“The desert has a deep personality; it has a voice. Great leaders in all ages have sought the desert and heard its voice. You can hear it if you listen, but you cannot hear it while in the midst of uproar and strife for material things. ‘Gentlemen, for what came ye into the wilderness?’ Not for conventional scholastic training; not for ranch life; not to become proficient in commercial or professional pursuits for personal gain. You came to prepare for a life of service, with the understanding that superior ability and generous purpose would be expected of you.” – Deep Springs Founder L.L. Nunn

Following a plane ride to Las Vegas (and a night in the city of excess), a day of driving led me to the college that has fascinated me ever since a close friend enrolled. My visit confirmed my suspicion that this college is well-designed–both in terms of its built environment and in the structure of the educational program. 

Nestled deep in a valley, this all-male school was built to isolate the students from distractions: girls, recreational substances, etc. Surrounded by beautiful mountains, I felt a refreshing separation from the world–though I imagine this separation to be frustrating and lonely at times. The farm and ranch present students with labor work and opportunities to learn the ropes of operating the facilities. From slaughtering cows to maintaining the machinery and cooking for the student body of 26 + staff + faculty, students are pushed to grow beyond the classroom. Beyond academics and labor, students are also tasked with self-governance and take care of faculty-hiring, admissions, etc. Reflection is constant and challenging: In a student-built sauna on the top of a mountain, we took turns answering questions (or struggling to think of an answer in my case). These structural elements combine to create an environment in which one is surrounded by thoughtful (and quirky) individuals and engaged in a meaningful community.

Photo credit: http://hackalife.com/category/money/page/2/