CNS is at the heart of UMass 150-year celebration

In April, UMass Amherst will launch a year-long commemoration of its 150th Anniversary — and as Dean of the college that proudly holds the legacy of the university’s land-grant mission, I can’t help feeling a bit of personal satisfaction. (The picture is of me in front of the new CNS Greenhouse.)

Steve Goodwin at CNS Greenhouse

The College of Natural Sciences carries forward the national land-grant university tradition of agricultural research and education that began with the creation of Massachusetts Agricultural College on April 29, 1863. “Mass Aggie,” as it was affectionately called, was founded with the proceeds from sales of land granted to Massachusetts under the federal Morrill Land Grant Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862.

The Stockbridge School of Agriculture has been educating students in all aspects of agriculture and the green industries for almost 100 years. The School has recently become a full academic unit with its own faculty, and has the capacity to provide research, teaching and outreach opportunities, as well as to offer AS, BS, and graduate degrees.

The college’s Center for Agriculture is the current home of two historic missions: applied research, and public outreach. The Center will soon be renamed the Center for Agriculture, Food and The Environment, to better reflect the full range of its 21st-century mission.

The Center’s Massachusetts Experiment Station supports faculty research in agriculture, food systems, nutrition, forestry, environment and other topics, and receives federal funding under both the Hatch Act of 1887 and McIntire-Stennis Forestry Research Act of 1962. Educational outreach to farmers and others goes back to Mass Aggie’s very earliest days and was formalized by the establishment of a campus Extension Service in 1909. UMass Extension, a unit of the Center for Agriculture, continues outreach to the Commonwealth, and receives funding from the USDA through the federal Smith-Lever Act of 1914.

In its time the Morrill Land Grant Act was an exciting experiment in higher education and it has had a profound impact many aspects of our lives. Today we are again experimenting with ways to integrate research, teaching, and learning across agriculture, the environment, energy, and health and wellness to benefit the public good.

As you can see from our newsletter, the College of Natural Sciences is dedicated to making a difference on campus, in the community, and in the Commonwealth. Clearly, we at CNS are carrying the torch of the land grant movement in our mission to improve the present, and impact the future. Here’s to another 150 years of innovation and tradition.