Growing Unity College bulks up faculty ranks

Posted July 28, 2016, at 11:17 a.m.

Khoury adds five new faculty to expand academic resources, boost academic success

UNITY, Maine — Unity College has hired five new faculty to bolster student success and increase the college’s profile internationally, capitalizing on high demand for its unique brand of higher education and three straight years of increasing enrollment, President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury said.

“We consider every employee at Unity College to be an education professional, faculty or staff,” Khoury said. “These new hires will help us continue to reimagine how higher education is done in the environmental century.”

“These are highly regarded professionals who have the utmost respect for our mission of sustainability science,” Khoury said. “They share our values of integrity, professionalism, and a love of learning. And they want nothing less than to change the world, one Unity student at a time.”

Joining the Unity College faculty this fall are Assistant Professor in Wildlife Biology Dr. John B. “Jack” Hopkins II, Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities and Writing Dr. Joshua A. Kercsmar, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Kathleen Coseo, Assistant Professor of Conservation Law Enforcement Lt. Todd Hand, and Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities Deanna Witman.

Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology Dr. John B. “Jack” Hopkins III

Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology Dr. Jack Hopkins said he believes the role of research is to further our understanding of ecological principles, and to inform wildlife conservation, management, and policy.

“I am specifically interested in conducting empirical field-based research that uses a variety of sampling methods and quantitative approaches to measure the dietary responses of carnivores to environmental change,” Hopkins said.

His research has focused on addressing questions related to the foraging behavior of free-ranging mammalian carnivores in the human-wildlife interface. His teaching experience includes work as Graduate Teaching Assistant and Graduate Research Assistant in the Ecology Department at Montana State University, where he was awarded funding from the National Park Service to use DNA and stable isotope analysis to study the diets of black bears in Yosemite National Park.

Hopkins holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Wildlife Biology from Denison University and a Ph.D. in Fish and Wildlife Biology from Montana State University.

“Jack is a keen intellect with a proven focus on field research who has made it his goal to develop the next generation of environmental leaders,” Khoury said. “His involvement in wildlife research, conservation, and management for the past 14 years will give our students insights and tools to explore and interpret the natural world — tools that are not widely available in traditional academia.”

Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities and Writing Dr. Joshua A. Kercsmar

Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities and Writing Dr. Joshua A. Kercsmar has worked as a farmer, commercial fisherman, carpenter, architectural draftsperson, and editor, all of which “has honed my ability to collaborate with a wide range of people inside and outside of academia, and given me a passion for hands-on learning.”

Kercsmar received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Notre Dame, where his success in the classroom was recognized with an Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award. He also earned an M.A. in U.S. History from the University of Notre Dame, a Th.M. in American Religious History from Harvard Divinity School, an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a B.A. in Theology from Wheaton College in Illinois.

After earning his Ph.D., Kercsmar served two years as Lilly Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the Humanities and Arts, teaching in the interdisciplinary Honors College at Valparaiso University.

“Unity’s combination of small size, rural location, and focus on sustainability makes this job particularly appealing,” he said. “I look forward to mentoring students and looking together at the world from a variety of perspectives – not just human perspectives but also those of animals themselves.”

“Joshua brings a unique blend of transdisciplinary teaching and environmental awareness to his position,” Khoury said. “I love how he’s been focused on including diverse points of view in his teaching. Inclusivity of perspective is critical for equipping tomorrow’s environmental leaders.”

Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities Deanna Witman

Witman is a visual artist, explorer, and teacher working in photographic media who maintains an active studio practice with work deeply rooted in ideas of ephemerality, biology, and synergy.

She has spent the last two and a half years as an adjunct professor of photography and digital media at Unity College, and has been an instructor at Maine Media Workshops + College in Rockport, Maine, since 2011. She is a recent recipient of The Kindling Fund via Space Gallery.

In her new role, Witman will be teaching photography and digital media and documentary filmmaking. She holds an MFA in Photography from Maine Media College and a B.S in Environmental Science from Kutztown (Pa.) University.

“I hope to continue to make contributions within the community and enhance student experience and education at the intersection of the arts, sciences, and storytelling,” Witman said.

