University hosts open forum for second academic plan

University hosts open forum for second academic plan

By Cassidy DeStefano, news editor

Northeastern University hosted an open forum this week to hear suggestions for its second academic plan, which will aim to create a ten-year framework for increased experiential learning and global integration. Working groups from the university will use the feedback to draft the plan for the Board of Trustees to ratify in the fall.

Nathan Felde, chair of art and design in the College of Arts, Media and Design, said the plan succeeds a 2007 agenda that targeted sustainability, security and recruitment of tenure-track faculty. The upcoming project, he said, intends to make the university’s assets accessible across all majors.

“[The sciences] tend to be dominant fields in this particular university,” he said. “But the other thing you could say is that it might take fewer artists to have greater effect. I think the change of context and culture is what shifts how students think about things. And that applies to anyone.”

The two-part meeting, held in the Alumni Center at 716 Columbus Ave., began with four small groups playing the roles of prospective students, current students, alumni and members of the workforce. Each group offered suggestions to better experiential immersion for its target group. Common responses included increasing integrated technologies, culturally-competent mentors and geographic diversity.

Ashley Clerge, a senior political science major, said she feels ethnic variety is lacking.

“I’m a student of color on campus and we all have a very collective experience of feeling not included, so that’s why I wanted to speak up,” she said. “Right now, the university’s programs are only fitting one type of experience the white, upper middle class, able-bodied experience.”

To amend this, Clerge and other attendees proposed offering preparation classes to brief students who are travelling abroad on the demographics and customs of their destination.

“My experiences abroad have shown me that a lot of students travel who are not culturally aware, so we should also work to combat that,” she said.

The remaining half of the meeting focused on maximizing Northeastern’s global resources by applying them to students of all disciplines and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Bioengineering Ph.D. student Michelle Stolzoff said she feels Northeastern’s current agenda disproportionately benefits undergraduates.

“It’s a little bit harder to find the funding for a Ph.D. student to go abroad and study at an international research lab even if it would be applicable for them to do so,” she said.

Stolzoff added that when Ph.D. students do travel, it is often alongside their adviser on sabbatical, a paid leave granted to professors for study or travel.

“There are also a lot of government-funded programs that do allow people to go, but that highlights a general lack of communication,” she said. “There was lot of ideological language being thrown around at this meeting, but I hope the working groups decide to implement practical steps to the program that actually point us in the right direction.”

Photo by Sydne Mass

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