Five graduating seniors with a diverse range of interests, including women’s health, anthropology, environmental education, and graphic design, will share their unique perspectives at this year’s commencement ceremony. They will speak before 83 graduates, faculty, staff, and countless alumni, family and friends.

Tyler Prest, who is designing a museum exhibition that confronts the ethical issues of tide pool protection in Acadia National Park, will provide welcoming remarks, after which 2016 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship winner Galen Hecht will introduce keynote speaker author Barry Lopez.

Student perspective speeches will be given by Natalia Zamboni Vergara, who has focused on women’s health and midwifery at COA, Ariana Rambach, who has studied wilderness education in remote areas in Alaska, Arizona, and Maine, and Will Minogue, who is developing a water monitoring program at Acadia National Park.

Tyler Prest ’16 

Tyler Prest ’16 will be the welcome speaker.Tyler Prest came of age in Northfield, Massachusetts with a deep-rooted interest in marine biology, and was on a marine biology class field trip when he heard about COA, by chance, for the first time.

While Prest has focused most of his studies on invertebrate zoology during his time at COA, he has developed a passion for the arts as well.

“I fell in love with graphic design in my junior year which inspired me to pursue my current senior project,” he says.

The project involves a museum exhibit in the George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History that confronts ethical issues related to the protection of tide pools in Acadia National Park. It is part of a special exhibition at the museum honoring the centennial year of Acadia National Park and the connection between the park and the college.

Prest said he is looking forward to speaking on Saturday but thinks it could be overwhelming.

“I like public speaking and I am looking forward to representing our class as the welcome speaker, but I am nervous about being emotional when I am up there in front of my friends and classmates,” he says.

Prest will continue exploring his interest in invertebrate zoology and museum work this summer when he starts at the Smithsonian Museum, in Washington, D.C., as a crustacean collections assistant.

Galen Hecht ’16 

Galen Hecht ’16 will introduce Barry Lopez.

Much like the rivers and landscapes he is drawn to exploring, Galen Hecht’s path at COA has been a winding one.

“My academic focus has wandered through literature, latin american studies, anthropology, and now film and movies,” Hecht says. “I am inspired and made curious by so many things, but most often it is what the people around me do and say that pushes me to think about the world in new and exciting ways.”

For his senior project, Hecht made a documentary movie about a watershed in his home state of New Mexico. The project, he says, “is inspired by my deep-seated interest in the history and culture of New Mexico and how the place is moving into the future with prominent issues like water scarcity and economic inequality in an arid landscape.”

Originally Santa Fe, New Mexico, Hecht found his way to COA through his experience at Pearson United World College. He will continue working with rivers and watersheds after graduation; he was recently awarded the Watson Fellowship, and, “will travel from Scandinavia to India to Chile next year following three rivers, the Torne, the Ganges, and the Loa, spending time immersed in different cultures and learning about how people relate to place and the environment,” he says. 

Natalia Zamboni Vergara ’16  

Natalia Vergara ’16 will be giving a student perspective speech.

Natalia Zamboni Vergara traveled from Guatemala to attend College of the Atlantic and has focused her time here on studying women’s health.

“I came to COA because I was drawn to human ecology. It seemed a sure fit for someone who wasn’t quite sure which discipline to pursue,” she says. 

The interdisciplinary nature of the school proved to be a good fit for Vergara. The human-ecological worldview led her to “discover and hone my interests, and ultimately inspired my focus in women’s health,” she says.

As a result of her interest in midwifery, Vergara is writing a paper on birth stories for her senior project.

“In my project I consider how birth practices can provide insight into conceptualizations of the female body.” Vergara says.

She is honored to share her perspective at the commencement ceremony, she says.

“I am both excited to share my student perspective and nervous to walk on stage and not be able to reach the microphone,” Vergara says.

Ariana Rambach ’16 

Ariana Rambach ’16 will be giving a student perspective speech.

Ariana Rambach’s focus on field biology and environmental education at COA has taken her to far flung locations and opened possibilities for adventure and creativity, she says.

“During COA courses I have spent time catching salamanders, walking on frozen lakes, exploring desert canyons, and observing birds in Costa Rica. I have spent my time studying seabirds on a remote island off the coast of Maine, monitoring beavers, otters, and turtles in Acadia National Park, and working in the Grand Canyon to remove invasive fish from the Colorado River corridor,” Rambach says. “I am inspired by other people who are excited about what they’re doing. I love having conversations and sharing my knowledge of the world through creative means such as storytelling, comic book making, and ukulele songwriting.”

Originally from Ashland, Oregon, Rambach says she was inspired to attend COA after participating in a summer program for high school students.

“On the trip I saw bald eagles, river otters, loons, and green frogs and went moose stalking in a canoe,” she says. “By the end of the program, I knew this was the education I’d been searching for.” 

Rambach’s was inspired by the work she’s done this year for her senior project.

“I spent my senior year gaining experience as a wilderness educator all across the country and discovered that it is possible to use your energy and passion to foster a unique experience for learners,” she says.  She will continue her work as an environmental educator and advocate as a Student Conservation Association trail crew leader this summer in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Rambach will then work as an intern at Yellowstone National Park for the Native Fish Conservation Program.

Will Minogue ’16 

Will Minogue will be giving a student perspective speech.Will Minogue, from Boston, Massachusetts, built seven water monitoring stations in and around Acadia National Park with support and funding from the Maine Space Grant Consortium this year for his senior project. Minogue also established a baseline monitoring program which will continue as a joint effort between COA and Acadia for many years to come. 

“The educational style here at COA has allowed me to discover my own niche in subjects relating to water,” he says. 

Minogue has focused his studies at COA around water, “on topics ranging from law and policy to chemical and physical sciences,” he says. He plans to pursue a master’s program that addresses his fascination with water after graduation.