Unity College receives grant


photo: Unity College

Joel Crabtree
Associate Director of Media Relations

As the Unity College Wood Turtle Project approaches its five-year mark, Dr. Matthew Chatfield, Unity College Assistant Professor of Conservation Biology, his students, and Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Cheryl Frederick can rest assured their research to help protect the species will continue well into the future, thanks to generous grants from five organizations.

Students at Unity College.

The Dorr Foundation, The William P. Wharton Trust, the Davis Conservation Foundation, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, and the Wildlife Division of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which has also served as a partner in the research, are supporting the project this year through grants totaling nearly $47,000.

“It is truly humbling and an honor to receive these grants and to know that these organizations are taking note of the important work that Dr. Chatfield and his students are conducting at Unity College,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “I, myself, have been impressed by the research our students have conducted in the Wood Turtle Project ”

The wood turtle has seen widespread decline through much of its range, and is listed as a species of special concern, vulnerable, threatened or endangered in 14 of the 17 states and provinces in which it inhabits. In Maine, the species is currently listed as a species of special concern.

Students with the project capture, mark, release, and recapture wood turtles using radio-telemetry to map and monitor their movement within their habitat. Each turtle found is tracked with a number, using the same system as the state of Maine because all of the gathered data is shared and used by The Wildlife Division of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

At least once a week, in fall and spring, students put on their waders and search for tagged and untagged turtles to collect that data.

Unity College has also recently taken a wounded wood turtle into its Animal Room, where students can learn how to care for the species, observe its behaviors, develop forms of stimulus and enrichment, and prepare educational presentations about it.

“My collaborators and I are grateful to the granting organizations for their support of the Wood Turtle Project and their interest in conservation, research and education,” said Dr. Chatfield. “Funds awarded through these recent grants are a huge step forward for the project as we will be able to continue foundational work we’ve initiated over the past few years and expand in new and exciting directions. Perhaps most importantly, however, we’re able to provide authentic research experiences to students interested in conservation, wildlife biology, and the protection of endangered species.”

Unity College new degree programs to focus on animal health, climate change

Online undergraduate programs offer students job-ready skills in growing markets

This fall, Unity College Distance Education launched two new undergraduate degree programs, which were created and designed to meet the growing interest of students and demand in the job market. The new programs, Animal Health and Behavior and Environmental Science and Climate Change, fit nicely into Unity College’s mission and offer students a wide range of careers after completing their degree online.

“These two programs are tailored to meet the needs of our students, giving them the job-ready skills they’ll need to be successful in either their careers or graduate programs,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “These two programs in particular are giving place-bound students – those who can’t uproot their lives and attend our Flagship campus – an opportunity to turn their passions into careers. From our Environmental Science and Climate Change program, graduates can pursue careers in solar and wind energy, geographic information system science, or in policy-making and advising. Our Animal Health and Behavior degree will give them the foundation to either work in animal shelters, wildlife preserves, and rehabilitation centers, or they can choose to pursue the pre-veterinarian track and ultimately become veterinarians.”

“These programs were chosen and designed specifically for working adults or those seeking a meaningful career change to either complete or earn their bachelor’s degree,” said Dr. Erika Latty, Chief Learning Officer at Unity College. “There is high job market demand in these two fields, and our programs deliver a content-rich, high quality learning experience while providing for greater access and improved earning potential among students.”

Over the next 10 years, the projected growth for jobs like environmental compliance specialists, environmental technicians, environmental engineers, and energy engineers ranges from 6 to 12 percent, while the need for solar installers is projected to more than double.

“Solar and wind energy installation is a fast-growing field,” said Dr. Amy Arnett, Vice President of Unity College Distance Education. “This program is going to set students up with a very solid science background, which they can then apply to some really great job opportunities in renewable energy.”

Jobs for Animal Health and Behavior, including veterinary assistants and technicians, zoologists, caretakers, trainers, and veterinarians are projected to grow between 7 percent and 24 percent.

“Animal Health and Behavior is our answer to what many students have asked for. People want to work with animals,” said Dr. Arnett. “What we’ve created is a program that helps people understand animal science from both a physiological and behavioral perspective.”

For more on these new undergraduate programs from Unity College Distance Education, visit online.unity.edu.

Unity College reinventing how students receive first two years of college

TERRAIN uses Expeditionary Learning as its educational model. (contributed photo)

Unity College is nationally known for its experiential education, but this fall the college is taking that to the next level, by reimagining its curriculum for students in their first two years. The fall of 2019 saw the launch of a testbed for TERRAIN at Unity College, which is designed for students to develop career-focused skills beginning on day one.

