from the dean
Questions for the Class of 2033
As you probably know by now, 2012 is the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which created the American Land-Grant University System. Many of us at the College have spoken about it across Kentucky throughout the year, my column in the spring issue was about that anniversary, and in this issue we feature an impressive timeline of the College’s milestones and achievements in our history. Now I want to turn to the future.
Looking forward a couple of decades, I wonder what my grandchildren might find at this College. How will their opportunities for personal and professional development compare to the college experiences that shaped many of us? Will they still find professors who not only care about their students, but whose teaching is guided by immersion in discovery research and public service? Will their alma mater still be both a flagship and a land-grant institution moving our state and nation forward? Perhaps the most compelling question our grandchildren will ask is: will the degrees we seek be as valuable as the degrees granted to our parents and grandparents?
I often hear the comment that public higher education has changed more in the last five years than in the 50 years prior. Some of the forces at work are well known and widely discussed: declining public funding, affordability of tuition, aging infrastructure, and increasing competition from non-traditional sources for both students and resources. But perhaps the most worrisome trend, if it were to continue, is an emerging perception that a college degree is worth less in a very tough job market.
What changes will be forced by the increasing reliance on tuition revenue to cover the costs of higher education? Is it possible that higher education’s long-held priorities for impact and excellence in research and development, extension, and public service will be altered by these challenges?
We can all have a part in deciding the answers to these questions, whether that influence is through a donation envelope, a voting booth, or our participation and volunteer efforts.
The remarkable 150-year land-grant university history of good work and service can provide us with a framework, a skeleton, for a future of achievement. That framework was built on the vision of Justin Morrill, Abraham Lincoln, and all the other founders of the land-grant system. Yet the flesh on this skeleton will be sustained only by the continuing support of our alumni, our public leaders, our scientists, and teachers—most of all by the commitment of “the people” for whom, as Lincoln told us, the land-grant system was built. Can we earn that commitment for our grandchildren?
M. Scott Smith
Dean, College of Agriculture