Innovation at Unity College: if the shoe fits...

Email 1/25/2018

TO: Employee-News
FROM: Dr. Melik Peter Khoury
DATE: January 25, 2018
SUBJECT: Innovation at Unity College: if the shoe fits…
ATTACHMENTS: Innovation at Unity College, Case Study on Innovation from the AGB.


Our Flagship faculty recently received a memo from CAO Latty announcing a new position entitled “Director of Curriculum Innovation.” In order to locate the new faculty position in the larger institutional context, I thought I would write to help provide some further perspective and to introduce a new document “On Innovation at Unity College” that provides a little structure to the sometimes confusing and often overused term.

I tend to agree with many that “innovation” is difficult to define and can be overused. I have been resistant to use the term myself. However, Unity College is starting to be noticed by industry experts for just that, and it’s important that we have a shared understanding of what we mean. The recent Innovation in Higher Education series from the national Association of Governing Boards [AGB] includes a case study on Unity College. That, combined with the new curriculum innovation position, a college initiative that really seems to warrant use of the term, has reignited a conversation about what innovation means for Unity College.

For your consideration, I am sharing a document that provides a frame of reference for what innovation means at Unity College. I am also including a copy of the AGB Case Study. The statement includes a Unity-specific definition and some guidelines that were first developed at the senior leadership retreat last summer, which was attended by Senior Staff as well as our Faculty Moderator. The thinking about innovation was then shared with the broader college community at a Unity Works, and has been updated based on your feedback.

As for the position, the Director of Curricular Innovation is the first we’ve created that, to my thinking, really deserves the term in the title. The holder of the position is expected to spend most of her/his time working on alignment of our curriculum with current thinking in pedagogy, student development theory, and current and potential student needs. Innovation is at the very heart of the position. This is one job where the successful candidate simply must challenge our current thinking, systems, processes, and sacred cows to educate the changing face of the  21st century student.

You’ll see from the document that we’re defining innovation at Unity College as “A mission-driven, yet flexible mindset that rewards and supports intentional risk-taking.” The statement goes on to say that “We create powerful new learning experiences and change higher education in order to address the evolving needs of society and the sustainability of the environment.” In many ways, this statement serves as a good short hand summary of the new position of Director of Curriculum Innovation.

As I said, I was reluctant to use the term “innovation,” but if the shoe fits…

In Unity,
Dr. Melik Peter Khoury
Unity College
Office: 207-509-7144