Strategic Plan | 2018-2025

Our Path Forward, Together

Change happens fast, so careful planning matters.

At the College of Professional Studies, we believe that while the dizzying pace of technological innovation, the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence, and the rapidly evolving demands of global workplaces can sometimes feel overwhelming, these trends actually present extraordinary opportunities.

Guided by that vision, the strategic plan below lays out a roadmap for the College’s programs and mission in the coming years.

Our plan reflects our practice: We elevate experiential education, partner with industry experts and honor the hard-won lessons of practical knowledge. We knock down the barriers between work and learning. We welcome and celebrate underrepresented voices. We foster and connect communities of learners. And we connect our graduates with employers to participate in a global network of professionals ready to share their insight and expertise.

Like any document intended to endure in a time of rapid change, our strategic plan has some flexibility built in—we invite your questions and comments, your ideas, your enthusiasm, your wisdom. We invite you to be co-creators in elevating and sustaining our mission as we affirm Northeastern’s worldwide leadership in experiential learning.

We look forward to collaborating with you, challenging you, listening to you, and supporting you in your own work and learning as we move forward together with the College of Professional Studies Strategic Plan as our guide.


Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies provides lifelong experiential learning that unleashes the capacities of aspiring individuals in all stages and walks of life. We meet learners where they are with programs that break down boundaries between work and learning, connect students with employers, and foster inclusive prosperity in every community we touch. We support a growing global network of agile, entrepreneurial, robot-proof makers and doers—students, faculty, alumni, and cross-sector leaders—who together develop, apply and share practical wisdom informed by the deep resources of the research university, in the service of causes larger than ourselves. An organization committed to a greater good, the College of Professional Studies works with philanthropic and industry partners and leans forward in friendship, teamwork and boldness.

Strategic Plan

A. Transform the college and its programs into a network of knowledge networks, connecting practice to discovery without boundaries

The value of the College of Professional Studies to the world is earned and expressed through our capacity to network. We exist to bring the intellectual capacity of the research university together with the ever-evolving demands of the world’s fastest-growing professional fields, in a dialogue that transforms both sides of the partnership. We exist to connect employers with aspiring professionals, and to connect professionals with one another, eliminating the boundary between work and learning in order to accelerate both.

The College of Professional Studies will therefore transform itself from a portfolio of professional academic programs to a network of knowledge networks. Knowledge networks are global communities of learners and practitioners, wherever they are located—whether in industry, in government and the public sphere, in K-12 and higher education, in social entrepreneurship—that continuously circulate knowledge and know-how from the worlds of research and practice, and that use the extended network as a basis for innovation and discovery of new knowledge. Knowledge networks will increasingly connect CPS faculty, wherever in the world they are located—including our extraordinary cohort of part-time, industry-based faculty members—with current students, alumni, and employer partners. The knowledge networks constituting CPS will be both virtual and physical: supported by sophisticated platforms for learning, discovery and community-building, and distributed through Northeastern’s global network of campuses in the form of workplace-based programs, intensive learning and networking residencies, place-based talent incubators, and challenge-based labs focusing on regional issues.

To support this vision, CPS is moving to organize our teaching and learning around broad domains of practice, Analytics & Enterprise Intelligence, Communications & Media, Global Social Enterprise, Healthcare & Biotechnology, Leadership & Project Management, Quality Assurance & Advanced Manufacturing, and Security & Enterprise Continuity, rather than into portfolios of discrete discipline-based programs. Domains are zones of interchange between the future of work and the research university, and domains will become the College’s platforms for realizing knowledge networks. Domains assemble knowledge and know-how from both traditional research university disciplines and industry practice to address the core challenges faced by enterprises of all kinds. Where an academic discipline has a “push” orientation towards the world—first develop fundamental knowledge from the ground up, and then push it out to address real-world challenges—a domain has a “pull” orientation, reaching into the university in order to connect people and solutions to practice. Domains enable CPS to rapidly develop and deploy learning experiences in agile, stackable, modular formats that are readily re-used and adapted for new contexts, new learners, and new employer partners.


