Lots of folks look back on their college years as a happy period in their lives. Heck, some folks seem to like it so much that they find a way never to leave! (One of the characteristics of many higher-ed administrative departments is that they employ a lot of people with local diplomas on the wall, and no experience ever having worked anyplace else. Sigh!)
Why are college years so often happy years? There are lots of reasons. It feels good to get out from under Mom and Dad's daily supervision. College can seem like a time of few demands and little stress (admittedly, more often in retrospect than in the present). New friends. New experiences. New responsibilities. New freedom.
But none of that quite captures the "college years", especially for those students who live on- or near-campus. Ask alumni to reminisce, and much of what you'll hear speaks to an experience of close-knit community (although not usually in precisely those terms). That's certainly what the Greek system at many schools seeks to create, and it's what happens in a lot of res halls, a lot of off-campus enclaves, a lot of student hangouts.
One of the challenges the higher ed sector faces, if it's going to help society reshape itself towards greater sustainability, is how to extend that sense of community past commencement. That's something the Greenback U. development staff would dearly love to do, but it's increasingly important for a whole list of reasons beyond whether we can dip into our alumni's pocketbooks or not.
College student bodies (especially small residential college student bodies) are a good prototype of the sort of localized community (even, to an extent, localized economy) that is our best hope for the future. What people's college reminiscences demonstrate is that the same set of changes which will help alleviate climate change, and help us survive the impacts of climate change, also lead to increased happiness.
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