Freeland addresses ‘tuition burden’

Freeland addresses ‘tuition burden’

By Stephanie Peters

Alumni giving must rise to a more competitive level if Northeastern hopes to maintain the progress it has achieved over the past decade, President Richard Freeland said at the inaugural Faculty and Staff Alumni Celebration on May 16.

The university employs more than 600 alumni, about 200 of whom filled the Curry Student Center Ballroom for the event intended to honor individuals who work for their alma mater.

In addition to hors d’oeuvres, those in attendance were shown a new documentary that chronicles the university’s physical and academic growth over the past 10 years, as well as a preview of a renovated alumni affairs facility.

“Every one of you is a member of communities and have relations with alumni who aren’t on campus at a time when we’re trying to engage the entire university,” President Freeland told the crowd.

The president pointed to the “tuition burden” as an indicator of how students have suffered from Northeastern’s underdeveloped endowment, noting that the figure is higher than other institutions in the “Lucky 13” schools Northeastern compares itself to. On-campus alumni, he said, are an “incredible resource” in the present challenge of “advancing alumni engagement.”

The president’s message “made sense,” said Terence Flynn, a 2005 graduate who works in the division of cooperative education. However, Flynn said a successful sports program might increase donations, or at least draw alumni interest back to their alma mater.

Freeland was joined by Vice President for Alumni Relations Jack Moynihan, who earned his master’s degree in public administration from Northeastern in 1993 and came into his newly-created position – a title he said reflects the university’s commitment to invigorating the alumni relations – last July.

In 10 months on the job, Moynihan has restructured and increased his staff, created a regional outreach program and an on-campus “Dream Team” that places an alumni affairs staffer in each college to serve as a liaison and advisor for its dean.

Moynihan said he hopes the new strategy will lay the foundation for a new model to unite the different colleges and create a greater sense of community on campus.

He has also put a face to alumni affairs by filming a biannual video magazine called “All Hail Husky Nation” and starting an audio podcast, available for download on the Northeastern Web site, to spotlight successful graduates. Moynihan has also been touring the country with Freeland to hold meet-and-greets with alumni.

Improving the university’s relationship with alumni is a task that has been described to Moynihan by some alumni as “turning around the Queen Mary in the Charles,” he said. But he approaches the road ahead with enthusiasm, he added, even ending each alumni visit with a cheer: “All together now, go Huskies!”

“It’s an exciting time,” Moynihan said. “The good news is the buzz on campus and throughout the country is an excited one.”

In the fall, alumni will be able to enjoy new benefits on campus when the Office of Alumni Relations opens its new facility on the sixth floor of Columbus Place, a space Moynihan hopes will serve as “a place for alumni to hang their hat, a reason for them to come back.” In addition to Career Services, Northeastern will offer continuing education, guest speakers and alumni merchandise – but above all, Moynihan said, the facility will be an inviting environment for alumni to return to.

Though already well-connected to the university, some staff and faculty alumni in attendance at the event staff said they appreciated that Northeastern thought to recognize them.

“It’s great alumni affairs is reaching out. I think that of late people generally feel more connected to the university,” said Makeda Keegan, a technical writer in academic technology services and a doctoral student who graduated as an undergraduate in 2000 and as a graduate student in 2003. “I think it’s a very special experience to say you both graduated from and work at Northeastern.”

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