CPS Draft Strategic Plan

Preparing a Draft of the Strategic Plan for the College of Professional Studies 2018-2025

We are very excited to present this working draft of the Strategic Plan for the College of Professional Studies—2018-2025. This draft begins with a refreshed mission, based on the conditions of the ever-evolving workforce, supported by the plan’s four pillars—crafted to steer and fulfill our mission over the next seven years.

But we need your help to make this plan the best it can be. Please read through it thoroughly and offer any comments—thoughts, ideas, insights, including suggested action steps—you may have. It is our desire to create this plan together, in the spirit of building a solid and successful foundation—now and in the years to come.

Thank You!
Mary Loeffelholz, Dean, College of Professional Studies



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 employer partners—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 leans forward in friendship, teamwork and boldness.



Strategic Themes


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 fasting-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, such as information technology, manufacturing and product design, security, analytics, and management, 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.    



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 needed to make people robot-proof, whatever their starting point.  Because we embrace this responsibility, we actively assess our impact on individuals and communities through the lens of inclusive prosperity.



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.



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 new nodes outside the United States in Toronto, Vancouver and London. The college offers the Ed.D. program in Hong Kong and leadership graduate programs with partner universities in Australia and Viet Nam, and also enrolls international learners in online formats.


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.


Tell us what you think—and help us realize this plan together.