Favorite Prof offers deep & richly entertaining study of "campus ecology"

Each day leading up to the April 16 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today, we feature 2011 General Nonfiction finalist:

The Nature of College: How a New Understanding of Campus Life Can Change the World
James J. Farrell
Milkweed Editions
Category Sponsor: Minnesota AFL-CIO:


An excerpt from an interview with James J. Farrell

The Nature of College is my contribution to a conversation about [everyday college culture and American culture] and the book will succeed not if it sells well, but if it engenders more conversation—and even more action—about these topics. As ecologicians—people willing to think imaginatively about nature and culture—we can come to terms with the nature of our own lives on this amazing earth, and we can set the terms for future interactions of people and the planet.”

Engaging in a study of “campus ecology,” this book analyzes a day in the life of the average student (ranging from eating in the cafeteria to attending parties) and discovers resources for a sustainable future. Additionally, the book explores student behavior and influences from American culture.


James J. Farrell is a professor at St. Olaf College and teaches Campus Ecology. This course requires students to be the subjects of their own environmental studies. Additionally, he speaks to colleges across the nation about “greening” college culture and the moral ecology of everyday life.


“This lively and insightful guide raises profound issues with a light touch—and speaks to the college student in all of us. I highly recommend it.” – Peggy Barlett, Goodrich C. White Professor of Anthropology at Emory University and coeditor of Sustainability on Campus: Stories and Strategies for Change

The Nature of College is equal measures sociology, ecology, and clarion call to a bigger vision of higher education. Jim Farrell has thought as deeply as anyone about the real lives of students, the college experience, and how to hitch both to preserving the habitability of the Earth. This should be the first book every college student reads.” – David W. Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College and author of Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect

“Compulsively readable, this book examines the ecological impact of humans based on a day in the life of a college student. An inspiring book, Farrell infuses a serious topic with humor and common sense. I urge everyone to read this, make a difference, and change the world.” – Minnesota Book Awards Preliminary Judge

Tonky Designs created the cover for the book. On their blog, they talk about that process and the photo (below) that wraps around to the back cover.



James Farrell was unable to join us for the March 18, 2011 Readers’ Choice Event, but his editor at Milkweed – and a former student from St. Olaf – came to present his book. See the obvious respect and affection this bright young man has for his favorite professor as he recounts his educational connection and reads a brief excerpt from the book.


Award winners will be announced at the 23rd Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 16, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in downtown Saint Paul. The opening reception begins at 6:30 p.m.; followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are available by clicking here or calling 651-222-3242.

Each year in the weeks leading up to the Minnesota Book Awards gala, all Minnesotans are invited to take part in voting for the Readers’ Choice Award. Vote online now through the end of March at TwinCities.com. Please, only one vote per person.

Have you read The Nature of College? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!


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