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President stresses opportunity during economic downturn

In his annual talk to the Faculty Senate, Northeastern President Joseph Aoun reaffirmed his belief that the current financial crisis presents opportunities for innovation and that Northeastern is uniquely positioned to make changes while maintaining its core values.

“In a period like this, it is important for us to remain true to our fundamental priorities of education and knowledge production,” said Aoun. “We must work collectively to make sure we are protecting and strengthening our responsibility to our students and to the benefits of translational research.”

Aoun encouraged faculty members to take ownership of the current challenges and opportunities. “You are the university,” he said. “Work with your deans and department heads—let’s turn everything we do into a platform for innovation.”

On the education front, the president called for increased professional degrees, noting that many people seek to advance their professional skills during times of economic uncertainty. Aoun also mentioned the need to invest in more online education. “We have the infrastructure to do more here—now is the time to do it.”

Throughout his remarks, Aoun stressed that cooperative education and experiential learning are the backbone of the university’s past and future success. He also mentioned that Northeastern’s distinct approach to research is driven by the university’s entrepreneurial spirit, which is rooted in co-op.

Aoun specifically mentioned plans to strengthen Northeastern’s engagement with the federal government, particularly as the Obama-Biden administration transitions into office. An economic stimulus bill and other legislative priorities will present significant opportunities for federal resources.

“The new administration’s priorities align with many of our strategic goals,” he said. “We intend to be more of a player in this domain. Our position as an engaged, urban university can provide us with new avenues of federal support.”

Emphasizing that he remains opposed to an across-the-board approach, Aoun thanked the faculty for their thoughtful efforts to contain costs. He pointed out that the university has carefully examined current renovation projects, travel, events and operating budgets.

During a question and answer period, the president touched on the heightened importance of financial aid, the need to expand globally, and the value of working across traditional academic boundaries.

“Our history has been one of change and innovation,” said Aoun. “By embracing this part of our past, we will surely succeed in the future.”

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