For a small college of 500 students located in a rural community of Maine, Unity College has been nothing short of a bright star for its proactive leadership in addressing sustainability and climate actions in the higher education sector. As a result, the institution recently received an anonymous and very generous gift of $10 million to support its mission of education for sustainability.
The college President, Stephen Mulkey, delivered this great news in his first “State of the College” address, which was received with erupted cheers and applause from the staff, students, and community members. President Mulkey acknowledged that the donation would allow Unity an opportunity to enrich its curriculum and educate students for careers in sustainability that reflect the needs and development of 21st century. According to Robert Constantine, Vice President for College Advancement, the gift has tripled the institution’s existing endowment and created $500,000 in additional operating revenue. While the college community has been ecstatic about the great news, the gift is undoubtedly a tribute to the college’s hard work as well as its ongoing efforts towards campus sustainability and climate neutrality1.
Unity College has been actively setting high standards for all higher education institutions across the country in addressing campus sustainability and committing to climate neutrality. Under the guidance of Mitch Thomashow, the former college President and Second Nature’s current Director of Presidential Fellows, the College has been deeply involved in a wide range of sustainability activities, from pioneering innovative plans and achieving “net-zero” on campus, to taking on leadership roles and addressing nationwide climate actions (forming partnership with Bill McKibben and his 350.org to re-install solar panels at the White House). Unity College, a founding signatory of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), represents a much needed sustainability champion in the higher education community.
As an under-resourced institution, Unity College and its stories of success signify that all colleges and universities have the capacity to champion sustainability and climate actions on their campus through raising awareness, institutionalizing sustainability and undergoing robust climate action planning process. Unity College also proves that being collaborative and proactive in its commitment to sustainability can help open a big window of opportunities to further advance its mission. This generous gift will not only enhance Unity College’s ability to educate its students to emerge as aware and responsible stewards of the planet, but also strengthen its role as a leader in the sustainability movement to transform higher education to create a sustainable, just and healthy future for all!