It has been nearly 167 years since Michigan State University first opened its doors in 1855. Starting with only three buildings, five faculty members, and 63 male students, it has grown to encompass 5,192 acres and has over 50,000 students enrolled, making it the state’s …
When COVID hit our campus, CAP was forced to rethink how we perform our community outreach. We needed new, innovative ways to engage and educate the public without requiring them to meet in large groups. One of the ways we did this was to transition …
Chittenden Hall, current home of The Graduate School. At the time of photo, Chittenden was the Department of Forestry. Photo courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections.
As it stands today, graduate education makes up a substantial and integral part of Michigan State University’s operations and student body. Making up roughly 16.3% of the total student body, the university’s 8,132 graduate students—spread across 80 departments and 277 programs—fulfill many important teaching and research-related functions [1, 2]. However, the underexamined history of graduate education at MSU reveals a dynamic and nonlinear trajectory.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the the Graduate School, Grace Shu Gerloff (a fellow CAP fellow) and I have been working on an archives-centered project examining the history of graduate education at Michigan State University. One thing that immediately stuck out to us was that despite a long history of graduate students at MSU, the Graduate School was only boasting 25 years of service, prompting us to consider what events lead up to the founding of this administrative body. We quickly found out that a series of administrative organizations for the interdepartmental management of graduate studies preceded the current Graduate School, sparking a further interest in why it had been reorganized so many times. This post is a preliminary and partial look at some of what we’ve found so far, specifically focusing on early graduate education at MSU and the predecessors of the current organizational form of the graduate school.
The Early Years
Graduate education at the State Agricultural College (future Michigan State University) began in 1861, when a state statute enabled the Board of Trustees (then known as the ‘Board of Agriculture’) to confer degrees equivalent to those offered at the University of Michigan . Graduate study programs at this time were incredibly loosely organized, consisting of the automatic conferral of master’s degrees to any student who remained engaged in scientific study at the school for three years following the completion of their undergraduate degree . This dynamic quickly led to strong growth in graduate studies at the school; in 1879 a third of State Agricultural College alumni who were three years past graduation were awarded master’s degrees . This lead to early efforts to standardize and restrict the process of conferral, beginning in 1879 with the requirement of two years of study and the completion of a thesis . An alternate path to the master’s was introduced in 1881, consisting of a year of study, a final exam, and the completion of a thesis .
The peak of early graduate education at the State Agricultural College occurred in the 1890s, at which time almost one out of every ten enrolled students was seeking a master’s degree . This would not last however; in part owing to the decision to stop offering courses during the summer months (beginning in 1879) and a rule that resident graduate study must be full-time and exclusive, leading many students with other responsibilities to choose another path . With the formation of a Committee on Graduate Studies in 1913, revival of summer instruction in 1914, and emerging financial assistance programs for graduate students—including an industrial fellowship offered by the Heinz Pickle Company and the institution of graduate assistantship positions by the Board of Trustees—enrollment grew, but only temporarily [3, 4].
At the onset of David Friday’s presidency of the school (at this time known as ‘Michigan Agricultural College’ or ‘M.A.C’ ) there were only 12 students engaged in graduate studies . Through the removal of rules that limited staff involvement in graduate study to vacation periods, Friday made quick progress in reviving the once glutted graduate programs, with 75 enrolled in 1923-4 and 151 enrolled by the 1925-6 school year . Under his tenure, seven departments were authorized to begin conferring doctoral degrees in farm crops, entomology, soils, horticulture, chemistry, botany, and bacteriology. The first Ph.D. was granted in 1925 to Edward J. Petry, whose dissertation focused on the role of root nodules in the nitrogen assimilation processes of Ceanothus Americanus (commonly known as ‘New Jersey Tea’) .
Despite this quick recovery some major issues were left unresolved, including persistent gaps in standardization and the lack of a central administrative body for managing graduate education interdepartmentally. In light of these issues, the Board of Trustees voted on July 11th 1928 to establish ‘the Graduate School’ in order to pursue inter-department central planning, guide implementation of programs, and to approve conferral of doctoral degrees [4, 7]. Beginning the following year, the authority and responsibilities of the Committee on Graduate Studies was transferred to the first graduate dean, Ernst A. Bessey [4, 8]. Bessey was chosen on the basis of his interdisciplinary training in linguistics and mycology, as well has his prior engagement with directing graduate study .
