Mission, Vision, and History

The mission and vision of Sterling College is strongly linked to its history and the critical environmental challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.


Working Hands. Working Minds.

Mission Statement

The Sterling College community combines structured academic study with experiential challenges and plain hard work to build responsible problem solvers who become stewards of the environment as they pursue productive lives.

Vision Statement

Sterling is a small college, but one that speaks with a big voice. Consistent with its historic values, the College has embarked upon a strategic path to become a global leader in the promotion of a unique educational model that prepares students to become environmental stewards.

To meet this vision, Sterling embraces its rural location as one of its defining characteristics and strives to foster a community in which people of all backgrounds and identities feel at home, where differences are embraced and individuals take responsibility for furthering the dignity of all.

Brief History

The history of Sterling is one of change and innovation. Attuned to the times, it adapted and evolved; this characteristic is part of our institutional DNA. Today, Sterling is a leading voice for the liberal arts and environmental stewardship.

Founded in 1958, first as a traditional boarding school for boys, Sterling has embraced for over fifty years the value of small classes, hard work, and the College’s beautiful rural location as inspiration for its pioneering place in the landscape of American education.

Sterling was among the early initiatives in the United States to combine academic study and practical training in an effort to prepare environmental stewards in agriculture, conservation, and outdoor education. Through its “Grassroots Project,” Sterling was one of the first colleges in the nation to look at the relationship between conservation and agriculture. What we see as advocacy for “sustainability” and “local food” in contemporary media has been the underlying purpose at Sterling College for three decades.

“At the core of all Sterling programs is the concern for the relationship between man [sic] and his [sic] environment. No more critical issue faces society today, and it has become very clear that neither the narrow technician nor the uninformed idealist can reach a solution alone. Sterling provides a comprehensive bridge between thought and deed as its students confront questions that affect the future of us all.”

—Sterling College publication, 1978