In 1862, the U.S. Congress instituted an idea that fundamentally reshaped higher education: It passed the Morrill Act to establish land-grant universities, thereby paving the way for Texas A&M’s beginning.
In the agreement, the U.S. government gave interested states federal land, which could be sold for proceeds to establish universities devoted to agricultural and mechanical education, plus military training. This opened up fields of study that created new technological advancements and made higher education accessible to those who wanted more practical training.
Eventually, the federal government added annual funding for upkeep and maintenance of the land-grant universities and something else—obligations. “Education, research and extension,” stated the directive in the 1914 Smith-Lever Act. The driving idea was that research done at land-grant universities should be shared with the public for the greater good.
In 1971, Texas A&M added to its land-grant designation by being named a sea-grant institution for its work in oceanography; the space-grant designation followed in 1989, recognizing the university’s commitment to space research. Only 16 other universities nationwide have achieved this triple crown of land, sea and space.
“Our service tradition and the land-grant mission permeate the entire institution,” said Mark Barteau, Texas A&M vice president for research. “We can capitalize on the application and translation of our discoveries into practical benefit across the board, whether they fit into land, sea or space. This gives us a chance to see that the work our faculty and students are doing has real-world impact.”