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What We are Called upon to Do and the Power of We

The world grant ideal and you. Share your thougths and experiences.

Just as the Morrill Act was an important catalyst in its time for other important changes in society, so is the potential impact of the World Grant Ideal in our era.

The sesquicentennial of the Morrill Act in 2012 provides a fitting occasion to celebrate the enduring power of the land-grant vision of higher education as an instrument of personal, social, and economic transformation in this nation. The Morrill Act created a new type of higher education institution in the nineteenth century. In this current age, the most pressing higher education need is to encourage existing universities to change in ways that more effectively advance the public good—to affirm the ideals of the Morrill Act and its core values of quality, inclusiveness, and connectivity through each higher education institution’s commitments and actions, regardless of its historical land-grant affiliation.

I invite others to join in this journey—to boldly affirm and to courageously extend beyond our nation’s borders the core values of the Morrill Act.

My vision is that an alignment of energies and commitments can begin to arise among a range of universities and colleges as each works in its own way to contribute to the fulfillment of the World Grant Ideal. My shorthand for such a phenomenon is the “power of we”—much like the work Jonathon Tisch pioneered on the power of partnerships.13 As partners aspiring toward the World Grant Ideal, we can knit together networks across the country and around the world that recognize the power of working together to define problems and priorities, without designating winners and losers and without being dependent on structures of authority, control, and power. Working informally as a virtual network of institutions with common values, universities pursuing the World Grant Ideal can embody this power of we, offering models of how to work more effectively as an agent of empowerment, helping individual learners, communities, states, and nations address challenges interwoven with the global fabric of our time. At the core of the World Grant Ideal is the commitment to give voice to those who cannot be heard because of disadvantaged circumstances. A key strength of the World Grant is Ideal to make positive differences for the “have nots” as well as the “haves.” It is the notion of outreach to individuals and the communities in which they live, very much like the commitment that formed the basis of the land-grant mission in 1862.

We cannot relinquish ourselves to the “tyranny of the sames.” Ultimately, the World Grant Ideal is one that counters a strong current of conformity flowing throughout much of higher education—a current that draws institutions to emulate the model and practices of the nation’s most elite research-intensive universities.

I conceive of the World Grant Ideal not so much as a movement but as a natural alliance of universities, each with distinctive strengths, recognizing their affinities and working in parallel to change the character and direction of higher education. In time, a collection of universities in pursuit of the World Grant Ideal could create tipping points, offering through their actions a model of higher education that differs in important respects from the mainstream of motivations and actions that characterize many institutions today. As higher education institutions, we cannot relinquish ourselves to the “tyranny of the sames.” Ultimately, the World Grant Ideal is one that counters a strong current of conformity flowing throughout much of higher education—a current that draws institutions to emulate the model and practices of the nation’s most elite research-intensive universities. World Grant offers an alternate vision, pursuing a different tack through the flow of that current—a vision to engage the strengths and capacities of a research-intensive public university to interact concertedly with others in the places where they work and live, linking the distinctive contributions of academic disciplines, nations, and cultures to address problems of global scale. World Grant offers a vision that could ultimately change the course of the river itself—a power for not only reshaping today but also shaping the future.

To make a positive difference in global well-being requires a vision beyond ourselves.

The World Grant Ideal views societal problems not only through the lens of the Morrill Act values but also with a new kind of intensity—an intensity for working together by using our different roles and strengths to expand the possibilities for effective solutions. For example, colleges and universities across the higher education continuum have developed an abundance of different initiatives to influence K–12 education. But, what has yet to be accomplished is to align these different roles and initiatives to collectively yield more positive learning outcomes across the entire system. We have yet to break the old habits of inching slowly forward program by program. Rather, working together we must develop new ways of combining the different “fixes” being proposed to cocreate more effective and sustainable solutions. Within the intensified engagement of the World Grant Ideal lies the potential to generate the quantum phase shift in K–12 teaching and learning needed in this nation and around the world.

Urgent moral imperatives are never realized without enormous investments of intellect and passion, of energy, and of focus and determination. The World Grant Ideal is not only a declaration of national purpose, it is also a renewed national commitment to act on the moral imperative that all kinds of higher education institutions must work individually and collectively to meet the needs of a global society in ways that strengthen the social commitment to the public good in the context of changing global dynamics.

It is through our institutional legacies of who we were created to be, who we are, and what we have accomplished that we are now granted a linked opportunity and responsibility to create sustainable global prosperity that goes well beyond the finances and fortune of any single institution, state, or nation.

