December 12, 2017
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COA Commencement June 8

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BAR HARBOR, ME—When College of the Atlantic holds commencement on Saturday, June 8, speaker Dr. Paul Farmer will be talking to students and family members from around the globe. As is traditional in COA’s untraditional exercises, students will receive a diploma from President Darron Collins, PhD, a 1992 alumnus, and board chair William Thorndike. They will then receive a flower from a fellow graduate.

Some 73 young scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, writers, artists, designers, filmmakers, public policy analysts, and organic farmers from 18 states and the District of Columbia, as well as nine nations beyond the United States, will be walking to the podium. Each graduate obtains a BA in human ecology—COA’s one, trans-disciplinary major—though each student will have taken an individualized path towards that degree.

The final requirement for COA’s hands-on, problem-focused degree is the creation of a term-long senior project of the student’s own choosing. This year these include animations, art exhibits, biological and botanical studies, books of many kinds, composting plans, concerts, economic and sociological analyses, ethnographies, films, installations, journeys, landscape designs, performances, and more.

Among the graduates are Goldwater and Udall scholars, Watson Fellows and a delegate to the Convention on Biological Trade in Endangered Species. This is COA’s tenth graduating class to include Davis United World College Scholars. Sixty percent of this class has had international academic experience. Student speakers are Colleen Courtney of Ridgefield, CT, Jesse Karppinen of Helsinki, Finland, Graham Reeder of Vancouver, Canada, and Gina Sabatini of Exeter, PA. Thirteen of the students are from Maine; 21 more from elsewhere in New England, and 16 are internationals.

A physician, educator, and activist, Dr. Farmer is the chief strategist and co-founder of Partners In Health, an international non-profit organization providing direct health care services, research, and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. He is the Kolokotrones University Professor and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Dr. Farmer has written extensively about health and human rights, and about the role of social inequalities in the distribution and outcome of infectious diseases. His most recent book is To Repair the World: Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation. He is also the subject of Tracy Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, and the recipient of numerous awards, including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award. He received an MD at Harvard Medical School while simultaneously receiving a PhD in anthropology from Harvard University. His undergraduate education was at Duke University. Dr. Farmer will be introduced by Maura Brennan of North Smithfield, RI.

COA is known for its sustainability, and COA celebrations always consider the environment. All paper used at the college is recycled, all disposable tableware is composted, no bottled water is served, and as much food as possible is local and organic. Since COA graduates choose their own attire, there are no carbon emission costs for gown rentals. Even carbon costs for travel will be minimized as at least one parent of a graduating senior is taking advantage of COA’s solar-electric charging station for his electric vehicle. Leftover food from the celebration is delivered to a local food pantry and shelter; the food waste is composted.

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, visit