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A case for ‘not playing it safe’

Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun discussed the university’s vision for the future with about 30 members of the Student Government Association on Wednesday evening in the Alumni Center.

“We have great momentum,” Aoun said. “The university is moving forward not by playing it safe but by capitalizing on its differentiation.”

He pointed in particular to the university’s experiential learning program, which enables students to put ideas into action and grow as innovative problem solvers through work, research, international study, and service in 114 countries around the world.

“We need to promote our global education more,” Aoun said. “The world is a source of learning and enlightenment and you cannot ignore it.”

Later in the evening, Aoun noted the faculty’s focus on pursuing use-inspired, interdisciplinary research in health, security, and sustainability. Many of the 387 faculty members who have joined the university over the past seven years have joint appointments in fields that intersect across colleges and disciplines.

“The colleges are not in silos and that’s rare in higher education,” Aoun said, noting Northeastern’s plan to hire more of the world’s leading educators and scholars. “They are a resource for each other.”

He also lauded the entrepreneurial spirit and drive Northeastern students possess, as well as their deep commitment to make an impact in the surrounding communities.

In the Q-and-A, a second-year student in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business asked Aoun to name one of the university’s weaknesses. “We have to make more of an effort to disseminate what we are doing,” Aoun said. “We are growing so rapidly that we have a lot to share.”

He noted that students and alumni have been eager to tell the Twitterverse why co-op has transformed their lives using #iheartcoop. By a show of hands, every student in the room had heard about Northeastern’s new social media phenomenon.

SGA President Nick Naraghi, CIS’15, asked Aoun to name the next big project in the university’s pipeline. The president pointed to next Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony for Northeastern’s new state-of-the-art interdisciplinary science and engineering research complex in Roxbury on Columbus Avenue.

“This project is going to bring Northeastern closer to the community and the community closer to Northeastern,” Aoun said. “Northeastern is investing in Roxbury,” he added. “When you return to Northeastern in five years from now, Roxbury will be a place with more jobs, businesses, and opportunities.”

Aoun closed by offering keen advice to the young senators, whom he characterized as “community ambassadors.” “Always think about grooming your successors,” he told them. “Give them the opportunity to tackle challenges.”