TERRAIN at Unity College is a direct response to the changing demographics and needs of residential learners in the first two years of college. Nationally, roughly 30 percent of freshmen drop out after their first

year. Anxiety and depression on college campuses are on the rise, and there is an increasing demand for return on investment for students once they graduate with a four-year degree and enter the job market or pursue graduate school.

Faculty and staff spent two years developing the co-curricular activities that have become TERRAIN at Unity College, gaining insight from students on how they want to learn, as well as employers on the skills they seek in ideal employees.

TERRAIN uses Expeditionary Learning as its educational model, with innovative and integrated courses where students receive comprehensive, relevant, and outcome-based opportunities to help build or retool their knowledge and professional skills in sustainability fields.

TERRAIN brings an integrative approach to learning, allowing students to learn where they live in Living Learning Communities. Cohorts of students share academic experiences and projects in addition to social and recreational opportunities centered around a theme or real-world challenge.

Of Unity College’s incoming Flagship class of 223, 61 students are participating in this fall’s testbed, and in the fall of 2020, all incoming Unity College students will take part in TERRAIN.

“We listened to the challenges that students face in the first two years of college, to industry leaders in the green economy who hire our students, and did extensive research, which found that TERRAIN would revolutionize our curriculum and appeal to residential students who want to learn career-focused skills beginning the first day they enter Unity College,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “TERRAIN allows students to explore a range of professional opportunities, which will help them build the foundational skills for their careers and graduate school.”

In TERRAIN, students will:

  • Learn from guest speakers and field experts in the residence hall lounge while exploring ideas they’re curious about.
  • Participate in multi-day excursions in locations across the state and country to put new knowledge into practice.
  • Work with tutors right in the residence halls to strengthen skills and refine projects. Develop and practice leadership skills.
  • Collaborate with others in the Living Learning Community to explore issues, tackle challenges, and communicate ideas across academic, professional, and social contexts.

In addition to TERRAIN’s customizable curriculum, internships, practicums, and short courses offered year-round, its four-quarter academic calendar allows students to engage in a robust residential college experience while having the flexibility for work, family commitments, and career opportunities. If a student wants to accelerate their education and earn a bachelor’s degree in fewer than four years, TERRAIN gives them that option, or if they want to participate in a more traditional college schedule they can. It also allows them to take time off for any reason, if they need to without falling behind.

“Learning those practical skills that I can apply to my major first before I settle down into a desk with a textbook was my main goal,” said Savannah Sedivy, a first-year Marine Biology major taking part in the TERRAIN testbed. “Being stuck in a general classroom, even if you’re using real-world examples, doesn’t compare to actual real-world experience. With these intertwined classes, TERRAIN has pointed me toward skills that I’ll use later in life, or even the very next day.”

For more on TERRAIN at Unity College, visit unity.edu/terrain-at-unity-college/.

UNITY: Barn Raisers hold Day of Service

Unity College students who participated in Day of Service. (Contributed photo)

The Unity Barn Raisers (UBR) held their annual Day of Service event on Saturday, October 5. The Day of Service is a celebration of community spirit and volunteerism. This year, nearly 100 volunteers completed 12 service projects in and around Unity (other towns include Freedom, Montville, and Thorndike), culminating in a community meal to thank the volunteers and sponsors of this great event. Many of these volunteers included first year Unity College students.

Unity Barn Raisers (Contributed photo)

Projects included trail work with Sebasticook Regional Land Trust, gardening at Triplet Park, tidying of local cemeteries, fall cleanup with the Unity Historical Society and Freedom Historical Society, post-fair cleanup at MOFGA, squash harvesting for the food pantry, stacking wood at Avian Haven Bird Sanctuary, painting the Community Center, and more!

This annual event is a fundraiser for UBR, ensuring their ability to serve Unity and the surrounding communities of Troy, Knox, Freedom, Thorndike, Montville and Burnham. More importantly, it provides an opportunity to complete important community enhancement projects that ensure local vitality and development while coming together as a community.

Generous sponsors of this event include Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Envirem Organics, UniTel, Down East Credit Union, Sandy Stream Mobile Home Park, Unity Foundation, Revision Energy, 93 Main Coffee Shop, TA’s Automotive, Depot Country Store, Hidden Valley Camp, Unity Forge, Timber Frame Farm, and VillageSide Farm.

Anyone interested in volunteering in the community please contact UBR at 948-9005 or unitybarnraisers.org.

Unity Barn Raisers works pro-actively to enhance small-town character and rural environment, while nurturing a thriving community-based economy. UBR believes that a community working together can shape its own future, and in so doing, significantly advance the quality of life of its people, both now and for generations to come.

