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Four people hold hands together in a grassy field.

Two Maine Colleges among 13 Institutions Receiving $3.275 Million to Tackle Student Mental Health

Unity Environmental University and College of the Atlantic to receive capacity grant designed as a precursor to a total of $8.5 million toward students’ wellbeing.

To address what the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recognizes as “the defining public health crisis of our time,” Unity Environmental University and College of the Atlantic are among thirteen colleges that have received $3.275 million in funding from The Endeavor Foundation for the first phase of “Enhancing Student Learning and Experience through Campus Wellness, Student Wellbeing, and Mental Health Initiatives.” Both Unity and COA are each receiving $100,000. The multi-year collaborative project seeks both to respond to pressing needs and to integrate attention to mental health, wellbeing, and wellness throughout student learning.

“Student mental health issues represent an urgent challenge. These issues affect students in ways that prevent them from full participation in campus life and rob them of the precious sense of well-being which should be theirs. We hope that the colleges’ work will help them transform their communities as well as inspire other institutions of higher learning to address challenges collectively,” said Julie Kidd, President of The Endeavor Foundation.

The other colleges receiving this grant include: Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, OH; Bennington College in Bennington, VT; Blackburn College in Carlinville, IL; Northland College in Ashland, WI; Prescott College in Prescott, AZ; Randolph College in Lynchburg, VA; St. John’s College, Annapolis in Annapolis, MD; St. John’s College, Santa Fe in Santa Fe, NM; Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, VT;  Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC; and Wells College in Aurora, NY.

Ashley Kidd, Vice President and Director of Programs at Endeavor, said that the original idea in bringing the colleges together was “to work together to raise the visibility of smaller liberal arts colleges by drawing attention to the strength of their student-centered approaches and to the deep, transformative learning that takes place on their campuses.” In recent years, Kidd said, the focus for the colleges in the group, dubbed the “Endeavor Lab Colleges,” evolved into discussion about the many challenges facing higher education and small colleges even more acutely and the decision to take on one of them collectively and collaboratively.

 “A strong future for higher education in the United States lies in collaboration, not competition,” said Julie Kidd. “We are confident that we will see in this emerging project the benefits of collaboration as the ELCs work jointly to tackle the pressing problem of student mental health challenges. I salute their courage and dedication in doing so. Their courage is indeed a source of inspiration for our work at Endeavor.”

“At Unity Environmental University, our foremost commitment is to cultivate a nurturing and supportive environment for our diverse student body of over 7,500 students. The core essence of this grant lies in its ability to facilitate the transformation of higher education, ensuring it remains in step with the ever-evolving needs of our learners. We are honored by the Endeavor Foundation for their unwavering support over the years, and grateful to be a part of the Endeavor Lab Colleges’ collaborative effort to enhance student well-being and mental health” said Dr. Melik Peter Khoury, President of Unity Environmental University.

“Striving for and maintaining optimal health and wellbeing is a vital component of the success of our students, and college students everywhere, during their time here,” said Dr. Darron Collins ’92, President of College of the Atlantic. “This important grant from the Endeavor Foundation will allow us to continue to develop and expand upon responsive, innovative ways to support our students towards that goal. The Endeavor Lab Colleges group represents a groundbreaking collaboration among small schools that shows us that our strength lies in working together to achieve a common good, and we are thankful to be a part of that.”

Phase I, which will unfold over two years, focuses on immediate capacity building at each of the institutions and the development of shared pilot projects within four thematic areas, including credit-bearing curricular initiatives related to mental health and wellbeing; explorations of purposeful life and work, including defining personal values and what it means to live a meaningful life; place-based experiential learning in non-traditional classroom spaces; and expanded services and supports for mental health and wellbeing, including community care, clinical and non-clinical interventions and approaches, peer counseling, and restorative justice.

Each participating institution has received $100,000 this year and will receive $75,000 next year for this institutional capacity building. The ELCs will also develop and implement a process for continued and deepening collaboration. The successful completion of phase I will provide access to $5.225 million over three additional years during which the schools will join forces to advance the most exciting and promising initiatives in one or more of the thematic areas. Together, they will develop programs and models that can be shared across the collaboration and to other liberal arts institutions.

“In this time when the value of higher education and of liberal arts education is regularly called into question, this project will show the power, relevance, and ingenuity of the liberal arts,” said Isabel Roche, Executive Director for Special Programs in Higher Education at Endeavor. “The Colleges’ shared commitment to attending to student and community needs around mental health, well-being, and wellness in expanded and new ways will allow for a fuller and more dynamic realization of the liberal arts ambition of educating the whole student, through greater integration, examination, and care for the other forms of self.”

“Many colleges and universities are driven to prepare their students for a particular job or professional role,” said Lori Collins-Hall, the grant Project Director and Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Sterling College. “Given the mental health crisis we are witnessing among young people on our campuses, we are united in our aim to equip students with the curiosity, creativity, interpersonal communication skills, resilience, and capacity for critical thought and self-efficacy that are essential for successful careers, meaningful lives, and engaged citizenship in today’s world.”

Serving over 7,500 students, with locations throughout the State of Maine, Unity Environmental University is a leader in sustainable education. The University is dedicated to nurturing environmentally competent professionals and inspiring individuals from diverse backgrounds to preserve our planet’s ecosystems. Founded over 50 years ago, educational accessibility, flexibility, and sustainability is at the core of our institution’s identity, influencing all aspects of our operations, from degree programs to global initiatives. Learn more about us by visiting

College of the Atlantic is premised on the belief that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is to enabling students to actively shape the future. COA is a leader in experiential learning and environmental stewardship and has been named the #1 Green College in the U.S. by The Princeton Review since 2016. Every COA student designs their own major in human ecology—which integrates knowledge from across academic disciplines and seeks to understand and improve the relationships between humans and their natural, built, and social environments—and sets their own path toward a degree. Learn more at