Editor's note: We are sorry to see Darron Collins leave Atlanta. We know he will be a great influence at COA.
College of the Atlantic has named Darron Collins of the World Wildlife Fund as the school's next president. Collins, a 1992 graduate of the college, will be COA's first alumnus to hold that position.
Collins has a PhD in anthropology from Tulane University and has been managing international and domestic projects at WWF for a decade. His most recent position was as Director of Creative Assets, leading the organization into new territory for outreach and development.
"COA is a globally outstanding beehive of creative energy and I can't wait to be part of that once again," Collins said, speaking from his home in Decatur, GA. "It's hard to put into words just how excited I am — the hair has been standing up on the back of my neck thinking about COA going forward. But my first order of business will be to listen and learn from the students, faculty, staff, and trustees. Listening is key."
In announcing the choice of Collins after an extensive national search, Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Foulke commented on the meaning of an alumnus president. "College of the Atlantic is a young school, approaching its 40th anniversary," said Foulke. "It was founded on environmental principles with an innovative academic approach — an interdisciplinary college based on experiential education with human ecology as its one major. COA's academic adventurousness and its leadership in sustainability — including its early commitment as a carbon-neutral college — have brought it remarkable international acclaim. We are thrilled that Darron has chosen to return to his roots to lead us into our fifth decade."
At WWF, Collins served as Managing Director for the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion — an area the size of Alaska, encompassing parts of Russia, Mongolia, and China — and as senior advisor to the organization's CEO. Most recently, he led WWF's outreach by connecting program leaders to the communications and development staff of the organization. Among Collins' accomplishments at WWF were connecting the organization to new media venues and new supporters, as well as encouraging large US-based global retailers working in the Amur River Basin to reform their procurement policies, enhancing conservation success. Over his tenure, Collins has helped raise more than $10 million in grants and donations.
As he announced COA's new president, Foulke acknowledged the remarkable trajectory of the college over the last six years under former President David Hales, who stepped down in December after having secured COA's place among the most sustainable colleges in the world. He also thanked COA's Administrative Dean Andy Griffiths for successfully guiding the college as Interim President over the past six months. Foulke further commended the work of the search committee, headed by trustee Phil Moriarty, with representation from trustees, faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and the able assistance of Storbeck/Pimentel and Associates, LLC, which conducted an extensive and professional search.
Collins' time as an undergraduate at COA was marked by distinction. As a junior he won a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a competitive, national award given to outstanding students working in science. As a senior, he received the coveted Watson Foundation Fellowship, funding a year of travel outside the United States in pursuit of a project of his dreams. Collins studied the social and environmental impacts of hydroelectric dams, spending much of his time in Latin America.
Throughout his academic career, Collins has been an innovator. As a student at COA he developed and co-taught the class Whitewater/Whitepaper with faculty member Ken Cline, who now holds the David Rockefeller Family Chair in Ecosystem Management and Protection. The class continues to be a staple of experiential learning. At Tulane, he helped develop and implement an interdisciplinary curriculum and a learning/international housing program for incoming freshmen. Recently, in addition to his duties at WWF, Collins has been a teacher at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. His PhD thesis, based on ethnobotanical research among the Q'eqchi' Maya of Guatemala, was aided by grants from the Phipps Botanical Conservatory of Pennsylvania and The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Collins is fluent in Spanish and Q'eqchi' Maya.
Over the years, Collins has conducted investigative reporting of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, has worked on leopard conservation on the Russia-North Korea border, and has written, produced, and directed an award-winning documentary, Amur River Basin: Sanctuary for the Mighty Taimen. Collins is currently working on an IMAX, large-format film on Russia's Lake Baikal. He has numerous publications to his name, both in scientific journals and popular media.
Collins, a native of Morris Plains, NJ, is an avid fly-fisherman, mountain biker, and trail marathon runner. He will be returning to Maine in July with his wife, Karen, a trained social worker and preschool teacher, and their two daughters. An inauguration ceremony will take place during the college's fall term.
College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. Intentionally small, COA is a leader in environmental stewardship and experiential education. It has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning - human ecology - that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers who can lead all sectors of society to promote sustainable ecosystems while meeting compelling and growing human needs.