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At meeting of Northeastern Corporation, university leaders tout achievements, look to future

At the annual meeting of the Northeastern Corporation, President Joseph E. Aoun discussed his new book Robot Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

At the annual meeting of the Northeastern Corporation on Thursday afternoon in the Cabral Center, Northeastern leaders reflected on the university’s continued success and extolled the virtues of its bold strategy for educating the next generation of global leaders.

The two-hour event focused on a range of topics, covering everything from Northeastern’s new academic plan to the impact of artificial intelligence on higher education and the global workforce.

Quoting Oprah Winfrey, Diane MacGillivray, senior vice president for university advancement, told Corporation members: “When I look into the future, it’s so bright it burns my eyes.”

‘Together we can achieve great heights’

Among the other speakers was Raj Echambadi, the inaugural Dunton Family Dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. Echambadi praised Northeastern students, faculty, and staff for their commitment to the university, saying that he’s been “blown away by the passion of our stakeholders” during his first two-and-a-half months on campus. “The intellectual capital at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business is much stronger than I envisioned,” he said, “and our faculty are doing some really cutting-edge work.”

Echambadi cited three reasons why DMSB is well positioned to become an elite business school: its focus on fostering interdisciplinary collaborations across colleges; its commitment to integrating its curriculum at Northeastern’s regional campuses; and its innovative reimagining of MBA education. “Our aspirations are very clear, but we can’t get there without your support and wisdom and council,” he told the attendees. “Together we can achieve great heights.”

Raj Echambadi, the inaugural Dunton Family Dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, is working to reimagine MBA education. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun asked Echambadi to expand on his vision for educating MBA students. In response, Echambadi explained that he launched an MBA reimagining committee whose members will work to create a one-of-a-kind program that focuses on Northeastern’s signature strengths while providing a clear value proposition.

“MBA education is in a state of flux right now,” he said of programs nationwide, noting that the number of students taking the business school entrance exam is declining. “But as long as we provide signature courses not easily available anywhere, we’ll have a future.” One possibility might be to create a concentration in “fintech” or financial technology. As Echambadi explained, “I’ve basically asked the committee to think about this from a blank slate.”

‘The world is waking up to how different Northeastern is’

At the end of the meeting, many attendees walked over to the Cabot Center for an event celebrating the conclusion of Empower, Northeastern’s most successful fundraising campaign ever, which raised $1.4 billion, far exceeding its goal.

Empower co-chairs Richard D’Amore, BA’76, and Alan McKim, MBA’88—who combined in 2012 to make a $60 million gift to rename the business school—reflected on the historic campaign at the corporation meeting, calling it the greatest thing they’ve ever done.

D’Amore, chair of the Board of Trustees, attributed Northeastern’s success to the belief among students, faculty, and staff that the university is charting a unique and innovative path to excellence. “The world is waking up to how different Northeastern is and our period of unique advantage will never be greater,” he said.

McKim, vice-chair of the Board of Trustees, praised the faculty for “challenging exceptional students” who are “going out and conquering the world.” He called his work on the Empower campaign “rewarding and humbling,” saying “this is probably the best thing I’ve ever done.”

“We have created momentum and success,” he explained, “and I think our best years are ahead.”

Research, research, research

James C. Bean, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, highlighted some of Northeastern’s institutional accomplishments. He focused on Northeastern’s impressive student outcomes—92 percent of graduates are employed full time or enrolled in graduate school within nine months of graduation—and the university’s increasingly strong research profile. From 2006 to 2017, Northeastern secured a 189 percent increase in external funding, rising from $48.7 million during the 2006-07 academic year to $140.7 during 2016-17.

James C. Bean, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, highlighted several faculty members who have recently secured multi-million dollar grants to pursue cutting-edge research. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

The future of education

To close the meeting, President Aoun engaged in a Q&A with Muhammad Al-Wazzan, SSH’12, L’16. Their discussion focused on Aoun’s new book Robot Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, and the future of higher learning.

Al-Wazzan, the president of Northeastern’s Young Global Leaders Group, asked Aoun how corporations could stay relevant in the AI age. Aoun said that companies and colleges must collaborate to create cutting-edge curricula, noting Northeastern’s innovative partnership with General Electric Co. as a prime example. “You have to have employers at the table who tell you where they foresee the needs to be,” he said.

Al-Wazzan also asked how Northeastern is helping students master skills like leadership, cultural agility, and ethical thinking. “Co-op is a good way to start testing yourself and see what you’re good at and where you have gaps,” Aoun explained.

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