Graduate Program

Requirements for the M.Phil. degree in Human Ecology

College of the Atlantic's graduate program provides opportunities for a select group of advanced students to pursue cross-disciplinary scholarship and research in close association with a team of faculty mentors. Students earn the Master of Philosophy in Human Ecology. The choice to offer the M.Phil. rather than the more traditional M.A. or M.S. is a deliberate reflection of the college's emphasis on the value of a multi-disciplinary approach to learning. Students are expected to take the ancient meaning of philosophy literally — to succeed they must be true lovers of wisdom.

The M.Phil. program has two important elements. The first is essentially preparatory and consists of nine courses that serve as the foundation for advanced independent work by the candidate. These courses are expected to cover a range of topics and yet facilitate the clear development of a theme of study. A course list of "straight biology" or "straight art" for instance is unlikely to be encouraged, whereas a candidates who is interested in combining artistic and scientific training in his or her degree would be more suitable for this program.

The second element of the program is the thesis, which is expected to be a work of original scholarship developed in close working association with the thesis committee. The research and writing required for a thesis is expected to take a significant amount of time, usually at least one academic year following the completion of coursework. The thesis should exemplify the multi-disciplinary nature of research encouraged within human ecology and ideally will further our understanding of specific elements within the discipline.

The Application Process

Applicants may fill out an online application for admission to the graduate program (.pdf format - 65k) in human ecology.

Applicants are required to submit transcripts from all undergraduate institutions attended as well as at least two letters of reference speaking to the suitability of the candidate for this program and this program for the candidate. At least one of these references should be from someone with good knowledge of the candidate's academic potential. GRE scores are not required, but if you feel that they better reflect your potential as a grad student than your other materials we are willing to look at them. Applications will be reviewed once they are complete but applications for Fall term must be received no later than February 15 in order to assure that graduate committee members will be available to examine materials.

Prior to beginning the admissions process, prospective students are encouraged to contact members of the college faculty to discuss possible avenues of study. In order to be admitted, an applicant must have at least two permanent faculty members willing to act as sponsors of her or his course of studies. Ultimately the student will have a thesis advising team of at least three faculty members, one of whom must be clearly from outside the disciplinary focus of the thesis.

At the time of application students are expected to list a potential course list of nine classes that they have discussed with their sponsors. College of the Atlantic has no graduate courses per se. Therefore, the class list must be made up of existing classes or tutorials at the "intermediate" or "advanced" level. In some cases, it may be appropriate for a candidate to take additional courses at an introductory level, but these credits may not be counted toward the nine classes required for the degree. With the permission of the Thesis Committee and the Associate Dean of Advanced Studies up to three of the required nine courses may be transferred from another institution. Transfer credits must be approved in advance. All coursework counted toward the degree must be completed with grades of "B" or better.

In addition to providing a list of proposed courses, the applicant is expected to list and discuss a potential thesis topic. Although we expect (and even encourage) modification of thesis plans during the first year of study, it is important for applicants to indicate interest in a general course of study that the College can readily assist them in pursuing, and a preliminary thesis topic is a good indicator of potential match between applicant and faculty. During the admissions process significant weight is placed on this preliminary thesis statement and it is circulated to potential faculty sponsors in order to determine the degree of interest in the applicant.

Upon admission the candidate is expected to begin the required coursework. In some cases it may be necessary to start thesis research prior to completion of the full nine classes, or a particularly important course may only be offered during the candidate's second year. Particulars of an individual program of study will be worked out in discussions with the thesis committee and the Dean, but generally the bulk of coursework will be completed in the first year and the thesis finished by the end of the second year. Maximum allowable time for all work is four calendar years from the date of admission.

M.Phil. Thesis Topics

  • M.Phil. students have completed theses in topic areas such as:


    Alternative Education

  • Environmental Art
  • Environmental History
  • Environmental Journalism
  • Environmental Literature
  • Graphic Arts
  • International Development
  • Land Planning
  • Marine Mammal Policy
  • Ornithology
  • Technology and Society

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