Explosive growth sparks new $6M expansion at Unity College in 2016

With record enrollment, Unity College to build new academic building and new residence hall
Third new residence hall in three years, to be built to energy-efficient standards

perspective from south west

UNITY, Maine — Unity College will build a new academic building and a new 74-bed energy-efficient residence hall as the school continues to rapidly expand to accommodate record enrollment.

The announcement will be made public at a news conference at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 9 at the Unity College Center for the Performing Arts, 42 Depot St., Unity.

College officials said the $6 million in new construction is to meet “increased student demand for our brand of education,” and for supporting student achievement at the four-year private school known as America’s Environmental College.

“At this time of increasing interest in sustainability science, we feel we need to make a strong commitment to support those students who have chosen America’s Environmental College to launch their careers in high-growth green industries,” President-elect Dr. Melik Peter Khoury said. “That means supplying state-of-the-industry housing and academic spaces that support learning, community, and sustainability.”

The new two-story, 18,200-square-foot residence hall will house incoming freshmen. The building site will be centrally located on campus to allow ease of access.

The Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant residence hall will have about 74 student beds and an apartment for a Resident Director, and be heated and cooled by air-source heat pumps. All bathrooms and showers will be private. The building will have common spaces and spaces for group studying.

The new residence hall and new academic building are both expected to be completed in time for the 2016-17 academic year.

By that time, Unity will have created three new energy-efficient residence halls and a new academic building in the span of only three years.

Taken together, the $14.4 million in investment will have created up to 61,800 square feet of new academic and residence space, with the energy-efficient Clifford Hall residence hall completed in 2014 and Unity 2 residence hall completed in 2015 effectively creating a home away from home for Unity students.

Also in that period, Unity College added McKay Farm and Research Station, a multi-faceted greenhouse operation that serves as a direct extension of the 225-acre campus and provides students with unique educational and entrepreneurial opportunities in sustainable agriculture.

The three-year expansion has created dozens of construction jobs, and the growth of the full-time student population to 658 this academic year – a record – has further added tax dollars and personal spending to the Maine economy.

Khoury said Unity College has added approximately 25 new full-time positions in the last four years, and “with the new expansion plans, the school is looking to add more faculty and staff over the next four years to ensure our student experience is uncompromised as a result of our increased demand.” Unity College is currently the fifth largest employer in Waldo County, according to the Maine Department of Labor.

Khoury said the plan to construct an academic building is intended to bolster academic support services, and may accompany repurposing of Unity House – the 2,000-square-foot LEED Platinum building currently used as the presidential residence – into additional lab, classroom, and academic space.

“To inspire our developing young scholars, our expanding programs require new, dynamic academic spaces to complement our living laboratories,” said Dr. Erika Latty, chairwoman of the Faculty Planning Committee. “We as a faculty are excited to see our academic spaces grow in tandem with our residential space in order to ensure that our student academics remain uncompromised.”

“Building new academic space and converting state-of-the-industry buildings elsewhere on campus to academic use provides confidence to our students, their parents, prospective students and their parents, our donors, our alumni, and the Greater Unity community that our commitment is to academics first,” Khoury said.

Unity College Board of Trustees President, Bruce Nickerson, said “the board’s approval of these projects indicates continued support for the strong strategic vision that will transition to the new leadership of Dr. Khoury, as current President Dr. Stephen Mulkey prepares to step down in January after a successful four-year tenure. The board is confident this vision will remain in capable hands as Dr. Khoury takes the reins.

“Providing a comfortable and productive environment in which our students can live and learn will always be on top of our priority list,” Nickerson said. “We want to make sure we provide 24/7 support and assistance for all our students who enjoy a very special Unity College experience.”

“We are creating a home away from home for students across the nation and the world whose passion is to become environmental stewards,” Khoury said. “Building this space will help Unity College bring people from all walks of life to central Maine to help meet the challenges that face all cultures in areas of sustainability, as managing this planet’s resources becomes more and more difficult.”

“With almost three-quarters of our students coming from out of state, Unity is driving ‘reverse brain drain’ in Maine with its unique brand of sustainability science education, and creating a diverse population for our Maine students to experience in their own State ” Khoury said.

Student leaders praised the school’s expansion plan. “Having a new residence hall dedicated to freshmen, and a new academic building to support the curriculum here, makes Unity College a more inviting place to get an education, and will enhance the student experience here for years to come,” Unity College Student Government Association President John Karyzack ’16 said.

Unity’s expansion bucks a trend of shrinking investment in student support facilities at many private and public colleges.

With construction of two new residence halls in the past two years, approximately 79 percent of the student body now lives on campus, higher than the national average (70%) for four-year colleges.

“We feel the centerpiece of the campus experience is residence life,” Khoury said. “So we’re committing substantial planning, financial, and human resources to support the mission of building a vibrant campus of learners.”

This academic year opened with one of the largest, most academically accomplished freshmen classes ever at Unity, with 248 members making it the largest incoming class in its history. The average high school GPA is 3.33, up from 3.21 in the prior freshman class; the average SAT composite is 1520, up from 1503.

Unity’s student body is currently its largest ever, and applications for admission have increased 138% since 2012.

Trustees approved the construction plans Oct. 23. Officials say they expect to break ground in late December or early January. For schematic images of the site locations and conceptual floor plans, see below.

151029_15161 - perspective from east  perspective from south

RECENT BUILDOUT

2013

McKay Farm and Research Station – a 225-acre greenhouse and sustainable agriculture property – donated to Unity College by Isabel McKay and Rick Thompson.

2014

Clifford Hall residence hall – 17,800 square feet — built to LEED Silver standards by a LEED-accredited professional architect, honors the late Bert Clifford, a Unity College founder and well-known local philanthropist.

2015

Unity 2 residence hall – 17,800 square feet — built to energy-efficient standards.

2016

New 74-bed, two-story, 18,200-square-feet residence hall to open
New academic building (4,000-8,000 square feet) to open
Unity House to be repurposed for academic use (2,000 square feet)

NATIONAL ACCOLADES

  • US News & World Report ranked Unity College No. 9 on its national “Best Value Colleges” among regional schools, No. 22 for veterans among regional colleges, and No. 28 on its national “Best Regional Colleges” list, up from No. 31 last year.

About Unity College
Unity College proudly celebrates its 50th year in 2015. The first institution of higher education in the nation to divest from fossil fuel investments, Unity is committed to educating the next generation of environmental professionals. Sustainability science lies at the heart of its educational mission, with 16 environmentally focused undergraduate majors. For more information, visit unity.edu.

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