Message from the Dean - June 2012

Abu Rizvi

While the Honors College is known for its student programs, given that it is a University-wide organization, it can play the role of "bringing faculty together and creating a truly cross disciplinary culture at UVM." These are the words of President John Bramley when he was Provost, at the time of the first Honors College Faculty Seminar. These annual summer seminars bring together faculty members from across the University to discuss a matter of importance and relevance and to see how these discussions can enhance professional life at UVM. This year's seminar, our ninth, marks the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Land Grant Act, which was proposed by Vermont Representative Justin Smith Morrill and signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862. The seminar will take place on August 13-15 and is coordinated by Tom Vogelmann, Professor of Plant Biology and Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Cheryl Morse, Assistant Professor of Geography and Director of the Center for Research on Vermont. It will conclude with a celebratory dinner hosted by new UVM President Thomas Sullivan with Leslie Black Sullivan, and Provost Jane Knodell.

Vermont has a rich history associated not only with the passage of the Act that spurred the creation of colleges and universities across the United States, but also with the implementation of the Act within our own state. The University of Vermont is a beneficiary of Morrill's Land Grant Act, which gave states federal land for the purpose of establishing colleges that would, as the Act specified, "teach agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life." For many, the land grant mission has come to mean the extension of educational opportunity along multiple dimensions and to include the teaching and application of practical subjects beyond the agricultural and mechanical, though, as the legislation had it, "without excluding other scientific and classical studies." Thus the meaning of the land grant mission has been interpreted as reaching beyond the strict reading of the law that was passed.

Participants in this seminar will delve into this history by reading and discussing the decision to name the University of Vermont as the state's land grant college, and the evolution of the land grant mission over time, with a particular view to exploring its continuing relevance. We are looking forward to discussing the legacy and future of Morrill's Act, thus kicking off a series of events celebrating this Vermonter's contribution to higher education in this country.

I hope you enjoy this issue of our newsletter. I look forward to hearing from you.