In 1914, with the passage of the Smith-Lever Act, Congress established a new partnership that would combine the resources of the Department of Agriculture with top land-grant universities to create a new educational and research network for the country. In our state, we were that university.
From that act came the first steps in establishing services meant to inform the citizens of this state about current research in agricultural practice, home economics, public policy and economic development. What began modestly, with a few advisors giving demonstrations, has grown into one of the most visible, most effective and most respected public outreach and engagement programs in the country. Most of us know it simply as Illinois Extension. This year, as we recognize Extension’s 100th anniversary, there is so much to celebrate.
Though these services began to benefit rural residents about farming practices, Illinois Extension has vastly expanded on that original mission to meet the needs and demands of each new generation. Just as the university has adapted to the grand challenges of every era, Extension has continually adjusted programs and priorities in order to do the most good for the most people of our state and our nation.
Early traveling demonstrations gave way to a statewide network of Extension offices and thousands of web-based resources on topics from water conservation to home budgeting to entrepreneurship development. It may look different, but the core mission of Extension remains just the same today as in 1914 – to put education and research into practical action. I hope that sounds familiar – as it is the land-grant mission on which Illinois itself was founded in 1867.
As Illinois’ most extensive and developed outreach effort, today, Illinois Extension offers educational programs to residents in each of the state’s 102 counties and far beyond. More than 2.5 million people take part in Extension programs each year – whether in an online webinar for crop consultants, a hands-on workshop from Master Gardeners or a nutrition education program for low-income families. Their programs cover everything from local food production, protecting natural resources, youth leadership, promoting healthy lifestyles to communities and economic development.
Beyond reaching just the people in the state of Illinois, the Extension website draws more than 10 million page views from people in more than 200 countries per month. Extension’s Spanish language web pages alone average more than 500,000 of those.
Next week, I’ll be visiting the Illinois State Fair and once again, will have a chance to see the impact of one of the best-known Extension programs – 4-H. Each year, I am amazed at the students’ passion, hard work and knowledge and I am once again reminded just how important agriculture was and is to our state and nation. I’m also reminded how important it is that tomorrow’s agricultural leaders have the full benefits of the research and experience of the past 100 years in their hands.
When Illinois started, it was founded to be a beacon of knowledge and service for our state and nation. This was an ambitious mission and a huge responsibility. And though this purpose fuels every facet of our university, for many people who live in Illinois there is no place where this is more evident than Illinois Extension. It is a great example of our land-grant heritage for a better future. The issues have changed, but the basic mission of “Extending Knowledge, Changing Lives” remains.
Congratulations to Illinois Extension on the first 100 years of success.
Around the Campus
All campus researchers are invited to apply by Sept. 15 for allocations on the Blue Waters supercomputer. Both exploratory and general allocations are available. Exploratory projects (20,000-50,000 node hours) are intended to enable researchers to prepare code for Blue Waters. General allocations (30,000-1 million node hours) are intended for large-scale research projects. For complete instructions on how to apply see https://bluewaters.ncsa.illinois.edu/illinois-allocations.
Tonight at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts lobby will be PechaKucha Night at 8:20 p.m. The event is free.