College of the Atlantic

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105 Eden Street
Bar Harbor, ME 04609

Located between the Atlantic Ocean and Acadia National Park, College of the Atlantic offers two degrees: a BA and MPhil, both in Human Ecology. In pursuit of this degree, students consider their individual passions to create their own academic trajectories, integrating knowledge from all academic disciplines and personal experience to fulfill the mission of Human Ecology: investigating and improving relationships between humans and our social, natural, built and virtual communities. COA’s small size and individualized curriculum encourages tutorials, intensive seminar-style classes and frequent faculty-student interchanges, which are as common in the college’s one dining room as during faculty office hours. Having one major means that COA has no departments and no departmental requirements; classes are interdisciplinary; with the help of advisers, students follow their passions to develop their coherent course of study. Coursework consists of readings, usually from primary sources, as well as active investigation. These efforts culminate in a term-long project just before graduation. As part of coursework and/or senior projects, recent students have participated in international meetings on climate change, investigated the impact of big box stores (resulting in first-in-the-nation legislation for Maine), written novels, conducted surveys of amphibians in the Maine north woods and of plant species in Acadia National Park, conducted independent research on bird habitat on an offshore island, written autobiographies and new curricula, created CDs, restored gardens, built a pollinator-friendly meadow, designed homes, constructed windmills, created photography and ethnography books and exhibitions, launched for- and nonprofit businesses, used GIS maps to educate local towns on impending planning decisions, prepared an emergency system for a California town, and more. Beyond this, COA is a democratic institution with students involved on all levels of governance and a weekly campus meeting to discuss community issues and decisions. Major decisions must be brought to this All-College Meeting; committees that filter into the governance structure include participation by students. Opportunities for travel abound; students must complete a one-term internship, which usually takes them off-campus and often abroad. The college offers a residency term in Mexico and is experimenting with another in France. International connections on campus are extensive, as COA has one of the highest percentages of international students of any liberal arts college. Many students come to COA with a desire to change the world; they leave with the tools to begin to do so. COA practices what it teaches, and teaches what it practices; it is the first college to become carbon neutral; new student residences are outfitted with composting toilets; the kitchen serves food from the college’s organic farm. COA also offers one of the very few undergraduate green and socially responsible business programs, along with a sustainable innovations incubator mentoring students beyond their senior year. It also offers a sustainable food systems program that connects COA’s organic farm to an organic research center in the United Kingdom and a graduate school in Germany, and a program designed to facilitate international environmental diplomacy work. With two offshore island research stations, it continues to be known for its marine biology and conservation ecology programs – and graduates many a fine writer and artist. A degree in human ecology means that knowledge from the arts, sciences and humanities are valued and applied by faculty and students helping to shape a more sustainable, just and balanced world.

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