  1. Realize Northeastern’s first knowledge network on the foundation of CPS’s Graduate School of Education (GSE). Northeastern’s Graduate School of Education, the Lowell Institute School, the NExT program, the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy, and the Northeastern Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning through Research (CATLR) will collaborate as a virtual education school, with the aim of achieving international recognition as the world’s foremost education school in the arena of pre-K-to-gray experiential learning. Northeastern’s will be the only world-class education school that fully integrates research and practice on learning in formal school settings with learning that happens in and alongside the evolving 21st century workplace.

    The College will thread an interdisciplinary faculty of researchers in the sciences of experiential learning into a world-wide knowledge network of educational innovators who translate evolving knowledge into evidence-based, constantly renewed practice. Those innovators will include not only teachers in public and private school systems, but also those responsible for learning and training in other contexts, including corporate and organizational learning, nonprofits and community organizations. The knowledge network will take as its domain of discovery and practice learning whenever, wherever and however it occurs. NExT and GSE’s global reach, supported by Northeastern’s global system of campuses, will challenge educators and researchers to validate their assumptions and adapt their practices in diverse cultural contexts and for diverse populations. The network will foster reverse innovation in experiential learning, not just one-way distributions from a U.S. hub. It will forge collaborations with employer partners as well as with school systems of all kinds and levels throughout Northeastern’s global system.

    Update: NExT Network established and thriving with multiple convenings on campus and online since 2018 and scores of initiatives underway, especially innovative responses to teaching challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Develop similar knowledge networks in collaboration with other university research themes: security, health, sustainability and resilience. CPS networks complement Northeastern’s aspirations as a research university. They direct research findings into networks of leadership and application in order to discover and share the combinations of human, technological and information literacy that make the work of the research university actionable in culturally diverse contexts, meet real enterprise needs, and make professionals robot-proof in today’s fast-changing economy.

    The College is moving towards launching additional knowledge networks in areas of public demand and university expertise. The College has been approached by Northeastern’s NUPD to convene leaders in urban policing and eventually urban leadership more broadly, a domain of practice complementary to Northeastern’s research excellence in criminology, security and resilience. We are beginning a similar conversation on athletics leadership in higher education.
  3. Evolve the CPS faculty and staff model towards long-term membership in a knowledge network. Our faculty and staff are increasingly recruited from industry and enterprises of all kinds in the world: some to stay with us in a second career, some to remain primarily based in industry, some to come and go. CPS will extend that model to offer professional exchanges that go both ways—from the College into industry and vice-versa. We will extend our recent success in recruiting highly visible, accomplished, industry-based professors of the practice in new regions, especially in the innovation corridors of the U.S. west coast.
  4. Fully realize Northeastern Self-authored Integrated Learning (SAIL) and the Northeastern Commons as connection platforms for learning and discovery in knowledge networks. CPS will partner in platform development with the Office of the Provost to ensure that their users extend beyond traditional research university boundaries and audiences. Northeastern’s platform strategy will be even more compelling and transformative for lifelong learners than for the residential campus experience.
  5. Structure CPS around professional domains. CPS will develop a rich library of shared learning experiences, from beginner level to mastery, in the knowledge and know-how of our professional domains. With the Online Experiential Learning team, we will develop taxonomy and infrastructure to make content available for agile re-use and adaption anywhere in the university, enabling CPS to rapidly customize and personalize learning for enterprise partners and individuals.

B. Become the world’s most sought-after provider of lifelong experiential learning in service of inclusive prosperity

At the largest, global scale, the fruits of economic growth in this century are becoming increasingly more distributed among the nations of the world. Within nations and in the world’s most dynamic cities, however, achieving inclusive prosperity is a difficult challenge, not only in the United States but around the world. The U.S.-based Brookings Institute defines “inclusive economic growth” as occurring “when all segments of society share in the benefits of economic growth,” and declares that “recent failures to achieve inclusive growth, especially in advanced economies like Europe and the United States, help to explain the political and societal divisions they increasingly face.”

