The Davis Educational Foundation has granted Unity College a $10,000 Presidential Grant to research innovations to the first- and second-year educational experience in small, private higher education.

The grant was received from the Davis Educational Foundation, established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets Inc.

The funds will be used as part of an ongoing, multi-year student success effort aimed at reimagining the the first two years of an undergraduate experience, and comes a year after an anonymous $200,000 gift to support market research focused on how sustainability education can better meet emerging student, employer, and societal needs.

Unity College President Melik Peter Khoury said the award “is an endorsement of Unity College’s ability to leverage partnerships and convene important discussions about the way forward not just here, but across the landscape of small private colleges, nationally and internationally.”

“The team, led by Dr. Cunningham and (Director of Teacher Education and Associate Professor of Science Education) Dr. Jennifer Cartier, is working to help Unity College leapfrog current challenges in higher education, anticipate marketplace adjustments, and engage the future of higher education, sooner rather than later,” Khoury said.

“The Davis Educational Foundation shares our desire to find new solutions for educating 21st century students,” Unity College Chief Student Success Officer Dr. Sarah Cunningham said. “It’s a bold statement recognizing that students, their lifestyles and how and when they learn, have changed. This grant will be a seed that helps us transform the residential college experience into a powerful agent for progress.”

Known for adopting sustainability science as its transdisciplinary academic framework, Unity is  extending that spirit of innovation to every aspect of the four-year residential college experience.  The project will integrate all facets of college life, including residences, food service, co-curricular activities, athletics, information technology, and many others into an authentic living-learning experience that will increase the value of a Unity College degree and serve as a much-needed new model for higher ed.

“We are gratified that the receipt of this generous grant will support the work we have been doing to engage partners in innovating higher education. Our commitment, through a full time Grant Writer position, displays our clear intent to create unique and sustaining partnerships across the country, ” Chief Fundraising Officer Erica Hutchinson said. “It’s a great endorsement of the confidence in Unity College, its ability to be innovative, and the way the college works together across departments to find solutions aimed at student success.”

Khoury said Unity College’s unique niche as an experiential, environmental college with focus on sustainability science has kept enrollment healthy and has provided the opportunity for innovation from a position of strength.

“We believe that our identity makes us well positioned to experiment with new formats for higher education,” he said.

“We owe it to the students of the environmental century to reconfigure how the first and second year experience is delivered,” Khoury said. “We are interested in nothing less than the transformation of small, private higher education.”

Khoury said the funds would allow faculty, staff, and students over the next two years to conduct research, work with external partners and industry innovators, and create a map for what the first and second year of a small, private college education should look like.

“The Unity College experience is proven, but we are very willing to think outside parameters of current thinking in order to produce something new,” Khoury said. “The Davis Educational Foundation is part of a group of donors and institutions that believe in our vision, and we are grateful for their recognition of the innovative thinking we are engaged in regarding the best way to promote student success in the environmental century.”

Friday, June 10, 2016