The Sterling College Core Curriculum
Sterling’s core curriculum gives us a common language—a shared understanding—of the place we live, a range of values we share, and the intellectual wherewithal to put our hands and minds to work as passionate stewards of the environment.
Everyone at Sterling College takes the same 11 core classes. Unlike core curricula at other colleges, ours will not only require the use of books and laptops, but also maps, compasses, good boots, and a willingness to turn your face up to the sun and falling snow.
These classes will ground you in Sterling College’s philosophy of environmental stewardship, while also giving you a strong knowledge and range of skills in the natural sciences, communications, sustainability, outdoor activities, and group dynamics—a handy skill when living in community.
A Sense of Place
Your Sterling College education begins with our flagship course, a two-week immersion course, called “A Sense of Place.” This is your introduction to all things Sterling, Craftsbury, and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. In this class, you will be immersed in interdisciplinary study of the culture, community, literature, ecology, and traditional skills of northern Vermont.
The course orients you both physically and mentally, teaching you how to read the landscape as well as craft the network you will need to thrive on campus.
Here Sterling Trustee John Elder expands on the idea of a sense of place and help puts life on a rural campus in context.
Other required first-year courses underlie the essential role of ecological, quantitative, linguistic, community, and technical literacy in the curriculum, including Tools and their Application, Experiential Education I: Bounder, Writing & Speaking to Issues, and Ecology.
Mid-level core courses emphasize the importance of gaining skills relevant to the world of work and applying academic learning to an employment setting. These are a series of courses that support students’ internships: Work Search, Practicum in Environmental Stewardship, and Writing and Communications.
“This small college is one of the most important places in this country. Any institution can announce its ideals; great ones live them out–in the curriculum, on the campus, and in the portfolio.” —Bill McKibben, honorary Sterling alumnus, environmental activist, and author of The End of Nature, Deep Economy, and Oil and Honey
Upper-level core requirements engage students in focused, applied research. Sterling offers two primary paths towards completion of capstone work in the senior year: the 6-credit, two-semester Senior Project and the 15-credit three-semester Senior Applied Research Project (SARP). Occasionally, if students can demonstrate that they have successfully completed a series of upper-level courses that create a capstone experience, students may petition the Dean of Academics and propose a coursework-only option to fulfill their capstone requirement.
Finally, seniors take Senior Seminar, an interdisciplinary seminar that enables cross-disciplinary conversation toward becoming environmental stewards after graduation.
The Sterling Microcosm
Sterling College is not simply a set of classrooms and administrative buildings. We are a microcosm of community, work, creativity, and sustainable living. We are also a farm, a working woodlot, a forest, watershed, wetlands, and sugarbush, all of which we must “steward” in ways that produce healthy, abundant food and sustain these beautiful acres.
At Sterling College, environmental stewardship is something we do and experience every day. It is the essential enterprise of what happens on our campus.
At Sterling, we see ourselves as part of the natural world. Like the great environmentalist Aldo Leopold said, we look to use the land with love and respect, treading as lightly as we can.
Think of environmental stewardship as a verb. To “steward” means to manage or take care of, and it starts with the 430 acres that make up our beloved campus in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.