Officials at Unity College are celebrating the receipt of an $80,000 grant from the Endeavor Foundation as part of the foundation’s initiative to explore and reward the unique benefits of small liberal arts colleges and their critical role in higher education.

Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury said the grant will provide America’s Environmental College with the means to investigate “a new and replicable model of institutional structure” and “growth pathways for small private higher education.”

“If it is to flourish in the 21st-century marketplace, Unity College will need a new developmental path — one that accounts for mission and culture, provides scalable infrastructure for innovation, answers predictable legal questions, prepares for human resource needs, provides independence for distinct enterprises, predicts architecture for institutional web presence, and provides baseline criteria for other decision making,” Khoury said. “This grant is very good news that I hope will turn into great news over the long term — not just for Unity, but for small, private colleges everywhere.”

Officials at the Endeavor Foundation said they view the grant to Unity College as “part of a larger project to elevate public awareness of the educational and developmental benefits of very small liberal arts colleges, as well as to provide funds for institutional strengthening.”

“This is an exciting time to be a trustee of Unity College,” Unity College Board of Trustees Vice Chair Sharon Reishus said. “Dr. Khoury and his team are able to see and articulate the future of the higher education industry in a way that identifies the real opportunities for innovation and success within a landscape full of challenges.”

“Higher education needs to be reinvented,” Khoury said, “and we’re just the college to do it. We don’t currently have all the answers. Nobody does. This grant gives us the opportunity to investigate options for the reimagination of small, private higher education that may serve the entire industry.”

The Endeavor Foundation Presidential Priorities Grant will provide Unity College $80,000 over two years in support of the development of a new organizational model of distinct educational enterprises under a single institutional umbrella.

“It is clear that small, private higher education must innovate in order to thrive,” Unity College Board of Trustees Chair John Newlin said. “The Board of Trustees is encouraged that President Khoury seeks to investigate and establish an organizational model at Unity College that will provide for flexibility and long-term financial and programmatic success. It does not surprise me that the Endeavor Foundation sees how Dr. Khoury’s vision may be an answer for more colleges than just Unity College.”

Khoury described the project as “an organizational development initiative to provide a new and replicable model of institutional structure and growth pathways for small private higher education.” New education enterprises could take the form of satellite Unity College campuses worldwide, more distance learning initiatives, interactive teaching technology, and other concepts.

This model “will allow colleges to respond nimbly — yet strategically — to societal need, student demand, industry expectations, and opportunity, while still serving a values-based mission and providing a distinctly small college liberal arts experience,” Khoury said. “Unity College intends to use the grant to develop a new organizational structure to facilitate this institution’s long-term financial sustainability and provide a replicable model for small, private higher education.”

Khoury, who was named to the MaineBiz NEXT List as one of the 10 most influential people in the Maine economy for 2017, was one of 17 college presidents invited to participate in the Endeavor Dialogue in late June, a multiday retreat to reimagine small, private higher education in response to current industry, social, and market challenges.

Khoury called the retreat “stimulating” and said that conversation continued between Unity College and foundation leaders.

Innovation is nothing new at Unity College. In addition to being known internationally for being the first U.S. college to divest from fossil fuels, Unity was the first college with a residence hall built to Passive House standards, known as TerraHaus; and the first with a president’s home, known as Unity House, to be certified LEED Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Unity College also earned high rankings this year from the well-regarded U.S. News & World Report, Sierra Magazine, and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, which ranked Unity College No. 1 in the nation for sustainability in its finance and investment practices.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016