As we move into our third week of remote work, I want to, once again, thank our faculty and staff for their hard work and dedication to help keep D'Amore-McKim running smoothly. Our students also appear to be adjusting reasonably well to the “new normal.” It's clear that the situation we now find ourselves in has most definitely changed the way we live and work, and I know that many of us have challenging remote work environments – it's not easy balancing the needs of family, work, and society under these extraordinary circumstances. Your continued efforts and leadership during these difficult times is much appreciated. I'm also deeply appreciative of the work being done by medical professionals, health workers, government employees, and first responders during this crisis to keep us all safe and healthy.

At Northeastern, we are used to being agile in the face of constant change. Over the last few weeks, I have called on several corporate leaders to check in with them and reiterate why our vision and mission is now more relevant than ever. Our focus on preparing learners for a world transformed by digital convergence is resonating with them, because they are all living it as well. What we're seeing now is a digitally convergent world on steroids: i.e. the seamless blending of physical, digital, and human resources. It necessitates us as a community to think differently.

For D'Amore-McKim, this is not a time to go ahead and do things alone. It is about marshalling resources within our whole ecosystem, such as working across colleges and utilizing the capabilities of departments across Northeastern, harnessing the global campus network, leveraging our corporate partners, and thinking about the scale and scope of our operations differently. Although this total convergence has happened a bit earlier than we envisaged, we have been preparing for this brave new world as evidenced by the following:

  • We have embarked on a new curricular philosophy embedding experiential learning and humanics as the foundation for the future. Combined undergraduate majors and our new MBA x program are exemplars of this philosophy – we need to move more in this direction.
  • We have close working relationships with Northeastern departments and campuses to create innovative programming. The Semester in Silicon Valley initiative and the Global Engagement Program in London are good examples. We also have ambitious plans for the Roux Institute in Portland.
  • Along with the university, we have been working to develop a digital infrastructure for global online learning. We were pioneers in the e-learning space with our Online MBA. We started experimenting with digital scalable executive education two years ago, and we have learned from our experiences which will help us with our intensive foray into scaled digital learning. 
  • We have been in active conversations with corporate partners on co-designing educational programs in order to meet their talent needs. In the past week, these partners have reiterated their interest in progressing forward. 

The SARS pandemic, which fueled anxiety around human contact and traveling, enabled a small company called Alibaba to become a global behemoth. The global recession of 2008, which fueled anxiety around lower consumer incomes, catalyzed people to share assets like spare rooms and car rides thereby creating the shared economy as it is known today.[1] These historical examples offer us both wisdom and hope. In a similar vein, COVID-19 will reduce cognitive barriers to online education and accelerate the growth of virtual communities. The need for the hour for D'Amore-McKim is to catalyze these forces and integrate them into our vibrant experiential learning model. In other words, we have an opportunity to develop a new educational model for the 21st century. While it is impossible to know how long this crisis will last, I'm confident that we will come through the other side and thrive in a world of great opportunity.

Despite this unprecedented disruption to our lives, let us remind ourselves that humankind is resilient and that this too shall pass. In the meantime, let us prioritize our physical and emotional health, as well as the health of our loved ones, as we labor through these unprecedented times. Be safe. I wish you and your families the very best as we navigate these trying times.

Raj Echambadi
Dunton Family Dean
D'Amore-McKim School of Business