Maine’s largest media company has recognized Unity College with a Source award lauding its work creating sustainability capacity in the state.

The Cultivator award — one of eight Source awards given to Maine people and organizations dedicated to sustainability — lauds Unity College as a “business or nonprofit that has been steadily building the infrastructure, community connections, or other resources necessary to make Maine a more sustainable place to live.”

Unity College Chief of Staff Dr. John Zavodny accepted the award from The Portland Press Herald on behalf of President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury during a Source Awards ceremony Wednesday at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.

“It was a watershed year for Unity College in 2015,” Khoury said. “But our mission is about building capacity for the future. We’re grateful for the recognition from the people who publish The Press Herald and Source magazine. It will help us fulfill that mission.”

“Unity College has cultivated generation after generation of Maine leaders who have a deep understanding of how their actions are connected to ecosystems, economics, and the broader issues of sustainability, and who are putting that knowledge to work for the betterment of their communities,” said Chelsea Conaboy, Features Editor for The Portland Press Herald. “Unity graduates are involved in so much of what’s happening in Maine today, and their work proves that Unity is a national model for sustainable education.”

Khoury, who became Unity’s president in January, said his administration is working to instill sustainability across all parts of the institution, and to enhance the very notion of sustainability,

“We are engaging corporations, nonprofits, political leaders, faculty, donors, students, parents, prospective students and their parents, in this process of reimagining the relationship between higher education and the world it serves,” Khoury said. “The world’s global environmental problems are inclusive. We need inclusive solutions.”

Maine Farmland Trust officials who nominated Unity College recognized the school as an economic driver for the state and region, noting that, from 2013 to 2015, Unity College:

  • recorded three consecutive years of record enrollment and a doubling in the number of applications for admission;
  • saw a 35% increase in its annual operating budget,
  • benefited from a 300% increase in annual fund giving,
  • amid a difficult investing environment, realized a 10.7% increase in annualized return on an endowment that was higher education’s first to divest from fossil fuels,
  • added two $4.4 million fossil fuel-free residence halls (Clifford Hall and Unity 2),
  • expanded and modernized its cafeteria in a project worth $1.1 million, and
  • planned a $6 million expansion for fall 2016 that includes a new academic building and new residence hall built to LEED Silver standards.

Unity College, the fifth-largest employer in Waldo County, annually brings more than $10 million to Maine in tuition and other payments. In recent years, the school added 25 new full-time positions as the overall number of liberal arts schools declined nationally.

The nomination said Unity College provides financial sustainability for its students, with tuition rates 20 percent below the national average. Khoury noted 27 percent of food served in Unity’s dining halls is locally sourced; more than one quarter of the student body hails from Maine; and all the above construction projects employed local contractors.

In growing its infrastructure, Khoury said Unity College is “securing a platform in Maine to achieve a mission that grows more critical every day.”

“We’re a small school with big impact. We want to model and replicate sustainability solutions here in Maine that can be used at the equator, at the polar caps, and in any community globally,” Khoury said. “We have big problems that require big solutions and a big tent.”

“We’re working on scalable models that will allow partners to work with us in inventing the next big solution,” he said.

Source awards began in 2014 to “celebrate the people, nonprofits and businesses connecting Maine to its roots and making the state a healthier place to live.”

Published by The Portland Press Herald, Source is the weekly publication and website dedicated to sustainability.

For an image gallery from the 2016 Source Awards ceremony at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, click here.

Thursday, April 07, 2016