Thoreau College: An Experiment in Holistic Higher Education

Thoreau College is a microcollege in Viroqua, Wisconsin where artists and activists from ages 18 to 46 live and learn together in an intentional community. Thoreau College is working to create immersive, impactful, personalized higher education that is also financially accessible. The college currently has academic courses in regenerative agriculture, writing composition, political philosophy, and visual arts. In addition to internships and classes, each student and faculty participates in self-governance of all college programs including admissions, outreach, curriculum design, and operating the business aspect of a greenhouse called Thoreau’s Garden.

Thoreau College is currently hosting a range of programs including the Metamorphosis Year, a full-time program for young adults seeking to challenge and develop themselves through engagement with academics, labor, community, art, and nature. The college is also organizing a three-week summer program for fifteen people that will include a week-long farm stay and an intensive workshop as an introduction to permaculture.

Reported and produced by Chloe Peterson-Nafziger (Stanford Environmental Communication M.A. ’22, Current Fellow at Thoreau College) Learn more at