At this time renamed to Michigan State College of Agricultural and Applied Science , the school continued efforts at standardization under the leadership of the college’s twelfth president, John A. Hannah, to date the longest serving president in MSU’s history . His tenure coincided with an unprecedented level of growth both physically and in terms of enrollment. During this time, ‘The Graduate School’ was reformed two times, firstly in 1944 as the ‘School for Graduate Studies’. The second reforming of this administrative body occurred during the transition to the school’s status as a university in 1955, becoming the ‘School for Advanced Graduate Studies’ [5, 10]. As part of this change, the management of Master’s degrees was returned to individual departments and the ‘School for Advanced Graduate Studies’ became solely responsible for the management of doctoral level degrees .
Despite these changes, the 1970 ‘Report on the Future of MSU’ notes the decentralized management of graduate education as a persistent barrier in the development of the university . These concerns are echoed by several pieces in campus and local newspapers. In 1974, a piece in ‘The State News’ brought attention to the then empty graduate deanship, and outlined the intention of COGS to develop a committee focused on restructuring graduate education at MSU . A 1982 article in the Lansing State Journal raised concerns about the ‘grad drain’ in Michigan, and the Midwest more broadly, citing the increasing flow of the state’s would-be graduate students to the east and west coasts and the lack of attractive, tech focused programs at the state’s universities . In 1989, Provost David Scott formed CORRAGE, Council On the Review of Research and Graduate Education, to reconsider the structuring of graduate education and to submit recommendations for its reform . An article in the Fall 1993 issue of the ‘Graduate Post’ cites the Graduate School’s continuing reliance on ‘indirect administration’ practices in outlining the need for a restructuring of the organization and foreshadowing its re-founding the following year .
The Graduate School—in its current organizational form—was established in 1994 in response to these issues, and set out to “stimulate broader, more interdepartmental research ventures, raise the status of graduate education at Michigan State, and promote the support and preparation of graduate students as the next generation of academic professionals” . The rising status and strength of graduate education at MSU attests to their success in these matters. The Graduate School, on top of other functions, is instrumental in advocacy for graduate education and connecting graduate students to programs and resources offered at the university, including workshops, conferences, details on funding opportunities, etc .
Although no Campus Archaeology Program excavations have focused on contexts specifically associated with graduate students at MSU, this post offers some basic background information that helps to render visible the long history of graduate education at MSU, and provides reason to keep graduate students in mind as part of MSU’s student body even in excavations dating to the earliest days of the university. It also offers a chance to emphasize the role of archival research in historical archaeology, a role often understated in popular representations of archaeological methodologies. Archival research, and the painstaking work of archivists, provides archaeologists important contextual information that helps us plan for—and interpret the results of—survey and excavation projects. It also warrants mention that in addition to The Graduate School’s 25th anniversary, 2019 also boasts the 50th anniversary of the University Archives! The CAP blog is full of wonderful examples of the crucial role archival research plays in our work, including this post on the identification of a fragment of mortar as a part of a list of names written on the wall of College Hall from an archived photo, and these two posts on an archaeological survey of the Sanford Lot sugar house, in addition to many others.
 2019 Fall 2019 Enrollment Report. Submitted by Teresa A. Sullivan to the MSU Board of Trustees Policy Committee on Oct. 4th 2019.
 2019 Office of the Registrar, Academic Programs – Graduate Degrees (list). Digitally accessible here.
 1955 Kuhn, Madison. Michigan State: The First Hundred Years. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, MI.
 1993 Author Unknown. A Brief History of Graduate Study at Michigan State. Published in the ‘Graduate Post’, Fall 1993. Provided courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections.
 MSU Timeline. Published within ‘On the Banks of the Red Cedar’. Accessible online here.
 1925 Petry, Edward J. Physiological Studies on Ceanothus Americanus. Dissertation submitted in Partial Fulfillment of Ph.D. in Botany, Michigan State University. Digitally accessible here.
 1928 State Board of Agriculture, Minutes of the State Board of Agriculture, July 11th 1928. Provided courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections. Digitally accessible here.
 1929 Committee on Advanced Degrees, Creation of Deanship of Graduate School. Provided courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections.
