REVIEW: Making a Difference College & Graduate Guide
Sustainable you
A college and graduate program guide with a difference

Reviewed by Laura Sayre

Details:

Making a Difference College & Graduate Guide: Education to Shape the World Anew, 9th edn.

By Miriam Weinstein
Sageworks Press, 2005
ISBN 0-963418-8-5
$18.00 (paper); 326 pp.

purchase now

August 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 troubled planet!"

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 just that.

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 to NewFarm.org's 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.