As ongoing global events have shown, humankind’s challenges and opportunities emerge from the continuous interaction of four worlds—the physical, biological, human, and digital—confronting us with a near-endless range of unpredictable contexts to navigate.
Higher education’s traditional approach is insufficient to make a significant impact within this dynamic landscape. Therefore, we will rethink our classrooms, campuses, and communities as a global university system of unbounded spaces to experience, understand, and solve challenges in their evolving contexts.
Our goal: To be the indispensable university for learners and innovators who want to see their work make a direct impact on the world; and restore trust in higher education’s capacity to solve the world’s hardest problems and prepare learners for lives of accomplishment.
As we re-envision Northeastern’s future, how we become an inclusive university is the first question, not the last question. Understanding and solving humankind’s problems requires constant interaction among people who bring their own diverse contexts and experiences to the conversation. Therefore, we must be a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community that values the uniqueness of its members, recognizes the power and importance of diversity in our own and surrounding communities, and ensures their engaged participation.
Gateway to solutions
We will create an inclusive entry point for those living in the diverse communities throughout our campus network to propose jointly developed learning and research projects designed to solve global challenges in local contexts. We will utilize technology to coordinate these collaborative efforts, generate data to track impact, and ensure that projects are continually aligned with campus and community goals.
We will enhance our mentoring, support, and retention practices for underrepresented students, faculty, and staff throughout our Global University System. We will prioritize investments in first-generation student needs and student-generated diversity programming. And we will intensify our focus on anti-racism and anti-discrimination in our curriculum and our research enterprise.
Over the next decade, we will invest in formalizing deeper and more interactive connections with those who live and work in our campus neighborhoods. These partnerships will give our diverse communities agency in determining how the university can best deploy its resources to meet local and regional needs, creating a foundation for continuous evolution.
Northeastern will center learning and discovery on 21st century problem solving by creating diverse clusters of interdisciplinary expertise and experience that draw strength from the disciplines and their insights—each focused on a global problem, its contexts, and perspectives. We will call these clusters Impact Engines.
Nimble and highly connective, Impact Engines will integrate learners and innovators throughout our network. They will aggregate knowledge and experience across disciplines and business sectors and enable students, faculty, and partners to bring greater purpose and passion to problem solving. Impact Engines may align around an entire global problem or focus on solving a contained, related issue. An Impact Engine on climate change, for example, might include smaller Impact Engines pursuing solutions in environmental justice or global labor market policy. Learn about how they’re formed here.
Igniting the power of humanics
Impact Engines, drawing upon our disciplinary strengths, will become the focal point for education, research, and entrepreneurship throughout our network. This will fully activate our humanics curriculum while ensuring the continuous integration of ideas, people, and experiences across our network.
We will create an entry point for each member of our community to find and join Impact Engines focused on the issues most essential to them. Students, faculty, and partners will move among them, customizing opportunities to meet their goals. We will redefine mobility to include transitioning among the differing, ever-evolving contexts of challenges and their solutions.
Empowering the network
We will widen our globally mobile network of opportunities, linking our campus neighborhoods and our industry, government, and academic partners into diverse, multi-expertise collaborative communities focused on addressing challenges in every context. This network will also serve as our eyes and ears on the ground, yielding insights and data that will shape our material and human investments in existing and new Impact Engines.
The power of experience maximized
Whether learners pursue an existing program of study or create their own, they will experience their education in new ways: as part of an inclusive team of peers, faculty, and partners, integrating their diverse passions, expertise, and experiences to study and solve real-world problems of global consequence. This will be equally true for students who choose to focus on a single discipline and those who elect a multidisciplinary education.
Experiential from the start
From summer orientation to commencement, our students will be experiential learners. Our goal will be to make our courses applicable to real-world issues and designed to address the contexts of those issues localized to each of our campuses. Beyond coursework, we will create paths based on a “start small and go big” approach—for example, encouraging every faculty member teaching first-year courses to integrate real-world experience into their classes.
By expanding remote and variable-length co-ops and enriched virtual classroom experiences, we will open new vistas for students—from first-years to doctoral candidates—to customize their learning. For example, a first-year student might choose to pursue a co-op in Singapore while attending classes in London or dialed in to an Impact Engine project in Boston.
Systems thinking ignited
By centering learning, discovery, and innovation around Impact Engines, Northeastern will untether experiential opportunities from the narrowed perspectives imposed by disciplinary boundaries. We will prepare learners to think thoughtfully and strategically beyond those disciplines; to grow adept at integrating ideas and concepts from and for a variety of contexts.
