By Elise Harmon, news editor
Northeastern University needs to concentrate on research, personalized curriculum, online education and experiential doctoral programs, President Joseph E. Aoun said during his annual address to the Faculty Senate on Wednesday.
At the meeting, Aoun introduced James C. Bean, the new provost and vice president of academic affairs. Bean, who started working as provost in August, will help the university develop a new strategic academic plan and mission statement.
“What are we looking for?” Aoun asked about the initiative to create a new plan. “We’re looking to define our future for the next 10 years. I have asked the provost to lead this effort. We need to think about Northeastern 10 years from now, 20 years from now – what kind of university we are going to be.”
Aoun began his speech by commending the faculty on what he speculated to be the “best year ever” for the university in terms of the accomplishments of incoming students. However, in order to stay competitive, the school has to continue to change and improve by offering research opportunities and autonomy for students, he said.
“[Young people] are global,” Aoun said. “They want to be involved in shaping their journey. The time that we as faculty could say, ‘We know what you need’ is over… Moving forward, it’s clear that the personalization of the curriculum has to be something that we work on. That’s the demand, that’s the expectation and that’s the opportunity.”
Aoun also discussed increasing experiential learning at an online level. He believes that Northeastern is approaching online learning from a different perspective than other universities.
“We are in a startup mode here,” he said. “We are way ahead, and we are building at the same time that we are flying.”
In terms of developing doctoral degree programs, Aoun aims to incorporate experiential learning in ways similar to the co-op program at the undergraduate level.
Bean, who was previously the provost at the University of Oregon, will lead the Senate and the Northeastern community to develop a new academic plan that addresses these goals and more.
“[Bean has] been in engineering; he’s been a business school dean; he’s been involved in design, so that right there means he bridges three colleges in the university,” Gloria Barczak, a professor of marketing and faculty senator, said. “I would expect that he would push more interdisciplinary kinds of programs and curricula and push us farther along that path.”
There are several reasons Northeastern is developing a new strategic plan now, according to Bean. It has been nearly 10 years since the last one was finalized in 2007. The Great Recession has come and gone, there’s a new provost and every academic dean has been replaced, he explained.
“Given all the changes [in the university] since we developed an academic plan, I think it seems like a logical next step,” Barczak said.
Right now, Bean intends to divide the plan into two sections: an academic strategy and a long-range strategy.
“The academic plan has to do with what we want to be as an academic institution,” he said. “The idea is focusing on areas that we’re going to be preeminent in and the types of curricula we’re going to do in the discussion.”
These would be the kind of goals that Aoun set out in his address: increase experiential Ph.D. programs and enhance the online curricula, for example.
“While the academic plan will define what [the goal] is, the long-range plan is ‘okay, let’s get down to nuts and bolts,’” Bean said. “How many more faculty do we need in different areas? How do we start to generate our doctorate program to the same level that we did our undergraduate programs? Do we the have the infrastructure? What are we going to have to do as an organization to get ourselves there?”
Bean anticipates that the new plan will be ratified next fall.
“We are in a position where we have confidence, we have results and the competition is getting tougher and tougher,” Aoun said. “We cannot play by their rules. We have to identify our own rules.”
Photo by Scotty Schenck