 John A. Hannah (b. 1902 d. 1991). In ‘MSU Presidents Since 1857’ digital exhibit published by MSU University Archives & Historical Collections. Digitally accessible here.
 1960 Author Unknown. Graduate Education at Michigan State University. Provided courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections
 1974 Ourlian, Bob. Dean for Graduate Studies Urged. Published in ‘The State News’, January 23rd, 1974. Provided courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections.
 1982 Mallory, James. Experts Warn Grad Drain Hurts State. Published in the ‘Lansing State Journal’, October 10th 1982. Provided courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections.
 2019 The Graduate School. 25 Years of Leading Graduate Education at Michigan State University. Digitally accessible here.
 2019 The Graduate School. About Us. Digitally accessible here.
Still searching for an archaeology field school for this summer? The Campus Archaeology Program will be offering a field school—right here on MSU’s campus—from May 13 to June 7, 2019. A field school is one of the best ways to learn what it takes to …
Next week is the annual Midwest Archaeological Conference (October 4-6, 2018) in Notre Dame. Below is a list of dates and times of all MSU presentations, posters, and discussants. Included in these are two posters on Campus Archaeology projects that you should check out! Friday, …
As I’m sure any of our regular readers are aware, CAP has been looking into the foodways of the early MSU campus this year. Our ultimate goals for the project were to create a website documenting early foodways on campus, and to recreate an 1860’s MSU-inspired meal based on archaeological and archival research. Autumn is almost ready to launch our website, and our meal recreation is this Thursday, April 27!
We have worked closely with Chef Kurt Kwiatkowski and Chef Jay Makowski of MSU Culinary Services and Cindy Baswell of MSU Bakers to create a historic menu fit for a king… or maybe just a nineteenth-century college student. In any case, I believe this will be a delightful treat.
Here is the menu, with explanations as to why each dish was chosen:
Appetizer: Codfish Balls
While we have no evidence that anyone ever made codfish balls on the early college campus, codfish was purchased by the boarding halls in the 1860s. A church cookbook from Port Huron, MI, lists this appetizing recipe:
“Parboil fish, pick it up; mash a few potatoes, mix well with the fish; add a little butter, enough sweet cream to moisten, then make in small cakes, dip into corn meal and fry in pork gravy.”
Basically, it is a fancy fish stick that will clog your arteries faster than you can say “I love Midwestern cuisine!” So naturally, we had to include it as our appetizer.
Main Dishes: Walleye; Spiced Beef; Turkey with Oyster Dressing; Beef Tongue
What initially inspired our meal recreation was the food remains found in a privy excavated on campus in 2015. Many fish bones were encountered, including walleye, a quintessential Midwestern fish. There is no mention of walleye in the boarding house account books, so this fish may have been caught locally rather than purchased.
Beef was purchased by the early college boarding halls and undoubtedly was a common item on their menu. A menu from 1884 (for the Class of ’86) lists both “pressed beef” and “beef tongue, spiced” on the menu. Both pressed beef and spiced beef are brined and cooked slowly, then pressed and served cold. Spiced beef has, well, more spices and presumably more flavor, and it is common in nineteenth-century cookbooks, so we selected that as our primary beef dish. Beef tongue is also frequently featured in historic cookbooks, and we threw it in there just to have a more oddball option that we can dare our guests (and ourselves) to try!
Turkey was a special dish served at the Agricultural College. It was purchased seasonally for Thanksgiving and early students took part in hunting and feasting on wild turkeys as well. We have written much about oysters on our blog in the past, and so we felt we had to include them in our dinner. Since we felt we should adhere to the historic habit of consuming canned oysters, which sound wholly unappealing, we decided to incorporate them into a stuffing for the turkey. Together, the turkey and stuffing represent the “special occasion” dish for this meal.
Sides: Chow-Chow; Potato Croquettes
Chow-chow is a popular vegetable relish in the nineteenth century, and it is still popular in parts of the South. Made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, as well as with other vegetables such as cabbage and cauliflower, it consists of foods that would have been easily grown in the college gardens. Chow-chow is also featured on the 1884 banquet menu, suggesting it was an important and common side on historic tables.
