To build on Northeastern’s surging momentum and shape its bright future, university leaders issued a bold challenge to students, faculty, and staff on Tuesday at the annual State of the University event: transform Northeastern from one of the nation’s top universities into one of the world’s leading institutions of higher education.
“The future of this university is in your hands,” President Joseph E. Aoun told a packed Solomon Court in the Cabot Center. “We will measure the impact of our research not only through our focus on signature fields, but also by building world-class leadership in cutting edge areas such as nanotechnology, network science and urban coastal sustainability,” he added. “We will move from being a leader in experiential education to the undisputed leader in global experiential learning at the undergraduate, graduate, and PhD levels.”
A big announcement underscoring the investment in the university’s research enterprise came with the unveiling of plans for Northeastern’s state-of-the-art science and engineering research building.
Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, unveiled the animated fly-through plans for the 220,000-square-foot building on Columbus Avenue. The project is designed to boost research funding, foster collaboration across disciplines, and increase the university’s capacity to hire top faculty and academic leaders. The LEED-certified building is part of Northeastern’s Institutional Master Plan, which seeks permission for 11 new academic, residential, and athletic facilities on the Boston campus over the coming decade and proposes a number of community engagement projects.
“We need infrastructure that will support our research enterprise,” explained Director. “This building will help us achieve our next transformation, but it is the students, faculty, and staff who will make our next transformation a reality,” he added. “I look forward to working with you as we begin the next phase of our journey.”
The event celebrated the achievements of students, faculty, and staff. Among the students’ academic successes highlighted at the event were the fall freshman class’ mean SAT score of 1390—up 160 points from seven years ago—and the more than 7,900 students who took advantage of Northeastern’s signature model of experiential education last year, working in co-op positions with more than 2,900 employers in 93 countries worldwide. Faculty members, for their part, received $98.1 million in external research awards in 2013, and have received 119 awards of $1 million or more since 2006. Over the past seven years, the university has appointed 387 tenured and tenure-track faculty members from around the world, including 55 for the 2013-14 academic year. Their expertise in established and emerging fields strategically aligns with Northeastern’s commitment to solving global challenges in health, security, and sustainability.
Diane MacGillivray, senior vice president for university advancement encouraged attendees to support the successes of the institution and contribute to Empower: The Campaign for Northeastern University, which will shape the future of teaching, learning, and discovery at Northeastern by supporting students, faculty, and innovation in education and research. The $1 billion campaign aims to raise $500 million in philanthropic support and $500 million through industry and government partnerships by 2017.
“Empower supports our students and faculty as well as the research and discoveries you so passionately pursue,” MacGillivray said. “The campaign will ensure that we expand co-op and service learning across the globe because it is critical that we give you the chance to be leaders in a global context. It will ensure we find real-world solutions to everyday problems in health, security, and sustainability, enriching our campus and the world.”
The 90-minute festive event featured food, musical performances, and videos, including a funny clip in which Aoun quizzes incoming students on their knowledge of the university. Distilled Harmony, a co-ed a-cappella group, opened the celebration of Northeastern’s past, present, and future with a rendition of singer/songwriter Eric Hutchinson’s “OK, It’s Alright With Me,” while Solomon Court was festooned with large gray banners inscribed with inspirational messages: empower, discover, explore. Several hundred people from all over the world, including students and staff from Northeastern’s graduate campuses in Charlotte and Seattle, also watched the event live via the Web.
Richard A. Daynard, University Distinguished Professor of Law and chair of the Faculty Senate Agenda Committee, emphasized the faculty’s role in preparing students for life beyond Northeastern’s walls.
“Top-notch teaching and scholarship are only two-thirds of our job as faculty,” said Daynard, who recently gave a $500,000 gift to the School of Law. “Our other job that is equally important is making sure the programs we offer are the most challenging, exciting, and cutting edge in the nation.”
Determining the future of Northeastern’s undergraduate curriculum as well as supporting faculty with interdisciplinary appointments and non-tenure track faculty members represent the top three challenges facing the Faculty Senate this year. Of the goal of university’s undergraduate curriculum, Daynard said, “We want to be sure that students are getting the broad range of experiences necessary to be successful in all aspects of their lives.”
In his remarks, Nick Naraghi, president of the Student Government Association, summed up the sentiment of the day: “Northeastern has amazing momentum, and I want you to be involved in the process,” he told the attendees. “Northeastern’s success is a collective success of every student, every alumni, and every member of the Northeastern community,” he added. “As a Husky, consider what you have already done to improve Northeastern and think about what you can do next to make it the best university in the entire world.”
In his closing remarks, President Aoun asked the community to dream big. “Take advantage of the limitless opportunities of the foreseeable and the unforeseen.”