The Student Perspective: The shock and confusion that comes with being new to America
Oishika Hota, MS Media Innovation and Data Communication, class of 2024 Graduate, talks about her experience as an International student
One of the great privileges I have been offered is that of exposure. Starting from school all the way to graduate school here at Northeastern, every step I have taken has expanded my world significantly. But nothing has done the job like moving my life halfway across the globe.
Coming from Mumbai, Maharashtra, the most populous city in India, a land known for its vast array of cultures, languages, and traditions, I thought I had seen it all. However, the U.S. presented an even more intricate mosaic of backgrounds, beliefs, and practices. In India, a fusion of varied traditions and customs maintains its quintessential Indian identity despite the diversity. On the other hand, the US displays an intricate mosaic, presenting influences from diverse corners of the globe, resulting in a distinctive cultural mix. I feel like I am part of a melting pot, and navigating this diverse tapestry is one of my favorite challenges as an International Student in America.
Whatever I knew about the U.S. before landing here was from my consumption of American pop culture. As a fan of chick flicks, Legally Blonde and Pitch Perfect shaped the way I perceived the American Collegiate experience. Apart from that, I had also watched enough TV shows and movies to anticipate a lot of what was thrown at me: the small talk, the food, and the cold weather. When Mindy Kaling made New York winters seem warm compared to Boston in “The Mindy Project,” I knew I had to be prepared. But there is a difference between knowing something and actually experiencing it.
For all the small talk America offers, I had a lot of trouble making friends — especially as a graduate school student, where forming a community in a class full of people from several countries is, to put it simply, hard. Overcoming these challenges required me to step out of my comfort zone. I began attending social events organized by the university and joining clubs related to my interests. It was nerve-wracking at first, but I pushed myself to strike up conversations, even if it meant starting with a simple “hello.”
I’m not a hater of American food, but there are a few dishes that just don’t hit the mark for me. Especially when they’re missing that spicy, flavor-packed kick that Indian dishes usually bring to the table!
While ingredients and restaurants can be found in Boston, the cost of materials and lack of variety ends up killing the taste. Even though I have learned how to cook, nothing beats the taste of food cooked in your actual home.
The cold, again, was something I was mentally prepared for, but coming from a tropical country, acclimatization did not come easy. I could finish bottles of moisturizers, but I did not understand why my skin was still dry, why I was still feeling cold after wearing my thickest jacket, which brand would protect me the best, and why it was so dark at 4:30 p.m. Despite the struggle, I found ways to keep pushing through. You find little moments of joy, like a warm cup of hot chocolate, a cozy night in with your favorite food and a movie.
With practice, my problems have changed. I feel better prepared for my second winter here, I am ready for the lull and sadness that comes with the darkness. It’s about acknowledging that this period is difficult, allowing yourself to feel it, and seeking support when needed. Whether it’s talking to a friend or a professional, sharing the burden of these winter blues can make a world of difference.
But at the end of all this, the hardest shock hasn’t been cultural, but that of the magnitude of my homesickness. Being far away from the close-knit family and the familiar comfort of home is a struggle. Learning to adapt to a new culture is by far not an easy task. The difficulty is what has sparked resilience in me and pushed me to explore this new landscape; to develop a new support system despite the cultural and the often not-so-edible reminders that I am in a country that is not mine.
Moving away from home has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it has also been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. It was a slow but rewarding process. As I opened up and made an effort to bridge the cultural gaps, the move didn’t seem so bad.
Looking back at the whirlwind of the last year, I’m giving myself a mental high-five. The hurdles and bumps were tough, but they’ve turned me into a stronger and wiser version of myself. And for that, I am immensely grateful.
Open House: College of Professional Studies Bachelor’s Completion
Get Support in Real Time.
There’s a lot to consider on the path to completing your bachelor’s degree. Join us at our College of Professional Studies bachelor’s completion open house to speak with faculty and staff and get your questions answered. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the many degree paths we offer and meet with faculty, staff, alumni, and current students.
Hors d’oeuvres and Northeastern University swag will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.
Date: November 2
Time: Registration begins at 6:00 p.m. Open house runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Location: Northeastern University Visitor Center, 40 Leon St, Boston, MA 0211
At this event, you’ll get personalized answers to all of your questions, including:
- What bachelor’s degree paths are available for online, hybrid, and in-person learning?
- What are the benefits of Northeastern’s experience-based education, and what experiential learning options are available?
- What is the application process?
- How do I know which of my credits will transfer?
- How much will completing my degree cost?
- How long will it take to complete my degree?
Learn more about your next steps and get connected with resources specific to your needs so you can move forward on your journey with Northeastern University.
Innovation Day 2023
Innovation Day is an exciting day-long symposium that invites full-time and half-time Faculty and Staff interested in building new programs and new learner services that are in line with the College’s strategic aims, to submit ideas to enhance our programs and learner experience at scale.
NOTE: This event is for the College of Professional Studies (CPS) Faculty & Staff only.
Click here to register.
