Dr. Janis Balda at the McKay Farm and Research Station.
New major unites business, people, and the environment
As the economic impact of sustainability science continues to increase, Unity College is expanding its efforts to revolutionize how enterprisers interact with businesses, nonprofits, government institutions and the world around them with the introduction of a Sustainable Business Enterprise Bachelor of Science program.
Sustainable Business Enterprise graduates will develop an environmental lens of the world through Unity’s definitive experiential learning processes, and be able to apply their resulting skills to address the challenges at the intersection of economy, society, and environment. The program capitalizes on the core scientific competency of America’s Environmental College while also aligning current course offerings with existing graduates’ career and graduate school choices.
“Sustainability is a key ingredient in sound business practices,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “This unique program will prepare innovative business leaders and managers who can effectively steward natural resources and create enterprises that have a positive impact on society while also achieving a solid bottom line. A course or two on the environment is insufficient to truly address the issues at hand — our students are immersed in sustainability science from day one, and will be able to recreate and reimagine the processes, products and services of the industries they become involved with. This is not your average business degree.”
This unique new bachelor’s of science features four tracks: International Sustainable Development, Sustainable Energy Management, Sustainable Agriculture, and Sustainable Tourism. Unlike typical business programs which may feature a handful of classes — if any — on sustainability, new course options for this major will feature titles such as “Entrepreneurship for a Better World,” “Resolving Environmental Challenges,” “Sustainability, Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility,” and “Sustainable Finance.” Graduates will leave the Sustainable Business Enterprise program completely prepared for employment and innovation in their chosen fields.
Unity College is no stranger to entrepreneurship. Founded in 1965 as the Unity Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences by a group of local business people looking for ways to counter economic decline in the adjacent town of Unity, the college initially boasted a modest faculty of 15 and student body of 39. Now the school is one of the fastest growing private four-year liberal arts colleges in Maine, welcoming 705 full-time-equivalent students in Fall 2016 and shattering the previous year’s enrollment record of 638 — a 10.5 percent year-over-year increase.
In recent years Unity College has also gained national attention for a variety of environmental achievements including: its focus on sustainability science; its ground-breaking “green” innovations such as the award-winning TerraHaus, the first student residence on a college or university campus built to the most energy efficient building standard in the world; and being the first college in the United States to divest from investments in fossil fuels, igniting a still growing national movement in higher education.
Innovation continues as Unity College sets its sights on overcoming historical dependencies in higher education on philanthropy and increased tuition costs to balance budgets. The college has already begun diversifying its revenue streams with creative business practices such as those recently featured in an article in the Washington Post.
“We walk the talk when it comes to creating a sustainable path for society,” Board of Trustees chair John Newlin said. “We have a vision for a sustainable society that transcends preconceived notions of business. The Unity College way is helping our students to learn from the process as we do the right thing. This idea of ‘the green economy’ needs to become, simply, ‘the economy.’ It’s critical to the health of our world that we integrate ethical, environmental ideals into everyday business practices.”
Students within the Sustainable Business Enterprise program will travel to and work with regional, national, and international real-world institutions throughout the course of the curriculum, taking advantage of the college’s position at the nexus of a large network of successful sustainable businesses and social organizations. The program will be first-year, double-major, and transfer friendly, facilitated by specific agreements with other higher education institutions where students complete their associate’s degree and then come to Unity College — often referred to as a two-plus-two option.
“Businesses must be revolutionized from the inside,” said Dr. Janis Balda, a Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at Unity College who will be serving as champion for the new major. “Our graduates will have the skills to not only translate sustainability science into a language that businesspeople and consumers can understand, but also to impact choices that are being made at those businesses in the day-to-day.”
“Of the world’s top 100 economies in 2016, 31 were countries and 69 were corporations. We need to keep that in mind when considering how to address problems of rising inequality and climate change.”
Unity College graduate and successful Colorado business owner Shaun Oshman, ‘00, of iSupportU, a million-dollar revenue generating technology support and systems business based in Boulder, feels similarly.
“You need to surround yourself with people who think differently, gain their respect, and then institute change from the inside,” he said. “The pitch can’t always be ‘saving the environment.’ You’ve got to meet people where they’re at and give them a reason relevant to them to change.”
Further information about a new Sustainable Business Enterprise Bachelor of Science will be featured in Unity College coursebooks this school year, preparing for a Fall 2018 launch of the new program. For more information on the Sustainable Business Enterprise major, please visit unity.edu/sbe.