To build on Northeastern’s surging momentum and shape its bright future, uni­ver­sity leaders issued a bold chal­lenge to stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff on Tuesday at the annual State of the Uni­ver­sity event: trans­form North­eastern from one of the nation’s top uni­ver­si­ties into one of the world’s leading insti­tu­tions of higher education.

The future of this uni­ver­sity is in your hands,” Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun told a packed Solomon Court in the Cabot Center. “We will mea­sure the impact of our research not only through our focus on sig­na­ture fields, but also by building world-​​class lead­er­ship in cut­ting edge areas such as nan­otech­nology, net­work sci­ence and urban coastal sus­tain­ability,” he added. “We will move from being a leader in expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion to the undis­puted leader in global expe­ri­en­tial learning at the under­grad­uate, grad­uate, and PhD levels.”

A big announce­ment under­scoring the invest­ment in the university’s research enter­prise came with the unveiling of plans for Northeastern’s state-​​of-​​the-​​art sci­ence and engi­neering research building.

Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, unveiled the ani­mated fly-​​through plans for the 220,000-square-foot building on Columbus Avenue. The project is designed to boost research funding, foster col­lab­o­ra­tion across dis­ci­plines, and increase the university’s capacity to hire top fac­ulty and aca­d­emic leaders. The LEED-​​certified building is part of Northeastern’s Insti­tu­tional Master Plan, which seeks per­mis­sion for 11 new aca­d­emic, res­i­den­tial, and ath­letic facil­i­ties on the Boston campus over the coming decade and pro­poses a number of com­mu­nity engage­ment projects.

We need infra­struc­ture that will sup­port our research enter­prise,” explained Director. “This building will help us achieve our next trans­for­ma­tion, but it is the stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff who will make our next trans­for­ma­tion a reality,” he added. “I look for­ward to working with you as we begin the next phase of our journey.”

A rendering of Northeastern's new state-of-the-art, 220,000 square-foot science and engineering building, which will be built on Columbus Avenue.

A ren­dering of Northeastern’s new state-​​of-​​the-​​art, 220,000-square-foot sci­ence and engi­neering building, which will be located on Columbus Avenue.

The event cel­e­brated the achieve­ments of stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff. Among the stu­dents’ aca­d­emic suc­cesses high­lighted at the event were the fall freshman class’ mean SAT score of 1390—up 160 points from seven years ago—and the more than 7,900 stu­dents who took advan­tage of Northeastern’s sig­na­ture model of expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion last year, working in co-​​op posi­tions with more than 2,900 employers in 93 coun­tries world­wide. Fac­ulty mem­bers, for their part, received $98.1 mil­lion in external research awards in 2013, and have received 119 awards of $1 mil­lion or more since 2006. Over the past seven years, the uni­ver­sity has appointed 387 tenured and tenure-​​track fac­ulty mem­bers from around the world, including 55 for the 2013–14 aca­d­emic year. Their exper­tise in estab­lished and emerging fields strate­gi­cally aligns with Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to solving global chal­lenges in health, secu­rity, and sustainability.

Diane MacGillivray, senior vice pres­i­dent for uni­ver­sity advance­ment encour­aged atten­dees to sup­port the suc­cesses of the insti­tu­tion and con­tribute to Empower: The Cam­paign for North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, which will shape the future of teaching, learning, and dis­covery at North­eastern by sup­porting stu­dents, fac­ulty, and inno­va­tion in edu­ca­tion and research. The $1 bil­lion cam­paign aims to raise $500 mil­lion in phil­an­thropic sup­port and $500 mil­lion through industry and gov­ern­ment part­ner­ships by 2017.

Empower sup­ports our stu­dents and fac­ulty as well as the research and dis­cov­eries you so pas­sion­ately pursue,” MacGillivray said. “The cam­paign will ensure that we expand co-​​op and ser­vice learning across the globe because it is crit­ical that we give you the chance to be leaders in a global con­text. It will ensure we find real-​​world solu­tions to everyday prob­lems in health, secu­rity, and sus­tain­ability, enriching our campus and the world.”

The 90-​​minute fes­tive event fea­tured food, musical per­for­mances, and videos, including a funny clip in which Aoun quizzes incoming stu­dents on their knowl­edge of the uni­ver­sity. Dis­tilled Har­mony, a co-​​ed a-​​cappella group, opened the cel­e­bra­tion of Northeastern’s past, present, and future with a ren­di­tion of singer/​songwriter Eric Hutchinson’s “OK, It’s Alright With Me,” while Solomon Court was fes­tooned with large gray ban­ners inscribed with inspi­ra­tional mes­sages: empower, dis­cover, explore. Sev­eral hun­dred people from all over the world, including stu­dents and staff from Northeastern’s grad­uate cam­puses in Char­lotte and Seattle, also watched the event live via the Web.

2013 State of the University

Richard A. Day­nard, Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Law and chair of the Fac­ulty Senate Agenda Com­mittee, empha­sized the faculty’s role in preparing stu­dents for life beyond Northeastern’s walls.

Top-​​notch teaching and schol­ar­ship are only two-​​thirds of our job as fac­ulty,” said Day­nard, who recently gave a $500,000 gift to the School of Law. “Our other job that is equally impor­tant is making sure the pro­grams we offer are the most chal­lenging, exciting, and cut­ting edge in the nation.”

Deter­mining the future of Northeastern’s under­grad­uate cur­riculum as well as sup­porting fac­ulty with inter­dis­ci­pli­nary appoint­ments and non-​​tenure track fac­ulty mem­bers rep­re­sent the top three chal­lenges facing the Fac­ulty Senate this year. Of the goal of university’s under­grad­uate cur­riculum, Day­nard said, “We want to be sure that stu­dents are get­ting the broad range of expe­ri­ences nec­es­sary to be suc­cessful in all aspects of their lives.”

In his remarks, Nick Naraghi, pres­i­dent of the Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment Asso­ci­a­tion, summed up the sen­ti­ment of the day: “North­eastern has amazing momentum, and I want you to be involved in the process,” he told the atten­dees. “Northeastern’s suc­cess is a col­lec­tive suc­cess of every stu­dent, every alumni, and every member of the North­eastern com­mu­nity,” he added. “As a Husky, con­sider what you have already done to improve North­eastern and think about what you can do next to make it the best uni­ver­sity in the entire world.”

In his closing remarks, Pres­i­dent Aoun asked the com­mu­nity to dream big. “Take advan­tage of the lim­it­less oppor­tu­ni­ties of the fore­see­able and the unforeseen.”