To the Northeastern University community:

In the five years since we embarked on the Northeastern 2025 academic plan, our university has made transformative progress. We expanded our global network with the launch of new campuses in North America and overseas. We extended our leadership in global experiential learning by adding thousands of immersive opportunities around the world. Our faculty won dramatic increases in research funding and established seven institutes that transcend traditional academic boundaries to solve the great challenges of our time. Our students are talented, entrepreneurial, and engaged with the world.

Northeastern’s position has never been stronger. Yet our mission to serve humanity has never been more pressing. The crisis of the pandemic has intensified other global crises, bringing them into sharper relief. It has deepened income inequality and economic dislocation around the world. It has heightened the trauma of systemic racism and the impact of racial injustice. And the fears unleashed by the pandemic have accelerated the rise of nationalism everywhere.

As in all times of extraordinary trial, fundamental change is most necessary and most possible. Universities must help lead this change, because the world’s ability to recover and move forward depends on expanding humankind’s store of knowledge: ideas derived from discovery and learning, amplified by global collaboration and healthy competition.

But for universities to play this role, they cannot settle into their traditional mindsets. We should reach higher to meet the world where it is—and where it’s going. This demand makes today a uniquely Northeastern moment. It is at such inflection points that our university finds the greatest opportunities to reinvent itself, and to help reinvent the world.

Therefore, I am writing to announce that we will soon embark on a strategic planning process to design an electrifying new future for Northeastern that will keep our university at the forefront of re-creating higher education to meet the critical challenges of our time.

We are ideally poised to undertake this task. Through many difficult months of collective effort, we have rethought our academic enterprise to meet the unprecedented challenges of the present, while never losing sight of our ambitions for the future. We have designed new learning pathways such as NUflex and NU Start to enable us to reopen safely. We have implemented new initiatives to make our community more diverse and inclusive, and widen the learning horizons of our students, faculty, and staff.

These actions enable Northeastern to move forward stronger today. They are also catalysts for a transformative tomorrow. In committing to make the Northeastern experience truly mobile and our community truly diverse, we have expanded and elevated our vision and increased our potential for excellence. And we have a new provost, David Madigan, whose creative ideas and fresh perspectives will help us enlarge and engage our thinking.

We formally began the strategic planning process last month at a leadership retreat that brought together more than 140 members of our community. But as always, this process and the vision that emerges from it must be the work of all of us—joining together in creative, free-ranging discussions. In charting our new path, let us also keep in mind the necessity to invest resources wisely, focusing on our core mission of learning and discovery.

Finally, I want to emphasize that the initiation of a new planning process does not represent a retrenchment from our Northeastern 2025 vision. The seminal accomplishments that we have achieved in pursuit of that vision have been pivotal to our remarkable momentum. And the core tenets of Northeastern 2025 are the foundation on which we will build our new future—one that reaches ever higher toward excellence and impact.


Joseph E. Aoun