Unity College Bucks Trend of Employee Melt in Higher Education, Hires in Response to Popularity of Environmental Majors

Jul 02, 2009, 15:34 ET from Unity College

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UNITY, Maine, July 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At a time when colleges and universities across the United States are trimming jobs, Unity College is boldly bucking the belt tightening trend.

The creation of new positions is in response to a historically large pool of applicants, strong retention of students, new and ongoing public/private partnerships, and an increase in giving to the College during the 2008-2009 fiscal year. Also, not a single job was cut.

The popularity of Unity's environmental curriculum has led to the hiring of three new faculty members.

"We're very excited to welcome three strong new members to our full-time faculty this fall," said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Amy Knisley. "The news in higher education has been full of layoffs and cutbacks -- entire programs being cut along with their faculty, including tenured faculty in some cases. There is nothing more important, for a small college like ours, than a strong faculty, and I'm so pleased we've been able to maintain our faculty workforce in full for this upcoming year."

Kathleen Hale, Director of Human Resources, is pleased that the College has been able to keep a handle on employment despite the economic turmoil shaking making businesses.

"In a time when many institutions of higher education are laying people off and freezing hiring, retaining people in their jobs and maintaining the quality of our staff and faculty workforce is one of our highest of priorities at Unity College," said Hale. "Our staff and faculty are very committed to our students, believe wholeheartedly in our mission, and we place a high value on our workers who make us what we are."

Director of Residence Life and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Stephen Nason is busy working with Director of Facilities Roger Duval to address on campus accommodations for what is believed will be the largest number who wish to live on campus in the 44-year-history of the environmental college, known as America's Environmental College.

In addition to the historically high number of applications received for the incoming class of 2013, Dean for Enrollment Management Alisa Johnson reports that the academic profile of the incoming class is outstanding.

"The class of 2013 has the highest grade point average and best SAT scores of any class in the history of Unity College," Johnson confirmed. "This adds to an already strong curriculum with national reach. We have students from the West Coast, Midwest, South and Northeast. We believe that Unity will also continue to make strides in attracting international students in the years to come."

College advancement has also seen steady improvement.

"We know that this has been a tough economic year, and the College and our extended family isn't exempt," said Vice President for College Advancement Robert Constantine. "At the same time, it is significant to note that our annual giving support for the fiscal year that just ended on June 30 grew by around 20%. We also saw modest participation increases from all of our constituencies."

Located in farmland country of central Maine adjacent to Unity Pond, the College has turned significant gifts of a recreation complex directly on the shores of the pond and performing arts center in the town into strategic assets.

"The Unity College Centre for the Performing Arts and Field of Dreams have both been strategic assets for advancing the College with rental revenues, and have enhanced the quality of life for our students," said Constantine.

He added that the eco friendly campus has seen consistent summer rental revenues from a variety of groups.

"Year-round facilities rental revenues are expected to increase," said Alumni Relations and Events Coordinator Kate Grenier, who is the point-person at the College on events. "Over the past several years we have seen a steady increase in demand for Unity College rental facilities from public and private organizations. Being an environmental college with green facilities is a bonus and is attracting a lot of interest in what we have to offer based on location, facilities and amenities."

While the progress achieved by Unity College over the past five years would meet with the approval of traditional business managers, Constantine, who is chair of the budget committee, noted that the College has made these strides with an employee-centered approach.

"We have an open budget process," Constantine explained. "Our budget committee includes representatives from the staff and faculty. This process, while demanding a significant institutional commitment, fosters a spirit of collaboration and a focus on the core mission of the College. As a group we worked hard to ensure a quality Unity College experience for our students and we know how important our employees are in that experience."

The faculty ranks have not been the only part of the College to see growth, four new sustainability positions were recently added.

"Our sustainability program recently added two new sustainable landscape horticulture assistants and two new sustainable food production assistants," said Sustainability Coordinator Jesse Pyles. "It is exciting to be able to add new sustainability jobs at a time when higher education is cutting back. I think our commitment to sustainability is pervasive from the top down. President (Mitchell) Thomashow has made sustainability a priority and engaged in a variety of commitments, but sustainability initiatives are so grass roots at Unity College that they are bubbling up from all departments."

Unity also is among the few colleges nationwide that still runs its own dining services.

"We have a student centered and 'buy local' emphasis in our dining services," noted Director of Dining Services Sandra Donahue. "Despite higher food costs, this past year 18% of our meat, fish and produce came from local sources, including our college garden, Betsy's in Albion, Green Earth in Unity, and Village Farm in Troy."

Unity College is on the Web at www.unity.edu.

Unity College is a small private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education which emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.

SOURCE Unity College