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Graduate Program

Graduate Program

Requirements for the Master of Philosophy in Human Ecology

College of the Atlantic's graduate program provides opportunities for a select group of advanced students to pursue cross-disciplinary scholarship and research in close association with a team of faculty mentors. Students earn the Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) in Human Ecology rather than the traditional M.A. or M.S., a degree that reflects the college's emphasis on the value of a multi-disciplinary approach to learning.

The M.Phil. program has two important elements. The first consists of nine courses that serve as the foundation for advanced, independent work by the candidate. These courses are expected to cover a range of topics and yet facilitate the clear development of a theme of study. A course list of "straight biology" or "straight art" is unlikely to be encouraged, while a candidate who is interested in combining artistic and scientific training would be more suitable for this program. 

The second element of the program is the thesis, a work of original scholarship developed in close association with the thesis committee. The research and writing required for a thesis is expected to take a significant amount of time, usually at least one academic year following the completion of coursework. The thesis should exemplify the multi-disciplinary nature of research encouraged within human ecology and ideally further understanding of specific elements within the discipline.

Students in the M.Phil. program must take nine courses that serve as the foundation for advanced, independent work. Although these courses are expected to cover a range of topics, they should facilitate the clear development of a theme of study. A course list of "straight biology" or "straight art" is unlikely to be encouraged; a candidate who is interested in combining artistic and scientific training is more suitable for this program.  In addition to the nine courses, students must complete a thesis, a work of original scholarship developed in close association with the thesis committee. The research and writing required for a thesis is expected to take a significant amount of time, usually at least one academic year. The thesis should exemplify the multi-disciplinary nature of research encouraged within human ecology and ideally further understanding of specific elements within the discipline.


The Application Process

Applicants may fill out an online application for admission to the graduate program (.pdf format - 65k) in human ecology.

Applicants must submit transcripts from all undergraduate institutions attended as well as at least  three reference letters . At least one of these references should be from someone with good knowledge of the candidate's academic potential. GRE scores are not required, but may be submitted  if they better reflect the student’s potential as a graduate student. Applications will be reviewed once they are complete, but applications for Fall term must be received no later than February 15.

Prior to beginning the admissions process, prospective students are encouraged to contact members of the college faculty to discuss possible avenues of study. In order to be admitted, an applicant must have at least two permanent faculty members willing to act as sponsors of their course of study. Ultimately, the student will have a thesis advising team of at least three faculty members, one of whom must be clearly outside the disciplinary focus of the thesis. 

At the time of application, students should list nine potential classes that they have discussed with their sponsors. Since the college has no graduate courses per se, the class list must be made up of existing classes or tutorials at the "intermediate" or "advanced" level. In some cases, it may be appropriate for a candidate to take additional courses at an introductory level, but these credits may not be counted toward the nine classes required for the degree unless they are taken as an independent study. With the permission of the thesis committee and the Associate Dean of Advanced Studies, up to three of the nine courses may be transferred from another institution. Transfer credits must be approved in advance. All coursework counted toward the degree must be completed with grades of "B" or better. 

In addition to providing a list of proposed courses, the applicant should discuss a potential thesis topic. Although the graduate committee expects (and even encourages) modifying thesis plans during the first year of study, it is important for applicants to indicate interest in a general course of study that the college can readily assist them in pursuing. A preliminary thesis topic is a good indicator of a potential match between applicant and faculty. During the admissions process, significant weight is placed on this preliminary thesis statement.  

In the first year, the candidate must begin the required coursework. In some cases, it may be necessary to start thesis research prior to completing the full nine classes or an important course may only be offered during the candidate's second year. Particulars of an individual program of study will be worked out in discussions with the thesis committee and the dean, but the bulk of coursework should be completed in the first year and the thesis finished by the end of the second year. Maximum allowable time for all work is four calendar years from the date of matriculation. 

For further inquiries, please contact Sean Todd, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies: stodd@coa.edu or 207-801-5725


Master of Philosophy Thesis Topics

M.Phil. students have completed theses in topic areas such as: 

  • Alternative Education
  • Environmental Art 
  • Environmental History 
  • Environmental Journalism 
  • Environmental Literature
  • Graphic Arts 
  • International Development 
  • Land Planning 
  • Marine Mammal Science and Policy
  • Ornithology 
  • Technology and Society


M.Phil. Thesis Topics

  • M.Phil. students have completed theses in topic areas such as:


    Alternative Education

  • Environmental Art
  • Environmental History
  • Environmental Journalism
  • Environmental Literature
  • Graphic Arts
  • International Development
  • Land Planning
  • Marine Mammal Policy
  • Ornithology
  • Technology and Society

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