Letter: Regional campus: bigger doesn’t mean better

Northeastern is expanding into several regional US satellite sites. This is very surprising. And if you don’t mind, I disagree with the decision. Northeastern already learned a critical lesson against expansion during the early 1990s, when it first decided to become smaller and better. Let’s not make the same mistake.

Why do organizations often think that they need to expand? Where does this notion come from? Is it embedded somewhere in our DNA, causing an incurable need for more of whatever it is that we think we need? The truth is we do not have to do this.

I believe so strongly that it is not in our best interest to expand. Bigger does not mean better. Today, even Google struggles to maintain its once creative energies and innovative prowess that once thrived as a much smaller, flexible and dynamic company. Starbucks, too, had to become smaller to get back to its roots. If many institutions focused their energies on getting better (not bigger), they would not feel the compulsion to keep growing. Instead they’d be acutely focused on improving and perfecting their core offerings at home. Greatness starts at home.

The Northeastern administration needs to be focusing on creating a world-class student environment. One that is creative, innovative, diverse and comprehensive. I cannot and will not believe that we are satisfied or believe that we’ve already succeeded in accomplishing the very best possible student experience in Boston.

Northeastern University is ranked 62nd nationally, according to US World News and Report. While this is great, let’s not get ahead of ourselves or become too confident.

The New York Times once called the Rhodes Scholarship the most prestigious in the world. Since the scholarship began in 1902, Dartmouth College, Williams College, Reed College and Swarthmore College have received in the upwards of at least 30 Rhodes scholars. Where is Northeastern on this list?

Instead of offering even more degrees in Charlotte or Seattle, we must focus on our students in Boston. And, there is no doubt that they would be far better served with superior services on campus to fully support them in even greater achievements.

There are many who believe, as I do, that the future of higher education is smaller because it is more focused on the students’ experience. At smaller colleges the focus is on great teaching. Needless to say, the professors teach and teach well because it is about the student. At some larger academic institutions, though, it is more about the research.

In light of this, Williams College received the top honor beating out Harvard and Princeton for America’s best college this year, according to Forbes. Another small college, Amherst College was ranked 4th on that list. The Forbes list was based on the quality of the students’ experiences and career opportunities.

We need better-aligned student services that are strategically focused on creating more opportunities at home and abroad and better facilities for the current student population.

If NU ever expands, it should be to improve on innovation and collaborative research in cities like Palo Alto or in some international cities.

We cannot afford to lose sight of our responsibilities and our commitment to our current students.

Let’s not let the next big idea walk off campus.

 

–Michael Turgeon is a 1996 graduate of the College of Business Administration.