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College of the Atlantic


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Welcome to College of the Atlantic. We are unlike any college you have ever known.
At COA, you hold the freedom and responsibility of building your educational path in your own hands. Each student designs his or her course of study in human ecology, exploring the relationships between humans and their natural, cultural, and built environments. Even though we all have the same major, no two students have ever taken the same classes. Moreover, you do not have to choose just one area of study; in fact, we hope you will pull together different disciplines and get excited about the surprising connections between them.
A COA education is not just about learning—it is also about transforming thought into action to make a difference in the world. We believe that tomorrow's problem-solvers will need to work across multiple disciplines, collaborate, innovate, and think far outside the box.
With just 350 students, 35 faculty, and 70 staff members, you will soon recognize all of the campus faces. We believe this kind of close-knit, supportive community is an ideal environment for fostering creative collaboration and intellectual risk-taking.
Every Wednesday at the student-moderated All College Meeting (ACM), COA students, staff, and faculty come together to shape the policies and practices that guide the College's operations. We learn engaged citizenship by putting it into practice—in all its inspiring, frustrating, empowering, mundane, and messy glory.
Pink granite mountains, spruce forests, island-studded bays, and miles of rugged coastline: the landscape of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island has inspired awe in artists, vacationers, and residents for centuries. However, COA's location surrounded by Acadia National Park and the Atlantic Ocean is not just a spectacular place to live and visit. It is a rich and multi-faceted laboratory for learning in the field.
College of the Atlantic enriches the liberal arts tradition through a distinctive educational philosophy—human ecology. A human ecological perspective integrates knowledge from all academic disciplines and personal experience to investigate—and ultimately improve—the relationships between human beings and our social and natural communities. The human ecological perspective guides all aspects of education, research, activism, and interactions among the College's students, faculty, staff, and trustees.
The College of the Atlantic community encourages, prepares, and expects students to gain expertise, breadth, values, and practical experience necessary to achieve individual fulfillment and to help solve problems that challenge communities everywhere.
The faculty, students, trustees, staff, and alumni of the College of the Atlantic envision a world where people value creativity, intellectual achievement, and the diversity of nature and human cultures. With respect and compassion, individuals will construct meaningful lives for themselves, gain an appreciation for the relationships among all forms of life, and safeguard future generations' heritage.
Every COA student designs his or her course of study in human ecology. Beyond a small core of degree requirements, there is no set path. You give shape to your curriculum based on your interests and goals, exploring multiple areas of study or digging deeper into a chosen focus.
Making change is a central part of COA's mission. We put it into practice by involving students, faculty, and staff in governing the College. It is not necessarily the easiest way to get things done, but there is no question that we all learn a lot in the process.
Knitting, soccer, poetry, foreign affairs, rock-climbing, circus arts, activism, and wild edibles. COA students tend to be really into whatever they are into. Student activities here are a mix of organized clubs, getting outdoors in Acadia National Park, regular events like concerts, lectures, films, open mics, and a healthy creative spontaneity dose.
COA is an excellent place for self-directed people: you will chart your course in class and out. However, it is impossible to be anonymous in such a small community, and you will find plenty of fellow travelers with whom to share the journey.
No matter where you are on campus, the ocean is always a few steps away. You will smell the salt air when you wake up in the morning, learn the tides' cycles, and watch the color of the water, and the patterns of the waves change with the seasons and the weather. Sometimes, all it takes is one deep breath to let all that water remind you of the world's vastness.
We are intentionally small and community-focused, and you can feel that on campus. Meals in the dining hall (TAB) are welcoming and lively, with faculty, staff, and students conversing together. Our classrooms are set up for discussion and engagement among small groups of 10–20.
Maybe it has to do with natural materials, human-scale structures, and a little bit of wildness amid the everyday. Our buildings are a combination of rustic former cottages and newer green construction—you will see plenty of weathered wood shingles. However, you will be hard-pressed to find any institutional-feeling bricks or cinder blocks. The prominent campus landmark is a giant finback whale skull. There are tucked-away gardens, old stone walls, canoes, kayak racks, and people smiling and saying hello.

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