The past year has been fraught with challenges—for Northeastern University, for communities everywhere, and for the world at large.
But such challenges have taught us about “the power of human connection,” as well as the “power of human experience,” two key ideas for Northeastern’s incoming freshmen to keep in mind as the semester resumes fully in-person after disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, said President Joseph E. Aoun.
The annual President’s Convocation, an occasion in which, under ordinary circumstances, new students would sit shoulder-to-shoulder in Matthews Arena to be officially inducted into the campus community, was moved to a virtual ceremony last fall amid uncertainty over the course of the pandemic.
Now, with students and faculty vaccinated against the virus, Aoun said everyone will once again be “fully present” on campus, laying the foundation for authentic connections—and for the interdisciplinary collaboration that is part and parcel to Northeastern’s experiential learning approach to tackling global problems.
“We are going to have a full experience here at Northeastern,” Aoun told the sea of new students in Matthews Arena during the semester inaugural event on Monday. “And we are going to do it together, which means that each one of us has an opportunity and a responsibility to take care of the community.”
Building off this sense of collective responsibility, David Madigan, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Northeastern, emphasized that Northeastern’s mission has always been to “help our community build lives of meaning,” as well as to “maximize our positive impact on the world.” This has always been achieved at Northeastern, he said, through the “strong connections made between the classroom and the world.”
“For us, research and education are not abstract pursuits,” he said. “What we teach, what we learn, what we do directly relates to the communities around our campuses, our broader society, and the world beyond.”
As a global campus, Northeastern gives students opportunities to live, work, and study on seven continents, with campuses in Boston; Seattle; the Bay Area; Charlotte, North Carolina; Toronto; Vancouver; Rome; and London. There are Northeastern students and faculty coming from 150 different countries this year.
Members of Northeastern’s council of deans representing the various colleges spoke about how students rarely “stick to one speciality,” often branching out to numerous other disciplines during their time at the university.
That’s why Northeastern offers more than 230 combined majors, said Elizabeth Hudson, dean of the College of Arts, Media and Design. Students can discover which paired degree programs feed their curiosities.
On average, Northeastern students change their majors three times during the course of their undergraduate education, Aoun said. Students can also elect to earn an undergraduate and a graduate degree in five years as part of a Plus One program.
“At Northeastern, our experiential learning model lets you choose coursework and the experiences that fit your interests,” Gregory Abowd, dean of the College of Engineering, said. “We encourage you to work across disciplines to become agile problem solvers capable of confronting any societal challenge.”
Monday’s convocation was divided up into two ceremonies, one that took place at 10 a.m. EDT and another that took place at 2 p.m. In between the events, and after the second ceremony, students spilled out of the arena to make rounds on campus, where Fall Fest, a campus-wide fair, was in full swing.
There were several student performances at both ceremonies, including a live piece by NU’s Kinematix Dance Troupe, Kaliente, and performances by the Nor’easters, a university acapella group.
Following tradition, Casey Buttke, incoming president of the Student Government Association, lit the torch at both ceremonies to officially welcome the thousands of new Huskies.
Relating to the incoming class, Buttke said that, as a new student three years ago, she never thought she would be so bold as to get involved in student government—a testament to her own student journey, and to the opportunities waiting to be discovered by members of the Class of 2025.
“I never would have dreamed of doing something this public my freshman year,” she said.
In a moment of shared welcome, the student assemblies in Rome and London lit their own torches during each respective ceremony. Their flares were streamed to the Boston campus via videoconference.