Universities across the country are confronting falling numbers of international applicants, unexpected difficulties with research collaborations, and other challenges, President Joseph E. Aoun told the Faculty Senate in his annual address on Wednesday.
But Northeastern is well-prepared, he said.
“Higher education is facing enormous challenges,” Aoun said. “But the university has positioned itself, thanks to the collective work of Northeastern 2025, in a good way.”
Northeastern 2025, the university’s strategic plan, is a concept of lifelong and experiential learning that will liberate students from outdated career models and give them the opportunity to prosper over the course of their lives.
At its heart is the university’s approach to preparing students to thrive in the age of artificial intelligence. This approach 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.
With campuses in Boston, Charlotte, London, the San Francisco Bay area, Silicon Valley, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver, and co-op employment opportunities in 146 countries, the university provides students with experiential learning opportunities wherever they are and connects them directly with potential employers.
“We are building a global university system,” Aoun said. “And this global university system is allowing our students to be mobile and take advantage of what we can offer in one place that is distinctive and different than another.”
To continue to attract superior students and faculty, Aoun said that the university must maintain its status as a leader in experiential education, and be at the forefront of developing fields of research.
“What is really working is differentiation and leadership: We have that, and we need to continue to work on that,” Aoun said. “When we go into a field, whatever that field is, the goal is to assume absolute leadership. Good is not good enough.”
Aoun reminded the Faculty Senate members that they represent not only their colleges and departments, but the university as a whole. He asked for input in the search for a new provost to replace James Bean, who will be stepping down at the end of the academic year.
In reply, the faculty senators suggested that the new provost continue to reflect the values of the university by demonstrating: entrepreneurial experience; a commitment to diversity, interdisciplinary collaboration, and sustainability; the ability to think strategically about Northeastern’s role in the larger world; a strong commitment to ethics; and a desire to work globally while remaining connected with local communities.
“What you said is really important,” Aoun said of the Senate’s recommendations. “As the world has started globally retrenching, we see it as an opportunity to move forward.”