Human Ecology


College of the Atlantic may be the ideal place to study if you possess a deep commitment to the environment. 

Our sole major in human ecology integrates knowledge from all academic disciplines and from personal experience to investigate, and ultimately improve, the relationships between human beings and our social and natural communities. It is the philosophical bedrock of COA's mission.

How does this translate into practice?  Studying human ecology, which delves into the interrelatedness of ideas, allows students and faculty to explore the entire spectrum of knowledge and creativity to discover essential connections. This framework guides every aspect of inquiry at the college. A COA education is:

  • Individualized. Study is based on each student's discoveries, dreams, and desires.
  • Hands-on. Learning takes place on islands, in studios, in labs of partner institutions, abroad, and through primary sources, because discovery is not second-hand.
  • Based on inquiry. Because human ecology is about creating connections, teachers and students continually reframe existing knowledge and insight through new understanding and vision.
  • World-changing. Human ecology not only investigates existing relationships, it seeks to improve them.
  • Community-building. Connection and inquiry extend far beyond the classroom. Long discussions continue in faculty offices, between students over late-night snacks in the dorms, and on weekend hikes through Acadia National Park. We live our human ecology at COA, from our practice of being on a first-name basis with everyone in the college community to the zero-waste efforts of all campus celebrations.
  • Life-long. Human ecology is a process. Faculty and graduates continue to question and redefine what human ecology means to them for years.

Human ecology is a living, breathing discipline that is constantly evolving.  "A strange hybrid between the sciences, arts and humanities, human ecology offers a way out from the constrained boundaries of traditional disciplines," writes John Anderson, COA Associate Dean for Advanced Studies. "It suggests not a contentious bridge between what Is and what Ought, but rather a hopeful reaching between what Is and what Might Be. What distinguishes human ecology, and hence a college devoted to its principles, is the forward-looking nature and notion of responsibility inherent in the Art of the Possible."

COA — Life Changing.

"COA taught me to think across boundaries without dismissing them. "


Jay McNally | Class of 1984