by Melanie Wolff
In 1862, the Morrill Land Grant Act was signed into law, which provided grants of land to states to finance the establishment of colleges specializing in agricultural and mechanic arts. While most funds went towards new schools, many went to fund “A&M” schools that were already established. These colleges have worked to advance the United States’ agricultural production and methods of environmental sustainability since its conception. More than that, their job is to engage their communities. They work on highly relevant research based on community needs and coordinate 4-H, a youth development organization, through their extension offices that are spread throughout every state and territory.
What many people may not know is that a vast number of MSIs are also land grant institutions. Specific legislation was set out in 1890 and in 1994 to ensure that black colleges and tribal colleges were included in the benefits of being a land grant institution. AANAPISIs, AANHs, and HSIs are also represented in the mix. According to IPEDS, MSIs make up almost 60% of the 109 designated land grant institutions in the United States.
Thus, these land grant MSIs serve a dual mission—to enhance opportunities for low income and minority students and also to provide opportunities in programs of study centered on conservation, agriculture, and the environment.
Below is a list of 10 Land Grant MSIs that may come as a surprise as well as work they do related to agricultural sciences and the environment.
1. University of Guam (AANAPISI)
The University of Guam became a land grant institution in 1972. Apart from offering majors in environment-related fields, the University of Guam has a Center for Island Sustainability and a Western Pacific Tropical Research Center. Both centers serve to safeguard the region’s resources while simultaneously stimulating agricultural profitability and improving the quality of life for islanders.
2. University of California-Riverside (AANAPISI/HSI)
UCR’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences is unique among land grant institutions, as it has 13 departments to fully encompass a wide range of life, physical, mathematical, and agricultural sciences. The structure allows for collaboration and coordination between researchers and offers many multidisciplinary degrees as a result.
3. Alcorn State University (HBCU)
A land grant institution since it was founded in 1871 , Alcorn State confers degrees in agribusiness management, agricultural economics, and agricultural science. While the university provides programs for a broad spectrum of students, it specifically targets first generation college students and those with limited opportunities. Alcorn State also has the distinction of being America’s oldest public historically black land grant institution.
4. Navajo Technical College (TCU)
Navajo Technical College’s Environmental Science Shima’ Nahasdza’a’n Bee Iina’/ Mother Earth Give Life program looks at environmental resource protection at the tribe, state, and federal levels, preparing students for resource management on reservations, among other possible employment opportunities.
5. Delaware State University (HBCU)
DSU’s College of Agriculture and Related Sciences conducts incredibly diverse research in agriculture, working to use science to meet the needs of their state’s population and beyond. Its plant science department is currently studying the Fonio plant—a crop plant that is gluten free, of low glycemic index, and of a high quality of essential amino acids in its grain—to make it more of a staple in people’s diets, particularly those with diabetes.
6. New Mexico State University-Main Campus (HSI)
Originally the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, New Mexico State has extension offices in all 33 counties of the state, assisting in local needs—whether that be best practices and return estimates in farming or ranching, youth development, information on irrigation management, or other community needs. The university connects research and support to local needs in building a better environment.
7. University of Hawaii at Manoa (AANAPISI)
Founded as a land grant in 1907, UH Manoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology studies a broad swath of topics, ranging from marine geology to sea levels research to coral bleaching and ocean acidification. Given the diverse and unique ecosystem of Hawaii, UH Manoa is in a great position for oceanic and environmental research.
8. University of Alaska at Fairbanks (AANH)
University of Alaska at Fairbanks was founded in 1917 as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. In recent years, its School of Natural Resources and Extension has published work on peonies, food security for the state, small scale coriander production, and more.
9. Aaniiih Nakoda College (TCU)
Aaniih Nakoda College offers a major in environmental science that enables students to learn about conservation, forestry, wildlife management, and soil quality from both “Western” and indigenous perspectives.
10.University of the District of Columbia (HBCU)
UDC is unique in that it is an urban land grant institution. Thus, its mission focuses on food security for local communities, nutrition/childhood obesity, alternative energy, and water safety.