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Land, Sea, or Air: There’s a Grant Program!

Director Steve Bortone

As the new director of the Minnesota Sea Grant College Program writing my first Bow Watch column, I want to explore the concept of Sea Grant, especially in light of Land Grant and Space Grant. Each of these university-based federal grant programs has a particular orientation but they use similar research and outreach approaches.

In 1862, the U.S. Congress instituted a program to help establish, through the donation of federal lands, universities and colleges that put a greater emphasis on agriculture, military tactics, and mechanical arts. The feeling was that “modern” students needed a more practical education, especially since institutions of higher learning were accepting rural and, occasionally, less financially well off students, who were formerly excluded from the hallowed halls of academia. Prior to this, academic pursuits were oriented toward classical studies such as Latin, Greek, and theology.

The institutions that resulted from this program are what we now term “Land-Grant Colleges.” They have been established at public universities or colleges in every state to promote the agricultural, military, and mechanical sciences through education and research. Land-Grant Colleges must also disseminate the results of these educational and research efforts to the public through a cooperative association among state, federal, and local government in other words, Land-Grant Colleges support an extension (outreach) program. Land-Grant Colleges precipitated grant-aid-programs for students, agricultural experiment stations for intense research, and a cooperative extension service.

Of the 105 Land-Grant institutions, Minnesota has three: Fond Du Lac Community College (Cloquet); Leech Lake Tribal College (Cass Lake); and the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis).

In 1966, the model provided by the success of the Land-Grant concept prompted Congress to establish the Sea Grant College Program because of growing concerns about the nation’s marine and coastal resources. The parallels between the Land-Grant and Sea Grant College Programs are witnessed through similar designs in the university-based research, education, and outreach efforts. Today, there are over 30 university-based Sea Grant programs in every coastal and Great Lakes state, and in Puerto Rico. The federal mandate to Sea Grant, as administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is for each program to address needs particular to its region. Moreover, Sea Grant designs its research, education and outreach activities to “foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources.” In Minnesota, the Sea Grant College Program is housed on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus but serves all state academic institutions.

Most recently (1989), Congress established the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. With an emphasis on outreach, this program helped form a national network of colleges and universities to expand opportunities for students in NASA’s quest for better aeronautical science and education. A consortium of academic institutions, including 11 state and private institutions, represents Space Grant in Minnesota.

Whether your interests lie in land, sea, or air, Minnesota has an academically based program that conducts research, promotes education, and fosters understanding through outreach. Even if your interests fall outside these realms, know that significant intellectual effort is being made to enhance our ability to make science-based decisions that can secure our future.

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Steve Bortone
Minnesota Sea Grant

By Steve Bortone
February 2007

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