WRC models the U's 150 year land-grant mission of teaching, research, outreach for the common good
This year, the University of Minnesota, along with more than 100 other land-grant universities around the world, is recognizing the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act of 1862.
Signed into law by President Lincoln, the Morrill Act deeded federal lands to states with the intent that states then sell the lands to fund public colleges that would “promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes.”
The primary goal was to expand higher education beyond the privileged classes and to share knowledge, not just of the classics, but of agricultural and the mechanical arts. But just as significantly, the Morrill Act laid the groundwork for the modern public research university's mission of teaching, research and outreach for the common good.
Founded in 1964 by the U.S. Water Resources Research Act, the Water Resources Center (WRC) is one of the 54 water resources research institutes established at land-grant universities throughout the U.S. and its territories to "assist in assuring the nation at all times of a supply of water sufficient in quantity and quality to meet the requirements of its expanding population."
Since its founding, the WRC and its sister water institutes around the country, have taken on responsibility far beyond insuring the sufficiency of country’s supply of water. We now understand that our water systems and watersheds are key to the country’s economic prosperity and critical to our environmental health and sustainability.
Like the Morrill Act, WRC’s mission is about teaching, research and outreach for the common good.
WRC serves to train the next generation of water-related scientists and engineers. It acts as a link between University expertise and state and local government to stimulate and provide for water-related research. And the WRC engages practitioners and the general public in ways ensure the common good includes clean, abundant water.
Through its Water Resources Sciences Graduate Program—the largest interdisciplinary program at the University with more than 120 faculty—the WRC is one of the leading educators of water professionals in the Midwest. Beyond the ivory tower, WRC training opportunities like the Onsite Sewage Treatment Program, Wetland Delineator Program and the LiDAR Technology Training Program deliver the latest technology and best practices to professionals and practitioners around the state.
WRC sponsored research projects have led to nationally recognized storm water management practices, agricultural breakthroughs that save farmers tens of thousands of dollars, groundbreaking studies of containments of emerging concern and the country’s first 25-year statewide plan to ensure an abundant and clean water supply. WRC also encourages research through facilitating, funding and coordinating research partnerships and managing a competitive grants program for university students, faculty and other researchers.
Nearly all of WRC’s projects include an outreach and public engagement components, but none directly engaged so many citizens as WRC’s Citizens Monitoring Bacteria project which included thousands of volunteers and a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of Minnesota Extension and the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.
In this sesquicentennial year, WRC stands out as a 21st-century example of the university’s land-grant promise and its commitment to the common good.