College of the Atlantic
Your views on the world... ...are about to change.
How do we help most? How do we best serve this broken world?… The holistic leap we need is within our grasp. And know that there is no better preparation for that grand project than your deeply interdisciplinary education in human ecology. You were made for this moment.
—NAOMI KLEIN Author and environmental activist, in her COA commencement address
Welcome to College of
We’re unlike any college
We’re a college built around a unique idea: human ecology.
A human-ecological perspective explores the relationships between humans and our environments, and stems from the premise that our world’s most pressing problems require solutions that cross the boundaries of academic disciplines and seek fresh combinations of ideas. Students come to COA because they want to be part of creating a more sustainable and humane world.
Here, you will be inspired and challenged by a close-knit community of faculty and peers. You will dig into complex questions in the classroom and the laboratory, the woods and waters of Acadia National Park, the conference halls of United Nations climate negotiations, the Gulf of Maine, or the milpas of rural Mexico. We’re so glad you’ve found us.
you’ve ever known
The world isn’t divided by majors
Climate change. Poverty.
Plastic pollution. Racism.
The complex problems facing our world aren’t biology problems or economics problems; they’re messy and interconnected, and demanding of new ideas and solutions. That’s why at COA you won’t find academic departments, long lists of required courses, or majors and minors. What you will find are relevant, fascinating classes that will change your perspective on the world, professors who are passionate about teaching and diving into big questions, and students who support and challenge each other to take risks and to continuously grow, both intellectually and as human beings.
We’re a school for people who don’t want to be boxed in, who are excited by the connections between subjects, and who want to make a difference.
A college for the
What does it mean to design your own course of study?
Each term you’ll choose your courses based on the subjects that intrigue you and the skills you need to achieve your goals. If you’ve already got a solid plan, you can hit the ground running in your very first term; or if you want to explore multiple subjects and interests, you’ll have ample opportunity to cast a wide net.
Your academic advisor will help you navigate your unique path, and our degree requirements (including writing, quantitative reasoning, an internship, and a capstone senior project) will provide the scaffolding to ensure you’ll develop the right skills to move confidently into the world of work or advanced study.
With so few required courses and so many possibilities to choose from, you’ll find that your curiosity, passion, and sense of wonder will be guiding forces in your COA education.
Start digging in at coa.edu/courses.
We’ve chosen the college’s size intentionally, to break down stereotypes and social barriers, and so our students, staff, and faculty will know each other as individuals and work closely and collaboratively both inside and outside of the classroom.
By the end of your first term you’ll recognize most everyone on campus, and you’ll be on a first-name basis with peers and professors alike. With an average class size of 12 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1, you won’t be just another face in the crowd.
COA has 350 students and 35 faculty, and we come from more than 40 US states and 45 countries around the world.
Sometimes the best aren’t classrooms
Sometimes this means wading waistdeep into a quaking bog on a quest for glacial mud, and other times talking with lobstermen at a statewide fisheries forum. You might go to meet a legendary artist in their studio, pound the pavement on Capitol Hill, or spend a full term in the American West, Mexico, Taiwan, or France.
Learning in the field will keep your education relevant and real. It will stretch your knowledge and skills, and push you to understand new perspectives. You’ll also spend plenty of time in classrooms; but we’re serious about wanting a big part of your COA education to take place outside of them.
At COA you’ll spend a lot of time learning in the field.
Whitewater/Whitepaper: River Conservation and Recreation
Activating Spaces: Installation Art
Constitutional Law: Civil Rights and Liberties
Mapping the Ocean’s Stories
Disability Rights in Education
Sex, Gender, Identity and Power
Polar Ecology and Exploration
Theatre and Activism in the US
Demons from the Depths
Chemistry and Biology of Food and Drink
On Questions of Rights, Responsibility, and Reparations
Curiosity and Wonder: Design and Interpretation in the Museum
Microeconomics for Business and Policy
Audio Production and Engineering
Transforming Food Systems
Drawing Mineral and Botanical Matter in the Forests of Maine
The Poet’s Profession: An Introduction to Poetry
At COA, your learning will be interdisciplinary and driven by your passions.
What do the Smithsonian Archives, Iceland Conservation Volunteers, and the United Nations Development Programme have in common?
