Porcia Manandhar '17 is one of five students to take part in this year's commencement ceremony.

Five graduating seniors with a diverse array of interests, including renewable energy, biomedical research, alternative literature, and wildlife biology, will take part in this year’s commencement ceremony. They will speak before 77 graduates, faculty, staff, and countless alumni, family and friends.

Haleigh Paquette, who focused her senior project on the biology and culture of seeds, will provide welcoming remarks, while zine collector and counterculturalist Jasmine Bourgeois will introduce the keynote speaker, poet and cultural critic Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib.

Student perspective speeches will be given by Zakary Kendall, who developed a sustainable touring model for traveling musicians and artists; Porcia Manandhar, who has blended studies in biomedical sciences, public health, and varying forms of fine art; and Amber Wolf, who has conducted genetic research on the wildlife of several islands off the coast of Maine.

Jasmine Bourgeois ’17

 Jasmine Bourgeois '17 will introduce the keynote speaker for this year's commencement ceremony, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib. Jasmine Bourgeois ’17 will introduce the keynote speaker for this year's commencement ceremony, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib.Jasmine Bourgeois came to COA from New Hampshire with the intention of studying food systems but ended up focusing on a mix of anthropology, gender studies, and performance. Following graduation, she plans to explore her options for graduate school in New York City.

Bourgeois’ senior project at COA, “(Sub)Cultural Communication: The Process and Politics of Creating a Zine Library,” intersected ideas of history, art, and culture while exploring the tension between ephemeral and lasting expression, she said.

“What I find interesting about zines — and a lot of what I’ve been trying to study — is that they’re a unique medium that crosses all these different lines of historical artifact, artistic object, and alternative press. They’re an object of counterculture, but manage to resist the trend of countercultural artifacts being capitalized on and repackaged in a diluted form,” Bourgeois said.

“I wanted to create a zine library because I think they’re a valuable resource to the community, but much of what I was studying throughout the project was how to balance the tension of wanting to keep and preserve zines while recognizing that they’re such a specific medium that in many ways doesn’t want to be collected. I think a lot of what I wanted to unpack was how the artistic, historical, and performative nature of zines work in a library setting, and what it actually means to archive something that, by nature, doesn’t follow this logic.”

Zakary Kendall ’17

Zakary Kendall '17 will provide a student perspective speech at this year's commencement ceremony. Zakary Kendall '17 will provide a student perspective speech at this year's commencement ceremony.Zakary Kendall has designed a course of study at COA that has taken him in many different directions, including examinations of renewable energy, sustainable communities, anthology, and art. His senior project drew all of these together in a sustainable touring model for musicians known as Eco-tour.

Drawing on his experience with the band GoldenOak over the past several years, Kendall developed Eco-tour as something that would push artists of all types to rethink, interact, and transform the resources they use while touring. Eco-tour, he said, gives artists the capacity and tools to find creative solutions to their environmental and social impacts.

“While traveling across the country artists use fuel, food, and create discarded material, all of which have significant environmental and social implications. Eco-tour provides standards to help artists reduce their impact and come into contact with the resources they consume.”

After graduation, Kendall plans to continue his work with sustainable tour by practicing the Eco-tour model with GoldenOak. He hopes to get other artists involved and help them set up and successfully run their own Eco-tours.

Kendall grew up in a small western Maine town surrounded by rivers and lakes, and COA’s proximity to water and woods is what initially drew him to the school. It was the people he met here that made him stay, though.

“What kept me at COA were the people, and all the beautiful, new, and exciting things they were thinking and talking about,” he said. “The stories I have gathered here will affect me for the rest of my life.”

Porcia Manandhar ’17

Porcia Manandhar '17 will provide a student perspective speech at this year's commencement ceremony. Porcia Manandhar ’17 will provide a student perspective speech at this year's commencement ceremony.
Credit: Hannah Breisinger
Porcia Manandhar grew up under the foothills of the Himalayas in Kathmandu, Nepal and had never left her home country until she came to College of the Atlantic.

