for National Geographic News
For many universities around the world, the college experience has become more environmentally friendly, from recycling to renewable energy use to biking to class.
But at EARTH University in eastern Costa Rica, the quest for green extends far beyond campus life—it's the main focus of study.
"We're forming leaders to go out and influence their communities and their countries to take greater care of the Earth and change the world," said José Zaglul, the university's president.
That may seem like a lofty mission for a small agricultural college of 417 students tucked into the remote tropics.
But the university has earned a reputation for its hands-on, can-do academic approach to agricultural science and natural-resources management.
And many of its graduates have taken up significant positions in governments in Central and South America.
Since the university's founding in 1990, students have become increasingly international.
For the spring 2008 semester, a third of the student body hails from Costa Rica, while the rest come from 24 other countries, primarily within Latin America.
Many of the students come from poor backgrounds with little access to a university education.
"We have students from the most remote areas of the tropics who have to walk, take a boat, and then a bus just to take the entrance exam," Zaglul said.
But the innovative college is selective in its recruitment, he said. Out of 1,300 applications, the university selects a little over a hundred students for each incoming class.
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