Soul of a Citizen: Classroom Use

"Soul of a Citizen has inspired countless students, faculty, and other readers since its publication a decade ago. Amazing as that book was, this new version is even wiser, deeper, and more inspiring. Loeb has given even more soul to his wonderful work."

--Thomas Ehrlich, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Foundation, former president Indiana University, Bloomington, IN & Dean of Stanford Law School, Palo Alto, CA

"Soul of a Citizen has been a powerful resource to get thousands of students involved in their communities, giving them the opportunity to apply their learning in meaningful ways. This updated edition is both timely and exceptionally useful to campuses that want to reclaim higher education’s central role in educating responsible, democratic citizens.”

--Carol Geary Schneider, President, Association of American Colleges & Universities

[Cover for Soul of a Citizen - Living With Conviction in Challenging Times ]

Purchase Soul of a Citizen from you local Independent Bookstore.

"Few recent books have inspired more college students, faculty, and staff to get involved in critical public issues than Soul of a Citizen. Loeb’s powerful new version includes even more stories that will engage students as active and thoughtful citizens.”

--Gwen Dungy, Executive Director, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators

"Soul of a Citizen was the common reader for over 2500 students enrolled in Kennesaw State's 2009 first-year seminar. It introduced them to active community engagement, inspired countless service learning and advocacy projects (from literacy programs to a gay rights effort and an NRA-backed concealed weapons initiative), and strengthened their campus and community connections."

--Jim Davis, chair first-year book committee, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw GA

“We had our 2010 First Year Seminar students read Soul of a Citizen's new edition and then work in small groups to generate service projects. Loeb’s book inspired them to come up with some wonderful ideas, from river clean-ups and educational efforts around female body image to working with local food banks and examining state tax policies. Soul's stories of real people from Rosa Parks to Virginia Ramirez and Angie De Soto really resonated with the students, demonstrating to them that you don’t have to be perfect to take a stand, and that anyone can make a difference. We also had some terrific conversations when we brought Loeb in to speak“

--Lisa Tetzloff, Student Life Director, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, WI

"We assigned Loeb's Soul of A Citizen for our 2012 first-year common reading. We're a historically Native American serving institution with a diverse group of first-year students with no ethnic group majority. In addition to inviting Loeb to speak, we also held a First Year Day of Service where first year sections competed to get the highest percentage of attendance. Faculty members could teach the Freshman Seminar however they chose. I had my students read Loeb's Introduction and first two chapters to practice finding main topics, taking notes, and test taking. I also required my students to participate in an act of community service and to write a 3-5 page paper discussing the book, Loeb's presentation, their community service, and a related peer-reviewed article that they downloaded from the Academic Search Complete database. Our students responded very well."

--Elizabeth Froeba, Director first-year common reading program, University of North Carolina, Pembroke, Pembroke, NC

"The students in my Principles of Engagement class love your book. As one of them wrote, 'To begin with I hate reading. I can honestly say I’ve gone through school not reading a single lengthy book. When Robert assigned Soul of a Citizen, I was skeptical. The first thought that came to mind was 'how many pages is it?' Little did I know, this book was going to reinvent my way of thinking. Soul of a Citizen is the most enlightening and inspiring book I’ve ever read. The book created a foundation, and in my eyes, it can be referred to as the Bible for civic engagement."

--Robert Shumer, Director Center for Community Based Learning, Metropolitan State University, St Paul, MN

"Since 2007, we’ve assigned Soul of a Citizen as the core text for our Foundations of Civic Engagement course, enrolling 700 students per year. We assign The Impossible Will Take a Little While to 250 students in our core senior seminars. Our students love these books and tell me they are among the only ones they won’t sell back. They've inspired great classroom discussions and community service efforts from a local food project to students raising over $9,000 for an African malaria project. You are a household name on our campus, and our students particularly love the new version of Soul, which is even more powerful than the original."