Unity College faculty earns $35,000 grant to monitor Lake Winnecook water quality using drones

The grant acquired by Unity College to study the eutrophication of Lake Winnecook, also known as Unity Pond, funds two full-time student positions throughout the summer. (contributed photo)

There are a number of ways to monitor the changes in a lake’s quality of water, such as gathering and testing water samples, using a Secchi disk to measure visibility, and even satellite data gathered over the course of several years. However, when Dr. James Killarney, Assistant Professor of Environmental Chemistry, saw an opportunity to apply for a Maine Space Grant Consortium Faculty Seed Research Grant, he began thinking of new ways to study the eutrophication of Lake Winnecook, also known as Unity Pond. Eutrophication, which is usually caused by runoff from the land, is when the body of water becomes overly enriched with minerals and nutrients due to an abundance of plant life and algae.

The Maine Space Grant Consortium is part of a network funded by NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, also known as Space Grant.

“One of the NASA mission directorates was related to monitoring global environmental change with respect to water quality” said Dr. Killarney. “I had a conversation about the grant with Kevin Spigel, Professor of Geoscience, and because of some drone work he had recently started, he brought up we should do something with them. From there, the idea of using aerial imagery at a local scale to perform water quality analysis started to develop.”

Drs. Killarney and Spigel then reached out to Dr. Janis Balda, Professor of Sustainable Enterprise, to take the lead on the business development piece of the grant, and Dr. Kathleen Dunckel, Associate Professor of Forest Resources and Geographical Information Systems, who can overlay the images taken using GIS.

The grant also funds two full-time student positions throughout the summer. “Students get to go along for this ride,” said Dr. Killarney. “They’re going to see this process of science at a federally funded level, and they’re going to be able to decide if this is something they want to do with their life.”

“I want to congratulate Drs. Killarney, Spigel, Balda, and Dunckel on being awarded this grant,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “Not only is it great to see our faculty engaged in research that will benefit the residents here in Unity, but this grant will also offer our students an invaluable experience conducting research with professionals. This is the embodiment of a Unity College education, getting hands-on experience in the field, and I can’t wait to see what comes out of this research.”

The Friends of Lake Winnecook also helped in funding the research, as they continue to work closely with the college to monitor the lake’s water quality.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Brian Levesque, the President of the Friends of Lake Winnecook. “It’s going to be huge in terms of monitoring and testing, and we think it’s going to be a huge step in the ongoing efforts to clean up the lake. Our end goal is to get Lake Winnecook off the impaired list of lakes in the state, and continue to work with Unity College and other agencies in a collaborative effort to do that.”

While the bulk of the research will be conducted throughout the summer, work with this grant is already underway and will be included in portions of the curriculum for the upcoming Fall semester.

Unity College 2019 graduates: Be prepared for change

by Jeanne Marquis

The theme heard at the Unity College graduation ceremony, on May 11, 2019, was the importance of being prepared for the changing world ahead. New graduates will need to do more than survive change but lead the way for others. Those who will thrive, in the decades to come, will fearlessly embrace challenges by having a deep understanding of the world and possessing the unique skills to solve 21st Century problems.

Unity College President Melik Peter Khoury announced to the 130 graduates of Unity college and their families: “Class of 2019, you have the foundation and the pedigree needed to take the next steps into this challenging green economy on a global scale. And I speak for all of us here at Unity College when I say that we cannot wait to see what those next steps are. Please, share your stories, share your successes and share your adventures.”

Retired United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills delivered the 2019 Commencement address and was bestowed with an honorary doctorate in sustainability sciences. While on patrol in April 2012, SSG Mills was critically injured by an IED on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. He is one of only five quadruple amputees who survived from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His inspiring spirit turned his overwhelming challenges into success. After his hard road to recovery, he established the Travis Mills foundation to help other wounded veterans and wrote a New York Times best seller, Tough as They Come. Travis Mills, with a sense of humor, encouraged the graduates to embrace their own challenges – “I had one really bad at work. Then, I went on to have seven fabulous years since that day.”

The philosophy of embracing change has been deeply ingrained in Unity College since its establishment in 1967. The college founder Bert Clifford envisioned that building a college would secure their town’s future in an era when rural towns were declining nationwide. Clifford’s vision came to fruition with a college that serves the local region and attracts students nationwide.

Raymond Hall, a 2019 recipient of a master’s degree, selected Unity College Online after his own intensive search He found the academic rigor to be competitive, and the online format worked with the demands of his position as a safety specialist of environment protection at University of Texas — MD Andersen Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas. (photos by Jeannie Marquis)

In recent years, Unity College also demonstrated resilience and embraced change. The college leaders’ keen ability to forecast future global needs transformed Unity college into America’s first environmental college.

