Living the legacy of the Morrill Act

Alan Grant, dean

This is one of my favorite times of the year in Blacksburg. The crisp fall air is buzzing with excitement as students settle into the new semester and acclimate to the nuances of campus life.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences welcomed 677 new students this year — the largest number in our history and a bright, enthusiastic group that will carry on our tradition of excellence and exploration. I had the pleasure of meeting many of them, as well as the HokieBird, during our annual Fall Kickoff Picnic.

Our enrollment numbers reflect a national trend: Many agriculture and life sciences colleges are seeing increased interest. In a time when environmental concerns, land use, obesity, infectious and chronic diseases, energy, water, and food security are very real societal issues, our college is uniquely poised to develop solutions and educate students to address these challenges.

This year’s new students have another notable distinction. They are joining our college as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act.

Abraham Lincoln’s signature on the 1862 legislation gave rise to the land-grant system, which not only provides access to higher education, but also equips the next generation with the knowledge to deal with some of the most pressing problems facing our world.

An integral part of Virginia’s land-grant system is the relationship between Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and Virginia Cooperative Extension, which work together to solve problems and share discoveries through education, extension, and outreach efforts.

Our cover story on the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project illustrates how we are spreading our knowledge across the commonwealth to educate a new crop of farmers. Other stories in this issue highlight how we are putting the land-grant mission into action — from improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay to creating a new generation of agricultural leaders.

The future is promising. We recently finished the college’s six-year strategic plan and we look forward to unprecedented growth and prosperity — building on the excitement of today and the history that brought us here.

Alan Grant


Please visit the past issues’ Dean’s Updates.