New Unity College gift will support innovation

Donor’s $50,000 helps school realize strategic goal of improving higher education model

Unity College has received an unrestricted $50,000 personal gift from an anonymous donor.

The gift, from a donor with a history of significant philanthropy at Unity, “is a strong endorsement of the direction we are taking to create real value for graduates, employers, and society,” Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury said. “The Unity mission and approach is unique among four-year private colleges, and funders are increasingly deciding they want to participate.”

“As we continue to focus on student success in alignment with sustainability principles and societal need, these investments are validation of our brand of education: high-impact, hands-on learning that merges research and application to create ideal conditions for student success,” Khoury said. “We are seeing more and more interest as environmental philanthropists take notice.”

Last week, the Davis Educational Foundation awarded Unity College a $10,000 Presidential Grant to research innovations to the first- and second-year educational experience. Those funds will be used as part of an ongoing, multi-year student success effort aimed at re-imagining the the first two years of the undergraduate experience at Unity College.

Chief Fundraising Officer Erica Hutchinson said the latest gift comes from a donor long familiar with Unity College and its students.

“In reviewing the kind of research the students are doing, it’s clear both donors felt compelled to support a college they see is making a difference,” Hutchinson said. “It seems the more philanthropists know about Unity, the more they want to engage with us.”

Khoury said the two gifts in close succession are “an important endorsement of Unity College’s ability to leverage partnerships and convene discussions about the way forward not just here, but across the landscape of small private colleges, nationally and internationally.”

Known for adopting sustainability science as its transdisciplinary academic framework, Unity College is in the midst of implementing a strategic plan with a focus on student success. The new money will help realize the goals of the plan, which include providing a unique early college experience, extending the Unity College education beyond the borders of the physical campus, and increasing all types of diversity within the student body.

The college recently unveiled its first-ever graduate degree — the M.S. of Professional Science, offered completely online — and wrapped up an academic year in which it celebrated its 50th anniversary and a third straight year of record enrollment. This fall, the college will open two new buildings aimed at student success — an academic support building and its third new energy-efficient residence hall in three years — while repurposing two signature buildings into classroom, lab, and academic support space.

All told, the school has invested more than $20 million in student support infrastructure in the past four years with new residence halls, improved dining spaces, and upgraded lab and classroom facilities.

Khoury — who expects Fall 2016 to bring America’s Environmental College its largest residential enrollment ever — said Unity College’s niche as an experiential, environmental college with a singular focus on sustainability science has kept enrollment healthy and provided the opportunity to innovate from a position of strength going forward.

“We are interested in nothing less than the transformation of small, private higher education,” Khoury said. “And we believe that our identity makes us well positioned to experiment with new formats for higher education, as evidenced by the increasing engagement of philanthropists with our cause.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2016