--Maria Roca, Department of Communication, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers FL

“We assigned Soul’s new edition to all of the students in our 2010 and 2011 ACCESS summer bridge programs at Prairie View A & M University, using it in our Reading, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Composition classes. At the end of the first seven week program we surprised the students by bringing Paul to PVAMU to discuss the book with them, and will bring him in again this year. It was an amazing interaction that the participants will not soon forget. Our entering students loved the book. It spurred great class discussions and compositions, with some students even sharing it with their families. It really inspired them to get involved in their communities. One young man had resolved to leave his rough Houston neighborhood forever and now said he wanted to return to that neighborhood to work at making it better. Others weren’t sure what path they’d take but said it had inspired them to take a stand. Some of these students had never really read a book aside from text books, but they rose to the challenge and responded wonderfully. As the Director of this program for fifteen years I have never had a ‘common reading’ that had the impact of this book. It energized these students by showing them that they could use their interests, talents and education to make real change in their world. We will use the book again this next summer."

--Lettie Raab, Director ACCESS program, Prairie View A&M, Prairie View, TX

Assigned on hundreds of campuses in every conceivable discipline and from first-year programs to graduate seminars, Paul Loeb’s Soul of a Citizen has become a classic of civic engagement, generating exceptional responses. Students of all backgrounds and perspectives, say it's inspired them to reflect on their own lives, challenge their cynicism and sense of powerlessness, and move from passivity to participation. One group of college seniors said it was the only book in four years that had given them real hope.

In 2010, St Martin’s published a wholly new edition of Soul, product of a year of intensive work, and revised in subsequent years. Developed in close consultation with faculty who've been teaching it, the book's wholly updated new edition keeps the stories and lessons that have most inspired students to act, while adding powerful new examples of student and community activists that speak to the challenges of our very different time. Student examples include President Obama's political beginnings in the student anti-apartheid movement (a reminder that whatever one thinks of his presidency, we never know where engaged students will end up), how a formerly homeless University of Washington student helped make his campus sweatshop free, and how a Virginia Tech student started her college career so apathetic that she spent the night of the 2004 election playing a drinking game instead of voting-—then went on to create and run a pioneering environmental sustainability plan for her once-apathetic campus.

Soul now has over 150,000 copies in print, and faculty are continuing to assign the book, with outstanding results, in every academic discipline and at every conceivable kind of school. Faculty say it teaches even more powerfully the initial edition. Over 50 schools have assigned Soul campus-wide for all of their entering freshmen, in senior capstone programs, or in core curricular service-learning courses. Because Soul focuses on ways active citizens can stay engaged for the long haul, and wrestles explicitly with issues of disappointment and burnout, the book's revised version can be a powerful antidote to the sense of dashed hopes that too many in this generation now feel, while speaking to both the frustrations and possibilities of our time.

Soul's updated study questions page includes classroom questions that faculty teaching the book have long used to engage and inspire their students. It also weaves in new questions to draw out the most powerful lessons from the updated stories and analysis. And it includes suggestions on teaching selected parts of the book if classroom time is scarce. Loeb's service learning page explores ways faculty have combined Soul and The Impossible Will Take a Little While with powerful community projects. The study questions page also includes links to sample quizzes, some of the students' own questions and responses, and other classroom resources. Soul is inspiring thought and commitment at all levels of political and intellectual sophistication, from students who've never considered civic involvement, or for whom the classroom itself feels like foreign territory, to veteran activists and scholars. If you're in a context where you can only assign a brief slice of Soul, you can also consider the updated version of an excerpt that appeared in Utne Reader and license it through the Copyright Clearance Center. But of course it's not nearly as rich and comprehensive as having students read the entire book. So I hope you'll give it a try.


If you teach a class or supervise an educational program for which Soul of a Citizen would work, you can get a free academic examination copy by filling out the information in this form.

If you'd like to give autographed half-price copies away to students, faculty or staff, for instance in your service or leadership programs, the information is here. And if you don't teach a relevant course, you can order the book on-line or order from any local store. Also, please tell colleagues about the book, using this flier. Pass the word through relevant listservs, academic discussion circles, and in academic newsletters and journals.

And though, it isn't directly related to Soul, here's a link to our national nonpartisan Campus Election Engagement Project that I founded to give administrators, faculty, and student leaders effective ways to engage students in America's elections.

