Letter from the Board of Trustees
August 3, 2020
Dear Unity College,
As fiduciaries, we, the Board of Trustees, are entrusted with the responsibility to ensure the long-term sustainability and success of Unity College as an institution. Right now, higher education is under extreme stress. Many small, private colleges are struggling financially, and more students are questioning the value of a traditional four-year undergraduate degree. And yet, Unity College’s environmental mission is more relevant than ever. In recent years, the College has taken significant strides in broadening its educational base to become more inclusive, reaching new learners interested in sustainability, as well as introducing new degrees and certifications. Unity College has more enrolled students than ever before – students from across the United States and around the world – but the new ways students prefer to learn today are changing the way we teach.
The decision to dissolve the Flagship traditional four-year semester-based program and transition fully to Hybrid Learning and Distance Education is an emotionally difficult one. However, this decision is grounded in an understanding of the rapidly changing needs of the real world and the evolving needs of our students. Now is the time to embrace a new way of offering higher education that replaces traditional norms favoring a select few with the creation of a flexible, accessible, and affordable education that truly puts the student first.
Though it was founded at 90 Quaker Hill Road, Unity College as an institution has no bounds or barriers. Once, the campus on Quaker Hill Road was our classroom, then Maine became our classroom. Now, our classroom is any location where a Unity College student is learning. As with schools across the country, we are considering the opportunities that presents, which has led to our giving the College’s leadership team the option to retain a real estate firm to explore the sale of any assets including the main campus at 90 Quaker Hill Road. Our Hybrid Learning curriculum will make use of locations across Maine, including Unity College: Sky Lodge in rural Jackman, the rocky coast of Acadia National Park and individual cities like Portland, to provide hands-on learning opportunities in real-world environments, and classes would not be impacted by any decision in this area.
As the Board of Trustees for Unity College, we continue to be impressed with the innovative thinking and progressive approach taken by President Melik Peter Khoury to ensure the long-term sustainability of Unity College. His approach to differentiation in adopting the Enterprise Education Model and creating Sustainable Educational Business Units (SEBUs) allows for a level of resiliency that makes navigating the impact of COVID-19 possible. This model created diversified revenue streams, ensuring that if one SEBU suffers a financial hardship, there are other streams that can keep the institution steady. If not for this approach, the Board would have likely been left with an even more difficult decision: total closure of the institution as its only remaining option.
When Dr. Khoury came to Unity College, he brought with him an impressive track record of success in helping higher education institutions differentiate by broadening their focus from a more traditional model to one that expands their offerings to reach new audiences. This is the kind of experience and mindset that excited us when Dr. Khoury became President. He adopted a ‘leadership in abundance’ model based on functionality and an organizational structure driven by data, that allows for the institution to pivot quickly. We are grateful that he brought his transformative leadership style to Unity College and that he continues to innovate and encourage thinking outside the box. While many other colleges and universities struggle to understand and adapt to the changing needs of today’s students – moreover, failing to assess who those students even are – under Dr. Khoury’s leadership, Unity College has consistently been a leader in changing the landscape of higher education.
For Unity College to truly live its mission, it must continue to challenge the status quo. As a board, we must ask ourselves: is Unity truly providing options that offer access for all prospective students who want to help solve the world’s environmental problems, regardless of their location and socioeconomic status? As Dr. Khoury has reiterated time and again, the answer lies in embracing learning modalities that enhance flexibility, accessibility, and affordability. This not only makes a Unity College education available to more students who will become the environmental stewards and leaders of tomorrow, it also ensures the longevity of our institution.
Now, more than ever, we are confident that Unity College has the right President at the right time. We thank Melik for leading us into a brighter future for Unity College, its students, and its mission. Please join us in offering continued support for President Khoury and his team, as we traverse through this next evolution of Unity College and reaffirm our commitment to being America’s Environmental College.
On behalf of the entire Unity College Board of Trustees,
Board Chair, Unity College