At the Winter Innovation and Impact Showcase on Tuesday, higher education stakeholders from Northeastern and beyond showcased innovative research projects and discussed the future of learning.
The event, held in the newly opened Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex, featured the work of students, faculty, and staff across a range of departments, including the Professional Advancement Network, the College of Professional Studies, Enrollment Management, Athletics, and Student Affairs.
It also brought together thought-leaders who explored revolutionary approaches to the future of lifetime learning in brief TEDtalk-style “EDtalks.” A Q&A between President Joseph E. Aoun and Philomena Mantella, senior vice president and CEO of the Professional Advancement Network, anchored these presentations.
Aoun and Mantella discussed the importance of lifelong learning and creating a university model that’s flexible and dynamic enough to meet the changing needs of future students.
A conversation on innovation in higher education and the future of learning
“We’re in the middle of enormous change,” Aoun said, “Our own academic plan addressed that.” Referencing the need for learners to adjust to an age of robots and artificially intelligent systems, Aoun said “We need to provide learning opportunities from K to gray,” a nod to the notion that learning is a lifelong endeavor.
Mantella also asked Aoun whether there were certain hallmarks of lifelong learning models. Referencing Northeastern’s regional campuses throughout North America as well as the university’s plan to build an international campus network, Aoun said, “My hope is that the notion of a headquarters will disappear, and that Boston will be a node among other nodes, all of which provide learners with opportunities that other universities don’t have.”
Prior to the Q&A, Lori Bradley, senior vice president of global talent management and organizational development at PVH Corp., gave her own EDtalk, focusing on employee learning and development in a corporate context.
Bradley was on the ground floor in creating PVH University, a corporate university that offers PVH employees opportunities for development in various subjects. She announced on Tuesday a partnership between her corporation and Northeastern, noting that ongoing collaboration among industry and higher education is crucial to the development of an exemplary workforce.
“I don’t think that universities in America exist just to help learners find what their careers will be; I think that there’s a continuum” between learning and working, she said. “Our greatest successes so far have been in leadership and development, but where I think there’s a miss is around the technical skills, and that’s why we’re so drawn to Northeastern. I think you do that better than anyone else.”
Sean Gallagher, chief strategy officer of the Professional Advancement Network, also examined that relationship between higher education and hiring. Gallagher, who also serves as executive director of the newly launched Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy, noted some of the challenges facing both industry and higher education.
Among those, he explained, are a widening skills gap, the opportunity for artificial intelligence, and the need for more sustainable university business models.
“There’s a call for innovation in higher education, and this is the opportunity we have to serve with the creation of the center and the Professional Advancement Network—an opportunity for bridging these two sides,” he said.
“There hasn’t been a lot of research in the gap” between higher education practices and industry practices, he added. “We’re able to step into the opportunity as leaders.”
Throughout the evening, posters highlighting innovative student, staff, and faculty work were on display. The posters displayed work that represented personalization and an extraordinary learner experience, an evolved approach to next generation offerings; experiential education; corporate relations and partnerships; harnessing the power of place and community; and structuring for strategic action.