CULTURE – Activist Minds

college gonzaga

Gonzaga University’s PACCAR Center for Applied Science, which will become the university’s first LEED-certified building.

Gonzaga University

Spokane, Washington

Perhaps because of the school’s affiliation with the Catholic Church (students are required to take three religion courses during their four years), Gonzaga has a reputation for doing good. And no, we’re not talking about becoming missionaries. Last year students donated more than 100,000 hours of community service through programs at the school’s Center for Community Action and Service Learning. Some students spend their spring break building houses in low-income areas of cities across the country; others have prepared and delivered food to poor families in Spokane through the Campus Kitchens project. Giving back is a tradition the Zags continue after graduation: Among US schools its size, Gonzaga ranked second in the number of students who volunteered for the Peace Corps this year.

Lewis & Clark College

college lewis & clarke

At Lewis & Clark’s annual PIO Fair, campus groups recruit new members.


Located near Tryon Creek State Park and surrounded as it is by multimillion-dollar homes on Palatine Hill, much of Lewis & Clark’s campus has an isolated feel, which makes it somewhat surprising that the college has one of the most globally aware and politically active student bodies in the country. “Activism is a large part of Lewis & Clark culture,” says senior political science student Myriah Heddens. Indeed, the Princeton Review ranks the student body as the 18th most politically active in the nation, in part because of students like Heddens, who co-chairs the school’s Multicultural Symposium and also directs its Coalition for English Education and Social Advocacy, a tutoring program for the school’s janitorial staff. The administration even sets aside grant money for student-led efforts. Of course, Lewis & Clark activists have some pretty strong role models on Palatine Hill, especially with the country’s leading environmental law school just a few blocks away. Like Elliott Young, a history professor who, as part of his US-Mexico Borderlands course, invited students to spend their spring break on the border, learning about migration patterns between Portland and Oaxaca. Or economics professor Eban Goodstein, who helped initiate Focus the Nation, an event designed to raise awareness about global climate change. Raise awareness it did: Close to a million college students across the country took part in the Teach-In on Global Warming on January 31, 2008. And the 50 faculty members and hundreds of Lewis & Clark students who participated were smack in the middle of it all—right where they like to be.

University of Oregon


It’s little wonder that seven Portland mayors and seven Oregon governors have graduated from this institution. The school ranks 20th (just behind Lewis & Clark College) on the Princeton Review’s list of most politically active students. And the most important issue for the public-service-minded students these days? The environment. Last year the student government spent more than $1 million on sustainability-related programs.