A father and daughter climb into a canoe.

Cornell’s Land-Grant Mission Serves New York State

In labs, classrooms, and in the field, Cornellians apply world-class expertise to solve real-world problems.

As New York state’s land-grant institution, Cornell University is charged with advancing the lives and livelihoods of the state’s citizens through teaching, research and public service. Its mission is rooted in ideals considered revolutionary when the federal Morrill Land Grant Acts were enacted in 1862 and 1890: that a land-grant university education should be open to all qualified students, regardless of class, ethnicity, race or gender; and must merge practical scientific and technical education with classical studies in history, philosophy and literature.

The university’s co-founder and namesake, Ezra Cornell, and co-founder and first president, Andrew Dickson White, shared these ideals and through their efforts created “a world-class institution with egalitarian ideals,” renowned for the vitality of its intellectual culture, its commitment to diversity and excellence in research and scholarship.

Chartered in 1865, Cornell University possesses, in the words of President Martha Pollack, “an abiding commitment to the liberal arts, to the development and curation of pure knowledge, and to the application of that knowledge to make a lasting, positive difference in the world.” Cornell’s faculty, students, alumni and staff strive to achieve these aspirations, fulfilling the land-grant mission through programs of unparalleled quality and depth whose impact is felt not only throughout the state, but across the globe.

As a land-grant institution, we acknowledge that the commendable ideals associated with the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862 were accompanied by a painful history of prior dispossession of Indigenous nations’ lands by the federal government. As the largest recipient of appropriated Indigenous land from the Morrill Act and the institution that accrued the greatest financial benefit from that land, we also acknowledge Cornell University’s distinct place in this history. In addition, Cornell’s Ithaca campus sits within the indigenous homelands of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ (the Cayuga Nation), members of the Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nih (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign Nations with a historic and contemporary presence in this area. This history compels our university to ensure that the values it upholds to make a positive impact on the world align with efforts to engage with and benefit members of all communities. Visit the Indigenous Engagement page to learn more about Cornell’s history with Indigenous communities along with stories about recent activities.