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State Capitol

Philosopher and NU alumnus Hartley Burr Alexander's words honoring pioneers inscribed on a north stair buttress at the Nebraska State Capitol.

In thoughts penned to commemorate the 1919 semi-centennial anniversary of the University of Nebraska, the state's celebrated daughter Louise Pound extolled the pioneer plainsmen as dreamers who, even during the settlement's infancy, aspired equally towards material and intellectual well-being.

I have been an incidental beneficiary of their dreams ever since I arrived in Lincoln to pursue graduate school. Since then, over a span of what will be two decades soon, I have lived elsewhere, returned home, made plans and had life happen. But, through it all, there has been one constant — Nebraska has been my sanctuary in the pursuit of purpose and knowledge.

The university reflected the warm ethos of Nebraskans and offered me an avenue to progress intellectually, while also providing a path to pay forward the opportunities I was granted. As a member of staff at the university, I work with students — from both rural areas and urban centers — who are striving to become contributing citizens, and I believe it is our collective responsibility to prepare them for this quest by providing a foundation in the letters and arts, science and engineering.

The university's four campuses are at the forefront of this responsibility towards fulfilling the aspirations of our students and facilitating cross-cultural exchanges.

Over the years, these campuses have welcomed thousands of international students and scholars, while also supporting thousands of Nebraskans in study abroad programs that broaden perspectives and expand their prospects in this increasingly connected world. As our state benefits from an estimated $10 billion in exports, with trade contributing to as many as one out of every four jobs, the state leadership has rightfully recognized the importance of expanding Nebraska's export opportunities.

Our university plays a vital part in ensuring that Nebraskans are equipped to take advantage of such career avenues domestically and globally, whether it is endowing 140,000 4-H kids with life skills, graduating 11,000 students each year or working with nearly 75 percent of the state's farmers to boost productivity.

However, the university's contributions in empowering our students, farmers and communities across the state to build a better future for themselves are unfortunately being chipped away by the compounding effect of funding cuts. These continual cuts stymie the efforts of many who campaign for Nebraska as a valued academic and business destination.

If we are indeed the children of those pioneers who broke the sods, built towering institutions and dreamt that the daughters and sons of many tomorrows might live well, should not we, and those in the august chambers of the Capitol which soars towards azure skies, be torchbearers in nurturing our hallowed centers of learning?

As the sower atop the Capitol who plants the seeds for a better future watches us, may our actions be in the best interests of generations to come. I hope we do not inadvertently stifle souls who are yet to sing and singe seeds yet to sprout. I pray that wisdom may prevail and that our representatives will be the light leading our universities and the people of the great state of Nebraska.

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Saravanan Raju is a native of India who is a doctoral candidate and research engineer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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