This year’s student welcome will be given by Ninoska Isaias Ngomana ’23, who has primarily focused on Black studies and political and cultural anthropology during her time at COA. Three students will share their perspectives on the COA education: Lisa-Marie Kottoff ’23, who has mainly focused on economics and Spanish, Maria Fernanda “Mafe” Farias Briseno ’23, who has focused on political and cultural anthropology with a focus on Latin American Studies and education, and Silas Sifton ’23, who has focused on literature and education. Liv Soter ’23 will introduce this year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Julietta Singh, author, decolonial feminism scholar, and Stephanie Bennett-Smith Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Richmond.

Ninoska Isaias Ngomana '23 Ninoska Isaias Ngomana ’23
Credit: Olivia Paruk ’24

Ninoska Isaias Ngomana ’23
Maputo, Mozambique

Ninoska Isaias Ngomana was introduced to COA and encouraged to apply by her school counselor at the African Leadership Academy. She was originally drawn by COA’s climate justice focus, but like many COA students, she switched gears during the course of her education and has been focusing on postcolonial studies, Black studies, and political and cultural anthropology.

Ngomana drew on these interests in her senior project, which focused on Black subjectivity, and how Black bodies are depicted and represented through different structural contexts. She launched her inquiry from the winter musical, Futurity, and used the show to explore her questions through various forms of writing.

“One thing about COA I will always miss is how the teachers are so caring and so passionate about what they do, especially the teachers I have encountered,” Ngomana says. “I’ve been very grateful of the opportunities I was afforded as a student, from creating the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color group, to having multitudes of classes I could voice my opinion in and sense that my opinion really mattered.”

Lisa-Marie Kotthoff '23 Lisa-Marie Kotthoff ‘23

Credit: Olivia Paruk ’24

Lisa-Marie Kotthoff ’23
Meschede, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany 

Lisa-Marie Kotthoff ’23 was drawn to the way COA offered the freedom to explore multiple passions, unlike the more rigid pathways she would find in Europe. Her academic journey has mainly encompassed studying economics and the Spanish language, while she gained both personal and professional growth participating in, leading, and organizing Outdoor Orientation Programs trips at COA. One of the most impactful experiences she had during her time as a student, Kotthoff says, was participating in the Yucatán immersion program.

“It was really a time for me to be able to start from scratch with a skill I could build on and see this progression of learning and struggling to remember, and then reaching a point of fluency and starting to grasp things in a really different way,” she says. “It was really an opportunity for me to apply a lot of ideas of human ecology that I sometimes found harder to apply while caught up in the routine of classes.”

Continuing from an idea born out of the Yucatán program, Kotthoff’s senior project has focused on a small fishing cooperative in Río Lagartos, Yucatán. There she conducted interviews to understand and document the inner workings of the cooperative and learn how it was able to continue running for 80 years.

Maria Fernanda Mafe Farias Briseño '23 Maria Fernanda "Mafe" Farias Briseño ‘23
Credit: Olivia Paruk ’24

Maria Fernanda “Mafe” Farias Briseño ’23
Santiago de Querétaro, Querétaro, México

Maria Fernanda “Mafe” Farias Briseño ’23 joined COA’s traditional skills program during her first year at the college and discovered what would become a wonderful way to interact with the place that was going to be her home for the next four years, comprising time with the outing club and deep dives into place-based education.

Farias Briseño originally came to COA with a focus in environmental studies but pivoted over the years to an arts and humanities focus. This new angle has shaped her senior project, which was inspired by a trip home. Her project wrestles with the construction of discourses and the material realities they produce. In looking at the discourse of security and insecurity in contemporary México, she explores what is a threat, who defines it, power dynamics, and ideas of waste and value in relationship to the nation state. Through this exploration Farias Briseño is creating written work as well as developing a multimedia way of exploring and sharing these questions.

“My time at COA has been so great because of the people I have met. I grew and learned because of others. My individual student perspective has been built by the interactions with my housemates, classmates, and teachers,” she says. “It has been so nice to get to know people who are so critical, politically aware, and mindful, and those are the people I want to continue to be surrounded by, people who are also curious and willing to learn from you and with you.”

Silas Sifton '23 Silas Sifton '23
Credit: Olivia Paruk ’24

Silas Sifton
Brooklyn, New York

Silas Sifton got hooked on College of the Atlantic from their first visit, when they were quickly able to envision themselves at COA for four years. They loved how they could have the flexibility to choose their own academic path and the ability to view the ocean everyday.

Sifton’s academic path started out with a focus in theater, but after becoming a writing tutor and taking the Nature of Narrative course with professor Karen Waldron, they shifted their focus to literature and education. With their senior project, Sifton dove back into their theatrical roots after and began collecting an oral history of the 24 Hour Plays Company that was founded by their mother in 1995. The project culminated with their own 24 Hour Festival at COA that saw two shows written, learned, and performed within 24 hours.

“Being here for four years, and having those memories tied so specifically to a place, and learning how to be in a beautiful place with other people, has really changed and shaped me,” Sifton says.