BAR HARBOR — The College of the Atlantic’s annual graduation ceremony is set to take place on the school’s north lawn on Saturday, June 9, at 2 p.m. Educators, entrepreneurs, artists and scientists are among 78 students from 27 states and 13 nations who are set to receive human ecology degrees.
Anote Tong, fourth president of the Republic of Kiribati (Kiri-bas), is the keynote speaker. Tong, who was Kiribatian president from 2003-2016, has worked internationally to raise awareness about catastrophic climate change impacts. With an average height of seven feet above sea level, Kiribati, along with other South Pacific islands, faces imminent threats from rising ocean waters, a result of climate change. A strong advocate for healthy oceans, Tong created the 158,000-square-mile Phoenix Islands Protected Area, which was inscribed as a United Nations World Heritage site in 2008.
“President Anote Tong’s intellect, imagination, and dedication to his people and country are inspirational,” said College of the Atlantic President Darron Collins ’92. “With his leadership in the global movements to address the pernicious threats of climate change and to protect the world’s oceans, Mr. Tong has shown strength, resolve, and clarity. We are delighted to host him at graduation this year.”
Botanists, performers, educators, entrepreneurs, conservationists, writers, artists, scientists, linguists, policy analysts, historians, wellness practitioners, veterinarians and organic farmers are among the degree candidates. More than 60 percent of the senior class have had an international academic experience during their time here.
Providing student perspectives at the ceremony will be seniors Ivy Enoch, Kiera O’Brien and Gaia Lopez Barerra. Matthew Kennedy will provide the welcome, and Aura Silva Martinez will introduce Tong.
“This year’s graduating class represents some of the best and brightest students we have had the privilege to educate,” Collins said. “Like thousands before them, these 78 unique expressions of human ecology will venture forth to help shape the future of communities across the world, and I could not be more proud. Seeing these students walk across the stage to receive their degrees is the perfect reminder of why we do what we do here at COA.”
The program will begin with a bagpipe processional by the Anah Highlanders. COA co-founder and founding trustee Lew Brewer is the 2018 grand marshal.
Honorary Master of Philosophy degrees in human ecology will be granted to Tong, Christine Zinnemann, who is the honorary consul of the Republic of Kiribati and special advisor to Tong, and Cindy Stella Wiesner, a 25-year veteran of the social justice movement in the U.S. and internationally who currently serves as the national coordinator of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance.
As part of the college’s commitment to sustainability, COA celebrations always consider environmental impacts. All paper used at the commencement is recycled, all disposable tableware is composted, no bottled water is served, and as much food as possible is organic and locally sourced. All food waste is composted.
College of the Atlantic is premised on the belief that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is to enabling students to actively shape the future. A leader in experiential learning and environmental stewardship, COA was named the No. 1 Green College in the United States by The Princeton Review and the Sierra Club in 2016 and 2017. Every COA student designs their own major in human ecology — which integrates knowledge from across academic disciplines and seeks to understand and improve the relationships between humans and their natural, built and social environments — and sets their own path toward a degree.