15, 2005: "Back in 1988, while doing a college
search with my eldest child, I scoured the college guides
and the viewbooks and wondered if we were living on the same
Thus does Miriam Weinstein explain the genesis of her Making
a Difference College & Graduate Guide. Anyone who
has browsed through Barron's in search of information more
profound than average SAT scores and "party-school"
status can probably sympathize. Although in the Google Age,
a simple web-based search can turn up boundless information
on your desired school--you still need to come up with your
search terms. Weinstein's college guide should help you do
The book opens with a series of short articles offering guidance
on how to choose a college and—more important—how
to start thinking about what you want to get out of your education.
David Orr's landmark "What is Education For?" essay
is among these; also included are an introduction to AmeriCorps,
a statement by the Campus Opportunity Outreach League (COOL)
and the Talloires Declaration, a 10-point action plan drafted
by the international Association of University Leaders for
a Sustainable Future. Taken together, the articles offer a
succinct, powerful challenge to seize the full radical potential
of education to shape yourself and the world.
The school listings section—the bulk of the book--is
organized alphabetically by school name, from the University
of Alaska to Yale. Each listing includes basic data like the
number of students, gender ratio, average class size, application
deadlines and contact info, along with a narrative overview
of the school's history, organization, setting and academic
standing. Next comes an itemized list of the "making
a difference studies" offered at each institution, including
courses and concentrations in topics like ecology, environmental
journalism, public policy, peace studies and feminism.
In keeping with guidebook conventions, Weinstein has also
developed a collection of icons denoting institutional features
like field study opportunities, "green campus" practices
(recycling, energy-efficient dorms), or a strong activist
bent among students. (Among these is an "organic gardens
on campus" symbol—which doesn't exactly correspond
Student Farm Directory, but comes close.)
The final section of the book is devoted to graduate programs.
These are organized by some principle I was unable to decipher,
and include everything from green architecture, ethnobotany,
and the history of consciousness to conflict transformation
and community and economic development. Weinstein admits that
her selection is both eclectic and skewed toward the social
sciences, and cautions that her descriptions focus more on
program rationales than on picayune details like the size
of the library. Even if you don't find the exact program you're
looking for here, the breadth of alternatives should inspire
you to dig for more.
In her introduction Weinstein emphasizes that "relevant,
inspirational and practical" courses of study can be
found at schools of every size and setting, and the listings
bear this claim out. Among the 80 undergraduate programs listed
are prominent Ivy League institutions like Brown and Cornell,
big-bargain state schools like Rutgers and the University
of Colorado, highly regarded liberal arts colleges like Carleton
and Oberlin, and lesser-known, quirkier schools like Paul
Smith's College in upstate New York and Warren Wilson College
in North Carolina. Church-affiliated schools with a strong
emphasis on peace studies or international development work
are also included, as are a handful of innovative, experimental
educational projects like the Audubon Expedition Institute,
affiliated with Lesley University in Massachusetts, and Ecoversity,
based in New Mexico.
The print in this book is tiny, the page and section headings
are easy to overlook, and the binding is of the sort guaranteed
to fall apart after a season of use, but these are small complaints
for a resource that embodies the traits it encourages in its
users—passion, creativity, generosity and hard work.
At the back of the book are indices by school, state and graduate
program topic to help you find what you're looking for.
If you're looking at colleges or graduate programs, or if
you know someone who is, make an investment in the future
of humanity and buy this book.
Laura Sayre is senior writer for NewFarm.org.