They’re among the hundreds of places where COA students have done internships. A 440-hour internship is one of the requirements for COA graduation; that means you’ll spend 40 hours a week, for 11 weeks, getting valuable work experience in an area that aligns with your academic interests and intended career path. Some students meet future employers through their internships; others may discover their dream job isn’t the right fit after all.
Learn about our other degree requirements, including the term-long, student-designed senior project, at: coa.edu/degree-requirements.
We put this into practice by governing the college together—students, staff, and faculty. Through participatory committees and our weekly All College Meeting we pass policies, hire faculty, plan new buildings, and approve course offerings as a community.
Working together, we make real decisions with real impacts on our lives at the college. This work can be empowering, and sometimes frustrating, illuminating, or just plain messy—like it is in the real world.
Community governance gives us opportunities to learn about ourselves and about collaborative decision making, complex institutions, and patience.
Making thoughtful change is a central part of COA’s mission.
the college together
The COA campus has a range of facilities and resources for students. The Davis Center for Human Ecology is home to science labs, art studios, a GIS lab, classrooms, and more. Our greenhouses have live plant species from more than 40 different families and are used for an array of academic projects. In the COA/Acadia National Park Herbarium you’ll find more than 15,000 preserved plant specimens documenting Maine’s coastal region and beyond.
The Gates Community Center hosts speakers, concerts, and theatrical performances. Thorndike Library provides access to academic resources both near and far, and its reading room and stacks are popular spots for quiet study. The Dorr Museum of Natural History investigates, interprets, and displays the natural world of Maine through exhibits designed and produced by COA students.
Deering Common Community Center includes health and counseling services, as well as a meditation room, student lounge, and meeting spaces with waterfront views. Academic services include our writing center, computer lab, and the office of internships and career services.
(We have two.)
COA’s two organic farms provide experiential learning opportunities in sustainable agriculture and food systems, and also feature on our dining hall menus. On any given day, you may find students doing chores at Peggy Rockefeller Farms, hauling water to sheep, or feeding cows. A few miles away, others may be harvesting carrots and cabbage from Beech Hill Farm’s vegetable fields.
Classes in areas such as food systems, drawing, agroecology, and earth science make use of the farms and their facilities, and you’ll find food from both farms on your plate year round.
(Two of these, too.)
Great Duck Island and Mount Desert Rock extend our campus 10 and 25 miles out to sea, respectively. Each year, groups of intrepid students spend their summers at our island research stations monitoring nesting seabirds, conducting wildlife censuses, photo-identifying finback and humpback whales, and conducting other research with faculty and Allied Whale, our marine mammal research group.
#1 Green College in America in 2016, 2017, and 2018 (as ranked by the Princeton
As you might expect from a college of human ecology, sustainability is central to just about everything we do.
Together we wrestle with putting our humanecological values into action on campus and in the world, and in the process we often find ourselves changing not just light bulbs but also our conceptions of what it means to be green.
From the food we eat to the energy we consume, the courses we teach, and the community we build together, our commitment to environmental and social justice is an effort that engages faculty, staff, and students in the intellectual and practical life of the college.
On any given day you might build a bike, participate in a poetry slam, play a pickup game of soccer, sit in on a lecture, attend a rehearsal, or ski through Acadia National Park.
We’re not just learning in class, we’re also learning how to live together in community and how to become the best versions of ourselves. The close ties you’ll forge with friends, classmates, faculty, and staff will enrich and energize you long after graduation.
COA is a close-knit intellectual and social community, where life is informal, friendly, and always busy.
There are so many ways to stay busy in and out of class, even at a college without any sports teams. Students are the drivers of most on-campus activities—if it’s not already happening, you can start it!
Recent student clubs and activities include:
annual midwinter dance party
Bar Island Swim
annual event, start of every year
Black Student Union
Earth in Brackets
Fiber Arts Club
Open Mic Night each term
Share the Harvest food access group
Zero Waste Club
Housing and food
Shared house chores, community dinners, and late-night conversations in the kitchen help make COA’s on-campus houses feel like homes.
