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Column: Land-grant mission has deep roots in Minnesota history

“The land-grant university system is being built on behalf of the people, who have invested in these public universities their hopes, their support and their confidence.”

—President Abraham Lincoln upon signing the Morrill Act, July 2, 1862.

More than 150 years later, the University of Minnesota is one of 73 land-grant universities in the country and its program and research have far-reaching benefits to not only the state of Minnesota but across the U.S. In Duluth we are fortunate to have several research faculty at the University of Minnesota Duluth who still recall and exemplify the land-grant mission. Most of us outside the University — and many within — have forgotten this important land-grant foundation.

In 1862, President Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act establishing the first land-grant colleges. States were given federal land, the sale of which was used to fund public colleges that promoted liberal arts and practical education. A primary goal was to expand higher education beyond the privileged upper classes. Another primary goal was to have practical research which would have direct impact on real-world problems, as well as monitor the issues in our state and communities and allow these issues to benefit from direct academic research.

A few years after the Civil War, the already existing University of Minnesota gained land-grant status.

Over the next century the university continually secured federal funds to conduct research on a variety of topics. Today, the university is part of a national network of land-grant institutions with a mission to address critical public issues through teaching, research and outreach. The financial, economic and social impacts of U of M professors and students are incredibly far reaching. We know that for every dollar invested in the U of M, there is a return of more than $13. Additionally, according to the University of Minnesota, alumni have gone on to start more than 10,000 companies in Minnesota, employing 500,000 people and generating $100 billion in revenue.

Earlier in my teaching career, I worked for the University in Extension. The Extension Service was the land-grant mission in action. That professional experience helped me gain an understanding and passion for the two-way nature of research; identifying problems in communities and coordinating research, and applying research to community problems.

More recently, Professor Randall Seifert, a senior associate dean of pharmacy at UMD has exemplified the importance of this land-grant mission. Professor Seifert has spent a good deal of time researching the cost analysis of synthetic drugs in our communities using data from St. Luke’s hospital. His research findings have been astounding, and help raise awareness of the problem in northeast Minnesota. Policy-makers like me make better informed decisions while working on related legislation when we have solid data. With this letter I want to publicly thank Dr. Seifert and his students for making important progress on synthetic drugs in our communities, as well as upholding the critical mission of our land-grant university.

Today, the university is part of a national network of land-grant institutions with a mission to address critical public issues through teaching, research and outreach.

Senator Roger Reinert represents District 7 in the Minnesota Senate.

Roger Reinert

Roger Reinert is a Duluth resident.