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University’s momentum in focus at Faculty Senate meeting

New academic resources and infrastructure, an unprecedented financial aid investment, faculty hiring, and student life enhancements were among the university accomplishments Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, presented to the Faculty Senate on Wednesday that demonstrate Northeastern’s improvement and growth in recent years.

Director highlighted a continued increase in incoming student applications, along with average SAT scores for the newest freshman class and the retention rate for first-year students rising to 1390 and to 96 percent, respectively, in the last year.

“The quality of the students keeps going up,” Director told the Senate at its first meeting of the academic year.

He also noted that Northeastern is providing an unprecedented $204 million in institutional grant aid in the 2013-14 academic year, the largest financial aid investment in the university’s history and a 9 percent increase from the previous academic year.

Director pointed to a range of efforts aimed at enriching academic life on campus. He said the University Scholars program launched last year, for example, retained all 42 scholars from its inaugural class and this year the program has grown to 130 scholars. The full-tuition scholarship program attracts the highest quality high school students from around the country and the world and provides these high-achieving students with the ability to design a tailored program to advance their academic goals, entrepreneurial ideas, and career ambitions.

“They are pushing us to be even better as an undergraduate institution,” he said.

Director also emphasized Northeastern’s continued commitment to hiring exceptional faculty members. This fall, the university met its long-range plan’s goal of increasing the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty to 780.

“Our goal is to make sure we are hiring the most outstanding faculty we can,” Director said. “They drive the reputation of the university both nationally and internationally.”

He noted there have also been numerous infrastructure improvements to enhance the student experience. These include additional classroom space and technology upgrades, the newly dedicated Arnold S. Goldstein Simulation Laboratories Suite, Snell Library’s first floor renovations, new dining options at International Village, and the field hockey team’s new facility in Dedham, Mass.

Later in the meeting, Susan Ambrose, senior vice provost for undergraduate education and experiential learning, told the Senate that Northeastern will continue to evolve the university’s signature co-op program, particularly to emphasize the importance of work-based learning.

“It is the combination of the academics and co-op, and students can take those things and begin to explore, integrate, and begin to learn on the job so they can not only eventually get that first job but also be prepared for the jobs and career changes they’ll have in their professional lives,” Ambrose said.

The university had nearly 8,000 co-op placements last year, and students are working, studying, and conducting research through experiential-learning opportunities in 93 countries worldwide.

In his opening remarks at the meeting, Senate Agenda Committee chairman Richard Daynard, University Distinguished Professor of Law, said he’s looking forward to the senate’s work ahead this year.

“I like the fact that the members of the Senate are interspersed, which is a first in my experience here and I think symbolically is very nice,” he said.

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