Stephen Gavazzi, co‑author of “Land‑Grant Universities for the Future,” urged WSU to embrace its land‑grant roots and focus on engaging the communities it serves, teaching those who need it most, and researching important and relevant issues.

More than 550 people in person and online throughout the WSU system participated in the daylong symposium Tuesday on the Pullman campus. Gavazzi served as keynote speaker and moderator for several panel sessions and, among other things, urged the crowd to avoid what he sees as a troubling trend of “sameness or homogeneity” in higher education.

“I think that land‑grant universities got way off of their own mission by trying to be Harvard or MIT or Princeton,” he said. “Well, we have those universities for a reason: they’re private, they’re very well endowed and there’s no way we’re ever going to match what it is that they’re capable of doing. And nor would we want to. Because we, I think, have a very special mission.”

A professor of human development and family science at The Ohio State University, Gavazzi drew an analogy between religious universities and land‑grant universities using Brigham Young and Notre Dame universities as examples.

“Brigham Young University; we believe they should be fiercely Mormon. Notre Dame should be fiercely Catholic,” he said. “And while there’s not necessarily a spiritual connection here, it’s our belief that we think land‑grant universities should be just as fierce in their orientation.”

The video feed from the symposium can be viewed on WSU Academic Outreach and Innovation’s YouTube channel.