and the idea that continues today is that what we do in our laboratories and classrooms, in this excellent university, matters to the world. And what happens in the world should matter and influence what goes on at this university.
ROBERT HARRISON: I think it's important to appreciate that the land grant mission of the university has become such a success through the work of many of our colleges over many, many years now-- nearly 150-- that we were in a position to expand it from New York State, which was originally the focus, to literally the world.
REBECCA STOLTZFUS: While it used to be the case that people would focus on local issues or solutions, it's just a reality of this century that we cannot separate the local from the global anymore.
ROBERT HARRISON: I think there's a misconception in how people think about what a land grant university is. Some people think that we have land grant colleges. And in fact, that's not true. Our university is a land grant university. And every department, every discipline, every area, major, and college has the same obligation, the same public service mission.
REBECCA STOLTZFUS: The words land grant represent an idea that has change throughout our history to meet the contemporary needs of that moment. Public engagement describes in more contemporary terms what we're about now.
ROBERT HARRISON: Public engagement for Cornell means rolling up our sleeves, getting out in the real world, and addressing some of the most important problems that people around the world are facing.
REBECCA STOLTZFUS: The way that public investment shows up around the university is going to be various. How this looks in the humanities and the performing arts versus planning, and design, and engineering, and the health sciences, those are all going to look different.
ROBERT HARRISON: For example, Cornell scientists have figured out how to improve the nutritional value of certain vital crops both grown in New York state and around the world. They've been able to address the mosquito problem, and therefore the malaria problem, in Ghana. And they've been able to deliver water purification systems in Central America to help people have clean, safe drinking water.
REBECCA STOLTZFUS: An amazing program in the city of Buffalo is working with NGOs to strengthen their capacity to meet the needs of that city.
ROBERT HARRISON: Breastfeeding promotion programs in Bangladesh. All kinds of programs out of the engineering school to work with NASA.
REBECCA STOLTZFUS: The diagnosis and surveillance of diseases that move from animals to humans, like West Nile Virus.
ROBERT HARRISON: Educating prisoners in Auburn, New York.
REBECCA STOLTZFUS: There's a lot of work going on with alternative energy.
ROBERT HARRISON: Creating a clinic in Haiti to deliver treatment to patients with HIV/AIDS.
REBECCA STOLTZFUS: Our extension activities and our relationships with the counties of New York. Health systems and the hospitality industry coming together in new ways to meet the needs of people living with an illness.
ROBERT HARRISON: The New York City Tech Campus where the city of New York chose Cornell to be its partner, to construct a transformative campus that will impact not just New York City but literally the world.
REBECCA STOLTZFUS: Technology discovery from the University moves out into the world. People from the world, and ideas from the world, and knowledge from the world move into the university.
ROBERT HARRISON: It's really a two-way street. On the one hand, we certainly are able to deliver solutions into the field because we have done great work in our laboratories. But on the other hand, we're able to learn from what happens in the field and bring that back to the Cornell campus to include in future research and future curriculum.
Being a land grant university, in particular one as prominent as us-- only one of two private land grant institutions in the country and the only land grant institution in the Ivy League-- is a tremendous competitive advantage for Cornell. We are able to, number one, address the world's problems in a way that many other universities are not. But number two, we're able to attract students who understand that. They appreciate that by coming to a place like Cornell they are able to address meaningfully and immediately the great challenges that the world faces.
REBECCA STOLTZFUS: The problems have changed, society has certainly changed, our students have changed, our ways of educating have changed. But the idea that universities should exist in part to engage the needs of society, to include society broadly, and to be relevant to current trends is exactly the idea of Cornell University pursuing its engagement mission today.
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A celebration (and explanation) of Cornell's land-grant mission and spirit of public engagement on the 150th Anniversary of the Morrill Act.