“You can’t talk about Kansas State University without mentioning its deeply rooted land-grant history,” according to the Wildcat Way website.
That history included a mission to provide students with an education in agriculture, military tactics, mechanical arts and classical studies. While this idea remains true at K-State, it has evolved to include improving quality of life for all through education, research and outreach.
Being the nation’s first land-grant university is deeply rooted in K-State’s culture, and President Richard Linton wants to keep K-State connected to its land-grant roots.
“Not all land-grant institutions still really and truly believe in what the land-grant is about,” Linton said. “It is about research, teaching in extension and an international presence. And it is also about putting students first: K-State does that better than any land-grant I know, and that is why I am here.”
Linton said being a part of five land-grant universities, as both a student and a faculty member, has set him up to lead K-State.
“Being at land-grant universities has helped me understand how you can effectively integrate research, teaching in extension in the meaningful relationships with the state, the nation and the world,” Linton said. “So, what I am trying to do, is to take a look at what I learned at all the land-grants I have been at and implement them into a culture that makes sense for K-State.”
To discover what makes sense for K-State’s culture, Linton said he would listen and learn for his first 90 days and continue to do so throughout his presidency.
“I am trying to use my ears at least twice as much as I use my mouth,” Linton said. “I have to learn the culture, learn what people think is spectacular that they want to embrace, learn things we are struggling with and either make it a different way or help build it in a better way.”
Linton said he wants to put his all into the university and is ready to do so as a community.
“I care more than you will ever imagine about making this place the best place it can be,” Linton said. “I also need everyone’s support to move us forward.”
Linton said his most important focus is the big ideas and aspirations for tomorrow that we are thinking of, but on which we have never taken action. He said he plans to observe and listen to discover these ideas and aspirations.
“I am trying to learn, ‘Where are we? Where do we need to go? What is the best way to get there?'” Linton said. “A part of that down the road will be strategic planning and rethinking what our future could look like.”
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Thomas Lane, vice president for student life and dean of students, said K-State is the first operational land-grant institution in the United States.
“That is a really important part of our history, but I think it is also a really important part of our future,” Lane said. “I think President Linton truly understands that and is committed to moving us forward as a land-grant institution.”
Kennedy Kaufman, freshman in marketing, had no idea K-State was a land-grant university or even what land-grant meant.
“I did not know what that term meant at all, but after hearing the definition, it makes a ton of sense that K-State is a land-grant,” Kauffman said. “That is super cool that the new President wants to be committed to that idea, and I like that he wants to listen to students about their experiences.”
Lane said Linton has been listening throughout his first couple of months as president.
“I have seen him in several different meetings,” Lane said. “I think he is listening very carefully and taking a lot in, which is probably like drinking water from a fire hose in these first few months of his presidency. He has a tremendous intellect that is helping him as he listens to understand what the strengths are and, I suspect also, what opportunities for growth and improvement we have.”
Long-term, Linton said he wants K-State to be a go-to place for innovative research.
“I would like us to be a place where we know how to put together interdisciplinary teams to solve the grand global challenges of tomorrow,” Linton said.
Linton said he is committed to making K-State the best land-grant institution the university can be, which includes both high-quality research and high-quality student life.
“I cannot determine the vision for the university. We determine the vision. We would be everything that makes up our university,” Linton said. “So simply, I want whatever our vision is to be incorporated with what makes sense for Kansans, and for us to be the best land-grant university we can be in order to deliver the best products, which primarily are students and excellence in research.”
Thomas Lane said the energy Linton brings to K-State makes him extremely excited.
“He is bringing a great sense of energy, enthusiasm and passion for the land-grant mission of the university and what makes K-State unique as an institution,” Lane said. “Perhaps, most importantly, what I have been tremendously excited about is his student-centeredness.”
The students are what makes Manhattan special, Linton said.
“The students here are the most engaged and most active students I have ever met in any university I have ever been at,” Linton said. “The three words my wife and I always use are authentic, genuine and real. As a university president, you want to go to a place where the people are good and good people are authentic, genuine and real.”
Lane said he observed Linton prioritizing students at the men’s basketball games by sharing his excellent seats and engaging in conversations.
“The president has great seats for the basketball games, and he could have taken anyone to games,” Lane said. “But for the first one he attended, he took two students and sat between them in order to visit with both of them, learn about their K-State experience and help see the university through their eyes. I thought this was fantastic. But then the next week, I saw him do the exact same thing, which I thought spoke volumes in terms of his commitment to students and his interest in understanding the student experience.”
Linton said he realized how unique K-State culture is by interacting with students.
“You guys have something special. From an external perspective, it is crystal clear what you guys have,” Linton said. “I think students recognize it but do not recognize how unique it is. It really is not this way everywhere. I honestly don’t think it’s this way anywhere.”