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Empowerfest celebrates Northeastern’s past, present, and future

The Northeastern community on Friday and Saturday celebrated the university-wide launch of its $1 billion Empower campaign with Empowerfest, an exciting showcase featuring dozens of interactive exhibits that highlighted innovative student and faculty research projects, as well as musical performances, food and many fun activities for all ages.

Empowerfest served as the centerpiece of Homecoming Weekend, which brought together generations of alumni and current students, faculty, and staff to celebrate the university’s momentum and show their Northeastern pride.

Empowerfest took over the Cabot Field House with global experiential learning, use-inspired research, entrepreneurship and innovation, and athletics woven through the myriad hands-on activities. These exhibits included startups supported by IDEA, Northeastern’s student-run venture accelerator; a closer look at the university’s new 3-D Printing Studio; live touch tanks featuring species at the center of some of Northeastern’s marine science research; interactive cybersecurity, and game design demos; and global endeavors from Northeastern’s Social Entrepreneurship Institute.

“Many of you have told me that you love what you are seeing here today,” President Joseph E. Aoun said during his welcoming remarks. “But this didn’t happen by itself. The students, staff, and faculty have been working hard. But more importantly, you empowered them. You made it happen because many of you have invested in them.”

Faculty and staff received a special preview of Empowerfest on Friday. About 2,000 people were expected to attend Empowerfest over the two days.

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Diane MacGillivray, senior vice president of university advancement, said celebrating Empowerfest during Homecoming Weekend allowed for the opportunity for Northeastern to honor its past while also look toward its bright future.

“This is bringing together a wider audience to showcase what is happening on this campus,” MacGillivray said. “We wanted people to come and rediscover the pride of not just what has happened, but what is happening. A lot of people have expressed amazement this is happening at Northeastern.”

In May, Northeastern announced the launch of Empower: The Campaign for Northeastern University, a comprehensive fundraising drive to secure $1 billion in support of programs and initiatives, with a particular focus on three strategic goals: student financial support and financial aid, faculty advancement and expansion, and innovation in education and research.

The unprecedented campaign aims to raise $500 million in philanthropic support and $500 million through industry and government partnerships by 2017, which together will shape the future of teaching, learning, and innovation in education and research.

Richard A. D’Amore, co-chair of the Empower campaign, welcomed everyone on Saturday and said it was great to see all of Northeastern’s hard work in action. Last year, D’Amore teamed up with fellow alumnus Alan McKim to make a combined $60 million gift—the largest philanthropic investment in Northeastern’s history and which renamed the business school the D’Amore-McKim School of Business.

“It is fabulous to see the energy,” D’Amore exclaimed. “We know all the metrics that are happening around here, the applications, the quality of the students, the great faculty hiring, but to see it all in action is just great for us. We are all lucky to be part of this fabulous institution. We all have to support it to the extent we can. ”

Homecoming Weekend also allowed students, faculty, staff, and alumni to see many of Northeastern’s athletics teams in action. Women’s volleyball held two games on campus this weekend, fans celebrated their Husky spirit at FanFest on Friday evening prior to the men’s hockey game against New Hampshire, and men’s basketball earned its first victory of the year by winning its home opener Saturday afternoon against Central Connecticut State, 83-69.

The Varsity Club Hall of Fame, which recognizes the accomplishments of Northeastern student-athletes, coaches, and benefactors, held an induction ceremony and dinner on Saturday night to welcome six new inductees.

The Northeastern Choral Society hosted an alumni reception Saturday night as a lead up to its concert Sunday afternoon at Jordan Hall, which marked professor Joshua Jacobson’s 40 years as its conductor. And the sixth annual Big Dog 5k road race and walk was Sunday morning in Dedham, with participants finishing the new course on the new athletic track at the Northeastern Dedham campus.

At Empowerfest, every aspect of Northeastern’s momentum was on display. Visitors got an up-close look at the real and robotic creatures from the Marine Science Center and ventured over to the Game Design Dome to play a variety of video games designed in campus facilities.

Attendees used the iCRAFT, an eye-controlled robotic feeding arm developed by Northeastern students, to pick up candy, and enjoyed performances by musical groups on campus. As an added bonus, visitors also had the opportunity to get their photo taken with the Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series trophy.

“It’s interesting to see the huge expansion taking place since I walked these hallowed halls,” said Phillip Mecajni, a double Husky who earned his undergraduate degree in engineer technology in 1976 and his MBA in 1978.

Ali Fraenkel, class of 2016, was one of several students manning the booth for Northeastern Students4Giving booth, an experiential philanthropy education program that combines rigorous academic content with real-dollar grant making.  She said the two-day event was a great success. “It’s great to touch upon what we do,” Fraenkel said. “I think it has been very successful. It was cool to have a wide range of conversations and gauge people’s interest based on those conversations.”

“Whatever your passion is, choose a piece of this university and make it happen,” Aoun told the crowd.