“It is time that we had uncommon schools, that we did not leave off our education when we begin to be men and women. It is time that villages were universities…” Walden, H. D. Thoreau

Thoreau College is rooted in the rural community of Viroqua, Wisconsin, in the heart of the Driftless Region of the upper Midwest.  This unique bio-region was left untouched by the great Pleistocene glaciers that leveled most of the Midwest, preserving a rich landscape of ridges and valleys traversed by countless small streams and rivers, as well as by the upper Mississippi River.

This landscape of hardwood forests and small dairy farms is home to a high level of biodiversity, as well as a diversity of human cultures and agricultures. For thousands of years, the area has been home to the Ho-Chunk Nation and other indigenous peoples.  Today, the Driftless Region is also home to the descendants of Norwegian and German immigrants, a thriving Amish community, and many others. It is also a major center of the organic and sustainable agriculture movement in the United States, anchored by Organic Valley, now one of the world's largest organic farmers' cooperatives. 

Thoreau College sees Viroqua, Vernon County, and the Driftless Region as a whole as our extended campus.  From the outset of our development, we have sought to establish physical contexts that connect students with the vibrant cultural, economic, and social life in the town of Viroqua, as well as experiences of agriculture and the forests, meadows, and streams of our bioregion. For this reason, we will continue to develop and maintain campus facilities -including residential facilities - in both town and country locations, with the intention that Thoreau College students will experience both types of locations during their time at the college.


Here are some historical photographs of Viroqua and the surrounding area, courtesy of the Vernon County Historical Society:

Inspired by Thoreau’s idea of the village as the university, Thoreau College has partnered with many local organizations where students can learn through direct experience and engage deeply with the wider community. We are so grateful to all our partner organizations for their support:

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