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State of Northeastern: ‘Never been stronger’

At the State of the University on Wednesday, President Joseph E. Aoun declared that Northeastern is stronger than ever, recognized the accomplishments of “unsung heroes” in the university community, and revealed the outcome of the Northeastern GO student co-op contest, one of the afternoon’s three big announcements.

Aoun told hundreds of students, faculty, and staff gathered on Solomon Court in the Cabot Center that “The state of Northeastern has never been stronger.” This strength, he said, derives from the power of Northeastern’s experiential education model and the university’s engagement with the world.

“Our students are the most talented in our history,” he said. “Our world-class faculty are pushing the frontiers of their fields and our staff is driving the institution to new levels of excellence.”

The first of Aoun’s big announcements was the launch of TrueNortheastern, a new initiative focused on encouraging members of the university community to share their stories about their Northeastern experiences. The following video featuring TrueNortheastern was shown at the event.

The second announcement—underscored by Northeastern’s defining characteristics of diversity and shared values—was that Aoun will convene a social impact council. He said students pushed for the creation of this forum, which will serve as a safe venue to discuss and address issues of social impact related to the university’s activities and engagement. The council will include students, faculty, and staff and reflect the diversity of voices and viewpoints in the Northeastern community, he said.

In the third announcement, Aoun revealed the highly anticipated outcome of the student contest to become his first-ever co-op. The position of Global Officer will involve exploring the world for six months to identify new opportunities for students and ways for Northeastern to further its worldwide impact. The president said he was blown away by the impressive applicants and had narrowed the field down to two finalists: Caitlin Morelli, SSH’16, and Matt Bilotti, DMSB’15.

The normally decisive Aoun admitted that he couldn’t decide between the two, so he picked both Morelli and Bilotti to serve as the university’s first two Global Officers, much to the students’ and audience’s delight.

Caitlin Morelli, SSH’16, and Matt Bilotti, DMSB’15, were named by President Aoun as his first-ever co-ops: Global Officers. Photo by Matthew Modoono.

Caitlin Morelli, SSH’16, and Matt Bilotti, DMSB’15, were named by President Aoun as his first-ever co-ops: the Global Officers. Photo by Matthew Modoono.

Morelli and Bilotti will continue to build Northeastern’s momentum, which Aoun attributed to the hard work and dedication of many others throughout the university community. In particular, he recognized by name two “unsung heroes”: retiring professor of mathematics Bob Case, the driving force behind Northeastern’s “Bridge to Calculus” program, which prepares Boston high school students for AP calculus; and Jerry Lubin, a senior service desk analyst who works at the customer service desk for Northeastern’s Information Technology Services.

What Case and Lubin have in common, Aoun said, is that they “personalize their engagement” with people on a daily basis. He said their example directly applies to Northeastern’s mission of personalized education, of which co-op is the ultimate form. Northeastern, he said, is at the forefront of higher education in emphasizing this model, which is geared toward creating personalized and flexible curricula and opportunities for students.

With this in mind, he issued a charge to students, telling them to “Seize these opportunities with all your passion.” He added that faculty and staff must make it their charge to support students in this endeavor, noting that “Our success will be measured in the difference we make, one student at a time.”

Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, provides an update on the ISEC project at the State of the University. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, provides an update on the ISEC project at the State of the University. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

For his part, Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, outlined the state of the university’s research enterprise. He noted that Northeastern received $111 million in external research funding in FY2014, nearly double the amount the university received five years ago. But what’s more impressive, he said, is the research being done with these dollars, particularly in the areas of health, security, and sustainability—Northeastern’s three programmatic pillars. For example, he noted that associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences Heather Clark is developing biodegradable, implantable nanosensors that when placed under the skin can monitor the user for dehydration or hypoglycemia. He also pointed to the work of Steve Flynn, professor of political science and founding director of the Center for Resilience Studies, who is making a major impact on how governments respond to and prepare for disasters.

Director also provided an update on Northeastern’s 225,000-square-foot Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex, which is under construction on Columbus Avenue. The ISEC, announced at last year’s State of the University and expected to be completed in 2016, will house up to 700 faculty, students, and staff. It will include a pedestrian walkway connecting the Huntington Avenue and Columbus Avenue sides of campus; strengthen the university’s ties to Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood; and feature glass walls throughout the building that will put “science on display” for visitors. The complex, he added, will feature an open atrium, flexible classrooms, specialized teaching laboratories, and a 280-seat auditorium.

“This is really an exciting complex and addition to the university,” Director said. “But it’s the faculty, students, and staff working in this building, not the building itself, that will continue Northeastern’s momentum toward solving society’s problems.”

Richard Daynard, chair of the Faculty Senate Agenda Committee and University Distinguished Professor of Law, noted progress on several faculty governance issues. Among them were changes to the core curriculum aimed at better expressing the university’s commitment to providing students a liberal education. These curriculum changes are expected to be in place in Fall 2016.

In introductory remarks at the State of the University, Student Government Association President Noah Carville, SSH’16, recalled a common theme he heard from alumni at Homecoming earlier this month: “I can’t believe how far we’ve come.” For his part, Carville’s been impressed with Northeastern’s progress in his four years on campus, pointing to the 9,823 co-op placements across all continents last year and the agency of student organizations to provide a community for more than 12,000 students.

“There’s never been a more exciting time to be a Husky than right now,” said Carville, a feat that is thanks to the entire Northeastern community.


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