"Soul of a Citizen has inspired thousands of people, of widely differing perspectives, to take a stand, particularly students. It teaches them how to get past the barriers to act, and why their actions matter. The new edition is a powerful personal guide to get people involved."

--Hans Riemer, former political director, Rock the Vote


"Barry University selected Soul of a Citizen as our first-year common reader. Soul's focus on how ordinary people decide to “make their voices heard and action count” through social activism, community organizing, and advocacy strongly reflects Barry’s commitment to teach students to foster social justice through community-based service. We assigned the book to all first year students, and worked with our local community of Miami Shores as they worked through institutions like the library to use Soul of a Citizen as a community common reading. We also worked with four local middle and high schools whose students were assigned to read at least a couple of chapters of the book, and they responded wonderfully. Paul Loeb also provided the keynote address for our mini-conference: Soulful Citizenship: Pursuing Social Justice Through Collaborative Partnerships. In addition to hundreds of Barry faculty, staff, and students, students from The Cushman School, Miami Country Day, Doctors Charter and Miami Edison High School were in attendance. Edison is a public high school that serves one of Miami's poorest communities, the Liberty City neighborhood. The students found Soul and Loeb’s keynote talk and smaller discussion sessions on campus to be truly inspiring. He challenged them to move forward, become socially engaged, and to recognize that everyday actions can result in meaningful change."

--Karen Callaghan, Dean of Arts & Sciences, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL

"Soul of a Citizen was a valuable part of our program for several hundred first-year students. Many also participated in service projects, and the book gave them a hopeful vision of what they could accomplish. Soul is inspiring for any student eager to play a more active role in shaping their campus, their community, and their world. The new edition is even stronger."

-Kevin Waltman, Co-coordinator, Freshman Learning Communities, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL-

"We assigned Soul of a Citizen for all of our First Year Experience students, and use it as a core text for our psychology internship. We believe it helps students to think beyond their own lives—personally and professionally—and to engage with a larger world, feeling that their actions can matter. They've really loved the book and found it very inspiring. The new edition should inspire them even more."

--Christine Olson, Department of Psychology, Faculty Civic Engagement Coordinator, Southwest Minnesota State, Marshall, MN

"We assigned Soul of a Citizen to all 2,000 of our freshmen, together with service-learning projects in the Philadelphia public schools. The book helps get students talking, asking questions, and thinking critically. We're looking forward to using it again."

--Jackie McCurdy, Coordinator, University 101, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

"We taught Soul of a Citizen in our Leadership and Identity class in our residential college. The book really stimulated students' self-motivation to become social change agents. Most haven't learned to see themselves in this role. Soul of a Citizen sparked wonderful discussions and helped them look at themselves in a different light. It gave them a sense of who they could become and what they could achieve."

--Peter Clecak, Professor of Sociology, Arnecia Bryant, Campus Village Housing Office, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA

"Soul of a Citizen has been one of the best textbooks I have ever had to use. I love that it discusses so many stories of people actually putting to use the topics we cover in school. I have always tried to put my judgments aside when looking at other people’s circumstances, but that’s not always the easiest thing to do. I love the stories and discussions in our text so much because it shows others overcoming their judgments and gives better perspective on those who we are trying to help. I am so thankful that I purchased this book for myself, because it will be one I reference for the rest of my life."

--Student comment passed on by University of South Florida civic engagement coordinator, Tampa, FL

"I have used Soul of a Citizen for the last two years with students taking our new required course on citizenship and social change. They've really been enthusiastic about the book. Loeb's stories of citizen engagement, coupled with his insightful commentary, help them get beyond a personal, individualistic searching for meaning and happiness. It's really inspired students who've done service with groups like Habitat for Humanity and Sierra club, and one who even did her Mission trip (she's Mormon) in the Ukraine last year. Soul of a Citizen challenges students to see that they can find meaningful living by working for the common good and living a life of community."

