Dr. Stephen Mulkey

Unity College President Emeritus 2011 - 2015

Stephen Mulkey assumed the post of president at Unity College on July 1, 2011. As president, Dr. Mulkey was a champion of sustainability science, which he sees as the defining framework for academic programming at Unity College.

In just under two years, he set an agenda for the College that was bold and visionary. It was driven by ethical imperatives that he feels are non-negotiable. In November 2012, the Unity College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to divest from investment in fossil fuels. As the first college in the nation to do so, Unity provided a measure of leadership that is unrivaled.

Prior to setting Unity’s agenda for initiating the spark to encourage higher education to take a stand on the mitigation of global climate change through the first step of divesting from investment in fossil fuels, Mulkey organized the College’s academics with a forward thinking approach. He pivoted the curriculum to focus on the “what’s next” of environmentalism, sustainability science, and the transdisciplinary (collaborative) approach to ecological problem solving.


Since his arrival accolades followed, including multiple “green” architecture awards for the design (student/faculty and staff collaboration with award-winning green architecture firm GO Logic of Belfast, Maine) and building of TerraHaus, the first college residence hall in the United States built to the Passive House standard, today’s highest energy rating.

As a scholar of the interdisciplinary literature in climate change and sustainability, Mulkey is an active public interpreter of climate change science. As an expert climate change scientist with study spanning over three decades he has pursued research on the functional ecology of forests in Eastern Amazonia, tropical forest canopies in wet and dry forests of Central Panama, and tropical alpine rosette species in East Africa. Mulkey’s book, Tropical Forest Plant Ecophysiology, takes readers out of the laboratory and into the humid tropical forests exploring the most recent advances and important insights into the behavior of tropical plants.

Mulkey is a tireless champion of Unity College’s science-based liberal arts curriculum, holding it aloft as a source of inspiration for students who strive to be leaders in sustainability science, imagining and enacting solutions to 21st century environmental issues. As a result Unity’s graduates will contribute to the renewal of civilization.

From 2008 through 2011, Mulkey was a faculty member at the University of Idaho and served as director of the program in environmental science. In this role, he led a grant proposal initiative obtaining National Science Foundation funding for the creation of a new professional science master’s degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. In addition and with major funding from NASA, he directed a statewide project focused on climate change education.

From 1996 to 2008, he served as a tenured faculty member in the University of Florida’s Department of Botany and as a research associate with the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. He also served as director of research and outreach/extension for the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida, and as a science advisor to the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida.

Mulkey co-founded and directed the International Center for Tropical Ecology, a nationally ranked graduate training and conservation program during his tenure at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. He also worked for many years as a research associate for the Smithsonian Institution, Tropical Research Institute. Mulkey holds a bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife, a master’s degree in ecology, and earned his doctorate’s degree in ecology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986.


The Environmental Century

“We are entering a period of crises and incredible opportunities.  I believe that this century will come to be known as the environmental century, largely defined by the extreme challenges created by climate change.” – Dr. Stephen Mulkey