“Deanna is a gifted artist who connects well with students and who knows — through her teaching and the execution of her various art forms — the important linkages between the humanities and the environment that inform the environmental century,” Khoury said.

Mathematics Instructor Kathleen Coseo

Kathleen Coseo is no stranger to Unity College after serving as an adjunct professor for the past four years.

Over the years, Coseo has taught courses in Algebra, Pre-Calculus, and Statistics, “using projects that allow students to apply the appropriate math skills to research and concepts they are covering in their other courses, such as climate change, wildlife biology, forest management, and sustainable agriculture,” she said.

“During my tenure, I was not only able to have a dramatic impact on graduation rates and school enrollment, but was also able to facilitate the bridge to collegiate studies for several students using collaborative programming with the University of Alaska,” she said. “Acting as a mentor and advisor to students is a skill that comes naturally to me.”

Coseo — who also works as a farm and business manager at Morning’s Glory Farm in Unity — holds a MA in Teaching from the University of Alaska Southeast and a BS in Natural Resource Conservation from the University of British Columbia.

Khoury said her depth of knowledge and experience with Unity’s unique academic program, staff, and student body made her the best candidate for this position.

“She has consistently received outstanding reviews and feedback from students, supervising faculty, and other colleagues, and she makes math relevant and interesting to her students at a time when math skills are in high demand in the workplace,” Khoury said.

Assistant Professor of Conservation Law Enforcement Todd Hand

Hand, of Sarasota, Fla., comes to Unity College after serving as a lieutenant in the Criminal Investigation Division of the State of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, overseeing criminal investigations in a 13-county area as a fully sworn state police officer and federally deputized United States Fish and Wildlife officer.

“After working in Florida for 25 years, I have learned the value and importance of safety for visitors and the mindset to deal with multicultural citizenry,” he wrote.

Hand holds a Master of Criminal Justice in Forensic Psychology from Saint Leo University (Fla.), where he was a member of the Lambda Theta Honor Society and Alpha Phi Sigma National Honor Society; and a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology from Penn State University.

“Todd has deep field experience in environmental police work,” Khoury said. “He’s an expert in his field who will be able to translate the daily demands of this important work to our students and continue the excellence of Unity College’s renowned Conservation Law Enforcement degree program on day one.”

“Todd Hand is a seasoned conservation officer who brings a wealth of leadership experience to the classroom,” said Zach Falcon, Assistant Professor of Conservation Law and Environmental Policy. “He is a strong advocate of ‘learning by doing,’ and I’m certain Unity students will benefit from his professional expertise and demonstrated passion for protecting public trust resources.”

Development Officer Liz Clements

In addition to the five new full-time faculty members, Unity College also hired Liz Clements as Development Officer.

Clements has extensive experience in nonprofit development, operations management, community outreach, donor relations, and more to her new post.

“Liz brings more than 15 years of experience working for business and nonprofit organizations planning and coordinating events, special programs, and conferences,” said Chief Fundraising Officer Erica Hutchinson. “We’re confident she will be able to tell the story of a successful small environmental college to an ever-wider audience of potential foundation partners and donors.”

In her most recent post as a member of the board of directors for the Center for Wildlife, Cape Neddick, Maine, she helped safeguard the group’s financial health by approving and monitoring the annual budget, reviewing financial statements, ensuring financial systems and procedures in keeping with sound fiscal practice, providing leadership and support for fundraising efforts, setting priorities for allocation of unrestricted funds, and writing and managing grant proposals.

Clements holds a BS in Biology and Environmental Science from Davis and Elkins College, Elkins, W. Va.; and an IT Masters Certificate from Southern New Hampshire University.

“When you are able to reach out to constituents with up-to-date information and real stories from students, faculty, staff, and alumni, the bridge between the school and our many friends and partners is much closer. That is when the real work of supporting Unity College can be accomplished,” Clements said.

About Unity College

The first institution of higher education in the nation to divest from fossil fuel investments, Unity College is committed to educating the next generation of environmental professionals. Sustainability science lies at the heart of its educational mission, with 16 environmentally focused undergraduate majors and an M.S. of Professional Science degree offered online. For more information, visit unity.edu.

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