The Working Waterfront

COA names new president

Dr. Sylvia Torti succeeds Darron Collins

Posted 2024-05-09
Last Modified 2024-05-09

The College of the Atlantic board of trustees has announced its unanimous selection of Dr. Sylvia Torti as the college’s seventh president.

Torti, an accomplished writer, ecologist, and innovative academic leader with 15 years of experience in higher education, will succeed president Darron Collins upon his retirement at the end of the 2023-24 academic year. Torti will begin her tenure as president on July 1.

“Dr. Torti is the perfect person to carry College of the Atlantic into our second half century,” said trustees chairwoman Beth Gardiner. “Her intellectual curiosity, natural leadership, incredible creativity, passion for the human experience, and ability to connect with others on a deep, personal level will allow her to inspire, energize, and uplift all members of the COA community.”

Dr. Sylvia Torti is COA’s next president.
Dr. Sylvia Torti is COA’s next president.

From 2012-2023, Torti served as dean of the Honors College at University of Utah, a liberal arts college nested within a large research institution, where she achieved ambitious goals through dedicated strategic planning, including tripling the diversity of the student body as well as increasing the number of out-of-state students.

She also created a successful office to mentor for nationally competitive scholarships and initiated and implemented a vision for globally oriented, integrated curricula in ecology, health, and human rights.

Torti, who is from a bicultural Latinx background and has lived and worked globally, is a collaborative leader with a passion for experiential, interdisciplinary learning, shared governance, and centering the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in today’s higher education landscape.

“Dr. Torti fully understands the moment we are in, the important role that COA has in the world of higher education, and how vital it is to make sure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are central to how we evolve as a college at this time,” Gardiner said. “One of the things that we’re so inspired by is Dr. Torti’s proven track record in this area, along with her deep personal commitment. She has a firm grasp of the importance of attracting and retaining diverse students and faculty and expanding the types of classes offered so that we can better reflect the world around us.”

Torti holds a Ph.D. from the University of Utah School of Biological Sciences and a B.A. from Earlham College. She boasts a 30-year record of publication, including multiple scientific research papers, research, and opinion pieces on methods of pedagogy, two novels, and multiple short stories and essays. Her latest novel, Cages, was published in 2017.

“I believe so deeply in COA’s mission and I am honored and thrilled to join this dynamic community,” Torti said.

“COA is already a leader in higher education because of its successful and inspiring commitment to a dialogical, ecologically based education, an approach that I believe will become increasingly important in the years to come,” she continued. “COA is a bold place where people acknowledge cooperation and conflict and strive to understand how and why those behaviors manifest.”

During his 13 years at the college, Collins, COA’s first alumni president, led the completion of two capital campaigns totalling nearly $90 million, the construction of a state-of-the-art academic building and new student residence, the acquisition of off-campus student housing, enrollment growth resulting in the college meeting its 350-student goal, an eight-year reign as Princeton Review’s #1 green college, creation of the COA Summer Institute, and the installation of a site-specific artwork by internationally renowned land artist Andy Goldsworthy.

Torti will be joined in Bar Harbor by her partner, Scott Woolsey, who considers Maine “almost home,” as his family has enjoyed a lakeside property near Bethel since his childhood. He has an extensive background in food systems and organic farming in New England and looks forward to being part of the COA and MDI community.