FARMINGTON – A group of educators received the first master’s degrees awarded for a new program at University of Maine at Farmington, where 392 Class of 2011 graduates marched in commencement ceremonies Saturday morning.

Fellow graduates and faculty roared when the 32 educators stood to be recognized for completing the master’s of science in education program, a first for the liberal arts college.

Environmentalist Bill McKibben, who has written books on climate change and other environmental issues, told graduates that they learn about supporting each other in college, but it’s a lesson that needs to translate to the rest of their lives.

McKibben said young people often learn about the benefits of living in a small community during their four years in college. They see how important it is to share ideas, work together and strive for common goals.

The problem is that they leave college and abandon these ideals to buy the big house isolated from the community, he said.

McKibben challenged graduates to build communities tied to local-food movements and come up with other projects that can help reverse environmental problems.

He used the example of a climate change project he worked on while at Middlebury College in Vermont, where he is a Schumann Distinguished Scholar, to challenge students to work together to change the world.

He said a small group of college-age people helped organize a global awareness movement about climate change. Last year, countries around the world held more than 7,000 events tied to an international action day started by the group, which founded the website, he said.

“The only thing we had was these seven young people about your age,” McKibben said of the project’s origins, commenting after receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Hundreds of family members and friends of graduates packed into the fitness center on campus in Farmington for the college’s 158th commencement ceremonies.

Student speaker Jeffrey Lees praised his fellow graduates for overcoming critics and urged them to finish the job of proving doubters wrong.

“I challenge you to do something every day that betters the lives of others,” Lees, of Vassalboro, said.

“I challenge you to make sure the history books say that it was we who made this nation a better place to live, and it was we who led the world into a new age of prosperity, freedom and peace,” he said.