Alumni Profiles


Sam Miller-Mcdonald '09

Graduate Student, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Home state: Michigan Sam Miller-Mcdonald
Graduate program: Graduate student, master of environmental management, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies 
Senior project: New Campaign Strategies 
Internship: Cooperative, Mogliazze, Italy 

After graduating, Sam worked on a farm in Northern Michigan, traveled and taught throughout Ghana, and interned with Sustainable Harvest International. He then co-founded a sustainable venture in Brooklyn, NY while working for DonorsChoose.org. Sam is currently pursuing a master of environmental management degree at Yale's School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and is working on beginning a project "dedicated to introducing innovative online organizing tools to the grassroots climate movement."

Why did you choose to attend COA, and what kept you here?
When I visited campus, COA students were the friendliest of the students I encountered when visiting colleges. The beautiful area, small student population, and mission-oriented curriculum all attracted me. The strong community and extracurricular opportunities kept me there.

What was the most valuable skill you gained while at COA, and how does it influence your career today?
At COA, I learned to act and make things happen independently of defined institutional structures. Whether organizing a benefit concert with other students, forming a band, or launching a venture, at COA I took many opportunities to initiate my own projects. This gave me confidence to start independent projects, and is at the core of what I am doing now.

What was your favorite class at COA? Why?
It's a difficult choice, but probably Theories of Human Nature with John Visvader or the Human Ecology Core Course with Rich Borden. Both professors have a compelling lecture style and are able to lead students to complex ideas.

Please describe one of your most meaningful experiences at COA.
COA offered me countless meaningful experiences that took a variety of forms, including spending precious time with close friends, working with faculty and staff on governance committees, organizing events that served the community, and having the opportunity to work on global issues that stretched beyond campus.

Why is a COA education still relevant—both in your own career and for current students?
For me, COA's education has been most relevant to my career and life inasmuch as it has taught me to act independently and pursue my own projects, reach out to and work with a diversity of people, and think honestly about how to solve problems.  Cultivating these habits is equally important for current students and could give them valuable tools as they seek to solve the issues they're passionate about.