Potato croquettes are basically deep-fried mashed potato balls, so naturally we wanted to eat them. A cookbook from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Lansing (ca. 1890) had a whole section devoted to croquettes, suggesting their local popularity. Early campus boarding halls did sometimes purchase potatoes, but also grew their own, as student work logs record them “working in potatoes” and “hoeing potatoes and peas” in 1869.
Desserts: Ginger Cake; Charlotte Russe with Raspberries
It is apparent from nineteenth century cookbooks and banquet menus that cake was a popular dessert. And can you blame them? Cake is amazing. There is nothing in the MSU records specifically mentioning ginger cake, since specific recipes weren’t written down and specific spices were never recorded in the account books. In his diary, Edward Granger mentions stealing cakes from “downstairs” (presumably the kitchens) and eating ginger snaps at Christmas in 1859. Recipes for gingerbreads and cakes are abundant in historic cookbooks, meaning it was likely a common dessert at the time.
Our final dish will be Charlotte Russe. Nowhere is this fancy molded dessert of custard, gelatin, and cake mentioned in the MSU records but it is heavily featured in historic cookbooks, as are molded and gelatin desserts in general. Furthermore, an abundance of raspberry seeds were found in the historic privy on campus, so the raspberries will be incorporated into the meal in the Charlotte Russe.
Bread: Graham Bread
Graham bread is just a fancy term for whole wheat bread. While today we consider whole wheat to be the healthiest and premium flour, in the past it was not considered as refined as bleached white flour. The early boarding halls purchased graham flour and undoubtedly made much of their bread and rolls using it. It may sound like a healthy component of our meal, but historic recipes often incorporate molasses into the bread.
We are very much looking forward to our lovely meal on Thursday. Invitations have been sent out and we hope to have a wonderful time with guests from across the campus. Autumn will be writing a summary of the event, so look for that next week!
Author: Susan Kooiman
What the Baptist Brethren Eat, and How the Sisters Serve It, a variety of useful and reliable recipes compiled by the Ladies of the first Baptist Church, Port Huron, Mich. Times Company, Port Huron, 1876.
Michigan State University Archives:
Edward Granger Papers, UA10.3.56
Diary of E.G. Granger, 1859
Peter H. Felker Papers, UA10.3.44, Folder 2, Box F.D.
Peter Felker Diary, 1869
Madison Kuhn Collection, UA 17.107, Vol. 32,
You heard me wax poetic about dairy and the history of dairy production in my previous blog. However, as I pointed out then, the importance of dairy at MSU lies not only in the delicious cheese and ice cream produced but also in dairy education …
Here at CAP, we find artifacts of the past that are generally not meant to have been found (e.g. items from trash pits or ruined buildings or privies). In contrast, the scrapbooks curated by MSU Archives contain elements that students found so important that they …
I am a Midwestern stereotype: I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. We sold our milk to a creamery in the Cheese Curd Capital of the World (Ellsworth, WI). Milk runs through my veins. I admire my vegan friends for their ability to resist the creamy deliciousness of cheese, ice cream, and yogurt, without which I would languish in despair. As you can guess, my interest in anything dairy-related is rather high.
Therefore I was delighted upon my arrival in East Lansing to discover the MSU Dairy Store. Most of you who have spent any time at MSU are familiar with the delicious flavors of the ice cream and cheese produced here on campus. Since we are in the middle of project documenting early foodways of the college, I thought it would be fun to explore a topic integral to both my personal history and the agricultural origins of MSU. This first in a series of two blogs about the history of MSU dairying will chronicle dairy production and manufacturing on campus.
In the earliest days of the College, the only cows on campus were kept by the families of the professors. Frank S. Kedzie, a former MSC president, was the son of one of the first professors, recalls that his mother made the first cheese on the campus grounds (UA 17.107, Folder 1, Box 2411). In 1867, Dr. Manley Miles, Professor of Practical Agriculture, bought the first dairy cattle for the college, which were Ayrshires. Jerseys were added to the herd in 1871, and the first Holsteins, the black and white standard dairy cattle, arrived in 1880 (Anthony 192: 12-13). Brown Swiss and Guernseys were slowly added into the mix, as well. We know from the early account books that the boarding halls were acquiring milk from the early herds of the Farm Department by 1871, if not before.