Around the world, new economic value is being created by increasingly fewer human workers. It has been projected that 57% of existing jobs in the world’s leading economies are at risk (Northeastern 2025), and those that remain will be radically changed by the advent of AI and sophisticated robotics. Alongside stubborn historical wealth gaps separating advantaged and disadvantaged groups, wage gaps between workers with in-demand skills and those without are growing. Demands for re-skilling and retraining over a lifetime are intensifying. Much is at stake, both for individuals and for their surrounding communities: in the words of President Aoun, “People are going to be left out of this economy” if universities do not step into their “responsibility to make people robot-proof.”

Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies embraces this responsibility. We meet the future of work head-on by providing lifelong, on-demand experiential learning in high-demand fields, with curricula that incorporate the full range of capacities—data literacy, technological literacy, and human literacy—needed to make people robot-proof throughout their lives and whatever their starting point. Because we embrace this responsibility, we actively assess our impact on individuals and communities through the lens of inclusive prosperity.


  1. Continuously extend and refresh a portfolio of 100% experiential, challenge-based offerings that incorporate in-demand skills throughout all programs.
    • Build learning experiences around domain-wide learning laboratories and virtual firms that take on real challenges—for example, virtual PR firm, virtual global consulting firm, diplomacy lab—and scaffold learners’ preparation of work
    • Incorporate employer-sponsored Experiential Network (XN) projects, co-op, or other experiential learning as a requirement in all programs.
    • Integrate into all offerings the three contemporary literacies of robot-proof professionals—data literacy, technological literacy, and human literacy—through integrated analytics, design thinking, entrepreneurship and innovation, and leadership challenges.
    • Address learners from pre-K to grey: use the NExT network to extend experiential learning in pre-college domains and pilot new offerings addressing later-life transitions.

      Update: Students who complete Google’s IT Support Professional Certificate can now receive academic credit toward the college’s bachelor’s degree in information technology.
  2. Personalize robot-proof lifelong learning to the learner.
    • Provide learners with a “mission and map” that stays with them for life, recognizes learning wherever it takes place—whether in the workplace, in academic programs, or in combination—and matches constantly updated learning recommendations with their professional goal
    • Provide learning experiences that are at once personalized and deeply social, developing human literacy, self-awareness and leadership capacity alongside other capacities from whatever the learner’s starting point.
    • Develop a nontraditional subscription model, allowing students to access learning modules on demand.
    • Offer all learning in stackable, modular, competency-based formats, recognized through industry-validated badges, that provide early and continuously accruing benefits to the learner by highlighting their skills to employers.
    • Using the global network of campuses and Northeastern’s employer network, build a robust suite of pathway programs offering workforce-focused onramps to the university for pre-matriculated students, pre-college students, and students not directly admitted to the university across the global network of campuses.

      Update: A $4.4M National Science Foundation grant in partnership with Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies and College of Science as well as Middlesex Community College, funds scholarships that support low-income and underrepresented minorities into life sciences careers.

      Update: Three Graduate School of Education faculty members, funded by a National Science Foundation grant, will investigate what factors and key experiences effectively promote students’ awareness of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, and their persistence in undertaking educational pathways to those careers, particularly among students from underrepresented populations. The project will conduct a case study analysis of the Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies program which provides industry-based STEM capstone experiences for high school juniors and seniors.
  3. Tailor the College’s presence to the opportunities of Northeastern’s global network.
    • Sense community opportunities through the regional campuses and customize programs rapidly through domain-based modular content and the capacity of knowledge networks to recruit in-region faculty.
    • Partner with employers to provide workforce-based bachelor’s completion programs throughout the network in high-demand fields.
    • Integrate the GSE and NExT into educational systems wherever we go; become recognized for thought leadership in K-to-gray experiential learning in every region we enter.
    • In collaboration with Northeastern’s world-leading network scientists, develop and deploy a comprehensive program enabling communities to assess and accelerate their progress towards inclusive prosperity using a network-based model of social capital.