It is toward this vision that Michigan State University has been striving for more than 150 years. I invite others to join in this journey—to boldly affirm and to courageously extend beyond our nation’s borders the core values of the Morrill Act as inspiration and fuel for higher education’s engagement with a global society in the century ahead. We have an opportunity to influence societal development to a degree not seen since Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act nearly 150 years ago. It is a journey requiring passion and commitment. It is journey for which we are ready as we engage to make positive differences in global well-being beyond ourselves. It is through our institutional legacies of who we were created to be, who we are, and what we have accomplished that we are now granted a linked opportunity and responsibility to create sustainable global prosperity that goes well beyond the finances and fortunes of any single institution, state, or nation. This is the heart of the World Grant Ideal.

Endnotes

  1. Friedman, T. L. (2008). Hot, flat, and crowded: Why we need a green revolution—and how it can renew America. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
  2. Friedman, T. L. (2005). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York, NY: Ferrar, Straus, and Giroux.
  3. Florida, R. (2005, October). The world is spiky. The Atlantic Monthly. 296(3), 48–51.
  4. Drucker, P. F. (1993). Post capitalist society. New York: HarperBusiness.
  5. Morrill, J. S. (1887). Address. In Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities. (2002, March). Renewing the covenant, learning, discovery and engagement in a new age and different world: The sixth report of the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities. Washington, D.C. (2002, March). Washington, DC: National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, Office of Public Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.ext.colostate.edu/staffres/kellogg-rpt.pdf. (Reprinted from I Would Have Higher Learning More Widely Disseminated by J. S. Morrill, 1961, Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts.)
  6. Lincoln, A. (1862, December 1). Second Annual Message to Congress. In Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities. (2002, March). Renewing the covenant, learning, discovery and engagement in a new age and different world: The sixth report of the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities. Washington, D.C. (2002, March). Washington, DC: National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, Office of Public Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.ext.colostate.edu/staffres/kellogg-rpt.pdf
  7. Weber, L. E. & Duderstadt, J. J. (Eds.) (2008). The globalization of higher education. Glion Colloquium Series No. 5. London, Paris, and Geneva: Economica.
  8. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2006, November). Education at a glance: OECD indicators 2005. Cited in The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, 25 (2006) Measuring the moment: Innovation, national security, and economic competitiveness.
  9. Kirsch, I., Braun, H., Yamamoto, K., & Sum, A. (2007). America’s perfect storm: Three forces changing our nation’s future. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
  10. Christensen, C. M. (2003). The innovator’s dilemma. New York, NY: Harper Business Essentials
  11. Collins, J. & Porras, J. (1994). Built to last: Successful habits of visionary companies. New York, NY: HarperBusiness.
  12. Gladwell, M. (2002). The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference. Boston: Little, Brown.
  13. Tisch, J. M. & Weber, K. (2004). The power of we: Succeeding through partnerships. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Acknowledgments

As this monograph has come to fruition, I have drawn upon the assistance of many colleagues at Michigan State University and other individuals of extraordinary national and international contribution and influence. The faculty, staff, and students at Michigan State University are a continuing source of inspiration through their efforts and passions for making long-lasting differences in our world.

I am grateful for the thoughtful work of Gregory R. Wegner, Director of Program Development, Great Lakes Colleges Association, whose invaluable assistance helped shape and articulate themes developed in this monograph. In preparation for presentation, the power and relevancy of the World Grant Ideal grew in clarity and was sharpened by the insights, suggestions, and experiences shared by remarkable colleagues and national thought leaders.

Throughout the months of writing to distill the role of research-intensive universities in the twenty-first century, I have benefitted especially from the critique and review of Rick M. Foster, Vice President for Programs, and Gail L. Imig, Program Director, W. K. Kellogg Foundation; James J. Duderstadt, President Emeritus and University Professor of Science and Engineering, University of Michigan; C. Peter Magrath, The College Board; Ann E. Austin, Professor, Department of Educational Administration, Michigan State University; Deborah G. DeZure, Assistant Provost for Faculty and Organizational Development, Michigan State University; Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement and University Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Michigan State University; Christine Geith, Assistant Provost and Director of MSU Global, Michigan State University; Marguerite A. Halversen, Editor and Project Manager, University Relations, Michigan State University; Kirk L. Heinze, Chairperson and Director Emeritus, Agriculture and Natural Resources Communication, Michigan State University; Martha L. Hesse, Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University; John K. Hudzik, Vice President for Global Engagement and Strategic Projects, Michigan State University; Karen L. Klomparens, Dean of The Graduate School and Associate Provost for Graduate Education, Michigan State University; R. Paul McConaughy, Program Leader, Michigan Nutrition Network, Michigan State University Extension; Jeffrey M. Riedinger, Dean of International Studies and Programs, Michigan State University; and Douglas B. Roberts, Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, Michigan State University.

To these individuals and to the many others who with their passions and through their actions are exemplars of the World Grant Ideal, I continue to be indebted.

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