President’s Letter

A Message from President Darron Collins ’92

I first discovered COA’s magic as a prospective student in the spring of 1988. My father and I had made the ten-hour drive from New Jersey and the minute I stepped out of the car and stood face-to-face with an enormous finback whale skull I was hooked. There was a palpable buzz ringing from every classroom, lab space, and studio, and emanating from the staff, faculty, and students. I felt an intensity unlike anything I had ever experienced.

I enrolled the following fall and embarked on a four-year journey, an unforgettable adventure in education. It was also an adventure that gave me the confidence and competence to chart my own course and be successful in a world that was changing faster and more drastically than ever before.

COA began in 1969 as an educational experiment set up to address the complex social and environmental problems that were transforming the planet. Some of those problems have been solved or improved upon by the ideas and actions of COA alumni—read about them in the alumni section. But I think anyone would agree that there’s room to improve the highly dynamic relationship between human beings and the environment. That’s our focus. That’s what human ecology and COA are all about.

Human ecologists are problem solvers. They think and learn with their minds and their bodies; they understand that complex problems rarely have simple solutions; they believe that a better world is reachable and begins with more thoughtful, compassionate people.

Human ecology at COA is about racking your brain and getting your hands dirty (or, in the words of one of my professors, “being comfortable up to your armpits in a whale necropsy”). It addresses problem-solving through an interdisciplinary approach that values the methods and solutions of science, the humanities and the arts with equal weight. Furthermore, we believe this kind of education is transformative and produces more complete and engaging human beings.

COA began as an experiment and continues to be an experiment to this day. In being an experiment, we not only examine the issues affecting the planet, but the flaws of higher education itself. Schools that fail to embrace a culture of experimentation will become increasingly irrelevant because gone are the days when you went to school to get a narrowly specialized degree that provided automatic entry into a very specific job you would hold onto for forty years before retiring. The world needs human ecologists and the job market demands highly motivated, independent thinkers. COA is a great choice if you are keen on our human ecological approach to interdisciplinary and self-directed education. It’s also a great choice if you want to chart your own course and be best prepared for whatever this rapidly changing world throws at you.

College of the Atlantic is a remarkable place; unlike any other institution of higher education this country has to offer. That magic I felt as a prospective student twenty-two years ago is even stronger and more diverse today. The electricity on campus will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

So, explore and enjoy this website. Write us or call us with questions and thoughts. Come for a visit and experience the magic yourself and when you do, be sure to drop in to my office and say hello.

Darron Collins, Class of ’92
President, College of the Atlantic


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