The Nature of College

How a New Understanding of Campus Life Can Change the World
“This should be the first book every college student reads.”
Select Format

Campus Ecology: \’kam-pes i-‘kä-le-je\ noun 1: The study of everyday college life—from cram sessions to keggers—and the assumptions that underpin it. 2: A method for calling higher education to higher purposes.

Stately oaks, ivy-covered walls, the opposite sex—these are the things that likely come to mind for most Americans when they think about the “nature” of college. But the real nature of college is hidden in plain sight: it’s flowing out of the keg and it’s woven into the mascots on our T-shirts. Engaging in a deep and richly entertaining study of “campus ecology,” The Nature of College explores one day in the life of the average student, questioning what “natural” is and what “common sense” is really good for, and weighing the collective impacts of the everyday. In the end, this fascinating, highly original book rediscovers and repurposes the great and timeless opportunity presented by college: to study the American way of life, and to develop a more sustainable, better way to live.

For more information about The Nature of College and a dedicated website of resources by James Farrell, visit

Publish Date
5.5 × 8.5 × 0.81 in
15.5 oz

Praise and Prizes

  • “‘Academic success won’t mean much in a world of ecological failure,’ says James J. Farrell. 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
    coeditor of Sustainability on Campus
  • The Nature of College is equal measures sociology, ecology, and clarion call to a bigger vision of higher education. James J. 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
    author of Earth in Mind
  • “Students, unite! This is a must-read handbook for how to take over the world and make it more sustainable and ethical. It’s fast. It’s funny. It’s wise. It’s about love, nature, sex, brushing your teeth, and wearing a pair of jeans—all to make a future that’s worthy of your dreams.”

    Jennifer Price
    author of Flight Maps
  • The Nature of College offers very much to ponder about campus life, and makes for an educational and fascinating read.”

    Midwest Book Review