The mission and vision of Sterling College are strongly linked to its history and the critical environmental challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.
To advance ecological thinking and action through affordable experiential learning that prepares people to be knowledgeable, skilled, and responsible leaders in the communities in which they live.
Sterling uses education as a force to address critical ecological problems caused by unlimited growth and consumption that is destroying the planet as we have known it, such as:
- Fossil fuel dependence and rapid climate change.
- Destruction of biodiversity and loss of wild places.
- Promotion of harmful agricultural practices that threaten human and natural communities.
- Persistence of structural oppression that impacts human and ecological wellbeing.
- Deterioration of civil society through estrangement from community, nature, and place.
Our vision is informed and guided by five competencies gained through learning assessed by our faculty:
- Achieve a sophisticated understanding of, and personal engagement with, ecological systems.
- Understand societies and cultures as dynamic and complex systems of relationships and interdependencies.
- Use research and creative endeavor to explore concepts, experiences, and artifacts.
- Articulate ideas and share information clearly, using a diversity of approaches.
- Demonstrate effective, knowledgeable, skilled, and responsible leadership in community.
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