--Melinda Dukes, Professor of Psychology, Tusculum College, Greenville, TN

"The students in my public service honors research seminar have really enjoyed your book. It speaks to the core dilemmas they are thinking about. You have a way of not minimizing the weight or complexity of issues and problems we face, yet providing hope and encouragement to go on Your lessons of continuing even when it looks darkest are so important these days."

--Jackie Schmidt-Posner, Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

"I teach in the Saint Louis University Prison Program and we used Soul of a Citizen in a small group communications course at ERDCC, a maximum security prison in Bonne Terre, MO. The prison class students found that the book spoke to their experiences and desires to 'be the change' and that the stories of 'everyday people' inspired them to begin working in their community. Since reading Soul, the men in the class have initiated a GED tutoring program, a Chess Club, a literary magazine and a service organization within the prison. It's inspired the group's dedication to each other, their own personal empowerment and their community."

--Mary Gould, Co-director St Louis University Prison Arts and Education Program, St. Louis, MO

"Too often, academic study leads students to doubt that their ideas and actions matter. Soul of a Citizen taught my students that ordinary people can and do change the world. They said it was the first book in their four years at school that gave them hope."

-—Jane Rinehart, Sociology & Women's Studies, Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA

"I teach Soul of a Citizen in a freshman composition class: Writing and Research, a service-learning course for students admitted through our Academic Opportunity program for students not regularly admissible. Loeb's book works as a great rhetorical model, and inspires my students in what is, for many, their first step into the social arena. As they conduct primary and secondary research into the problems of homelessness, illiteracy, and hunger, Loeb's book reminds them that solutions to such huge systemic problems start with small actions by people like themselves."

--Kathleen Dale, Senior Lecturer, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI

"My students get what Paul Loeb means by "soul" and "citizen." They’ve been reading Soul’s new edition and respect it, are inspired by it, and very much appreciate the clear, succinct, and to-the-point examples throughout. The book and our related discussions help students nurture their optimism and self-confidence and bring out their own joys, frustrations, fears, and hopes as they either address major social problems or contemplate doing so."

--Gordon Fellman, Professor of Sociology, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA

"We're assigning Soul of a Citizen to all our entering freshmen. Though a conservative group with little experience of social activism, they've responded very favorably. For the first time, they've begun to critically assess their responsibilities not just to friends and family or to themselves, but to the global community."

--Sara Weinberger, Social Work, Western New England College, Springfield, MA

"My students loved Soul of a Citizen. The personal stories inspired them and proved a terrific antidote to the political cynicism of our time. The book did more than just give abstract information about what's wrong in America. It connected them with broader issues. It showed how committed individual choices can have powerful results. It left them hopeful and eager to act."

--Joe Szwaja, American government & economics teacher, Nova Public High School, Seattle WA

"I've been teaching Soul of a Citizen with great results in a general education course geared to first year students. Economists are rediscovering society and the importance of social norms. Loeb's book provides students with a tangible sense of how they can participate in the construction of society, along with inspiring examples and models to guide them."

--Professor Ken Jameson, Department of Economics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

"I've gotten wonderful responses using Soul of a Citizen in my introductory social work practice classes. Students love it. It's convinced them that change really is possible and that they as individuals can make a difference. This is even more remarkable since most came in interested primarily in direct practice--services to individuals, families, and small groups. Loeb's stories have a real impact."

--Jean Kantambu Latting, Social Work Grad school, University of Houston, Houston, TX

"I'm using this well-written, engaging investigation of ordinary citizens becoming involved in their communities and working for social change in a second semester freshman composition course. [It's encouraged] reflection and connections as students think about their roles as citizens and writers within different communities. As one of my students said, "Sometimes I feel very overwhelmed by the number and magnitude of issues I'm moved by, but Loeb has encouraged me to just start and take it one step at a time."

--Glenn Hutchinson, Department of English, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC [From review in Service-Learning journal, Reflections

"I've made Soul of a Citizen the core of my community service-based seminar: Lives, Livelihood, and Community. Loeb's works serves as an inspiration for students, helping them to connect individual and community, soul and mind, action and results. It energizes their souls and stimulates their thinking towards ensuring tomorrow's communities will be better than those of today."

