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President Aoun receives national leadership award, pledges $500K in personal funds to match Carnegie Corporation grant

President Joseph E. Aoun is one of seven American college and university presidents to be honored with the Academic Leadership Award by the Carnegie Corporation of New York this year. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun was named a recipient of the Academic Leadership Award by the Carnegie Corporation of New York on Tuesday, a prestigious honor that consists of $500,000 to support his academic initiatives. Aoun pledged $500,000 of his personal funds to match the award, committing a total of $1 million to one of his signature priorities: expanding global experiential opportunities for Northeastern students. The funds will be critical to students who want to pursue experiential learning programs, including co-op, around the world but may need financial support.

“Through this generous action, President Aoun has demonstrated once again the rare and admirable qualities that the Academic Leadership Award seeks to honor,” said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. “He is not only a visionary leader, but also one who is dedicated to the causes he serves—not only Northeastern University, but also U.S. higher education.”

Aoun is one of seven American college and university presidents to be honored by the Carnegie Corporation this year, and the only president of a university in New England to ever receive the award. Established in 2005 in honor of Andrew Carnegie, the corporation’s founder, the Academic Leadership Award recognizes higher education leaders who “demonstrate vision and an outstanding commitment to excellence in undergraduate education, the liberal arts, equal opportunity, the development of major interdisciplinary programs, international engagement, and the promotion of strong ties between their institutions and their local communities.”

“I am deeply humbled to receive this honor from an organization dedicated to the advancement of knowledge around the world. I share this award with the entire Northeastern community, whose collective work and achievements over the past decade have shaped the university’s success,” Aoun said. “I congratulate the other leaders who join me in receiving this award, and I thank the Carnegie Corporation for investing in higher education at this critical moment in history.”

The author of Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Aoun believes that higher education is at a profound inflection point. Smart machines will make millions of jobs obsolete, Aoun argues, requiring colleges and universities to change in order to prepare learners for success in the AI age.

Aoun has spearheaded transformational change at Northeastern. Under his leadership since 2006, the university has placed students in experiential learning opportunities in 136 countries—an increase of 127 percent during that time. Northeastern has also added 157 undergraduate and graduate areas of study in emerging fields; grown international student enrollment by 502 percent; hired 610 tenured and tenure-track faculty; and increased external research funding by 179 percent.

The university also completed its largest ever fundraising campaign, Empower, which raised $1.4 billion—$400 million over the original goal and which includes a $60 million gift to name the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. More than 100,000 individual donors supported the Empower campaign. Northeastern’s global network has also expanded; under Aoun’s leadership, the university now counts 39 alumni communities and more than 245,000 alumni across 164 countries.

Northeastern has launched a global university system that includes campuses in Charlotte, North Carolina; Seattle; Silicon Valley; and Toronto. This year, the university also opened its $225 million Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex, and last year the university moved into the top tier for research activity among higher education institutions, according to a leading classification—the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education—used to distinguish U.S. colleges and universities.

Northeastern is also one of only 15 universities in the nation with a positive financial outlook, as rated by Moody’s Investor Services.

“There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, which play a fundamental role in educating the next generation of our workforce, leaders, and citizens. Our higher education institutions are central to the future of our nation,” Gregorian said. “Andrew Carnegie believed in the importance of strong, dedicated, and effective higher education leaders. As custodians of Mr. Carnegie’s legacy, it is our honor to salute a new class of exemplary leaders, who join with another 20 past award recipients in representing some of the best of the American academy.”

In addition to Aoun, this year’s award winners are: Mark P. Becker, president of Georgia State University; John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University; Nariman Farvardin, president of Stevens Institute of Technology; Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College; DeRionne Pollard, president of Montgomery College; and Barbara R. Snyder, president of Case Western Reserve University.

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