Today, Virginia Tech has a reputation that was never dreamed of on the fall day in 1872 when the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College opened it doors. Half of the first graduating class received certificates as associates in agriculture in the summer of 1875. In addition to those six graduates, three others received certificates in agriculture and mechanics. The remaining three graduates received certificates in mechanics.
This was the kind of education intended under the Morrill Act of 1862, which established the land-grant system. The purpose of the land-grant institutions in each state was to turn out individuals able to build up the agricultural and commercial industries in a relatively weak nation. Agriculture was a dominant part of the institution then, and it remains a major component of Virginia Tech today.
The teaching aspect of the college has passed far beyond the modest limits set in 1872. Today, in addition to two-year associate degrees, the college grants bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. The curriculum includes the traditional production agricultural topics taught more than a century ago. It also reaches to the fringe of our understanding of the fundamentals of life. It searches into the scientific depths of human interaction with the environment. It penetrates to both the globe's most remote regions and to centers of economic power in an increasingly inter-dependent world.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is the center of the land-grant tradition at Virginia Tech. Closely associated with the college -- in fact, nearly seamlessly integrated with it - are the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, established in 1886, and Virginia Cooperative Extension, established in 1914.
It is nearly impossible for students not to study under professors who have research responsibilities with the Experiment Station or who have responsibility for spreading knowledge to all Virginians through Extension. The interplay of education, research, and Extension give students a perspective on today's world rarely available anywhere else in Virginia.
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