Student Profiles


Aly Pierik '14

British Columbia, Canada

(Aly Pierik - Student Profile from College of the Atlantic on Vimeo.)

One of Aly’s favorite memories of College of the Atlantic is working on Great Duck Island the summer after her freshman year. She and other students got up early to watch the sunrise from the lighthouse, and when visiting Mount Desert Rock, sat and watched whales go by during lunch. You might be surprised to learn that marine science is not Aly’s focus.

Aly’s Advice to Students?
Take risks and do things you haven’t tried before. Go to Mount Desert Rock even if you are not focused on marine sciences. Take a poetry class if you are more of a science person. College of the Atlantic is a supportive, forgiving place to take risks.

Learning at COA
Before her senior year, Aly completed an internship at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute in Melbourne.

I had no experience with regenerative research, and my boss expected a lot (in a good way!). He pushed me to challenge myself, work independently, and have confidence in my decision-making abilities. I did well in the end and it helped me realize that I want to work more with patients and people.

Taking Introduction to Global Health changed Aly’s perspective on healthcare around the world. It changed the way she viewed what she values and believes in, and even changed the direction of her career.

The course made me take a closer look at and reevaluate some of the things I believed in. I didn’t feel disappointed, but it was a good reminder that I have a lot to learn and that’s kind of exciting.

The Unexpected
As a resident advisor, Aly lives on campus, but she didn’t expect how integral COA would be to the nonacademic facets of her life.

I didn’t anticipate how much I would come to love COA. When I imagined college, I imagined school being only a small, separate part of my life, but COA has become a major part of my life. I didn’t anticipate how much I’d enjoy being involved in all aspects of living here. 

Significance of Self-Direction
According to Aly, while students may have the freedom to choose easier courses and do just enough work to “get by,” that wouldn’t be fulfilling.

Self-direction means having a lot of freedom and also a lot of responsibility because I have the choice of what classes I take and what focus I want to pursue. I took an Independent Study in immunology during my junior year. I was interested in working at Jackson Laboratories, where my mentor worked. Taking the Independent Study allowed me to do a lot of work at the lab. If you’re really excited about a certain subject, COA gives you the opportunities to pursue your interest, but you have to be motivated enough to ask for them. 

Things Gained
In an odd way, studying Human Ecology has taught me to be compassionate. Looking at a subject from multiple angles and looking at it as a whole comes down to compassion. College of the Atlantic has given me a lot of confidence and drive. It has taught me that hard work can really pay off. It has also taught me to be a leader. I didn’t really see myself as a leader before COA, but now I’m more comfortable taking leadership roles. Being a resident advisor has taught me patience, interpersonal skills, group dynamics, and seeing the good in people.

Examples of Aly's Work

Sunrise on Great Duck Island








Health Development - Final Paper
"Despite [tuberculosis and HIV] remaining rampant in developing countries, a lack of resources dedicated to co-infection has resulted in little progress being made at their intersection. This paper will discuss the epidemiology of the two diseases, relevant policies concerning their treatment, and current projects working on their solutions."  Read more

Human Ecology Essay
"Fixing Broken Bodies"

"It was my first day of my month-long internship at a private health clinic in Vichy, France. My role there was simply to observe. To watch. To listen. To question. To learn." Read more