You may have heard that land-grant universities around the country were established under The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. But do you know the full story? Why were these institutions established? What problems were they designed to address? How was the Land-Grant College Act connected to the national trauma of the Civil War?

Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Eberly Family Professor of Civil War Studies at West Virginia University, hopes to answer those questions and explore the social history of land-grant colleges in the United States when he presents “Educating the Nation: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Land Grant Colleges” at 7 p.m. Wed., April 18, in 1001 Agricultural Sciences Building.

Sponsored by the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, WVU’s oldest academic unit, the lecture is part of the University’s ongoing celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Land-Grant Act.

“It is important and significant that the Davis College is sponsoring this lecture and encouraging the University community to attend since WVU was initially established by the Morrill Act as an agricultural college,” said Rudolph P. Almasy, interim dean of the Davis College.

Sheehan-Dean believes the 150th anniversary of the Land-Grant Act provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the purpose of public higher education in the state of West Virginia.

“West Virginia University, created as a land-grant school in 1867, was one of the first and most important institutions in the new state. As with other land-grant institutions, its founders hoped to create loyal citizens, informed voters, and knowledgeable farmers, engineers and teachers,” he said.

Although land-grant universities have adopted new purposes and goals over time, Sheehan-Dean says it’s important to revisit the initial motivations for the creation of such institutions.

“It helps us understand the role of public education in our own lives and the life of the nation,” he said.

Sheehan-Dean is a faculty member in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and author of Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia and the Concise Historical Atlas of the U.S. Civil War. He is the editor of The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers and Struggle for a Vast Future: The American Civil War, and co-editor of The Civil War, The First Year of the Conflict Told by Those Who Lived It, November 1860-January 1862.

He also serves as an associate editor of the Journal of the Civil War Era and as series editor for the University of North Carolina Press’s series “Civil War America.”

He teaches courses on 19th-century U.S. history, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and Southern History, and has conducted workshops on a variety of topics in U.S. history with elementary, middle, and high schools teachers around the United States.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.



CONTACT: Lindsay Willey, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design

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