Dear Colleagues,

I write to share that Northeastern University Provost Jim Bean will step down from his position at the end of the 2020 academic year, his fifth year as provost. A search for Jim’s successor will begin in the fall.

Jim will continue to work on strategic projects for Northeastern after stepping down as provost.

By any measure, Jim’s tenure has been transformative for Northeastern’s learning and discovery mission. Upon arriving in July 2015, he launched an inclusive planning process that culminated in Northeastern 2025, our most ambitious academic plan yet. Throughout his tenure, Jim has been a thoughtful advocate for faculty and academic excellence across the board. Jim’s clear-sighted leadership has played an important role as we have expanded Northeastern into a global university system.

Jim’s accomplishments in service to our shared vision will resound for years to come. They include:

Northeastern 2025: An expert in complex systems, Jim formed six cross-disciplinary teams to lead our academic planning process. The culminating document, collaboratively reviewed by stakeholders across Northeastern, was approved by the Board of Trustees in September 2016. It serves as the blueprint for Northeastern’s future.

Research: To better align Northeastern’s research enterprise with our vision for interdisciplinary, collaborative discovery, Jim led the creation of six new research institutes. Today these institutes form the backbone of our research mission, amplifying Northeastern’s core research strengths, marshalling the best minds across disciplines, and signaling to the world our unique approach to partnering with industry, government, and other academic institutions. This month, we expect to close the academic year with $170 million in research awards—the most in Northeastern history.

Critical Infrastructure: Jim led in the planning of new research space and the renovation of 65 laboratories. He oversaw the completion of our Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex, which opened in 2016. He has also been instrumental in the creation of a new building in Burlington, slated for occupancy this summer, and in laying plans for a second science building, adjacent to ISEC, scheduled to open in 2024.

Undergraduate and Graduate Education: During Jim’s tenure, innovation in our experience-powered student programs continued. Our undergraduates saw the ongoing enrichment of their opportunities to work and study at home and abroad, and began using SAIL— Self-Authored Integrated Learning platform—to direct and personalize their lifelong learning journeys. Meanwhile, we launched the PhD Network to better unite and serve our growing PhD student community, and introduced the Experiential PhD to embed more students within industry.

Faculty Hiring: The faculty is the intellectual engine of this great university, and Jim has strengthened and aligned our faculty with the 2025 vision. Jim fostered the hiring of more than 200 tenured and tenure-track faculty-with more than 30 hires as new tenure-line positions. Jim also championed increased diversity in faculty hiring, particularly of underrepresented minorities.

Academic Leadership: Jim recruited five new deans—for our College of Science, D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, School of Law, and Snell Library—and reappointed the deans of the Khoury College of Computer Sciences, College of Engineering, and College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Our community can celebrate these achievements with great pride. While we will miss Jim’s day-to-day leadership, the high bars he has set will guide our future ambitions.

On a personal note, I will miss having Jim as a trusted friend and partner—one who never lost sight of what was best for Northeastern, and led us to our goals with wisdom and optimism. He is also a world-class expert when it comes to Oregon pinot noir!

During the year ahead, we’ll all have a chance to thank Jim for what he has helped us accomplish. In the meantime, plans for a search committee will be announced soon.


Joseph E. Aoun