      Update: Seattle-based students in the Project Management program collaborated with co-curricular teams to complete experiential projects across our network for Eurythmia Medical Network (market analysis), ARV Syndicate (data management and optimization), FindExactly (go-to-market strategy), and Boston’s Speak for the Trees (integrated project plan).

      Update: The Toronto campus has been approved to accept international students by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. The campus plans to accept international students in the Master in Project Management program in April 2020. In addition, the Master in Analytics and the Master in Informatics programs are expected to be approved at the end of 2019. Once approved, the campus will hire local faculty and accept international students.

      Update: Students in the Global Studies and International Relations graduate program can now participate in the Diplomacy Lab, exploring real-world challenges while contributing to the policy making process in a partnership with the U.S. State Department. 

C. Become the world’s partner of choice for enterprise talent solutions, eliminating the gap between work and learning

Our mission of fostering inclusive prosperity demands that the College of Professional Studies engage with employers as fully as we do with individual learners. The future of learning will increasingly unfold in the workplace.

The other face of the 21st century economy’s rising wage gaps among workers is rising skills gaps for employers. Employers around the world are facing stiff competition for highly skilled talent and reckoning with stubborn shortages of talent in critical fields that impede their overall capacity to grow. Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of learners, in the United States and elsewhere in the world, cannot afford to separate work from learning as in the traditional residential model of higher education. The minority of learners who do embrace and benefit from the residential model at one stage of their lives will be called upon constantly to upskill and add new skills throughout their careers.

The solution for both employers and workers is the same: more, and more innovative, workplace-based learning. The most effective way of respecting learners’ life commitments while furthering their careers is to integrate lifelong learning into the workplace. The most effective way of upskilling employees is in the authentic learning context of the workplace.

The College’s and Northeastern’s market position in both studying and practically advancing the elimination of the boundaries between work and learning is burnished by our unique Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy. Thought leadership and business models servicing the corporate/employer audience will cement Northeastern’s brand as a leader in practice and research within the employer community.


  1. Customize our offerings for enterprise partners
    • CPS will lead Northeastern as a whole in developing a “Mission and Map” platform for enterprise talent as well as individuals. In parallel with the platform for individual learners, the enterprise “Mission and Map” platform will interface with enterprise talent analytics platforms to match Northeastern’s learning resources to enterprise needs. It will enable enterprises to automatically monitor the shelf life of their employees’ credentials and skills and push out learning opportunities directly related to their workplace responsibilities and opportunities.
    • Meet the just-in-time needs of employers with customized combinations of workshops, seminars and bootcamps that at the same time provide individual learners with accelerated pathways towards badges, certificates and degrees.
    • Organize and align the CPS domain-based portfolio around enterprise talent needs, by sector and across the career span from entry to executive.

      Update: Faculty organized the “Symposium on the Intersection of AI and Talent Strategy,” that brought together human resources leaders from business, government, and non-profits to consider how to prepare for the changes that Artificial Intelligence, or AI, will bring to the workplace.
  2. Eliminate the boundary between work and learning
    • Extend the GE EQUIP model to a second generation of embedded in-work degrees in advanced manufacturing, information technology and cybersecurity, biotech, healthcare, and digital business.
    • Recognize and validate workplace learning (badges, MOOCs, etc.) for advanced standing into our credential offerings, including partnerships with IBM, Coursera and Google.
    • Implement a comprehensive digital badging micro-credentialing platform to recognize resume-worthy skills and accomplishments. The platform will generate brand awareness for individuals and for Northeastern by publishing newly conferred badges immediately to social networks.
    • Integrate our portfolio into enterprise talent platforms.
    • Establish a steady external funding stream for the Center for the Future Higher Education and Talent Strategy supported by outside agencies and foundations. Partner the Center with RIELS and the GSE to establish Northeastern as the active global center of research and practice on experiential and work-based learning.

