Freeland speaks of NU’s rank

Freeland speaks of NU’s rank

By Stephanie Vosk

President Richard Freeland delivered his annual State of the University Address on Monday, highlighting the progress made by Northeastern in the U.S. World News and Report standings, but also admitting there is a long road ahead.

Highlights of his speech included the university’s goal to reach the U.S. News and World Report: 2003 America’s Best Colleges Top 100 list and its first place ranking in cooperative education. The school placed 142nd overall in the survey.

“The number one ranking by U.S. News among universities that link classroom study with workplace experience was truly thrilling,” President Freeland said. “We should all take pride in this recognition.”

He spoke about the progress of Northeastern over the last decade and its plan for continuing to strive in the years to come.

“Northeastern is a university on the move,” he said. “We get better every year. We earn more recognition every year. We are making steady progress toward recognition among the top 100 universities in the country.”

One of the most important factors that the university will need to improve on in order to climb the ranks, is its graduation and retention rates.

“The freshman that we admitted this fall, the class of 2007, constitutes the class that carries our goal for achieving the goal of our graduation rate,” Freeland said. “By 2008, six years from now, 70 percent of this year’s freshman should possess a Northeastern degree.”

Statistics were provided that supported the university’s growing success, but that also reiterated the distance between its present state and its goal.

Freeland cited many individual departments and people that are helping to lead the university on its path. The remainder of his speech focused on semester conversion.

“The challenge of student success is directly related to the challenge of semester conversion,” he said. “Virtually every transaction between student and university will be altered.”

Freeland then went on to say, “if we do not manage this final year of transition we risk a significant setback in the area of retention and graduation and we risk missing an opportunity to strengthen our program that will not come again.”

He concluded his speech by inviting the university to “understand the importance of the challenge, to rise to the occasion, as I know you are capable of doing, and achieve another big win for Northeastern, at a moment when a win is absolutely necessary.”

In addition to Freeland’ address, other academic and administrative leaders spoke.

Denied the right to speak at the State of the University address, for which he petitioned, Student Government Association President (SGA) Richard Schwabacher decided to convey his State of the Student Body Address through university publications and websites rather than holding a separate event.

“The effect that would happen if we created a separate program would not be the same intended effect,” Schwabacher said.

Director of University Communications Ed Klotzbier said including Schwabacher would have altered the intent of the ceremony.

“We explained that the State of the University is an annual address where the president and key academic and administrative leaders talk about the year in review and the year that is going forward,” he said. “It’s the call to arms, the pep-talk, getting everyone jazzed up about the new academic year.”

Senior Vice President and Provost Dr. Ahmed Abdelal said the university must stay focused in order “to become a more powerful engine for economic development, and for social development, in Boston and the state.”

He went on to touch upon the subjects of graduation and retention and other ways of improving the undergraduate program.

“Increasing the reputation of the quality and distinctiveness of our undergraduate program is a very important foundation for enhancing our academic reputation,” Abdelal said.

He said semester conversion will take a number of years to sort out.

“As we strive to realize the exciting vision of becoming one of the top 100 universities in the nation, we can also enjoy getting there,” Abdelal said.

Senior Vice President of Administration and Finance Larry Mucciolo updated the faculty and staff as to Northeastern’s financial status.

“Since 1997,” he said, “retention rates have been improving, consistent with our projections.” Since Northeastern is a tuition dependent institution, he said, it has to “invest in human and physical resources needed to enhance our strategic plans.”

Mucciolo detailed the plans for construction of West Village buildings G and H which are set to open in the fall of 2004. He also spoke about the success rate of recent additions including the Behrakis Health Science Center and the cyber cafe in Shillman Hall.

Professor Robert Lowndes, the chair of the Faculty Senate Agenda Committee, looked beyond the rankings and urged the Northeastern community to move forward in new strategic directions. The faculty senate will focus on faculty salaries, early retirement incentives, and the budget process.

“Our competition [for the U.S. News Top 100] is doing much of the same and our quest will be challenging,” Lowndes said. “We must not lose momentum.”

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