--Robert Hogner, Honors College Director of Community Service Learning, Florida International University, Miami, FL

"Soul of a Citizen was easily the most popular book of the semester. Students today want to know about more than just governmental institutions, policy analysis and political theory. They want to know what it all means to them as citizens. Paul Loeb does this in an insightful and inspiring way."

--Stephen Zunes, Department of Politics, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

"Provides a variety of excellent lenses through which community college students can view their service, work, and lives. Loeb's challenges students to see their own possibilities for involvement and to think of themselves as citizens of conviction."

--Rosemary Arca, English composition, Foothill Community College, Los Altos, CA

"I assigned Soul of a Citizen to my class on race and ethnic identity. When faced with perplexing social issues, students, like many of us, often express a 'damned if you do and damned if you don't' attitude, which leads to cynicism and feelings of powerlessness. Loeb uses stories of ordinary citizens such as Rosa Parks to show that one doesn't have to be a 'great' man or woman to have a social impact. He also clearly demonstrates that no one we call 'great' ever works in a vacuum, and that sometimes great results are achieved by someone who just takes action. Action connects us to our community and to those in it who hope for a better society, inspiring even greater action from many others. is an inspirational book."

--Larry Zimmerman, American Indian Studies & Anthropology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA [From Zimmerman's Phi Beta Kappa Key review]

"Soul of a Citizen is a compelling text we use in our first-year seminar course, Engaging the World. Loeb raises issues that ask students to think about how they will make a difference with their lives. During class discussion, students resonated with his idea that 'we become human only in the company of other human beings' and challenged themselves to embrace life journeys that have impact greater than personal reward."

--Tracy Tyree, Director, First Year Experience, Mercer University, Macon, GA

"Loeb's book is great - thoughtful, interesting, easy to read, not preachy. I used it in my Civic Journalism course to start the discussion going about community participation and the role of story telling (and news reporting) in helping to make that happen. My mostly middle-class students seemed a little embarrassed at first to talk about community involvement - they saw it as something that "looks good on a resume" but was distant from their everyday experience. The book helps answer their concerns about personal responsibility and acknowledges both the difficulty and the joy of making that start for the first time. The discussion questions on his website were also very helpful in getting my students to talk and reflect."

--Eleanor Novek, Department of Communication, Monmouth University, Monmouth, NJ

"I used Soul of a Citizen in an undergraduate course called "The Citizen Leader," part of our leadership minor. Our experience was transformational. The stories you shared gave students the permission to share their own stories. One young African American student shared his commitment to working for gay rights, which comes out of his experiences becoming reacquainted with his absent father who, in turns out, is a gay man. Another young woman talked about her struggle this semester to grieve her recently deceased father, an environmental activist. Another young African American student talked about her siblings and her worries for them and other young people today. Her brother is incarcerated in a juvenile youth detention facility and her sister is a teenage mother. She is the first person in her family to attend college, and hopes to dedicate her career in audio production to promoting music that sends positive rather than destructive messages to youth. The students in the class represented a range of political viewpoints. Regardless of their party affiliation, however, they found valuable messages in your writing. You enabled them to set aside their ideological differences and take heed of the importance of working for social change."

--Kathleen Powell, Department of Social Work, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD

"I assigned Soul of a Citizen in a course entitled "Social Responsibility & Personal Well-Being." My students felt the book offered very concrete and useful suggestions about how to become more involved within their own communities. By addressing common obstacles that they face in becoming involved and looking at the societal obstacles for activism, it gave them a much more realistic view of the process. It motivated them to realize that one person can, indeed, make a difference."

--Stephen Kramer, Psychology Professor, Mount Union College, Mount Union, OH

"I used Loeb's book for a readings class in adult education. It helped me to make sense of the world for my students in a hopeful, useful way, and to connect complex ideas to related areas of concern, with a direction for action. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in helping their students develop a better understanding of the world we are living in today."

--Marcia Leister, instructor ABE/GED, Bellingham Technical College, Bellingham, WA

"I begin every one of my community-based, urban design studios by having my architecture students read Soul of a Citizen. It provides both an intellectual and emotional basis as they design projects aiming to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods."

