Northeastern on Monday hosted a conference where university leaders, faculty, and staff engaged with representatives from more than 50 employers to discuss and share ideas on a range of areas related to Northeastern’s academic planning process.
The daylong event served as a venue for Northeastern to engage with its employer partners—many of which are co-op employers—and hear their input on the value of experiential learning and co-op, as well as workforce diversity, hiring, recruitment, and retention. In welcoming remarks, James C. Bean, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, outlined the academic planning process for attendees and underscored the value of their input on these topics.
The university’s academic planning process officially kicked off in the fall, and on Monday at Northeastern’s eighth annual Employer-Partner Conference, the university’s employer partners examined many of the same topics students, faculty, and staff have considered in town hall meetings and through online discussion.
Maria Stein, associate vice president for cooperative education and career development, said the conference helped facilitate important conversations about how the university can prepare both its students and employer partners for success. “We want to ensure we’re giving (students) opportunity and you opportunity to have meaningful conversations around careers and talent,” she said.
Attendees participated in breakout sessions in the morning on three topics—experiential learning, diversity and inclusion, and building global cross-cultural competencies—and later in the afternoon everyone reconvened to discuss the highlights of those sessions.
In the experiential learning session, there was a consensus among participants about the value of education becoming more flexible and customizable to meet the needs of learners. Participants also discussed the growing demand for employees to have cross-functional experience—for instance, an engineer who has an understanding of finance. As companies become more global, understanding how to work on virtual teams with employees stationed in offices worldwide was another topic of discussion.
The diversity and inclusion session focused on three areas: recruitment, retention, and advancement. Participants agreed that a university or organization’s commitment to diversity must start at the top and span its vision, mission, strategic plan, and leadership team. Employer representatives also pointed to the value of building diverse teams of employees, and said that universities can help companies overcome hurdles to and champion the benefits of hiring and retaining candidates who are international students.
Katherine Ziemer, professor of chemical engineering and associate vice provost of curriculum, led the experiential learning session and in a Q&A following the afternoon discussion she noted that flexibility and inclusivity appeared to be common themes across all three sessions. Flexibility, she said, could mean offering courses or learning modules to allow someone “to develop a competency when you need it,” or could mean being able to work in China one day and England the next.
Northeastern’s next academic plan is intended to guide the university’s course for the next 10 years. It will serve as the framework for the university’s next long-range plan, which will map out how the academic plan will be put into action.