In a world that is being reshaped by technology and artificial intelligence, solving global challenges requires collaboration across oceans, across cultures, and across disciplines. Northeastern University’s newest students, who hail from 140 countries, are particularly well suited to solve these challenges, said President Joseph E. Aoun.
“You see the beauty of this diversity is that each of you is looking at issues, challenges, and opportunities in a different way,” Aoun told the thousands of freshmen and transfer students who filled Matthews Arena for the President’s Convocation on Tuesday.
And, Aoun said, students will need to integrate these unique viewpoints to “be ready for the future and to shape it.”
To illustrate the concept, the university’s academic leadership team—including the deans of several colleges at campuses in Northeastern’s global university system, the dean of libraries, and the vice chancellor for learner engagement, who were all sitting on stage—approached the microphone in pairs to encourage the new students to consider the ways in which collaboration across disciplines could help create a better future.
“The deans came together because they wanted to signal to you that no one school, no one person, can do it all on their own,” Aoun said.
Naomi Goulder, who is the dean for academic development and innovation at the New College of the Humanities at Northeastern, advised students to take advantage of their opportunities across the globe.
“I want to remind you that when you were admitted to Northeastern, you weren’t just admitted to the Boston campus,” she said via live video from London, flanked by cheering Northeastern students studying in the city. “You are now members of the global community because you were admitted to Northeastern’s network of learning opportunities.”
Northeastern provides students opportunities to live, work, and study on seven continents, and its global university system includes campuses in Boston; Seattle; the Bay Area; Charlotte, North Carolina; Toronto; Vancouver; and London.
The university’s approach to preparing students to thrive in the age of artificial intelligence emphasizes human skills in the form of a curriculum called humanics, which purposefully integrates three literacies—understanding technology, understanding data, and understanding what it means to be human. It is at the heart of the university’s strategic plan, Northeastern 2025—a concept of lifelong and experiential learning that will liberate students from outdated career models and give them the opportunity to prosper over the course of their lives.
“We are not a reflection of society, we are not a microcosm of society; you are the model of what society can be,” Aoun said.
The new students will have to be well-versed in a variety of different disciplines to adapt in a changing world, he said, and therefore nimble in their studies at Northeastern. Students will discover new interests and fine-tune their focus throughout their Northeastern experience, and many will change majors before they graduate, Aoun said. Students may opt to earn an undergraduate and a graduate degree in five years as part of a plus-one program Northeastern offers, he said.
But it doesn’t end at commencement. “Your engagement with Northeastern is not just engagement for four or five years,” Aoun said. “It’s a lifelong engagement, and a worldwide engagement. No matter where you are, Northeastern is there for you.”
The ceremony also included remarks by other university leaders and performances by a cappella groups including the Nor’easters, Distilled Harmony, and Pitch, Please!, who engaged in a lighthearted battle among each other. Students, faculty, and staff wore battery-powered wristbands that offered a dazzling, synchronized display of colored lights throughout the event.
A torch lighting by Chris Brown, president of the Student Government Association, officially inducted Northeastern’s newest students into the university community.
“All of us, as Northeastern students, have amazing opportunities,” Brown said. “It all starts here, with a blank slate.”
Brown encouraged his peers to explore the myriad opportunities available to them at Northeastern, such as joining student organizations, working on co-op, and learning in different countries.
“I challenge you to move outside your comfort zone, to seize the opportunity to try something new,” he said. “Keep your mind open to new ideas. Study, learn, and have a great college experience.”
Following convocation, students on the Boston campus streamed out of Matthews Arena to participate in Fall Fest, a campus-wide celebration showcasing the hundreds of ways for new students to get involved on campus through student organizations, club sports, and other university offices and departments. Students also video chatted with their peers studying in different countries via live video streaming.