Guided lifelong learning
We will develop “life and learning coaches” to support and guide learners throughout their academic journeys. This will include continuous feedback on the array of experiential opportunities most relevant to learners’ goals and where they are in their professional lives. Their work will be supported by a digital catalogue of experiences available across our global network, with resources in place to ensure that all students, regardless of individual circumstances, have access to every learning experience.
Create new currents for discovery
Impact Engines will emphasize seamless collaboration across multi-expertise, inclusive networks. Innovation will emerge organically wherever challenges and research partnerships intersect. This lively ecosystem will position our faculty to work more productively with industry, government, and our local communities on the research that matters most.
Responsive to shifting contexts
Northeastern’s Impact Engines will be responsive to the shifting contexts of societal challenges to ensure that we learn and discover at the pace of change. We will create an infrastructure within our research enterprise to achieve fluidity of ideas and discoveries among and between the Impact Engines; our departments, centers, and institutes; and our research partners.
Impact Engine incubation
We will empower our research institutes and centers, partners, academic departments, and individual researchers to develop new Impact Engines from smaller collaborations. These will be incubated much as entrepreneurs incubate new businesses: as innovative ventures arising out of issues and ideas that emerge from anywhere around the world.
Impact Engines will open new avenues for doctoral students and postdocs to apply their research and scholarship to real-world contexts. The mix of industry partners within the Impact Engines will expand opportunities for Experiential PhDs more closely aligned with each student’s research goals. Students will have the flexibility to create personalized experiential PhD programs outside traditional disciplines. Our Doctorate of the Practice will extend our reach into local community and across industries, providing a scaffolding across networks of scholar practitioners.
Deepen our immersion in the world
Northeastern’s diverse and inclusive network of campuses, partners, and communities is powered by a “global first” mindset. This mindset, amplified by the advantages inherent in our maturing global network, provides the university with continuous insight into the world’s ever- evolving challenges.This will heighten the university’s capacity to develop and target learning experiences and research opportunities to new and changing contexts.
Partnerships with a mission
Replicating the model set by the Roux Institute in Portland, Maine, and inspired by the transformative merger with Mills College, we will invest in global learning and research partnerships customized to the needs of our campuses, cities, and communities. These partnerships will prioritize talent creation, research innovation, and entrepreneurship aligned with one or more Impact Engines. We will leverage existing partnerships and Northeastern stakeholders, assets, and programs to demonstrate value to future partners.
Expanding global opportunities
We will utilize learning technology—including cutting-edge digital tools such as virtual and augmented reality—to enable learners and innovators to connect globally. But recognizing that being in-person confers vital advantages, we will invest all necessary resources to enable every member of our community to integrate on-the-ground global experiences into their learning, teaching, and research.
Creating unique experiences
We will utilize our expanding alumni, partner, and community networks to create “one-of-a-kind” learning and research experiences in more places around the world. In tandem, we will build out the courses and programs available at all of our campuses, offering learners and innovators more experience-connected learning opportunities that they can customize to their goals.
Empowering our vision through technology
The ability to teach, learn, research, and work from anywhere, with anyone is a foundational requirement of the Northeastern experience. Building on our investments of the past year, we will identify and activate transformational technologies and operational processes that expand inclusiveness and our capacity to connect.
From a diversity of experiences come diverse perspectives and new insights—enabling us to build knowledge and solve problems across contexts.
By starting with the world and leveraging our global university system, we’re able to identify and meet problems head-on.
For students, learning will be about experiences that are personalized and context-driven—empowering them to understand and solve today’s highly interconnected problems.
Partnership with industry, government, and our local communities is at the core of our unique model for research, enabling us to co-create multifaceted solutions that help people and organizations thrive.
More than a worldwide presence, our “global first” mindset drives our partnership model for learning and discovery and allows us to gain unique insights about the challenges communities face.
Our integrated planning process
No strategic plan will be successful without representation of our full community at the table from the start. The planning process for Experience Unleashed began at a retreat in August 2020, where 140 of Northeastern’s leaders across the global university system contributed their thoughts. That led to the creation of six working groups, each focused on a pillar of the plan. Their members included more than 100 students, faculty, and staff representing a broad cross-section of the university. Ultimately, the working group chairs led nine online Town Halls that drew more than 1,400 participants, and their feedback would inform each of the working group’s final reports.