A Commitment Through 2030
After bringing tremendous growth and innovation to Unity College, Dr. Melik Peter Khoury commits to at least another decade at the helm, with the full support from the Board of Trustees
The right leader at the right time for Unity College. That is, in short, how the Unity College Board of Trustees describes College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. It is no secret that Dr. Khoury is unlike any of the previous ten presidents Unity College has had in its history, which spans more than 55 years. It is that difference that has propelled Unity College forward to secure a long-term sustainable future at a time when many revenue-dependent colleges are at risk of permanent closure. At the helm, Dr. Khoury has navigated Unity College through some of the industry’s most challenging times, and has demonstrated a proficiency for innovation and leadership that has kept the College moving forward. Because of his success as President, the Unity College Board of Trustees and leadership team have committed their full support of Dr. Khoury to lead the College through at least 2030.
Since being named Unity College President in 2016, Dr. Khoury has brought his blend of higher education and business backgrounds along with his transformative leadership style and innovative spirit to develop a Unity College built to thrive well into the future. “It is Melik’s strength and fortitude, rooted firmly in his passion for accessible, affordable, and flexible higher education, that made him the right choice for President then, now, and for the future of the College,” said Sharon Reishus, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “We are more confident than ever in Melik’s vision and leadership, and we know that we’ve only just begun to see the positive impact of his presidency on the mission and future of Unity College.”
Upon becoming President of Unity College, Dr. Khoury began working with the Board of Trustees and College leadership to develop the Enterprise Education Model, an operational structure officially adopted in 2017. At its core, this model focuses on making an education in environmental science and sustainability accessible to students from all walks of life. Through the Enterprise Education Model, it is possible for new units to be created that function independently and use shared services. Dr. Khoury put the model into practice by creating three distinct Sustainable Education Business Units (SEBUs): Distance Education, Hybrid Learning, and Sustainable Ventures, and moving to a decentralized campus model.
“The traditional residential model was designed when only 5 percent of students in America were attending college,” said Dr. Khoury. “Times have changed drastically since then, yet higher education has kept the same model, seeing dropout and loan default rates hitting an all-time high, and a waning interest in college from high school students, who historically were the cornerstone keeping our industry afloat. The model that has served colleges quite well for decades is no longer viable. Rather than sit around and continue down that path, saying ‘everything is fine,’ I developed new ways for Unity College to reach new students, ensuring our mission and our degrees are relevant now and for decades to come.”
In both Distance Education and Hybrid Learning, students experience the immersive hands-on learning opportunities that are an integral part of the Unity College experience. For example, students in the Distance Education SEBU may be assigned to go to a body of water in their town to collect samples and complete a lab. Students in Hybrid Learning may take an online course with elements of extended reality where they are virtually plunged into a realistic forest setting to conduct population calculations on a specific species. These are just some of the ways Unity College continues to lean into innovative methods for delivering curriculum to a variety of audiences.
Throughout his career, Dr. Khoury has a history of turning struggling higher education institutions around by implementing organizational structures that lend themselves to long-term growth and sustainability. Khoury came to Unity from Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa, where he held the position of Senior Vice President for Strategic Positioning. Khoury previously served as 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.
It is also important, Dr. Khoury notes, to recognize Unity College’s commitment to their mission, focused on offering environmental science and sustainability education that prepares graduates to go on to solve the world’s most pressing environmental issues. This mission is part of what drives Dr. Khoury in his work to make the College more accessible.
“While growing up in West Africa, no one was talking about the ecological impact of climate change,” said Dr. Khoury. “I wish I had learned about it earlier along with the sense of urgency in this necessary work.”
In 1994, Dr. Khoury immigrated to the United States to attend the University of Maine at Fort Kent. When asked, he explains his family used to watch the television show “M*A*S*H” in which Crabapple Cove, Maine is the fictional hometown of “M*A*S*H” surgeon Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce. That was enough for Dr. Khoury to set his sights on Maine as a landing place in the United States.
Dr. Khoury’s story is an unusual one when compared with other presidents in higher education. As an immigrant who has faced a lifetime of adversity and often found himself with nothing but his own intuition, he brings a fresh and bold perspective to the role of college president. While these differences often inspire his intrepid approach, they also give pause to those in higher education who are more closely aligned with tradition. Higher education in the United States has, for most of its history, been reserved for those who had the luxury and privilege to access it. Dr. Khoury strives to break down those pillars of tradition to create a private higher education that is accessible to anyone who seeks it, regardless of their socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or location.
By adopting the Enterprise Education Model at Unity College, Dr. Khoury is focusing on the access to higher education that drives him in his work as President. He does however recognize that Unity College has experienced change throughout its history and has reimagined itself before.
“I am thankful to those who held the role of President at Unity College before me, who helped pave the way for Unity to be a beacon for change,” said Dr. Khoury. “It is because of their work to shape this College that I am able to take the baton and lead Unity College through this critical phase of transformation, into a long and sustainable future.”
Under Dr. Khoury’s leadership, Unity College’s results speak for themselves. As Unity College celebrates its largest incoming class in the College’s history, there is excitement in understanding that this is only the beginning. With a commitment to at least 2030, Dr. Khoury’s fresh, bold approach to leadership and organizational structure in higher education ensures that Unity College will continue to celebrate new SEBUs, new audiences, new programs, and new partnerships, all to make a Unity College education accessible to all for generations to come.