Unity College has made a name for itself in the 45 years since its founding in September of 1965, rising to become ranked as one of America’s Best Colleges and continuously adapting to maintain the name “America’s Environmental College”. Located on 225 acres just outside of Unity, Maine (slightly larger than the old farm it started on), what was created to help with the economy of the area has grown to become an “enthusiastic, active, environmentally aware, and vibrant community that’s leading the way to a sustainable future”.
Awarding Bachelor and Associate degrees to the 560 men and women (a 1:1 ratio, actually) who are looking for “promising environmental careers”, the school operates in a very hands on, experiential way that almost entirely precludes distance learning. Utilizing the acres of forested and isolated Maine landscape, many classes are taken outdoors and all majors are in fields related to the environment, natural resource management, as well as biological sciences and sustainability. Of the twenty or so majors, many are Unity specific programs like Experiential Education (using outdoor “exploration and adventure” to “forge a new patter of care for nature and people”), Adventure Therapy (using outdoor adventures as team building exercises, a major that includes a 56 day immersive Outward Bound trip), and Sustainable Agriculture or Energy programs. Typical majors are also environmentally related here, with offerings in Marine Biology, Environmental Writing, and a Teaching and Learning program that studies both science and education, yielding a 7-12 Science Teacher Certification at its end.
The core curriculum (or, as it’s called here, the Unity Environmental Stewardship Curriculum) teaches the basic academic skills and knowledge, as well as stressing the “connections…of the various disciplines that comprise environmental studies”. Unity courses are taught by a faculty that numbers just over 50, enough to yield small, heavy discussion classes that average about 18 students, allowing for more individual and focused conversation and teaching. More than 70% of students live on campus, with many trips and outdoor classes in almost every discipline.
There are a variety of certifications available for non-degree seekers, ranging from whitewater canoe instructing to Leave No Trace instruction (teaching proper procedures in respecting and maintaining the outdoors when out in it). Teacher certifications are also available in both Life Science and Physical Science.
Many unique programs are in place at Unity, with an immersive, study abroad semester in Italy, NOVA trips (a small group wilderness experience to help acclimate incoming students to life at Unity, offered in both summer and winter), a Student Academic Growth Experience (SAGE) that pairs freshman with faculty mentors who guide them through the early times. Leadership is here encouraged and focuses, with the Unity IDEal leadership institute for “freshman students who have shown leadership potential”, as well as specifically designed Women’s Leadership program (WE Lead) educating and empowering women to become “socially conscious environmental stewards”.
Valuing sustainability, located in lush wilderness, and focuses on educating the environmental leaders, scientists, and conservationists of tomorrow, as well as those who just enjoy living in and loving the outdoors, Unity College has earned the title of America’s Environmental College.