The Academic Initiative
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The Planning Process

The President's Charge to the Steering Committee and Planning Teams

TO: Members of the Steering Committee and Planning Teams

FROM: Joseph E. Aoun, President

DATE: November 22, 2006

RE: Charge for the Academic Planning Process


I want to begin by expressing my deep appreciation to each of you for the time and energy you will devote to preparing a new academic plan in the coming months. This is a critically important moment in time for the university. Together we will discover new opportunities, design new initiatives, and establish important priorities. These priorities will guide us in the formulation of goals, development and allocation of resources, and the establishment of a foundation for our next masterplan. You work, therefore, is essential and the entire university community is looking to you to be ambitious on our behalf.

Northeastern's new academic plan should be bold and visionary. The forces of globalization and accelerated knowledge creation bring great challenges and opportunities for institutions of higher learning. Our plan should identify a path to those opportunities that hold the greatest promise of establishing Northeastern University as an institution that sets trends versus following them. Your charge, therefore, is to think big. Give a voice to the ideas that emerge through your interactions with colleagues. Analyze information with rigor and explore new ideas. In so doing, you will play an important role in leading us to new levels of excellence, distinctiveness, and innovation.

I offer the following words of advice as you begin this process. First, don't be limited by the past. Although it's natural for us to think about the university in ways that are consistent with our past experience, you are challenged to push each other to think only in the future tense. Second, suspend any discussions related to resource constraints, including financial, physical, and personnel. There will be plenty of time later in the process to examine the realities inherent in matching our ambitions with our resources. For now, approach your examination of the university as if you had a clean slate in front of you. Stimulate new and creative thinking in each other.  Third, be sure that all voices are heard in this process. While in the end some ideas may be more compelling than others, all suggestions should be welcomed and given a fair hearing.  Some of the most important innovations we have seen in our society were born of ideas that were initially thought to be too risky or unconventional.  

We have organized the process to provide an appropriate level of support to allow you to spend your time on substantive activities versus operational details.  The conceptual framework for the plan is expressed in the four themes, namely Urban & Global Dimensions, Experiential Learning Dimensions, Fundamental and Translational Research Dimensions, and Creative, Aesthetic, and Ethical Dimensions. These themes represent aspects of Northeastern that are in some cases areas of historic or emerging strength that merit careful review and perhaps some fresh thinking.  Some are areas that have the potential for becoming new opportunities for excellence and distinctiveness.  The product of your work will be set of reports focused on each of these themes, and an ultimately an integrated plan that will outline the initiatives we will pursue together.

I will stay in touch with your work as the process unfolds and offer any feedback I can along the way. I look forward to the results of your effort with great enthusiasm and confidence that you will produce an academic plan that establishes us as leaders in higher education. Thank you again for your commitment to this important task.


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