Gaia Lopez Barrera '18 is among the College of the Atlantic student speakers highlighting COA Commencement 2018.Gaia Lopez Barrera '18 is among the College of the Atlantic student speakers highlighting COA Commencement 2018. Credit: Junesoo Shin ’21

Graduation guests will be welcomed by Matthew Kennedy ’18, who is passionate about environmental and social justice issues and their intersectionality with labor movements. Aura Silva Martinez ’18, who has focused her studies on economics and climate policy and is ardentAura Silva Martinez '18Aura Silva Martinez '18 Credit: Junesoo Shin ’21 about challenging dominant discourses in these fields, will introduce the keynote speaker His Excellency Anote Tong. Tong was president of the Micronesian island nation of Kiribati (Kiri-bas) from 2003 to 2016.

Perspectives and student experiences will be shared by Kiera O’Brien ’18, who has made the most of opportunities at COA to dive into literary and performing arts, Ivy Enoch ’18, who has spent her time developing a passion for the intricate political and emotional relationships between humans and landscape, and Gaia Lopez Barrera ’18, who is invested in the arts, especially video, performance, and theater.

Aura Silva Martinez ’18

Born and raised in Mexico City, Aura Silva Martinez moved to British Columbia, Canada to attend Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific at the age of 17. Living on the coast in Canada she developed a passion for the outdoors, seizing every chance to go scuba diving, hiking, camping, and kayaking. The opportunities for studying in the heart of Acadia National Park drew her to COA.

While at COA, Silva Martinez focused her studies on Economics and Climate Policy, studying with economics professor Dr. Davis Taylor and international climate politics professor Dr. Doreen Stabinsky. She also engaged with these topics beyond the classroom, becoming an integral member of COA climate justice group Earth in Brackets and attending a range of international climate and development negotiations, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit and Climate Change conferences in 2015. In her second year at COA, Silva Martinez received the Rothschild Fund (a grant for joint faculty/student research) to attend the Canadian and United States Societies for Ecological Economics (CANUSSEE) 2015 joint biennial conference. Here she presented a talk titled, “Global to Local: a Participatory Approach to the Sustainable Development Goals.”

For her internship, Silva Martinez worked at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences in the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). The internship consisted of conducting research into triangular cooperation as an option to expand renewable energies in Mexico and abroad. Her senior project incorporated post-development and post-colonial theories to present a discursive analysis of the international discourse on climate change.

Silva Martinez said that she is excited and honored to be introducing President Tong.

“When we talk about climate change, it is important to raise the voices of people who are on the front lines and who don’t have the privilege to question if climate change exists or not,” she said. “Commencement is of course about celebration, but it is in some ways a political statement, and bringing someone of color, someone who is not from the U.S. or the global North, sends a message as to the type of problems that we are paying attention to as a community at COA.Ivy Enoch '18Ivy Enoch '18 Credit: Junesoo Shin ’21 This is why having President Tong is so important.”

Silva Martinez will spend the summer months following graduation as an Energy Fellow at the COA Community Energy Center. She plans to gain professional experience for a year before attending graduate school.

Ivy Enoch ’18

Ivy Enoch came to COA from Farmington, Maine with a passion for human ecology.

“I thought I was coming here with rose-colored glasses, but COA has far exceeded my expectations,” Enoch said. “I was looking for a place that would not pigeonhole me; I did not want to be pushed into a silo. So, academically, COA felt really organic. Socially, I found it very interesting, and I loved the governance system. It is also in such a beautiful location in Acadia National Park.”

Enoch’s studies at COA have followed a diverse trajectory. Originally interested in education, Enoch quickly developed a passion for psychology, which manifested in explorations of wilderness therapy and spiritual psychology. She also dove into a variety of natural sciences. She created interdisciplinary independent studies, such as Peaks and Prose, through which she hiked every mountain on Mount Desert Island and experimented with different forms of writing.

As a result of all these experimentations, Enoch uncovered a common thread: her passion for the relationships between humans and landscape. Realizing this, she focused on studying food systems, sustainable agriculture and food justice, taking classes with COA Partridge Chair in Food and Sustainable Agriculture Systems Dr. Kourtney Collum and COA Elizabeth Battles Newlin Chair of Botany Dr. Suzanne Morse.

Kiera O'Brien '18Kiera O'Brien '18Enoch dove into this thread further with her capstone senior project, an ethnography of her own family’s historical relationship to the land in Oklahoma.

I was the first of the six generations to not have grown up on the farm,” she said. “The project acts as a template to explore my own belonging and un-belonging between Oklahoma and Maine, and to explore the emotional landscape of my family.”

Enoch has applied for a fellowship with the U.S. Forest Service doing communication outreach and strategizing on how to make national forests more relevant to younger generations and more accessible to minority groups. She plans to attend graduate school after a year, and is currently looking into an Agroecology program at the College of Life Sciences in Southern Norway.

Kiera O’Brien ’18

Kiera O’Brien was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and spent her junior and senior years of high school at United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, UK. O’Brien has been passionate about literary and performing arts for as long as she can remember, and at COA her studies have tied together literature, feminist and critical theory, theater, and performance.

O’Brien has pursued her passion for writing well beyond the classroom, working as a writing tutor and manager for the COA writing center and working as an editor with Bateau Press since it was relocated to COA in 2016. She collaborated with two other students over the course of two terms to develop an original theatre piece using Shakespeare’s Hamlet as the primary text and starting point. The trio later spent ten weeks developing Middle School Hamlet with a group of local elementary school students. In 2016, O’Brien completed an internship with the Canadian performance company Mammalian Diving Reflex, touring with them in the UK, Germany and Switzerland to build site- and social-specific performance projects with local children and teens. She now works as a visiting artist for the company, and has co-directed projects in Sweden and Italy.

Gaia Lopez Barrera '18Gaia Lopez Barrera '18 Credit: Junesoo Shin ’21For her senior project, O’Brien undertook a six-month study of the intersections of her creative processes as both writer and performer, culminating in a video installation titled 8ft. Ladder. As part of her senior project research, she worked as assistant director for the production of Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, directed by COA performing arts professor Jodi Baker.

“My senior project toys with questions of exposure, gender, authority, vulnerability, and our most intimate and perverse notions of what it means to perform,” she said.

After graduation O’Brien is moving to Seattle with her partner. Her immediate future involves living and farming on Vashon Island, continuing to write and collaborate with other artists, and building performances with young people and Mammalian Diving Reflex.

Gaia Lopez Barrera ’18 

Gaia Lopez Barrera is passionate about anything and everything that relates to Video Art, Performance Art, Film, Animation, and Theatre. Her work at COA has always circled back to a love for the arts.

“When I went to New York City for an internship at Franklin Furnace Archive Inc., my passion found an anchor,” she said. “I became exposed to a way of life, people, and a world of art in which I could see myself in the future.”

Lopez Barrera’s senior project is a video essay based on her interactions with people while riding the New York subway and the feelings provoked by the transience of the city. 

Matthew Kennedy '18Matthew Kennedy '18 Credit: Junesoo Shin ’21She is a recipient of the Louisa R. Dreier Scholarship, which is awarded to a junior who embodies the spirit of joy in the arts.

Matthew Kennedy ’18

Matthew Kennedy was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. His studies at College of the Atlantic have included international climate politics, ecological economics, literature, and environmental law.

Kennedy is an active member of COA climate justice group Earth in Brackets, a student organization that does equity-driven advocacy work in the sphere of international climate policy as well as in local campaigns. [Earth] members hold to a conception of the world as a system where each part impacts the others, and where another world is not only possible, but necessary.