|January 6, 2012
January is a month of beginnings: a new year, the spring semester, and it's the start of our state's legislative session. This year, it also marks the anniversary of 150 years of dreams realized through the Morrill Act, the groundbreaking legislation that established what President Abraham Lincoln called "people's universities" -- the U.S. land-grant university system. These remarkable universities have provided access to higher education for generations of Americans and brought new knowledge, discoveries and innovations to serve their statewide communities. In this, they built up nation second to none.
President Lincoln's vision for the land-grant system was revolutionary. It created a new way to think about higher education, made it available to all the nation's citizens, and applied its new knowledge to serve those populations as states grew to maturity. Idaho joined this endeavor as a territory even before its formal statehood.
Our state's founders embraced this new way of thinking and established our great University of Idaho through territorial legislation in 1889. Our University serves the citizens of all of Idaho through our statewide network of 70 locations. And at the heart of our mission are teaching, research and outreach.
At the most recent annual meeting of our national land-grant association, I shared some observations about the relevance of the Morrill Act for today and in the future. Notably, the legislation has boldly:
Our University educates teachers, lawyers, policymakers, business leaders, scientists, engineers, architects, artisans, innovators and professionals of all types. As I've shared with you before, we identify new ways to grow more and safer crops, and build stronger buildings, materials, and infrastructure. We create new ways to manage water and sustain both the environment and its resources. We work together to prevent and fight disease and create healthier people and communities. We incubate and launch businesses and related technologies -- all of these benefiting our state, region, and the world. And we expand and deepen our connection to the humanities -- bringing its beauty to our statewide communities.
- democratized higher education for all Americans, regardless of socio-economic, ethnic or geographic circumstance; in a nutshell, it promoted an educated, innovative, and prosperous society.
- provided American citizens access to life-changing higher education through land-grant universities. Every state can point to significant benefits fostered by land-grant university innovations.
- produced research that built industry, improved lives and created entirely new technologies.
Our research, scholarship and outreach -- intricately woven into the fabric of our state -- have been instrumental in helping our state move forward as it developed from statehood. As an institution committed to educating Idaho's citizens, we've found new ways to meet our mission and improve our product. We've developed new ways to fund those efforts, and we've become more entrepreneurial. We've improving the quality of what we do best -- producing successful graduates -- while lowering costs.
As I walk up the main steps to our Administration Building, I'm inspired by its cornerstone inscription, which reads: "Erected by the Commonwealth of Idaho for the training of her future citizens to their highest usefulness in private life and public service." This continues to define our mission and our work to this day.
In the coming weeks, I'll be walking the halls of our state Capitol Building in Boise. Our University's great heritage and legacy will be part of what I share in my conversations with state lawmakers; but I also will stress the importance of higher education in Idaho's future. A bright future for our state depends upon the education of its young people. I invite you to share your Vandal story of success -- how far and where your education has taken you -- so that we can paint a full picture this year of the brighter future that higher education offers.
M. Duane Nellis
Murdock Trust Bolsters Computational Research. Thanks to generous gifts from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, researchers at two University of Idaho institutes will bolster their abilities to gather and interpret data. The University's Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies (IBEST) and the Center for Clean Vehicle Technology in the National Institute of Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT) received two grants totaling $627,000. "We are extremely grateful for the Trust's support," says James Foster, IBEST researcher and computer scientist, about the $335,000 grant to improve to IBEST's computational resources core. "The equipment supports massive numerical simulations and bioinformatics with which to interpret these data." This formidable computer infrastructure provides computing services, data storage and consultation for regional and international biomedical research. In addition, NIATT received $292,000 for a high-resolution infrared camera and engine exhaust analyzers, which "will significantly expand the capability of NIATT's research and will help researchers obtain better data to verify catalytic ignition models and characterize laboratory engine emissions," says Judi Steciak, professor of mechanical engineering. NIATT is recognized for innovative research of alternative fuels and ignition technology in internal combustion engines. The Murdock Charitable Trust is committed to strengthening the Pacific Northwest's educational, spiritual and cultural base through creativity and sustainability. Contribute to faculty research by contacting Virginia Pellegrini, director of corporate and foundation relations, (208) 885-5303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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