All areas of study at Unity College blend academic rigor with hands-on field work and a goal of teaching students to translate their knowledge into sustainable solutions. Among their majors are Sustainable Agriculture, Biology, Marine Biology, Captive Wildlife Care and Education, Parks and forest Resources, Environmental Writing and Media studies, Wildlife and Fisheries Management, Sustainable Energy Management and Conservation Law Enforcement.

Nolan Allen, a 2019 graduate with a degree in Conservation Law Enforcement, has accepted a position as an officer on the Fairfield Police Department. Allen chose Unity College because of the flexible law enforcement major that provides him with a variety of career options. He appreciated the low student to faculty ratio, 15 to one, which gave him the chance to get to know his professors.

Recognizing a growing need for distance education, college administrators once again embraced this change and developed Unity College Online offering bachelor’s, master’s and non-degree credits. Distance education provides the flexibility, while maintaining the same high standards to reach out to professions who seek to advance their careers. Unity College Online is fully accredited and most of the online faculty are fulltime faculty or are leading experts in their fields. The online capability provides Unity College to reach students globally and provide students with more diverse field experiences.

Raymond Hall, a 2019 recipient of a master’s degree, selected Unity College Online after his own intensive search. He found the academic rigor to be competitive, and the online format worked with the demands of his position as a safety specialist of environment protection at University of Texas—MD Andersen Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas. Hall says the emphasis on problem-solving throughout the the college course work has prepared him well for challenges that lie ahead.




Travis Mills to deliver Unity College 2019 commencement address

SSgt. Travis Mills

The road every college student takes to complete their degree is never an easy one. It’s full of trying times, late night study sessions, and early morning exams that can certainly be stressful. Whether they know it or not, the more than 130 Unity College graduates receiving diplomas on Saturday, May 11, all persevered using the mantra of the college’s esteemed 2019 commencement speaker, retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills: “Never give up. Never quit.”

SSG Mills has told his inspiring story of perseverance all over television (including Ellen, NBC Nightly News, and Fox News) after losing all four limbs to an IED on his third tour of Afghanistan. Mills is one of only five quadruple amputees to survive their injuries received in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he documented his road to recovery in his memoir Tough as They Come, a New York Times Best Seller.

It took 14 hours of surgery, nine doctors, seven nurses – two of which were dedicated to pumping air in and out of his lungs — and 30 blood transfusions to keep Mills alive. When he finally regained consciousness days later on his 25th birthday, the first words out of his mouth were: “How are my soldiers?” Finding out they would be fine, his brother-in-law broke the news to Mills that he wasn’t paralyzed but was, in fact, a quadruple amputee. He became angry and upset, but found the motivation to carry on in his wife and six-month-old daughter.

After returning to the United States for an intense recovery process, which Mills says is an ongoing process every single day, he founded the Travis Mills Foundation based in Rome, Maine, to assist combat-injured veterans. In addition to assisting wounded veterans, Mills worked closely with many victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, helping to guide them following amputation, just as other amputees had done for him. Mills also consults with and speaks to companies and organizations nationwide inspiring others to overcome life’s challenges and adversity, no matter what form that may take.

“It is certainly no exaggeration when I refer to Staff Sergeant Mills as a national treasure,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “Having watched his story of recovery both physically and mentally unfold on television, I not only find Travis to be a remarkable human being, but also a genuine person who is a natural-born leader. He has a knack for inspiring everyone he comes in contact with, and he can almost always get them to smile or laugh, no matter what it is they’re going through. I can’t wait for our graduates to hear him speak.”

“I am extremely honored to be giving the commencement speech at Unity College, in my home state!” said Mills. “I look forward to sharing my story with the 2019 graduating class, and I hope to inspire resiliency and drive as they enter the workforce or graduate school.”

Dr. Khoury said Mills will receive an Honorary Doctorate in Sustainability Science before addressing the candidates for graduation from America’s Environmental College.

“From here, our graduates will travel all over the world, pursuing careers that they’re passionate about or seek further education,” said Dr. Khoury. “I think that the words and story of Travis will stay with them well after they receive their diploma, and they’ll find ways to apply it in all that they do.”

Commencement exercises begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 11. The ceremony, which happens to be Unity College’s 50th May Commencement, is open to Unity College graduates and their guests. The ceremony and speeches will be streamed on the Unity College Facebook page.

