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Northeastern positioned for success, President Aoun tells faculty senate

Northeastern is well-positioned to meet the challenges facing higher education today, including decreasing public confidence in higher education and an unpredictable government landscape, President Joseph E. Aoun told members of the Faculty Senate on Wednesday.

“It comes as no surprise that the world is changing dramatically, and the world of higher education is changing dramatically accordingly,” Aoun told members of the Faculty Senate, the university’s representative body for faculty. “But our strategic plan is positioning us extremely well in the nation and in the world.”

He was referring to Northeastern 2025, the university’s blueprint for helping learners to succeed in an era of unprecedented technological, social, and economic transformation.  

The plan embraces the benefits of lifelong learning, interdisciplinary and experiential education, and an approach to learning called humanics, which combines data literacy, tech literacy, and human literacy. It’s a model Aoun wrote about in his book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, and one that he posits more universities are likely to emulate to remain relevant in an era in which technology threatens to displace millions of people from their jobs.

He said that Northeastern offers a variety of professional certificate- and masters programs to help learners acquire the skills they need throughout their lives to meet the increasing demand for qualified workers in the age of artificial intelligence. Last month, the university announced a partnership with Google in which people who complete Google’s IT Support Professional Certificate can receive credit toward a bachelor’s degree in information technology at Northeastern.

“People do not have time to go back to college, but they need new skills for the 21st century,” Aoun said. “So we are going to them.”

Aoun said that Northeastern received the record-high figure of $160 million in research funding during the 2017-18 academic year, which helped the university attract and retain student and faculty researchers.

He also emphasized the importance of the 120 combined majors that the university offers to undergraduates, and differentiated combined majors from double majors. Aoun said that students are excited about the programs, which integrate courses from different disciplines, enabling students to explore multiple fields of study all within one integrated academic plan.

“The world is noticing what we are doing,” he said. “The future is in our hands, and it looks good.”

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