Justin Smith Morrill Lecture
National Association of State Universities
and Land-Grant Colleges Annual Meeting
November 11, 2001, Washington DC
Reinforcing the Covenant - Relevance
and Reformation in Public Higher Education
Dr. Richard M. Foster Vice President of Programs W.K. Kellogg Foundation
I wish to express my deep appreciation
for the tremendous honor, and for the opportunity
to address this prestigious group of leaders
in higher education in America. Justin
Morrill, Senator from Vermont, was the
principal author of land-grant university
legislation and I have often wondered what
his reaction would be if he could witness
the impact of the system he created with
the Morrill Act of 1862. As many of you
have heard me say before, a higher education
system that connects knowledge resources
to the problems of people to promote the
common good is the most appropriate higher
education system for the first decade of
the 21st century. I'm proud to be both
a product of and an advocate for the State
and Land-Grant University system.
I'm also very proud to be part of the
W.K. Kellogg Foundation with their long
history of investing in communities - first
in Michigan and then around the world.
W.K. Kellogg was a true visionary, both
as an industrialist and as a philanthropist.
He looked to Michigan State College for
solutions to rural poverty and revitalization
even before he founded the Kellogg Foundation
in 1930. The Kellogg Foundation has a history
of connecting higher education institutions
with the communities they serve. We've
always believed in outreach and engagement,
long before it was in vogue.
I am pleased to have had the continuing,
long-term support of our Foundation leaders,
both Executive Officers and our Trustees,
in working with state and land-grant universities.
Most of them are seasoned veterans when
it comes to this work - our President and
CEO was provost at Penn State, our Senior
Vice President for Programming has had
Executive Dean responsibilities at two
major land grants (Penn State and Minnesota),
and three of four of the Program Vice Presidents
have land-grant experience. In addition,
many of our Trustees have experiences as
members of Boards of Regents, College Deans,
and in related service to USDA and NASULGC.
I'd like to thank the National Association
of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges
and the good work, the friendship, and
support of Peter Magrath. NASULGC has been
the sponsoring agent of the Kellogg Presidents'
Commission on the Future of the 21st Century
State and Land-Grant University, the Food
and Society Task Force, and several highly
significant projects. Peter has, on more
than on occasion, called our Foundation
the Land-Grant Foundation - and I've always
kind of liked that. We, at Kellogg, have
a covenant with the communities we serve.
But while land-grant universities gain
their covenant through the Morrill Act
of 1862, the second Morrill Act of 1890,
and the Tribal College Act of 1994, we
get ours from the vision and intent of
our founder - W.K. Kellogg. He said "I'll
invest my money in people;" and actually
established the Foundation's current mission
in 1930 - "To help people help themselves
through the practical application of knowledge
and resources." That sounds like a state
and land-grant university philosophy to
And I'd like to extend my deep gratitude
to the higher education unit of USDA, and
in particular to Dr. Henry Bahn, Colien
Hefferan, Jane Coulter, and many others
who are committed to quality higher education
in agriculture and food systems education.
Your work is greatly appreciated.
A few years ago I received recognition
for Kellogg Foundation efforts by the Academic
Programs Division of the Board on Agriculture
at this very conference. It was also the
luncheon that recognized some of our best
teachers in our state and land-grant universities.
I felt humbled in their presence - receiving
an award for what I do versus their being
recognized for shaping the minds of our
future professionals in agriculture and
the food system. Today I'm in a similar
situation - in the audience are those being
recognized as our best and most effective
teaching professors from across the country.
I salute you for the work that you do.
I believe teaching is the heart and soul
of the institution. I am proud that my
17 years of contribution to three land-grant
universities was primarily as a teacher.
It has not escaped my attention, and I'm
sure yours as well, that today is Veteran's
Day, and the two-month anniversary of the
terrorist attack on New York, Washington,
D.C., and the heroic crash in Pennsylvania.
Many have said it, but it is true that
we in this country will never be the same.
And it certainly has implications for how
public higher education reacts as well.
September 11 th shook our very foundations.
