President Joseph E. Aoun
State of the University Speech
October 22, 2013
Good morning! They really tricked me in the video! It was a lot of fun.
Welcome to you all. Our colleagues and students from our Charlotte and Seattle campuses are also joining us this morning. Hello, guys!
Let me also acknowledge the members of the Senior Leadership Team, our Deans, Vice Presidents, and Vice Provosts.
We’re going to hear later on from Dick Daynard, the chair of the Northeastern Faculty Senate.
Dick has been a university leader for more than four decades, and continues to contribute on so many fronts.
We'll also hear from Nick Naraghi, our student government president.
Nick, it’s your birthday today. I hope your parents are watching the live stream, because we are ready to sing “Happy Birthday” to you!
We are here to discuss the state of Northeastern.
We all know that the university is doing extremely well, and we should be proud of our many accomplishments.
However, Northeastern didn’t begin with us.
It began in 1898, and we are benefiting from the legacy of countless women and men.
They built this university into a unique and special place over a span of 115 years.
Our own obligation is to focus on what we want to leave for future generations.
It certainly is not enough to leave the university better than we found it.
We need to enable our successors to capitalize on the opportunities they encounter—including opportunities we can’t even dream of today.
It is an intergenerational compact that we must uphold.
This is precisely what our predecessors did for us.
All we have achieved was made possible by the bold decisions of leaders, faculty colleagues, staff, and members of our community who came before us.
They had the vision to transform our campus into a vibrant urban oasis that would attract students, faculty colleagues, and staff from the world over.
They set their sights on ambitious and audacious goals to raise the profile of the university.
They strengthened our distinctive model, co-op, that makes Northeastern so special.
They had the foresight to launch some of the first online education programs, decades before other universities.
And they succeeded.
As we have worked to extend this brilliant arc of success, we have been standing on the shoulders of our predecessors, and the longtime members of our community.
Many of you are here today. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all that you do.
Make no mistake: we stand on the shoulders of giants.
We are reaping the fruits of their bold actions.
We are building on their great legacy, and today Northeastern is achieving unprecedented levels of success.
We are attracting the most talented students from all over the world.
This year, nearly two-thirds of our entering students come from the top 10 percent of their high school classes.
The average SAT score of our entering students is 1390—up 160 points in seven years. This is a truly remarkable achievement.
Our faculty colleagues are drawing new generations of scholars and leaders to our community.
Since 2006, they have attracted nearly 400 new faculty colleagues, including 55 who are joining us this academic year.
We remain the undisputed leader in co-op and experiential education, and have infused them with a global dimension.
By every measure—from our leadership in online and hybrid education, to the research and entrepreneurship opportunities we provide to our students, to the external recognition we are receiving—Northeastern is reaching unprecedented heights.
We are rightly acknowledged among the best universities in the nation.
All of you here have shaped this success. But more than that—you embody this success.
Students like Tsyeba Johnson, Max Kaye, Olivia Allen, Laura Mueller Soppart, and Benjamin Greer embody the diversity, talent, and leadership represented at Northeastern. They are here with us today.
Tsyeba is on the Dean’s List, a Blackman Scholar, and recently completed her first global co-op at the Cape Town Opera in South Africa.
Max is the CEO of IDEA, our student-run venture accelerator. Under his leadership, students in IDEA are launching 125 ventures right now.
Olivia is the former President of NetImpact, a social enterprise organization that empowers global business leaders to drive transformational change.
She is also the campus coordinator for Teach for America and a volunteer at Rosie’s Place, a shelter for homeless women and their families.
Laura has interned at the White House and the Macarthur Foundation, helped create the NU Political Review, and helped organize the Millennium Campus Conference.
She is a member of our Model NATO team, which is the top-ranking team in the world.
And Benjamin is an award-winning undergraduate researcher. He created a sustainable model for urban coastal development that mitigates the impact of rising sea levels.
Would all of you please stand? Let us recognize these amazing students, and all our students. They are truly outstanding.
I know many of you, like Benjamin, care deeply about sustainability.
