K-State’s land-grant history still prominent today

K-State is the nation's first operational land-grant institution, originally founded in 1863 as Kansas State Agricultural College. Kansas State University's original mission was to teach agriculture, military tactics, mechanical arts and classical studies, a mission that K-State continues today. (Sarah Millard | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State University was founded in 1863 as the nation’s first land-grant university. The school was founded to improve the lives of all Kansans through classes, research and outreach beyond the campus.

“When land-grant universities were formed, the idea was to take the research and the work that was done at the university and share that with the common people,” said Gary Fike, director of Riley County’s K-State Research and Extension Branch.

Land-grant universities are institutions designated by the state to receive benefits from the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.

The first Morrill Act, passed by the United States Congress, established land-grant institutions in every state to educate citizens in the fields of agriculture, home economics, the mechanic arts and other professions.

The second Morrill Act provided annual appropriations to each state to support its land-grant institution.

Emma Claybrook, junior in food science and industry, said she understands K-State’s history as a land-grant university and the impact it has on not only herself, but others as well.

“Personally, I help teach a class that focuses on university resources and we go over the land-grant history,” Claybrook said. “A lot of the resources that help minorities and underrepresented groups are funded from that money. The office that my scholarship group is housed in recently formed thanks to government funding and corporate sponsorship.”

K-State continues to work to fulfill its obligations as a land-grant university, primarily through Research and Extension, which has an office in all 105 counties in Kansas. Through these offices, Research and Extension conducts informal education programs for consumers, families, farmers and youths.

“We’re able to conduct research across the entire state in areas that are highly important to farmers,” said Spencer Casey, business manager for Research and Extension’s Southwest Center.

As K-State moves forward, Casey said research will continue to be important to Kansas.

“I think land-grant universities were valuable back in 1860 and I think they’re just as valuable today,” Casey said.