It took away our sense of security, some
of our freedoms, and our confidence. We
lost jobs, businesses, and 5,000 family
members. It impacted our economy, our government,
and even the way we look at each other.
I'd say we have a new set of "nation's
wounds to bind."
What we gained was a renewed sense of
patriotic spirit, a coming together - and
that's good for fighting a war.
The question will be is do we have the
resolve to change many of our national
systems - including higher education -
to allow everyone from large business to
small community to participate in the recovery?
I took time yesterday afternoon to walk
the mall - from the strongly fortified
Capitol Building to the very crowded memorials
honoring those who served in Korea and
I ended up, as I always do, at the Lincoln
Memorial. And read again, as I always do,
the Gettysburg Address and the second Inaugural
Address - and again realized it was certainly
no accident that it was President Lincoln
who signed the Morrill Act and the Emancipation
Proclamation. The same president who spoke
at Gettysburg of a government of the people,
by the people, and for the people. Or in
the second Inaugural Address of the need
to bind up the nation's wounds. And it
all came back again about the original
land-grant intent - A people's investment
of the people, for the people, and by the
people - to provide information and knowledge
that would help "bind up the nation's wounds."
Land grant is about democracy; it is about
equity; it is about access; and it is about
protecting the rights of the minority.
Since September 11 th , I think we also
have a new calling - think local and global;
invest in people and communities.
Today, I'd like to speak about three key
- Some current and future issues facing
state and land-grant universities (and
food and agriculture system) that may
require new strategies and solutions
from higher education;
- The changes required of higher education
institutions to be effective in the future;
- The steps necessary for public higher
education to make significant changes.
Pressures on the Land-Grant University
So what are some examples of the significant
issues impacting the need to consider new
leadership approaches and university models?
Each of us could name dozens and we'd likely
describe them all very differently, but
I'd like to suggest the following for both
the university at-large and the food and
agriculture component of the institution.
1. In the United States of America, we
are experiencing greater changes in demographics
than in any country on earth. The very
fabric of our communities is changing and
the challenge will be whether we can adjust
from a majority-focused society to a pluralistic
society that honors diverse cultures and
perspectives. To me the questions are:
- How will universities assist new immigrant
communities to become part of the American
- How will we connect knowledge resources
to communities with different cultures,
values, belief systems, economies, and
- How will we capitalize on the many
positive contributions of a diverse set
of community partners?
- How will we create a better understanding
of how people work together to span the
differences in values, cultures, and
knowledge that are to be respected?
- And how will we build confidence of
new communities to fully engage with
On September 11th we all discovered that
not knowing how to work across cultures
can hurt us.
2. The paradox of globalization and localization.
In a globalizing environment, people at
and below the margins usually get left
behind. Those who do benefit are those
with comparative advantage in systems like
finance, transportation, media and information,
banking, manufacturing and trade, health
care, and certainly higher education that
can be marketed to people worldwide with
the aid of global communications technology.
It was no random target selection on September
11th. The World Trade Center and the Pentagon
are highly symbolic of global power.
So who wins? Western and industrialized
countries who have the aforementioned infrastructures
benefit; large communities with both people
and resources that can be flexible in responding
to globalizing conditions could benefit;
large multi-national corporations that
already span national boundaries usually
win; and U.S. institutions of higher education
generally benefit as well.
Who usually looses? Small countries around
the world; rural areas around the world
(and certainly in the U.S.); small producers
trying to compete with third-world labor
and inputs; environmental systems that
require local stewardship to be sustainable;
So what are the implications for globalizing
systems in the U.S. that we are seeing
through our work at the Kellogg Foundation?
- The loss of local food systems and
an over-reliance on global food systems;
- The disappearance of local communities
- The loss of community connections and
- The out-migrations of youth and skilled
workers from rural communities;
- The loss of economic options and business
starts in rural America;
- The lack of hope that things can get
- Government policies that favor large
over small, global over local.
Globalization certainly was part of the
issues that led up to the September 11th
The good news is that we can do both -
we can support globalizing systems that
make sense for all Americans and still
invest in local, community-based social
and economic development.
