Alumni Profiles

Kate Hassett '08

Graduate Student, University of Southern Maine


Home state: Maine
Graduate program: Graduate student, Master of Social Work, University of Southern Maine
Senior project: Fair to Middlin': A Graphic Novel
Internship: Youthlinks, Rockland, ME  

After graduating from COA, Kate attended the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies where she created a photo documentary about a man who was experiencing homelessness. Portions of the documentary were featured in a Portland, ME magazine. She has also worked on urban farming projects, and with refugees, youth, and individuals with learning differences in the Portland, ME area. Kate is currently enrolled in the University of Southern Maine's masters in social work program.

Why did you choose to attend COA, and what kept you here?
I chose to attend COA for its intimate size and the college's dedication to hands on and experiential education. On the day that I was visiting COA as a prospective student, a dead humpback whale was being examined on the college's beach. The smell of dead whale permeated the air and people were so excited to see the specimen. At that moment, I knew I had to go to COA. I made lifelong friends and sought solace from school work in Acadia National Park.   

What was the most valuable skill you gained while at COA, and how does it influence your career today?
At COA, I learned how to eat well! And how to cook. Having kitchens in all the houses and no meal plan on the weekend was challenging at times but it was in the kitchen that I learned to cohabitate and communicate with people. In these moments of communal living and eating, I learned a lot about new foods, cultures, music and styles of eating and sharing. I learned how to savor a meal and eat slowly. Today, I am still sharing meals with people and enjoy trying new foods and exploring different cultural values of food and cooking. I now have a broader awareness of food and the critical thinking skills that were honed at COA keep me constantly questioning the practices of the food and farming industry.

What was your favorite class at COA? Why?
Each class that I took was unique and my favorite in different ways. But the one that really helped me freshman year was The Natural History of Mount Desert Island course. This course helped to emotionally and physically ground me on the island and get outside to explore the surrounding beauty while also getting to learn about my classmates and community.

Please describe one of your most meaningful experiences at COA.
The Bar Island Swim! I did the swim every year and it was a wonderful, wild way to literally plunge into the new school year.

Why is a COA education still relevant?both in your own career and for current students?
A COA education is becoming more and more relevant. For me, my education taught me how to think critically and how to embrace curiosity and take risks. COA allows you to be creative in designing your education. I spent two trimesters at National Outdoor Leadership School and a trimester at my internship in mid-coast Maine working with youth in after school service learning programs. My senior project was a documentary graphic novel. At the time, I wasn't sure why I was choosing these routes, but COA's self-designed curriculum puts trust and value in self-design. Today, looking back, those choices that were at the time risks and non-traditional educationally were the stepping stones that got me to where I am today, still exploring and following the thread that interests me and trusting that it doesn't need to make sense at the time to make sense in the larger picture later on.

Is there anything else you want to make sure others know about COA?
There were times at COA when I was very restless and the size of the school felt too small (especially in the winter months). But COA encourages you to feel and embrace this restlessness and there are amazing study away programs and opportunities for internships anywhere in the world. COA is a small school but it will help you connect to the global community and the larger world.

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