When we invited the Northeastern community to submit questions for this event, we received a number of tweets asking how Northeastern is doing in promoting sustainability.
The answer is, we’re doing great, and we will do even more.
Northeastern has been ranked as “America’s greenest college” in the international ranking of university sustainability.
We also have just signed on to the Real Food Challenge, which will add to our sustainability efforts even more.
And we won’t stop there.
Professors Michael Pollastri and Rupal Patel are just two of the many faculty colleagues who embody our commitment to world-class, use-inspired research.
Michael and his team are developing new drugs to cure neglected diseases.
Rupal’s research gives voice to the voiceless. She gives people with speech disorders a personalized voice that re-creates their true vocal identity.
Their amazing research is changing lives for the better.
Michael and Rupal, please stand and be recognized.
Our entrepreneurial spirit is captured in Bryan Lackaye’s trailblazing online initiatives at the College of Computer and Information Science, and the great work of David Abdow, who leads the executive education team at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business.
Brian and David, thank you for your pioneering work. Please stand and be recognized.
The brave women and men of the Northeastern University Police Department represent the dedication that all of us bring to our work here every day.
Lt. Michael Dwyer and Officers Ryan Janusz, Robert Dolins, and Michael Monaco are joining us today.
Please stand and be recognized. Thank you for your service, and for keeping us all safe.
I also want to recognize and thank NUPD Chief Joe Griffin, who is retiring after four decades of distinguished service to Northeastern.
Chief Griffin, thank you for your superb work. We will always celebrate your legacy and the impact you have made on our community.
Let’s give the chief a big round of applause. Thank you.
Our collective achievements are remarkable.
But as our predecessors left a vibrant Northeastern for us, it is our duty to create an even more vibrant Northeastern for the next generation.
Higher education is changing at a tremendously rapid pace.
Together, we must navigate the seas of change, and set our course in bold new directions.
We must steer Northeastern toward a brilliant future of enduring greatness and lasting impact.
Northeastern is already a leader in so much.
We are the acknowledged leader in experiential education, rooted in co-op.
We have the largest array of online and hybrid masters’ programs of any private university in the country.
Because of initiatives like our graduate campuses and our ecosystem of entrepreneurship, we are renowned as education innovators.
But leadership is not granted once and for all.
We must do more than lead. We must be in the vanguard.
Those in the vanguard are the pioneers, the innovators, the entrepreneurs.
They do not merely lead—they define what it means to be the leaders.
They do not merely change with the times—they shape the change.
Having achieved so much together, this is our new charge.
We will go from being one of the top universities in the nation, to one of the top universities in the world.
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 like nanoscience, computational social science, and urban coastal sustainability.
We will move from being the world leader in co-op and experiential education to the undisputed leader in global experiential education, at all levels—undergraduate, graduate, and PhD.
We must develop new ways to deliver content, offer more choices and flexibility to our students, and make Northeastern ever more learner-centered.
And we must also be a model of diversity, not just among universities, but in society.
We are, and must continue to be, a place where every student, faculty colleague, and staff member feels welcome, regardless of her background, beliefs, or faith.
We must continue to be a place where a culture of respect prevails in all that we do.
We have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism, racism, or any kind of hatred.
I believe strongly that valuing diversity is a precondition for greatness in any institution.
The diversity of the Northeastern community is one of our most important assets, and we celebrate it.
My personal charge today—and my charge to all of us—is that we work to achieve this greatness together.
We have much in store.
As the Provost will describe further, we are moving full steam ahead on the new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building.
To assure that the benefits of a Northeastern education remain open to all, we will continue to strengthen the Northeastern Promise, our university’s financial aid commitment.
Our goal is to meet 100 percent of our students’ unmet financial needs.
We will engage our community and accomplish these goals through our comprehensive campaign, EMPOWER.
The EMPOWER campaign is about you—students, faculty colleagues, and staff—transforming Northeastern today and assuring that it endures, stronger than ever, for future generations.
Once again, it is not enough to leave the university better than we found it.
We must leave it in a state that enables our successors to make it better than we can even imagine.
The state of our university is incredibly strong.
But Northeastern’s best days are yet to come.