Sustainable partnerships in Seattle

Northeastern’s graduate campus initiative is about creating sustainable partnerships with communities around the country—the underlying theme sounded by President Joseph E. Aoun at an event last week held at the university’s recently opened graduate campus in Seattle.

Addressing more than three dozen of Washington state’s leaders in research, healthcare, higher education, and government, Aoun spoke of the “social compact” between universities and their communities: In return for community support, universities must devote their academic mission to the growth and betterment of their communities.

That is the promise Northeastern is making to Seattle, Aoun said. “Our graduate campus here is a 50-year investment,” he said, referring to the university’s commitment to a long-term partnership.

The outlines of that partnership are identical in Seattle and in Charlotte, N.C., the university’s first graduate campus location: graduate degree programs in high-demand fields and thoughtful research and educational collaborations, all aimed at helping advance regional economic development goals.

Research partnerships topped the agenda at the Feb. 19 event. The speakers—including U.S. Sen. Patty Murray; Dr. Larry Corey, president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; and Elson S. Floyd and Michael K. Young, the presidents, respectively, of Washington State University and the University of Washington—affirmed the Puget Sound region’s need for more research and educational capacity and recognized Northeastern’s value in both spheres.

The areas for potential partnership—in Big Data computing, the life sciences and biotechnology, and global health—are dynamic fields that are markers of the world’s rapid transition to a digital economy, Aoun said.

They are also challenges for the region and its higher education community, said Tayloe Washburn, dean and CEO of Northeastern’s Seattle graduate campus, to ensure that the state has a workforce prepared to thrive in those emerging fields.

This was the third of three events that the campus hosted to mark its opening in Seattle’s vibrant South Lake Union neighborhood.

In mid-January, Northeastern’s graduate campus in Seattle welcomed more than 600 visitors at an open house to showcase the 28 graduate degree programs it is offering through a hybrid model that merges online and on-campus learning.

In December, the campus hosted representatives from 50 top area businesses to network and explore co-op employer relationships and collaborations with Northeastern’s career services office.