When Dr. Melik Peter Khoury assumes the presidency at Unity College this morning, he will bring in an international and innovative perspective to the highest office at America’s Environmental College.
Khoury’s goals include continuing the school’s positive four-year enrollment trend, continuing to upgrade and repurpose student-centered facilities for their highest and best use, expanding access to a Unity College education to nontraditional learners of all ages, nationalities and creeds, and realigning the administration to inculcate sustainability and “leadership in abundance” at every level of the operation.
However, his vision goes further: Khoury has made it clear that he believes the current model of higher education is not adequate to meet environmental and social challenges.
“For centuries, higher education was separate from real life needs of industry and leadership. More recently, colleges have been retooled to help students get their first job or prepare them for graduate school,” Khoury said. “In order to serve in the 21st century, higher education must work with corporations, nonprofits, and world leaders, and prepare graduates to make both a living and a positive impact over a lifetime and around the world.”
Less Ivory Tower. More “boots on the ground.”
The Unity College Board of Trustees unanimously appointed Khoury on Aug. 14, 2015, to a 30-month appointment to lead America’s Environmental College. Board of Trustees Chairman Bruce Nickerson cited Khoury’s leadership style and results in appointing him Unity College’s 11th chief executive.
“This reflects an unequivocal endorsement from the board, and a deep appreciation for Dr. Khoury’s genuine character, integrity, achievements, and reputation,” Nickerson said. “We have full faith he will successfully lead Unity College in stewarding the ongoing execution of our Strategic Plan.”
Khoury has been described as an education entrepreneur whose blend of industry-disrupting vision, strategic financial planning, and managerial expertise has fostered sustainable growth in higher education for more than a decade.
At Unity College, Khoury has found the perfect opportunity to leverage his brand of “functional leadership in abundance” toward realization of Unity’s mission as the nation’s premiere environmental college, preparing graduates to solve real world environmental problems through the framework of Sustainability Science.
Khoury, a first-generation American, holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Maine and a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Maine at Fort Kent. He has held a leadership position at nearly every level during a long and varied career in higher education, executing strategy from the detail-specific to the visionary.
Khoury’s higher education experience is not limited to the board room and executive suite. He has held full-time faculty appointments, coached men’s and women’s soccer, and worked as a director of residence life. Prior to committing to a life of service in higher education, Khoury worked overseas in international business.
As an executive in higher education, Khoury has earned a reputation as an innovator serving in progressively broader leadership roles since arriving at Unity College in early 2013: first as Senior Vice President for External Affairs, then as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. In 2015, Khoury added Chief Academic Officer to his responsibilities.
Prior to Unity, Khoury served as Senior Vice President for Strategic Positioning at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa; Vice President for Enrollment Management and College Marketing at Culver Stockton College in Canton, Mo.; Vice President for Enrollment Management at Paul Smith’s College in New York; and Director of Admissions at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
Khoury, who succeeds Dr. Stephen Mulkey, said making continued progress on the Unity College Strategic Plan, which includes comprehensive marketing research to better understand how Unity College might serve its students and the world, is at the top of his agenda.
“Dr. Mulkey has firmly established Unity College on the national stage. Now it’s up to us to perform,” he said. “Broader recognition for the college gives us the opportunity to serve more — and more kinds of — students looking to become the next generation of environmental leaders.
“As we continue to build a beacon for national sustainability here in Maine, we expect that more and more individuals and foundations will view an investment in Unity College as an investment in tomorrow’s environmental leaders,” Khoury said.
Nickerson said Khoury’s appointment comes amid a successful track record for the current administration over the last several years.
“With three straight years of record enrollment growth, dozens of new campus infrastructure improvements, and heightened interest in our unique curriculum from prospective students and the academic community, there’s never been a brighter point in our history,” he said.
“Dr. Khoury’s outstanding leadership within the Unity College administrative team has resulted in transformational changes I haven’t seen in more than 40 years,” said Marc Bane ‘73, a member of the Board of Trustees. “He has played a major role in setting Unity on a course of financial stability and sustainable growth while rekindling the spirit and enthusiasm of Unity alumni.”
Mulkey also voiced full support of Khoury’s appointment.
“I have come to know Dr. Khoury as one of the most effective leaders in my 30-year experience in higher education,” Mulkey said. “The scope of his accomplishments reflects Dr. Khoury’s deep understanding of every facet of higher education, and he holds himself to the highest standards of integrity. Melik has the utmost commitment to the distinctive mission of Unity College.”
Mulkey said Khoury will allow Unity “to continue creating a new model for higher education, in which academic, operational and financial controls are more tightly integrated.”
“He brings a strong international perspective to Unity, with a focus on diversity and financial management, as well as academic acumen,” Mulkey said.
Khoury said he sees challenges facing higher education through the lens of disruption.
“Not-for-profit private higher education is experiencing industry-changing disruption, and students and parents are demanding to see the value, as well they should,” Khoury said. “Unity College is in a unique position to lead industry change, not only in sustainability education but in higher education more generally.”
Khoury is partnering with students, faculty and staff to make the changes that will foster growth through service.
“Having taught college-level courses for five years, I understand the workload well,” Khoury said. “I respect, value and seek out faculty input and have worked closely with faculty both as an academic body and as individuals on curriculum development, assessment, retention and other initiatives ranging from first-year-experience to launching an innovative academic program.”
Asked what is different about Unity College, Khoury offers a list.
“One,” he said, “Unity has an environmental mission that the world needs and increasingly understands; two, Unity has a staff and faculty committed to results-oriented teaching and research; three, Unity has leadership that has demonstrated how to successfully steward and invest college resources.
“People outside of Unity College think I’m joking when I say our goal is simply to change the world. But we’re doing just that, one student at a time, ensuring they are prepared to meet the challenges of the environmental century.”