Beginning with an interest in biology and mathematics, Manandhar soon began studying and exploring medicine and public health, while also developing interests in fine arts and pottery. She spent her first summer as an undergraduate jumping back and forth between COA’s two offshore research stations on Mount Desert Rock Island and Great Duck Island, banding and researching nesting herring gull population. She calls that exposure to field research, “one of the best thing I did in my four years.”

Manandhar worked at the Jackson Laboratory as an academic intern, and then a biomedical research intern, taking part in a program studying global health issues in South Africa jointly run by the Organization for Tropical Studies and Duke University. An internship at Bowdoin College with Dr. Clare Congdon on bioinformatics followed. Her senior project, “Virus, Human, and Power” took her back home to Nepal for a medical intensive.

“By early winter 2016, I was assisting staff at the only maternity hospital of Nepal, hand-recording and delivering both the mother and baby HIV therapies including what we know as antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the ER of the hospital,” she said.

“I wrote all of my experiences in an ethnographic paper for my senior project. In addition to that I made graphite sketches and watercolors during my fieldwork, which I turned into Masonite board carvings and later to a relief printmaking show at the Blum Gallery.”

Following graduation, Manandhar plans to continue her work on lupus at Jackson Laboratory.

Haleigh Paquette ’17

Haliegh Paquette '17 will provide welcoming remarks at this year's commencement ceremony. Haliegh Paquette ’17 will provide welcoming remarks at this year's commencement ceremony.Haleigh Paquette’s academic path at COA has been one of many offshoots, stemming from one common kernel: the seed. A retrospective realization, Paquette didn’t know that through studying Spanish, philosophy, natural resource use, biology, and political ecology, she would consistently arrive at seeds.

“Though my before-birth obsession with food and love for agrarianism were glaring signs, it was only recently that I narrowed in on explicitly studying seeds.”

For her senior project, Paquette dug into the biological magic and human ecological chaos wrapped within the decorated coats of crop seeds.

Paquette, who is from New Hampshire, came to COA after one year at another university sandwiched between two years out of high school.

“When I finally discovered COA, I thought, inexplicably, ‘well, this is where I want to be,’” she said. “I’m full of gratitude up to my ears for what I’ve learned from my teachers, friends, peers, and this land and sea about different ways of being decent in the world.”

Following graduation, Paquette will be moving to Isle au Haut to work at the Keeper’s House Inn until October.

“From there, I can already feel the weight of the pack I’ll throw on my back as I travel and hope to get to know different peoples’ relationships with seeds,” she says.

Amber Wolf ’17

Amber Wolf '17 will provide a student perspective speech at this year's commencement ceremony. Amber Wolf ’17 will provide a student perspective speech at this year's commencement ceremony.Amber Wolf has made a college career of looking closely – at ocean-growing plants, at mountaintop birds, and at wetland-dwelling predators – as she’s delved into the finer points of wildlife biology, botany, and genetics at College of the Atlantic.

During her time at COA, Wolf was awarded a fellowship at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory to look at the stress genes in eelgrass to try to get to the root of the eelgrass decline in upper Frenchman Bay. The Alexander Dickey Conservation Internship followed the next year, taking Wolf to her native state of Vermont to monitor mountain bird populations and loon conservation efforts across the state. For her senior project, Wolf analyzed the population genetics of beavers on, within, and around Acadia National Park to greater understand their genetic diversity.

Under COA’s self-directed, interdisciplinary model, Wolf has taken her education far beyond the typical scientific regimen.

“I’ve taken classes in dance, painting, music, and literature,” she said. “Allowing myself to dedicate time to areas outside of my ‘scientific focus’ has let me enjoy other activities I’ve always wanted to do, helped me to better understand other aspects of life, and has created a wonderful diversity in my academic career.”

Following graduation, Wolf plans an adventurous gap year working on science projects and traveling before attending graduate school. Her first stop abroad will be COA’s Human Ecology Lab & Island Odyssey program on the Seto Inland Sea Island of Ōsakikamijima, Japan.

“This time between school will be a great way to self reflect, experience life, and to make certain I know what I want to do before returning back to school,” she said.