      Update: The Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy conducted the first-ever study which shows an increasing demand for job applicants to hold certificates, microcredentials, and real-world professional experience, in addition to college degrees.

D. Activate Northeastern’s global network for lifelong professional learners

The College of Professional Studies is deeply global along multiple dimensions. CPS is a major destination for international students learning at Northeastern’s Boston campus, both through its own degree programs and as a provider of pathways into programs offered by other colleges of the university. CPS has been and will continue to be an anchor college for the expansion of Northeastern’s network of campuses beyond Boston including a new node outside the United States in Toronto.

We are proud of the several thousand international students who have graduated from the college in the past decade with professionally relevant credentials and global experience and, in so doing, have contributed to inclusive prosperity on a global scale. In alignment with the vision of Northeastern 2025, the opportunity for CPS now is to expand the provide pathways to global mobility and cultural agility for an even wider range of learners, including domestic adult learners whose embedding in work and life makes global student mobility in traditional study-abroad models difficult or impossible to undertake. CPS will realize the potential of Northeastern’s global network for every learner we touch, and make the College a partner of choice for employers seeking to develop talent and grow their enterprises on a global scale.


  1. Be first in new regions with in-demand professional graduate programs: lead with project management, analytics, regulatory affairs of pharmaceuticals. Use Northeastern’s network of employers as the basis of expansion, developing work-place embedded programming to accelerate entry into new sites and overcome regulatory hurdles.
  2. Partner with enrollment management to identify, develop and market new pathways for learners, particularly in Asia and Latin America, beginning with the ContiNUeN.U.Immerse, and the N.U.Bound program in China in 2018. Develop pathway learning experiences in languages other than English, particularly Spanish and Mandarin, drawing on experience now being gained with programming for the Major League Baseball partnership.

    Update: Northeastern has been the preferred education provider for Major League Baseball (MLB) since 2017, enrolling 43 players at the College of Professional Studies. Reid Birlingmair, the first MLB player to graduate under the partnership, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies in May 2019. Northeastern is also the education provider for the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) as of May 2019.
  3. Develop powerful mobility programs and destinations for international CPS students outside of Boston.
    • Expand rotation of Ed.D. residency in the network and internationally: from Boston and Charlotte to Seattle (in 2018) and Toronto. Use international rotations to extend the GSE’s new focus on international Ed.D. recruitment and the comparative, global dimension of the GSE’s mission.
    • Partner with other colleges to deepen the distinctive excellence of each individual regional campus through research-related professional programming: e.g., computer science and artificial intelligence in Seattle, biotechnology and Internet of Things in Silicon Valley
  4. Use place-based learning laboratories as sites for bringing domestic and international learners together in cross-cultural teams addressing meaningful challenges. Link communities of students at different sites in the network both virtually and F2F in virtual labs and virtual firms preparing students for global workplaces. Accompany project-based learning with explicit reflection and practice in cultural agility.
  5. Provide CPS-based academic programming and Experiential Network (XN) opportunities to new bodies of undergraduate students entering Northeastern’s global system. CPS learning experiences will be offered online to augment and accelerate undergraduate curricula offered by other Northeastern colleges, or by new partner institutions, at campuses in the global system.
  6. Seek out opportunities to partner with other institutions and their networks, around the world, whose distinctive missions can be complemented by CPS professional learning opportunities. Independent schools and International Baccalaureate schools, as well as liberal arts colleges around the United States, may either partner directly with Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies or offer CPS programming and experiences under their own name.

    Update: The college partners with the national nonprofit founded in Boston, Year Up. Year Up Greater Boston participants can earn college credits for previous training and internships. The goal of Year Up Greater Boston is to move young adults from minimum wage jobs into meaningful careers. To date, 23 participants have enrolled in the college’s bachelor’s completion degree programs.
  7. Activate the College’s global network of alumni to mentor both current students and other alumni.