‘An ‘amazing opportunity.’ Ontario education minister praises experiential learning at Toronto campus

jill dunlop speaking with students
Jill Dunlop, center, Ontario minister of colleges and universities, speaks with Aliza Lakhani, left, CEO and dean of Northeastern University Toronto, during a visit to the Toronto campus Tuesday. Photo by Tobias Wang for Northeastern University

TORONTO—Jill Dunlop, Ontario’s minister of colleges and universities, praised Northeastern’s experiential learning model during a tour of the university’s state-of-the-art campus on Tuesday.

Dunlop met with current students, faculty, alumni and administrators at Northeastern University Toronto and discussed their experiences and projects. Dunlop’s tour marks the first time the minister has visited the university.

“I heard from international students and domestic students about what Northeastern offers, their experience with the experiential learning component and how important that is to their education,” she said in an interview with Northeastern Global News shortly after touring the campus. 

“It’s a real recognition of the work that we are doing and have been doing over the last five years to contribute to the provincial economy in Ontario, and also to support our students in a very meaningful and impactful way,” said Aliza Lakhani, CEO and dean of Northeastern’s Toronto campus.

During the tour, Dunlop participated in a roundtable with current and former students from a variety of programs, who shared why they chose Northeastern and how the university’s experiential learning model helped them gain the skills necessary to succeed in the workforce. 

Later, she met with six groups of students who spoke about the projects they completed and partnerships with organizations across the province. Projects on showcase included an ocean technology startup working to mitigate climate change and a team developing artificial intelligence tools to support metastatic breast cancer patients. 

“I heard from many students that their co-ops turned into part-time jobs and then full-time jobs upon graduation. That shows you how important it is for students to have that experience,” Dunlop said. “That experience is what companies are looking for as well, having students and graduates who are coming to them and able to hit the ground running.”

At a time when employers across the province are experiencing a shortage of qualified workers, post-secondary institutions like Northeastern, which offer programs connecting students with appropriate companies, are playing an important role in ensuring graduates have the skills they need to meet the demands of the labor market, the minister added.

Lakhani stressed that everything the university does is industry-aligned and aims to fill a gap in the market. “Our goal at Northeastern is to align our curriculum with real-world issues that are global but also deeply aligned with local needs—where the campus is located,” she said. 

jill dunlop meeting students
Jill Dunlop, minister of colleges and universities, met with current students, alumni and administrators at the Northeastern University Toronto campus. Photo by Tobias Wang for Northeastern University

Northeastern’s Toronto campus has forged partnerships with nearly 200 employers across the province. The campus also works with about a dozen post-secondary institutions in the region, Lakhani noted. 

In November, the campus partnered with Statistics Canada to host a hackathon, in which students developed compelling proposals to address various issues surrounding climate change while analyzing and leveraging data provided by the government agency. 

Emmanuel Nasamu, a second-year master’s student who spoke with Dunlop, said he chose Northeastern because of its innovative education model. As a mature student who worked for nearly two decades in the technology industry before starting his master’s of professional studies in analytics, he wanted a learning environment where he still felt embedded in the industry. 

“I didn’t just want the textbook. I wanted the textbook and the experience,” Nasamu said. “I wanted to be a full-time student while also feeling like a full-time worker.”

Though returning to school after so many years was a tough decision for Nasamu, he has no regrets about joining Northeastern, noting that his favorite experience so far was his 12-week placement with a fintech company last spring. 

Dunlop highlighted Northeastern’s diversity, including the number of mature and international students like Nasamu, who originally hails from Nigeria. 

“Bringing those students and their backgrounds together is a real opportunity for students to collaborate and learn from each other,” she said. 

Northeastern’s Toronto campus, established in 2015, was the university’s first international location. It has grown to include more than 1,300 students along with more than 100 faculty and staff. Northeastern also has campuses in Boston, London, Vancouver, Seattle, Charlotte, Miami, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Oakland, California, as well as Arlington, Virginia; Portland, Maine; and Nahant and Burlington, Massachusetts.

Lakhani, who has led the Toronto campus since 2018, said she is proud of helping build a transformational institution that has a “generational impact” on both students, their families and the wider community. 

“Helping Ontario compete globally by generating world-class global talent, that is what we want to do,” she said. 

For media inquiries, please contact media@northeastern.edu.