The process of establishing Thoreau College began on New Year’s Day, 2015 with an informal gathering in a private home in Viroqua, Wisconsin.  During the first year, a small circle of founders engaged in intensive discussions and studies of texts relating to anthroposophy and previous experiments in higher education, including Deep Springs College and the Scandinavian folk high school movement.  During the first year, the groundwork was laid for the birth of Thoreau College as a legal entity and as a cultural presence in the local community and beyond.  Over the following several years, Thoreau College staged a series of pilot programs, including “Thoreau College: A Prelude” (July-August, 2016), “Thoreau College Founding Fellows” (October 2017-June 2018), the “Thoreau College Semester Program” (Fall 2019 & 2020), and a set of “Guided Internships/Spring Fellowships” (Spring 2020 & 2021).   Also in 2020, we launched the Thoreau’s Garden Greenhouse enterprise, in facilities leased from Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School.

In 2021, we are launching the new 9-month Metamorphosis Year as our foundation-level core program for young adults, along with a new set of Fellowship and Residency opportunties.  Also in 2021, Thoreau College completed a merger with the Driftless Folk School, securing 501c3 non-profit status and expanding educational offerings to members of the general public.   

From 2016-2021, Thoreau College also staged three crowdfunding campaigns, forged close partnerships with a wide array of local organizations, established permanent gardens and a small livestock operation, occupied and made improvements to the first three student residence houses, formed fruitful recruiting relationships with teachers, counselors, and professors at high schools and colleges across the country, and performed many hours of impactful service within our local community.



In 2025, a new student entering Thoreau College will be joining a vibrant, locally rooted intergenerational learning community of a kind of which there are few examples elsewhere in the world.  Beginning Metamorphosis Program students will experience a fully developed holistic curriculum, dedicated to the cultivation of mature self-authoring adults and drawing upon the full richness of world culture, the fecundity of the local natural environment, and the dynamism of community here in the Driftless Region.  Their experience will be nested within a robust campus community of adults of all ages pursuing self-development and personal projects of all kinds, as well as a dense network of local partner schools, organizations, farms, and businesses.  For students who choose to build on their Metamorphosis Program experience (which will span 1 – 2 years), Thoreau College will serve as a full post-secondary education, leading to rich and meaningful personal and professional lives in education, agriculture, business, the arts, and leadership across society. Finally, members of the Thoreau College community will be participants in an international  movement of other microcolleges and other organizations with similar goals, for which Thoreau College will serve as a  catalyst and model.