The first dedicated Dairy Barn was built in 1900 and held 100 cows. A new barn was constructed in 1929, which could house almost 150 heads of cattle and contained the most up-to-date equipment of that time (Anthony 1929:19). While updates were part of the reason for this move, another reason was disease. Tuberculosis wiped out most of the herd in 1904 (Anderson 1929), and contagious disease continued to plague the herd in the decades after. Those in charge of the dairy hoped the move to a new, sanitary location would break the disease cycle (Anthony 1929:16).
The first building containing a plant dedicated to dairy manufacturing was constructed in 1913. Known as the Dairy Building, it was located on the north end of Farm Lane and cost $55,000 (Anthony 1929:16). It contained a well-equipped creamery for the practical training of the students. The original Dairy Store was opened in this building, although the exact date of this event is unknown.
The Dairy Department and Plant remained in the Dairy Building until 1954, when Anthony Hall was constructed. Letters from the Michigan Agricultural Conference (1948), Michigan Purebred Dairy Cattle Association (1950) and Michigan Livestock Improvement Association (1952) to the state complained about the poor facilities and outdated equipment of the Dairy Building plant and called for improved agricultural, livestock, and dairy facilities at MSC (UA 16.37, Box 521, Folder 8). Following the construction of Anthony Hall—which was named after Ernest L. Anthony, the former head of the Dairy Department—the new dairy plant was highly productive. They provided milk to all of the residence halls, and made products such as chocolate milk, cream, half-and-half, sour cream, cottage cheese, buttermilk, dry milk, butter, and, of course, cheese and ice cream (including ice cream bars).
Dr. John Partridge, an emeritus faculty member of both the Dept. of Food Science and Nutrition and the Dept. of Animal Science, could be considered the Oral Historian of dairying on campus. He showed me and Lisa, our Campus Archaeologist, his stash of old dairying equipment, packaging, and photos from the mid-century era of the Dairy Plant. It provided us insight into the type of things we might encounter during our archaeological investigations on campus, such as historic milk bottles, bottle crates, and milk cans.
According to Partridge, the high level of productivity during the 1960’s become a point of contention with local private dairies, who did not feel it was fair that the MSU Dairy should have a monopoly on the campus milk market. Therefore, the dairy plant closed in 1968. In the meantime, local dairies found out how difficult it was to handle the fluctuating demands for milk of a college campus, and the dairy plant opened up again in the early 1970s. After this time the plant ceased to distribute fluid milk. The plant was gutted in the early 1990s and refitted with updated equipment.
John Engstrom, the Dairy Complex Manager, kindly gave Dr. Goldstein and several CAP fellows (myself included) a tour of the dairy plant in early February. The facilities are spacious, shiny, and clean, and we saw the production of the curd for cheeses take place, which thrilled this Cheesehead. Some of those curds were bagged and sold the following day in that form, while the others were packaged into box forms to be pressed and aged and sold as various kinds of block cheese later on.
The Dairy Plant currently focuses on producing shelf-stable cheese and ice cream. They produce 40,000 gallons in 40 different flavors of ice cream each year and 40,000 lbs of cheese in 11 different types or flavors. The milk is supplied by the 180 cows milked on campus in the Dairy Teaching and Resource center, as well as those milked in the Pasture Dairy center in the Kellogg Biological Station (although cream is acquired from another source). The MSU Dairy Store is both locally and nationally renowned, and you can even order their products online here.
While the long history of diary production and manufacturing on the Michigan State Campus is intriguing, the role of dairy in our institution extends far beyond just the delicious output of the Dairy Store. Part II of this series will explore the illustrious history of diary research and education and MSU, so stay tuned!
Author: Susan Kooiman
Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections:
Madison Kuhn Collection. UA17.107, Folder 3, Box 2411
E. L. Anthony, History of Dairy Development at MSC, 1929.
Madison Kuhn Collection, UA17.107, Box 2411, Folder 2
A.C. Anderson, “The Dairy Herd” (1929)
Madison Kuhn Collection, UA 17.107, Folder 1, Box 2411
F.S. Kedzie, Letter to Mr. G.A. Bowling, Graduate Assistant in Dairy Husbandry, ca. 1955.
UA 16.37, Box 521, Folder 8
Last semester I focused much of my attention on the account books from the boarding halls (i.e, dining halls) during the Early Period of MSU history. The books cover a period from 1866 to 1874, during which the school was known as the State Agricultural …