Dr. Sarah Cunningham

Chief Student Success Officer (CSSO)

Executive Biography

Unity College Chief Student Success Officer, Dr. Sarah Cunningham, leads student affairs and academic support services for Unity College students. She provides strategic oversight for student retention, persistence, and graduation; enhancements to co-curricular learning opportunities; and programs ensuring that graduates are prepared for success after college.

Before appointment to the position of Chief Student Success Officer, Sarah was Associate Professor of Captive Wildlife Care and Education at Unity College. During her time as a professor and academic administrator, Dr. Cunningham served as Director of General Education and Director for the Center for Experiential and Environmental Education at Unity College.

Prior to Unity College, Dr Cunningham worked as an animal keeper at the San Francisco Zoo.

Sarah Cunningham studied animal behavior at Brown University and the University of California, Berkeley, receiving her PhD in Integrative Biology in 2005.

Position Summary

The Chief Student Success Officer (CSSO) leads student support, life, and retention efforts at Unity College. The CSSO works with senior leadership to establish the strategic direction of the college with regard to student success and retention and works with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Chief Academic Officer (CAO) to align student success, academic, and marketing/recruitment efforts. The CSSO works with the President and senior leadership to continue to transform Unity College from a college with a strong regional presence to a leading national institutional of higher education. The CSSO provides informed leadership and creative collaboration as Unity College develops a distinctive integrated living and learning educational experience through the educational framework of sustainability science. Within the framework of functional leadership, the CSSO supports and is supported by other senior level leaders and works with all constituencies to realize the Unity College Mission and Strategic Plan. The CSSO reports to the President.

Essential Functions

1. Leads student success, retention, persistence and graduation achievement efforts at Unity College and
ensures achievement of institutionally established goals for each.
2. Partners with Chiefs of Academics and Marketing to integrate curricular, co-curricular, and residential
components into a transformative and developmentally-differentiated living and learning experience
through the educational framework of sustainability science.
3. Works with Senior Staff and the CMO to prepare and execute a comprehensive Enrollment Management Plan that aligns with the Unity College Strategic Plan and includes a timeline with benchmarks, success metrics, and associated budgets.
4. Provides supervision and managerial oversight for student success, retention, and student life areas.
5. Directly supervises departmental managers in related areas. Carries out supervisory responsibilities in
accordance with the institution’s policies and procedures, laws, and regulations.
6. Provides informed, effective, and collaborative leadership within a model of functional leadership and
shared governance.
7. Establishes and maintains departmental plans for each supervisory area including goals, measurable
outcomes, assessment plan, budget, timeline, and benchmarks for each.
8. Establishes business protocols, standards, and procedures for all supervisory areas and works with Data Governance Committee and other campus groups to ensure best practices.
9. Advocates for institutional resources to create and maintain high quality student success programs, and
prepares and manages the budget for areas of oversight.
10. Manages academic financial, material, and personnel resources in accordance with governance policies and in alignment with the Strategic Plan.
11. Continually assesses and strengthens all phases of each functional area to improve processes and
efficiencies and provides oversight of assessment and evaluation of co-curricular programs.
12. Works to maintain a campus culture of customer service and advocates for student success.
13. Represents the college in formal and informal presentations and through networking as needed in
student success related functions.
14. Manages strategic plan initiatives and goals as assigned.
15. Serves as a member of Senior Staff.
16. May serve as staff liaison to a standing committee of the Board of Trustees at the discretion of
President.
17. Supports institutional sustainability initiatives and values as a senior member of the college.
16. Contributes to the college’s commitment to safety by using safe work habits, using ergonomics and
proper lifting and biohazard protocol as appropriate. Assists other leaders in managing workplace
safety.
17. Assumes responsibility to maintain and upgrade professional knowledge and skills with regulations,
industry trends, current practices, new developments, and applicable laws.
18. Serves as a role model for the college’s standards of conduct.
19. Demonstrates a high degree of commitment to customer service and quality education.
20. Performs other duties as assigned.

Functional Responsibility

First among equals for student success, student retention, persistence and graduation, student support, academic support, and co-curricular living and learning.

Undergraduate Research Program

Statistics show that students who do research during their undergraduate years are more likely to continue with professional education and in STEM fields, and twice as likely to consider continuing on to pursue a Ph.D.

The Unity College Student Conference

“Recognize Quality & Celebrate Excellence,” that’s the motto of the Unity College Student Conference. The bi-annual conference gives Unity students the opportunity to present professional level material in a supportive environment.

Honors Program

Honors students at Unity College demonstrate that they can manage more. Accordingly, they get access to Honors-only projects, field trips, and speakers.