3. Producing food in a globalizing society
- key questions are:
- Where will food be grown?
- How will it be produced?
- How will we allocate scarce food resources
in an era of increasing affluence and
Some suggest that agriculture will follow
the trends of manufacturing and industrialization
and actually leave the U.S. because of
labor and transportation costs. And others
suggest that the decisions we are making,
or are not making, in wise use of rural
and agricultural lands for development
will only accelerate the departure of agriculture
from the American business portfolio. Do
you have an opinion on what should be the
course of food production in the future?
Do you have a preferred future for agriculture
and food production?
The rise of affluence may be the greatest
factor to influence competition for food
in the mid-21st century. Both India and
China have added over 300 million people
to their middle class over the last twenty
years, especially in the 1990s where most
of the decade was characterized by double-digit
economic growth. And each new member of
their middle class is demanding more grain-based
food (meat, bread, beer, etc.) that will
put increased pressures on the world food
supply. Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other
hand is the only region of the world with
a net decline of per-capita food production
over the past twenty years. Who do you
think will have priority for limited food
The decision on how we use local resources
will have an increasingly global impact.
For example, in Michigan we use 10 acres
of land per hour, 24 hours per day for
development. Of those 240 acres used each
day, about half (118) come from prime farmland.
The figure is 13 acres per hour in Ohio
and 10 acres per hour in Minnesota and
Wisconsin. You likely know the corresponding
number for your state. My question for
the people of Michigan, is how do you want
to engage with the rest of the world in
the middle of the 21st century? Would you
like to be a food producer and have open
space that contributes to so many aspects
of the quality of life, or do you want
to provide housing and parking lots? We
have to consciously make the choice and
we need our state and land-grant institutions
to help us with quality information and
leadership on these issues.
In all likelihood, it will be water quality
and quantity that will be key issues on
local, national, and global policy agendas
in the future. How will we protect it?
How will we allocate it?
There are now three river systems in China
that are "used-up" before they enter the
sea. In the U.S., the Colorado River is
just a trickle as it enters Mexico. The
competition will continue to be between
agriculture and industrial development.
Other issues I'll mention, but not dwell
- What do we believe about the use of
bio-technology in future food production
versus the need to preserve the natural
resource base for future food production?
- What can be done about the rise of
HIV/AIDs epidemic throughout the world
and the tremendous loss of the human
resource, especially in Africa?
- Do we have a role in addressing issues
of the 800 million people worldwide (mostly
children) who chronically experience
poverty and food deficiencies?
My point is that the university system
of the future must be proactive; it must
take a stand for the common good; and it
must represent their constituencies at
the community level as it has the government
and industrial clientele of the past. The
public university must use their local,
state, national and global networks and
resources to bring objective information
and knowledge to the problems of all their
Characteristics of the Future State and
We believe that universities of the future
must be part of the social fabric of the
country; they must use the tremendous knowledge
resource to help people at all levels to
be successful; and they must contribute
to both social and economic development.
In short, they must be nation builders
and nation re-builders.
In 1996, the Foundation sponsored a Seminar
in Salzburg, Austria on the future of higher
education. Our colleagues attending from
South Africa indicated they were dismantling
entire systems of higher education because
they were inconsistent with a society that
valued justice and equal opportunity. The
old model focused on the elite when the
nation begged for people with nation-building
skills. It was based on historical perspectives
of race and color instead of future visions
of diversity and inclusivity. And they
Colleagues from Eastern Europe indicated
they were revamping higher education systems
that were based on political ideology rather
than academic standards, systems that educated
a chosen few rather than preparing the
many. And they are doing it.
Colleagues from the United States indicated
it was time to think about public higher
education from a different perspective
- that of organization based on engagement
and outreach, as well as research. For
50 years we were engaged in research as
the only true organizing structure in our
major public and private universities.
It was your research record that determined
compensation, whether you gained tenure
and advancement in rank, and it was research
that determined your current and future
value. It was fueled by large government
expenditures that focused on global impact,
most times in strengthening economic advantage.
