Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun told more than 3,000 first-year and transfer students who gathered for the convocation Tuesday morning at Matthews Arena in Boston and around the world that no matter where they are from, they are now members of the Husky family.
But he also reminded them that fully embracing the experiential education program for which Northeastern is renowned means taking advantage of global learning opportunities including co-op programs in 146 countries.
Aoun summed up his message in a succinct statement he admitted would probably surprise parents.
“Welcome to Northeastern University,” Aoun said. “Now get out.”
“The campus is not enough. We want you to explore the world,” he said from a runway lit by ropes of red light on the arena floor.
“You’ll understand yourself. You’ll understand what you’re good at. And you’ll understand others, how they function, how they think,” he said.
Being culturally agile and understanding the needs and interests of people the world over is an important part of being a leader—and the world needs leaders from Northeastern, Aoun said.
“Your job is not only to understand but also to shape. You are going to shape new endeavors that will … provide solutions we desperately need.”
“You are going to chart your own path. You are not going to follow a script,” said Aoun, noting the university offers more than 200 majors. Some combined majors include environmental geology and chemistry; biology and political science; and environmental studies and history.
“We have a system of education that is unique, second to none, and we are the world’s best at it,” Aoun said.
But, he added, “In some ways what is going to happen outside the classroom is going to be just as important, or maybe more important.”
The likelihood that students will change their majors one or two times is testament to the growth they will experience through studies, co-op programs and participating in the university’s 500-plus clubs.
“You are going to change your minds,” Aoun said. “Don’t worry about it.”
David Madigan, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, told students, “You have arrived at one of the world’s most innovative research universities.”
The connection between the classroom and the world is what makes Northeastern unique, he said. “You are now part of that mission and vision.”
Convocation also included a live broadcast of Northeastern’s campus in Oakland, California, and video clips from students on Northeastern campuses in Toronto, Vancouver, London, Seattle, Silicon Valley/San Francisco and Charlotte, North Carolina, as well as Portland, Maine, and Burlington and Nahant, Massachusetts.
Speaking live from the Oakland campus, Mary Ludden, Northeastern’s senior vice president for global network and strategic initiatives, said the university has students from more than 130 countries.
“From this day forward, you are all Huskies, and Northeastern is your home,” she said.
Tuesday’s convocation took on a festive atmosphere with a pre-ceremony quiz show about the university, performances by women doing traditional Punjabi Bhangra dances and the Nor’Easters a cappella performance of “Alma Mater.”
Deans of the different colleges spoke brief words of welcome, and student leaders spoke of opportunities for growth and engagement.
Student body president Angelica Jorio, class of 2024, lit the Northeastern torch as students held up their smartphones for a pulsing, racing light show via the Human Video Board app.
Jorio, a student from Italy, encouraged students to take advantage of opportunities at Northeastern.
“You have at your disposal some of the best resources in the world,” she says.
Aoun also got into the spirit of celebration by opening his speech with a short video that depicted him as a lifelong learner who signed on to learn soccer moves from the Northeastern women’s soccer team.
By the end of the video, Aoun had such slick moves it left members of the men’s team in awe. In the next clip, Aoun was being asked to fill in for the cross country team.
Convocation ended with another performance by the Nor’Easters and the arrival of the Northeastern cheerleaders, who launched into a pyramid formation towering above the crowd. They were joined at the arena by an additional dance troupe and the reappearance of the Bhangra dancers.
“We have a worldwide community of Huskies. Lean on them, rely on them,” Aoun said Tuesday.
He promised students they’d celebrate and have fun together—within limits.
“We can party on Friday, Saturday. Yes, we can. But not Sunday. Sunday, it’s time to get ready for school.”