Educating students to change the world

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 based on a unique idea: human ecology. A human-ecological perspective explores the relationships between humans and our environments, and stems from the premise that the world’s most pressing problems require solutions that cross the boundaries of academic disciplines and seek fresh combinations of ideas. Our approach is interdisciplinary and experiential, and encourages students not just to investigate complex issues, but also to work collaboratively for positive change. 

Self-designed major

At COA you hold in your own hands the freedom, and responsibility, of building your educational path. Each student designs their own course of study, pursuing their unique interests and goals through a wide range classes across the sciences, arts, humanities, and social sciences. At COA, you don’t have to choose just one area of study; in fact, we hope you’ll pull together different disciplines and get excited about the surprising connections between them.

Purpose-driven, engaged education

A COA education isn’t just about learning—it’s also about transforming thought into action to make a difference in the world, starting now. We believe that tomorrow’s problem-solvers will need to work across multiple disciplines, collaborate, innovate, and think far outside the box.

A (really) small community of scholars

With just 350 students, 35 faculty, and around 70 staff members, you’ll soon recognize all of the faces on campus. We believe this kind of close-knit, supportive community is an ideal environment for fostering creative collaboration and intellectual risk-taking.

Students have a voice

Every Wednesday at the student-moderated All College Meeting (ACM), COA students, staff, and faculty come together to shape the policies and practices that guide the college’s operations. We learn engaged citizenship by putting it into practice—in all its inspiring, frustrating, empowering, mundane, and messy glory.

On an island, in the middle of a national park

Acadia National Park in the Summer.
Pink granite mountains, spruce forests, island-studded bays, and miles of rugged coastline: the landscape of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island has inspired awe in artists, vacationers, and local residents for centuries. But COA’s location surrounded by Acadia National Park and the Atlantic Ocean isn’t just a spectacular place to live and visit; it’s a rich and multi-faceted laboratory for learning in the field.