Many times it was aimed at improving crop
yields that not only increased food availability
for export and for food aid, but also contributed
to a low-cost food policy for consumers
and a low-profit margin for U.S. farmers.
You see we were engaged in the Cold War
and positioning America for geo-political
success was extremely important for the
times. And higher education responded well.
In fact, we have always been able to produce
what society expected of us in a high-quality
But rarely did research and associated
faculty activity focus on community improvements
needed inside the U.S., where the fabric
of our cities and rural communities was
being torn apart because of highly destructive
social and economic issues. The result
was a continued strengthening of our global
competitiveness (benefiting those who already
had resources), and continued decline in
communities that had no economic resources
to leverage university involvement. We
are still experiencing the fallout of those
The interesting consideration is that
we now live in an era that we can and must
do both. We should have good research and
we should reward those who contribute.
We should also have good outreach, taking
the knowledge we have in our institutions
and applying it to the problems of the
people we serve, both locally and globally.
And we should reward those who make valuable
contributions to outreach and teaching.
Outreach as an organizing structure has
some unique characteristics:
1. Programs are based on societal and
economic needs identified by public constituencies;
2. Research is based on public needs, and the test of value lies with its application
to solving problems and meeting societal needs;
3. Students aren't just those that come to a central campus, but are those
who live and work in the communities that the university serves. They have
both direct and remote access to relevant university programs;
4. Faculty are rewarded and incentives are available based on a variety of
criteria, including research, outreach, and teaching; and
5. Rewards are based on the outstanding contributions of faculty, not on the
narrowly perceived criteria that focus on impressing a handful of faculty peers.
We believe that the university of the
future will be built on multiple, flexible
organizing structures - certainly research,
but also outreach. Our function will be
to discover new information, or to reorganize
old information into new meanings and to
apply it to emerging and persistent problems.
And our function will be to teach "students" how
to learn in a society based on knowledge
How Can We Move the Change Agenda
What will it take? It will require a significant
adjustment in both action and attitudes.
Here is what I suggest:
1. Start with a statement of vision and
values for the institution, the college,
the department, etc. In an era of rapid
change and global technology, we must be
vision driven and value based.
2. Name the issues that you most want to impact and make it a priority up and
down the administrative units of the university - bring public will and institutional
alignment to make progress on the public agenda.
3. Invest in your transition to a major, highly networked, global university.
Utilize global networks and resources to address local issues.
4. Insist on authentic public participation and engagement. Reach out to new
and different constituencies, and give them real work and expect real input.
5. Align the leadership and the effort - president, provost, dean, chairs,
and faculty - for maximum impact, for internal commitment and ownership; and
for external communication. Engage around a shared vision that will lead to
collective action, and expect faculty efforts to contribute to institutional
6. Develop new partnerships and coalitions to accomplish the difficult goals
of engagement. Place the university in the role of knowledge broker.
7. Convey a willingness to serve the public good. Take on issues that don't
rely on special interests or the ability to pay. Make yourself an indispensable
part of problem solving for your primary constituencies in your state.
8. Create a recognition and rewards system that promotes authentic contributions
to discovery, engagement, and learning mission at the college, department,
and faculty levels.
It is easy for me to see why the Kellogg
Foundation has invested in you and your
work over the years - higher education
and the knowledge system you represent
is absolutely essential for the survival
of the communities that we strive to serve.
Sustaining change at the community level
demands connections to knowledge and technical
But just as communities need to change
to respond to a changing global environment,
higher education must change also. You
have always been responsive to what society
has needed, and I have little doubt that
you'll be successful in making the needed
adjustments. The Kellogg Foundation will
be there as a long-term partner as long
as it has positive impact on helping people
But in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln,
and in this city, and in this time - we
must rededicate ourselves to be the People's
University - a leader and a partner in
I wish you well as we all struggle in
these times of uncertainty. But please
remember, we are counting on you to be
a significant part of the solutions. Thank
you again for this fine recognition, and
best wishes during the remainder of the