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Power Points: The Lay of the Land Grant Campuses




By Kim Araya

Kim ArayaJust a year ago, many campuses celebrated the 150th anniversary of the passage of the Morrill Act of 1862, a U.S. governed statute that provided federally controlled land to be used to establish institutes of higher education on the topics of agriculture, science and engineering. Called land grant campuses, these schools were in stark difference to liberal arts colleges and, at the time, were a direct reaction to the dawning of the industrial revolution. Today, many of these schools are operating as fully-fledged universities, among them the University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, Cornell University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Here at the University of Minnesota (editor's note: Kim is now Director of Conference Services at American University in Washington, D.C.) we’ve kept the legacy of our founding alive, touting to planners a beautiful campus full of greenery that is set away from downtown Minneapolis. Because we are a land grant campus, and continue to operate our large agricultural school at our St. Paul site, we take pride in our setting. Many of the horticulture students help us create elaborate arboretums and landscaping (we take great time to spell out the M of our university name in maroon flowers!) that makes a pleasant environment for students and conference guests.

In fact, land grant schools were some of the first to welcome conference guests. Because we are all state institutions funded by students and the government, concessions had to be made to allow outside entities of any purpose to rent classrooms, when available, at any time of the year. And over the years, new policies such as alcohol licenses and One-Stop Shop certification have been created and followed to welcome these groups more frequently.

Ultimately, the planner needs to choose what is right for them—some land grant campuses offer scenic, rural placements, with lush grounds and intimacy and some are in the midst of the downtown bustle, if that is what is needed for a particular group. Yet always one of the greatest benefits of land grant campuses are the settings; because we are in all different environments, from here in Minnesota to Florida, planners can enjoy the land all seasons of the year—and that is truly special.
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