Our residences are a mix of former seaside estates and newer dwellings built by the college to encourage community living and meet high environmental standards. Each house has its own character and sense of community, as well as its own resident advisor (RA)—an older student tasked with facilitating house responsibilities and cohesion. The RAs also serve as a support system for new students as they adjust to college life. All first-year students live on campus; many transfer and returning students rent houses and apartments in the village of Bar Harbor, a short walk or bike ride away from campus. With the opening of a new residence hall on campus, the COA Mount Desert Center apartments in Northeast Harbor, and recent housing purchases nearby, more than 80 percent of the student body will be able to live in college-owned housing.
COA’s Blair Dining Hall, affectionately known as Take-A-Break (or TAB), is a busy hub at the center of campus Monday through Friday. We serve three meals a day and they’re all made from scratch, with more than 30% of ingredients sourced locally and sustainably, and with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options at every meal. If the day’s TAB menu doesn’t suit your fancy, you can grab a smoothie, salad, soup, sandwich, or made-to-order personal pizza at Sea Urchin Café.
Where the mountains
Mount Desert Island is like no place else on Earth.
As a COA student your backyard will open onto the trails and granite-domed mountains of Acadia National Park, while out your front door you’ll greet the island-studded waters of Frenchman Bay. You’ll hear frogs calling in spring, wake up to the smell of the ocean, learn the ebb and flow of the tides, and watch the constellations change with the seasons.
Just a short walk from campus, Acadia National Park offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation and experiential learning. The COA Outing Club organizes regular hiking and paddling trips, and you can borrow tents, stoves, skates, and snowshoes from the gear shed for your own adventures further afield. When you arrive on campus for your first term we’ll give you a trail map, and we trust you’ll put it to good use.
meet the sea
Mount Desert Island is located within the traditional lands of the Wabanaki people.
Bar Harbor is a friendly, small town of 5,000 with a notable twist: each summer millions of visitors flock here for vacation.
During our peak tourist season, from June to October, you’ll find hotels, gift shops, restaurants, boutiques, and scenic excursions galore. During the winter and spring the island is quieter, with many local businesses open to serve the year-round community. The bookstore, second-hand shop, coffee shops, cinemas, natural foods store, outdoor gear supplier, and public library, all within a mile of campus, will likely be regular destinations during your years at COA.
Every student receives a membership to the local YMCA, which provides access to a pool, fitness room, and offerings like volleyball, basketball, indoor soccer, water polo, and exercise classes.
What our graduates do
AGRICULTURE & FOOD SYSTEMS
Ivy Enoch ’18
Food security specialist
Hunger Free Vermont
Hannah Semler ’06
CEO/co-founder of FarmDrop, podcaster
“What is American Food?” podcast
MSc in international food business and consumer studies, University of Kassel
ART & MUSIC
Jessica Arseneau ’18 Museum educator, interpreter/animator
National Gallery of Canada
MA in museology/museum studies, Université du Québec en Outaouais
Danielle Rose Byrd ’05 Woodcarver and sculptor
Aaron Jonah Lewis ’05
Recording artist, banjo and fiddle virtuoso
Eamonn Hutton ’05
Senior landscape architect Agency Landscape+Planning
MLA, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Elena Piekut ’09 City planner
City of Ellsworth, Maine EDUCATION
Chloe Chen-Kraus ’14
Natural history and ecology teacher
Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki
PhD in anthropology, Yale University
Hazel Stark ’11
Co-founder, co-chief executive officer, naturalist educator, registered Maine guide
Maine Outdoor School
PSM in resource management and conservation, Antioch University New England
ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY & POLICY
Sergio Cahueque ’17 Organizer
Defend our Health, Environmental Strategy and Policy Center
Aneesa Khan ’18
Senior communications officer
Oil Change International Research, Communications, and Advocacy Organization
MS in environmental policy and regulation, London School of Economics and Political Science
Helena Shilomboleni ’09 Post-doctoral fellow and scaling specialist, affiliate fellow
International Livestock Research Institute, African Academy of Sciences
PhD in social and ecological sustainability, University of Waterloo
Ania Wright ’20
Legislative and political strategist
Sierra Club Maine
Agim Mazreku ’20
Environmental policy analyst, advisor to the Kosovo climate change committee
United Nations Development Programme
MS in climate and policy, Bard graduate programs in sustainability
Chellie Pingree ’79 Congresswoman US House of Representatives
HEALTH & MEDICINE
Cecily Swinburn ’09 Emergency physician
Albany Medical Center
MD, Tufts University School of Medicine
COA alumnx work in a range of fields encompassing science, art, education, media, business, law, government, health, and more.
