“The Future Is in Our Hands”


Good afternoon and welcome!

Each year, we come together to take stock of where Northeastern has been, and where we are going next.

We do so in a world that is moving faster than ever.

Every day, technology speeds the flow of information, the flow of commerce, and the rhythm of our lives.

It is a high-velocity world.

Change is the only constant.

Higher education, too, is in a maelstrom of reinvention.

Learning is now instant and on demand.

The momentum of change is so great that all of us need to become lifelong learners.

This leads to new challenges, new opportunities, and new ways to make an impact.

We live in a very different world from a decade ago.

Then, we embarked on an Academic Plan.

That plan is now complete.

As a matter of fact, we have exceeded the goals we set.

I want to thank you all for doing it.

I especially want to acknowledge the efforts of our Provost Emeritus, Steve Director, who led the planning effort.

Please join me in thanking Steve.

This year, we are launching a new process to chart a new course.

That is why we are here today.

What future will we choose for Northeastern?

Looking to the horizon, what do we see?

As we imagine the years ahead, Northeastern remains anchored in core beliefs.

These beliefs are fixed points.

They form our compass.

First: We believe that the most powerful education is experiential.

Co-op, by its very nature, forces us to engage with the world.

More than any other university, we understand what the world needs.

That is why we’re creating online experiential programs and experiential PhDs.

That is why we’re defining the experiential liberal arts.

The experiential liberal arts integrates the height of human thought with the depth of real world experience.

It melds our understanding of the human condition with the potential of our dreams.

Second: We believe that education must be innovative.

Education is combustive.

It cannot be chained to old models.

It needs freedom to kindle and burn.

The sum of knowledge is more complex than ever.

The needs of learners are more diverse than ever.

That is why we are leading in the creation of innovative, flexible, personalized learning.

It is why we are writing the script for a New Literacy, designed for today’s world.

This New Literacy binds the fire of the humanities with the solid earth of science.

And in so doing, it ignites both the intellect and the imagination.

Third: We believe that education must be global.

Learning has no boundaries.

Its application is now worldwide.

That is why we are expanding our Global Network.

We are deepening its connections to create a true worldwide interface for education and engagement.

It is also why Northeastern students are in 131 countries, honing their cultural agility.

Last year, our Global Officers tapped into the reach of our worldwide network.

They identified new ways for students to connect with global co-ops, opportunities, and our alumni.

This year, we will build on what they did.

Through our planning process, we will create new venues for global engagement.

So stay tuned.

Finally: We believe that research must have an impact on the world.

Northeastern’s research focuses on global challenges.

Now we are building on this use-inspired framework.

Our goal is to be the world leader and best in class in key research domains.

Similarly, our PhD programs will be made even stronger through this leadership.

A common thread links these four beliefs.

Everything we do must be experiential, whether it is learning, research, online education, or engagement with the world.

We have now arrived at the intersection of our own history and opportunity.

What will we do next?

I suggest we lead the way.

We often invoke entrepreneurship—let us continue to practice it.

Let us broaden our thinking about what higher education can do.

Students have become lifelong learners.

So let Northeastern serve them throughout their lives.

Our research focuses on global challenges.

So let us shape our PhD programs to deepen their impact.

Our students were never tied to a campus or timetable.

Let us deliver on-demand learning wherever they are.

The world needs solutions.

Let us cut down the barriers between disciplines, so we can pursue knowledge wherever it leads.

Co-op is our foundation.

Let us strengthen our partnerships with employers, building new collaborations.

The question we face is how to rise to these challenges.

Together, we will provide the answers.

The future is in our hands.

We have already laid the foundation for greatness.

Let us be the architects of wonders.

Let me welcome the chief architect of this effort, Provost James Bean.


They say character is destiny.

I believe this is true of human beings and institutions.

So what is the essence our institution?

We recently posed this question to members of our community.

They had many answers:

We are global.

We are innovative.

We are entrepreneurial.

We are experiential in all that we do.

We solve the world’s most pressing problems.

And we empower our students to succeed in the world.

The essence of Northeastern has many facets.

But the one word I would choose above all is “unique.”

Northeastern is unique because we alone are global, experiential, innovative, and entrepreneurial.

We have a unique destiny.

Our destiny is to be the indispensible university of our time.

To make it happen, we need the ideas, the creativity, and the commitment of everyone.

Let us envision Northeastern ten years from now: the Northeastern of 2025.

The future is in our hands.

So let us build a university that is a beacon of innovation.

Let us build the university of tomorrow.

I now invite you to meet the class of 2025.