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'The Nature of College' strives for cultural change

By David Gonnerman '90
December 29, 2010

In his latest book, The Nature of College, St. Olaf Professor of History James Farrell (pictured at right) explores how nature — and conceptions about what is natural — are formed through students’ everyday routines.

Farrell, who also teaches American studies, environmental studies, and the American Conversations program, notes that issues pertaining to nature are present in everything from students’ morning routines to how they spend their days working in front of computer screens to their perspectives on politics. “In short, nature is forming and being formed by the habits of our hearts and minds,” he says.

The book culminates with a look into how the nature of college impacts the environment and the world outside of campus, and suggests ways students might rethink their routines to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. The opportunity Farrell’s book provides to create cultural change prompted David Orr, professor of environmental studies and politics at Oberlin College, to note that “this should be the first book every college student reads.”

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or