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President Aoun to Faculty Senate: ‘The name of the game is excellence’

“What is winning the day is not to be good, but to be preeminent and first-rate,” President Joseph E. Aoun said to the Faculty Senate during his annual address Wednesday. Photo by: Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

In his annual address to the Faculty Senate on Wednesday, President Joseph E. Aoun outlined the challenges higher education faces at the federal level and urged the Northeastern community to continue pushing for preeminence in the fields that set the university apart.

“Moving forward, the name of the game is excellence,” Aoun said. “It’s as simple as that.”

At the federal level, Aoun said provisions in the proposed House and Senate tax reform bills would impact college accessibility and affordability and make it harder for universities to carry out their missions. Northeastern is actively opposing such provisions. Additionally, Aoun said potential decreases in research funding and the Supreme Court decision to allow the Trump administration’s travel ban to take effect are worrisome.

A reflection of that environment, Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday revised the fiscal outlook for U.S. higher education from stable to negative on the basis that expenses at higher education institutions would outstrip revenues in the coming year.

However, Aoun said Northeastern is well-positioned for success and must continue to excel in its areas of strength. He underscored factors such as the university’s global leadership in experiential education, growing global network, expanding research enterprise, and record-high number of applications for admission. Last year, Moody’s also improved Northeastern’s bond rating outlook from stable to positive.

In the past year, the university also implemented its new academic plan, Northeastern 2025; opened the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex; and concluded its historic Empower campaign, which raised $1.4 billion for students, faculty, and research.

“What is winning the day is not to be good, but to be preeminent and first-rate,” Aoun said. “Overall, I want us to be happy that our trajectory is very strong. Our academic plan is superb, and now we have to focus on making it a reality. We are well-positioned, but we have to work hard.”

Aoun pointed to the faculty’s focus on designing combined majors that are attractive to prospective and current students.

Additionally, he said, the numerous institutes, centers, and research clusters on campus help define the university and bolster its focus on being experiential, entrepreneurial, resilient, global, diverse, and innovative.

Aoun also noted the university’s early commitment to lifelong learning, particularly its emphasis on incorporating learning models that are flexible and experiential.

On a broader level, Aoun is also focused on another critical challenge—and opportunity—for higher education: the artificial intelligence revolution. In his new book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, he explains how colleges can educate the next generation of students for success while filling the needs in society that even the most sophisticated AI agents cannot. Provost James C. Bean said the book “captures the thought-leadership discussion in higher education.”

“It’s really capturing the fascination across the country. This is fabulous for the university,” Bean said, adding that it’s a topic that comes up consistently in candidate searches for leadership positions at Northeastern.

In other business Wednesday, members of the Faculty Senate unanimously approved a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.