Anthony Yartel ’02
Epidemiology researcher, senior statistician
CDC, Division of Reproductive Health
MPH in Epidemiology, Tulane University
Melissa Carroll ’00 Veterinarian
Maine Coast Veterinary Hospital
DVM, Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Aoife O’Brien ’05
Certified nurse midwife
Mid Coast Hospital
MS in Midwifery, Columbia University School of Nursing
Leland Moore ’10
Assistant attorney general
Connecticut Office of Attorney General
JD, Quinnipiac University School of Law
Rachel Briggs ’13
Trustees for Alaska
JD, Lewis & Clark Law School
Chris Tremblay ’03
Marine mammal research biologist, science program coordinator and lab manager
University of Maine
MSc in Marine Biology and Biologial Oceanography, University of Maine School of Marine Sciences
Nicole Cabana ’99 Deputy director
NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center
MS in Engineering, University of Colorado
Joanna Fogg ’07
Bar Harbor Oyster Co.
MEDIA & JOURNALISM
Marc Fawcett-Atkinson ’17
Investigative reporter covering food, climate, plastics, and the environment
Canada’s National Observer
MA in journalism, University of British Columbia
Amy Toensing ’93
Photojournalist and filmmaker, assistant professor of visual communications
Newhouse School of Public Communication
Regular contributor to National Geographic
MA in photojournalism, Ohio University
Kaija Klauder ’11 Wolf technician
Denali National Park
MS, University of Washington School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
Nishad Jayasundara ’05
Assistant professor, environmental toxicology and health
Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment
PhD in biological science, Stanford University
Abe Noe-Hays ’00 Co-founder/research director
Rich Earth Institute
Clockwise from top left: Nishad Jayasundara ’05, Danielle Rose Byrd ‘05, Aaron Jonah Lewis ‘05, Chellie Pingree ‘79, Helena Shilomboleni ‘09, Abe Noe-Hays ’00. Facing page: Hannah Semler ‘06
83% receive need-based financial aid
100% complete internships
Of our 350 students, 24% are international, representing more than 45 countries. The rest come from 40 states including 17% from here in Maine.
More than 50% of students will have an international experience while at COA.
83% of COA students receive need-based financial aid, primarily in the form of institutional scholarships. Our students graduate with an average debt of $24,000, well below the national average.
All students will complete an INTERNSHIP at a workplace in their field. They’ll also undertake a term-long, capstone SENIOR PROJECT.
These are two of many ways students apply their learning to the real world.
#1 GREEN COLLEGE
60% go to grad school
THE PRINCETON REVIEW says Top 20 for
Great Campus Food
Students Study the Most Most Politically Active Students
Most Beautiful Campus
Great Quality of Life
Great Financial Aid
60% acceptance rate
The Princeton Review has named us AMERICA’S GREENEST COLLEGE for six years in a row. Students are involved in all aspects of the college’s sustainability initiatives.
Within one year of graduation, 97% OF COA ALUMNX go on to graduate school or are employed. 65% of those working have a job in their field. Within five years of graduation, 60% OF GRADUATES pursue MASTER’S OR DOCTORAL degrees.
US NEWS says
#12 Most Innovative School
#11 Best Value School
The academic year operates on a TRIMESTER SCHEDULE with fall, winter, and spring terms, each 10 WEEKS long. Students take three classes per term.
Currently seeking: 100 new points of view.
COA approaches the admission process much as we approach learning: with a focus on the individual strengths of each student.
Your application will be read by several members of our admission committee, which includes students, faculty, and admission staff.
COA does not have an application fee and standardized test scores are optional. You can apply using either the Common Application or the COA application. A complete application includes:
Application form with essays
Two teacher recommendations
School report and counselor recommendation (first-year students only)
Official transcripts of all academic work
An interview, though not required, is encouraged.
Office of Admission College of the Atlantic email@example.com
deadlines, essay prompts, and more: COA .EDU/APPLY
COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC 105 Eden Street • Bar Harbor, Maine 04609 800-528-0025 • firstname.lastname@example.org coa.edu