Michigan State University
Dubbed “Moo U,” Michigan State University was established in 1855 as the country’s first agricultural college and the forerunner of the nationwide land-grant university system. Despite its nicknames and rather well-known reputation as a party school, the campus has a long, rich history and an excellent reputation in many fields of study—especially agricultural ones, of course.
Credit for its founding goes to a group of enlightened Michigan farmers who began lobbying in 1849 for a state college to promote modern agriculture. They chose the 677 acres of forest five miles east of the new state capital, in part because they wanted the school to be autonomous and not tied to an existing university.
Today, the MSU campus has grown to more than 5,000 beautifully landscaped acres, home to more than 7,000 different species and varieties of trees, shrubs, and vines. In the older part of the campus, curving drives and Gothic buildings create a park-like setting, shaded by huge beeches and some gnarled white oaks that date back more than 200 years. Students walk to class through what has become a true arboretum with the passing of time, home to more than 5,000 varieties of woodsy plants and trees.
The campus has long been regarded as one giant outdoor laboratory. Very few planted environments in the Midwest have enjoyed such sustained commitment for more than 150 years. At one point, a school policy expected three hours per day of manual labor from all students, part of the hands-on laboratory approach that helped the university maintain the campus and also enabled poor students to afford a college education. Today, both students and professional landscapers maintain the university’s impressive collection of gardens.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel