An educational philosophy, human ecology applies knowledge from multiple disciplines to address environmental and social problems. Not only is this unique approach to education the foundation of the college's academic program, but it also distinguishes College of the Atlantic (COA) from other colleges. 

COA offers only one undergraduate degree: a BA in Human Ecology. Although all students receive the same degree, they tend to take different paths to attaining their interdisciplinary degree. Some students focus their studies on environmental law and policy, writing and literature, anthropology, international studies, history, psychology, and education. Others pursue degrees in arts and design—painting, graphic design, video documentary, music, film, and art history. Still others specialize in marine biology, oceanography, botany, chemistry, ornithology, and math and physics.  But regardless of the path the student chooses, the faculty encourage students to combine knowledge from many disciplines and to address environmental and social problems from an interdisciplinary perspective. Because this educational philosophy precludes categorizing knowledge, the courses and faculty are not organized by academic departments. Take the time to explore these pages and discover for yourself the complexities, depth, and excitement of COA’s academic program. 

Another unique feature of this educational philosophy is that the college places considerable responsibility on the student: Students choose their own path and assume responsibility for selecting courses, internships, and final projects that allow them to achieve an interdisciplinary BA in human ecology.

Having the freedom to design your own academic program means that you must not only make responsible academic decisions but must have the discipline and commitment to work independently and to seek advice from your advisor and faculty members whose courses you are taking.  


As you decide whether this education philosophy and approach to education are best for you, the following are some points you should consider:  

  • Students need 36 credits to receive an interdisciplinary degree in human ecology.
  • Most classes count as one credit (150 hours of class time, reading, writing, conferencing, and research and/or field work).

Students take three classes in each of the three 10-week terms. Students must complete both a 400-hour internship and a three-credit final project. 

Average class size is 12, student-faculty ratio is 11:1. 


See the full text of academic programs and policies section of the course catalog.

COA is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).


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