Unity College professor earns Fulbright Scholarship for brown bear research in Slovenia

Dr. Jack Hopkins to look into conflict behavior in bears

Dr. Jack Hopkins

Bears and humans aren’t known for always seeing eye to eye. Sure, the two species can have positive encounters, such as bear sightings at a safe distance in the northern Maine woods. Human-bear interactions, however, can turn nasty very quickly, ranging from the more benign end of the spectrum where bears commandeer human food, agricultural crops, or livestock, to more harmful incidents where people get hurt.

It’s these interactions that are the focus of Unity College Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology, Dr. Jack Hopkins’ latest research project titled Development of a Multi-method Approach to Study Wildlife Behavior: Investigating Human-Bear Conflicts in the Contrasting Landscapes of Europe. For Dr. Hopkins’ Fulbright Scholarship, he and researchers from the University of Ljubljana will use a large collection of tissues (muscle, liver, hair, and teeth) sampled from roughly 800 bears in Slovenia and Scandinavia over the course of roughly 25 years to investigate human-bear conflict.

“It’s a really great opportunity to work with my partners,” said Dr. Hopkins, noting that Fulbright Scholarships offer only about 20 percent of applicants the chance to either teach, conduct research, or do a combination of both. For the spring semester, Dr. Hopkins earned an award to focus strictly on research, leaving Maine for Slovenia at the end of December with his wife and four children.

“I’m also really excited about the opportunity for my kids,” he said. “Having the chance to live and go to school in Europe has the potential to really change their lives. It’ll be a great family adventure.”

Slovenia has one of the highest-density bear populations in the world, which is in part due to the country’s interest in harvesting them twice a year, using supplemental corn feed to maintain their thriving population. Dr. Hopkins will work with genetic and isotopic data from bear tissues to investigate their reliance on corn, how their diets affect their reproductive success and survival, and how conflict behavior develops in the first place.

“I want to congratulate Dr. Hopkins on this incredible honor, and I can’t wait to see the results and conclusions that his research produces,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “Here at Unity College, we emphasize experiential education for our students, but it’s important to also encourage our faculty to pursue opportunities like this. In turn, they will pass down those experiences and inspire our students in the classroom and in the field.”

Although the research project focuses on Slovenia’s brown bear population, Dr. Hopkins believes the issues, in many ways, are similar here in Maine.

“Brown bears feed on corn in Slovenia like black bears feed on doughnuts and other bait in the fall in Maine,” Hopkins said. “In both places, baits are used to help control population numbers and meet the needs of hunters. Although baiting is controversial in Maine, it is the most successful method used to harvest bears. The concern is that if these artificial food sources are removed from the landscape, harvest numbers will decrease, and human-bear conflict will increase with bear density, which obviously has huge management implications in both Maine and Slovenia.”

For more on Dr. Hopkins’ research, visit jackhopkinswildlife.com.

Unity Rotary Club taking fruit orders as fundraiser

Jan, left, and Ron Cropley, are taking fruit orders for the Unity Rotary Club. The club will be offering 20-pound cases of oranges or grapefruit for $25 per case, and new this year, mixed packages of a variety of choices for $20. The deadline for ordering the fruit will be the week of November 5-9 for expected delivery to start the first week in December. (Contributed photo)

Ron and Jan Cropley, of the Unity Area Rotary Club, are working hard, along with the other members of the Unity Area Rotary Club, taking calls and messages for fruit orders.

Unity Area Rotary Club’s very first fund raiser was the sale of citrus fruit. The chairman then was Max Gillette (1992 – 2017) who continued as its chairman for 25 years. Ron Cropley, of Troy, currently serves as the fundraiser’s chairman and Jan as his secretary.

Unity’s Rotary club will be offering 20-pound cases of oranges or grapefruit for $25 per case, and new this year, mixed packages of a variety of choices for $20. The deadline for ordering the fruit will be the week of November 5-9 for expected delivery to start the first week in December.

For more information, contact Ron or Jan Cropley at (207)948-2524, message the club through their Facebook page (Unity Area Rotary Club) or any other member of the club.

Last call for Common Ground Country Fair poster contest

The submission deadline for the 2019 Common Ground Country Fair Poster Contest is nearing.

If you have already sent in your poster design, thank you!

If you have not yet submitted, and are interested, you will find the the poster guidelines and application are available at http://mofga.org/The-Fair/Poster

The winning artist receives $2,500, a press release, and is highlighted in MOFGA’s quarterly newspaper, The Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener. The selected design is also featured on the Fair poster, website, T-shirt and in promotional literature.

The theme of the design must be in line with MOFGA’s mission and the general guidelines for participating in the Fair. We welcome all Maine residents and MOFGA members to enter submissions by August 3rd.

For more information please contact the Fair office at commonground@mofga.org.