--Anthony J. "Tony" Costello, Irving Distinguished Professor of Architecture, Ball State University, Muncie, IN

"Our leadership seminar studied methods, style, and the biographies of well known American leaders. Soul of a Citizen provided insight into leadership with a moral purpose, teaching that anyone can become a leader for social change. It took the examples of ordinary folks who did not appear to have extraordinary abilities, but who became leaders in causes that benefited hundreds if not thousands of people. Students learned that they could make a difference."

--John Bolen, Associate Dean, Simpson College, Indianola, IA

"Soul of a Citizen is a wonderful resource for teaching about social movements. The book puts real people and their stories center stage and it brings an activist's passion to a subject matter that is often taught in overly theoretical ways. My students really turn on to the course when they begin reading Loeb's book."

--Steve Buechler, Department of Sociology, Mankato State University, Mankato, MN

We have been using your book, along with other readings, in a course called Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service. Soul of a Citizen provides a psychological and emotional roadmap, helping students develop themselves and become transformational leaders pursuing ethical ends in their career and life. Feedback has been excellent. I have not heard a single negative, or even neutral for that matter, comment."

--Tony Middlebrook, Leadership Programs, Cardinal Stritch College, Milwaukee, WI

"My students really picked up on your ideas and rhetorical sensibility. 'Learned helplessness' was particularly useful complementing Kenneth Burke's idea of 'trained incapacity.'"

--David Deifell, Department of Rhetoric, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA

"I found the book absolutely inspirational and definitely plan on using it again. The students in my service learning course found Loeb's stories and perspectives motivating and reassuring, giving them a sense they could do their part to make our world a better place. They said it helped them conquer obstacles to involvement, so they could actually stand up for what they believed. Whether they were involved as Big Buddys or in more political kinds of advocacy, they found Soul of a Citizen a real tool for engagement."

--Ellen Hastay, service-learning coordinator, Pacific University, Forest Grove, OR

"Paul Loeb's Soul of a Citizen make so many of the concepts in political science accessible for community college students. I've used the text as a supplement to a service learning project in my political science classes with great success. I'm amazed at how the stories resonate with students; these ideas get in their bones, not just their heads."

--Robert Porter, Political Science, Ventura College, Ventura, CA

"Each year in my Citizen Advocacy and Social Movements class, students are looking for reasons to believe change is possible, that activism is worth the effort, and that 'ordinary people' like themselves can make a difference. I give copies of Soul to every new student entering our program and it opens their hearts and minds as no other that I've ever used before. They love the stories you tell, how you name the obstacles to leading committed lives, and how you describe the personal growth and excitement that comes from taking action as engaged citizens. A number have called your book 'life changing'!"

--Steve Chase, Department of Environmental Studies, Antioch New England Graduate School, Keene, NH

"I used Soul of a Citizen in my Spring 2006 general education course, Citizenship and Civic Engagement. Students said they found it inspiring and hopeful. I wish the news put stories on every night that would inspire more people to be involved"

--Bonnie Robinson, Department of Social Work, Chatham College, Pittsburgh, PA

Here's a wonderful email from a recent college graduate involved with the environmental and consumer rights group, MASSPIRG:

"I bought your book after seeing you speak at the Philadelphia Ecoconference. I was intrigued by what you said about how people maintain their activism. After graduating with a degree in environmental policy and political science, I got a job as a campus organizer for MassPIRG in Lowell, MA. Your book kept me going during the most challenging month so far. We were working on an eight-week drive to qualify an initiative question. We had seemingly impossible weekly goals of collecting signatures for hours on end in front of grocery stores in the cold and dark. In between weeks four and five, I attended the Ecoconference. I was feeling pretty down by this point. Trying to get students involved was extremely challenging. I started to feel disillusioned and angry with those who would not help us. Your book gave me a moment to reflect and understand where others were coming from. It reaffirmed why I am doing what I am doing. I related most to the part about not having to be perfect or know all the facts to be activists. Your book will stay with me as a discussion tool and be brought out whenever things get hard."

--Maija Spencer, Campus Organizer, MassPIRG

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