Campus and Community

Building on Tradition

Many programs at public and land-grant universities and the USDA build on traditional culture, using it as a bridge to the future. Connecting with community members—from preschool students to elders—enriches the learning and research of university students, faculty, and staff by tapping into traditional creative expression and scientific knowledge. From Hawaiian celestial navigation to Mexican American medicinal methods, these programs offer mutual benefits for communities and universities while helping to preserve important knowledge for the future.

The USDA supports programming at public and land-grant universities serving minority students and their communities: Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the land-grant system (commonly called the 1890s), Tribal Colleges (the 1994s), and Hispanic Serving Institutions. With close ties to their local areas, these institutions value folk traditions as part of their curriculum and community engagement projects.

Did You Know?

  • Legislation in 1890 and 1994 added universities serving minorities to the land-grant system.
  • Several universities house state folk arts programs, which research and present traditional culture. Two examples are Traditional Arts Indiana at Indiana University and the Missouri Folk Arts Program at the University of Missouri.
  • University campuses have their own long-standing traditions and beliefs, creating their own folk culture.
    Do you know any stories about a campus-based ghost, a statue with magical powers, or a notorious historical character?
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Steel drum master Ellie Mannette and the Oval Boy Steel Band gather in Trinidad, ca. 1940. Mannette later migrated to the United States and introduced traditional steel drum music to the curriculum at West Virginia University. Photo courtesy of West Virginia Archives

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Beadwork, when led by a skilled Head Start teacher, builds important cultural, motor, and cognitive skills.
Photo by Paul Phipps, courtesy of Michigan State University