President Michael F. Adams on public service and outreach at UGA

President Michael F. Adams on public service and outreach at UGA

April McDaniel, a senior horticulture major, participates in a service learning class that teaches children at Alps Road Elementary School about healthy foods.

Photo by: Peter Frey

Michael F. Adams

Q: What does it mean to be a land grant institution?

A: Being a land grant institution means two important things to a place like UGA. First, it means that we are part of a proud tradition that dates back to the Morrill Act of 1862 (which created the land grant system), which says that an institution is connected to the people of its land. We have a responsibility to the education of all 10 million of Georgia’s citizens, not just our students. Second, the original land grant mission resided in schools like this one which had made a major commitment to improving the agricultural development of their states and regions. With what has been a top five agricultural college for more than 100 years, UGA is no less committed today to the mission of teaching, research and service in agricultural and environmental sciences than it has been for its entire history.

Q: How has that designation changed over time?

A: Several institutions like Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin have committed to broadening the public service and outreach function and mobilized the university’s resources to address the critical needs of their states. We are doing the same in Georgia. Named last year by the Carnegie Endowment as a Community Engaged Institution, UGA will continue to place great emphasis on how to expand the application of instruction and research across all fields of service.

Q: What are some of the ways UGA benefits the state outside of educating students?

A: I could talk all day about that. We have the state’s largest College of Public Health, which is devoted to improving the lives and health of Georgia’s citizens; we operate dozens of weather stations around the state, which provide critical information for the agricultural community and the general population; we do pharmaceutical research that holds the potential to improve the life of every Georgian; we have the most sophisticated animal hospital in the state, which treats both livestock and pets; the College of Family and Consumer Sciences is active in virtually every major urban area; and the list goes on and on.

Q: Why is service learning important to the university and its students?

A: I am a firm believer that university students learn much through service, and especially so when service is integrated into the curriculum and their courses. Service learning is a growing component at UGA, with students both during and after their time here engaged in virtually every type of service opportunity in the state, including food banks, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, marsh and water research and much more.

Q: What areas of public service and outreach would you like to see expand?

A: There are a lot of areas I’d like to see us engage, but the reality is that the five-year strategic plan approved by the public service and outreach leadership lays out three goals: mobilizing the university’s resources to address Georgia’s critical needs; creating new ways that faculty and students can participate in the service and outreach work of the PS&O units; and developing a flexible organizational culture to meet the needs of a changing Georgia. With today’s economic realities, we will try very hard to do what we do well, but the likelihood of major expenses in this area in the next four to five years is very slim.