Annual Scholarship Reception a Huge Success!
With over 225 students receiving upwards of $300,000 from 52 scholarships – there was much to celebrate at the College of Professional Studies’ annual Undergraduate Scholarship Reception.
With the crackling anticipation of alumni donors eager to meet the recipients of their scholarship funds – and students so excited to greet and thank their benefactors all in attendance, the gathering has all the earmarks of a supportive community rooted in a legacy of achievement and of people helping people reach new heights.
The celebration included inspiring remarks from two benefactors, Mani Sundaram, MS’99 and Meena Ramakrishnan, CPS’06 who each offered compelling reflections on their experience supporting financial aid:
“Sponsoring six CPS students has been a source of immense gratification for us. We love the concept of creating a pathway for students and community colleges to gain the knowledge, skills, and credentials to align themselves with what’s going on in the industry, secure excellent jobs and build strong career trajectories.”Mani Sundaram. MS’99
“We felt it was the right opportunity to do our part because we had been given challenges back then so both of us are delighted to be part of this program and we wish all the students here all the very best in your lives.”Meena Ramakrishnan CPS’06
Mohamed Abougalala, Information Technology, Class of 2024 rounded out the program with a personal account of his journey to CPS from Egypt. Mohamed shared his experience arriving at CPS, saying, “The moment I stepped onto campus, I felt a sense of belonging.”
Whether a student, alumnus, donor benefactor, staff member, academic advisor, or faculty member – the annual Scholarship Reception fills the tank on good vibes with warmth and an expansive sense of the goodness and remarkable capacity of the College of Professional Studies to positively impact lives, to advance opportunity, and to building a community rooted in a culture of giving back.
If you have any questions about the undergraduate scholarship program at the College of Professional Studies, please contact Mary McCarthy, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Funds, at [email protected].
View photos from the event here.
How CPS Helped Raissa Talehata Turn a Concern About Food Waste into a Full-Time Career as a UX Climate Designer
Raissa Talehata, who just graduated from CPS with a Master of Professional Studies in Digital Media in 2022, remembers giving a presentation to her classmates in Australia during her junior year of high school about food waste in Solo, Java, Indonesia. She did not know then how researching food waste problems would become a permanent fixture in her own life. The damaging 2015 wildfires in Australia and her shock and dismay at the huge portions served at Boston restaurants were things that deeply motivated her interest in food waste. These experiences, coupled with her education, eventually led her to develop an app prototype that enabled consumers to manage their food inventory and reduce waste.
Raissa initially attended the University of Melbourne, Australia, for a bachelor of commerce degree in accounting and finance. She then received her first master’s degree at the Hult International School of Business in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Intersectionality of Business, Communications, Design, and Global Social Issues
For today’s consumers, Raissa realized she needed to expand her skill set beyond business and finance and focus on emerging technologies, user experiences, and interactive design. She found what she needed in the College of Professional Studies graduate digital media program. She said that, “My faculty mentors Cynthia Barron, Tania Schlatter, Carl Zangerl, and Edward Powers, made huge impacts.”
In 2020, Raissa was planning on doing a co-op in the summer, however, that experiential learning experience had to be postponed because of the pandemic. Instead, she learned of other experiential learning opportunities: one being the creation of a virtual public relations (PR) agency called Husky Communications overseen by faculty member Ed Powers. That summer, Raissa and other students developed a digital product and website for the virtual PR firm. Their work included interviewing stakeholders, developing a brand, conducting user research, creating digital content, and designing solutions. She also worked on website designs for Inspire & Influence, a blog for Northeastern’s communication, digital media, and human resources professionals; and for NU Media, an innovative platform to showcase student stories, innovations, discoveries, and achievements with internal and external audiences.
Benefits of Experiential Learning
Experiential learning gave Raissa immediate work skills and the confidence to define and identify business problems, develop creative solutions, and solve complex challenges. These projects helped her land her current job as a UX Designer at a local design firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“Being a part of the Husky team was a stepping stone for me, as it not only sharpened my technical skills but also developed my soft-skills that could be easily transferable to all different types of businesses – it gave me the competitive edge,” said Raissa.
She also won two awards during her graduate studies: the Northeastern Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Experiential Learning and the CPS Experiential Learning XN Excellence Award.
Raissa has many titles in her current work. She is a web developer, a user experience (UX) designer, and a climate designer, the last is defined as a person who devotes her creative talents to working on the climate crisis.
Welcoming Change: AQA and the CPS Evolution
When a college embraces the work needed to deliver learning opportunities that build a global network of lifelong learners, profound things happen. Leaders at the forefront of this work are causing a paradigm shift for the entire Higher Education community.
CPS embraces the unbundled approach to higher education, where traditional degree programs are broken down into smaller, more focused learning experiences offering learners greater flexibility and more numerous pathways toward achieving goals. As higher education struggles to pivot toward new course delivery and credentialing paradigms, CPS learners have quickly become the new majority; embracing them means embracing the future of higher education.
While other higher education institutions choose to ignore this reality or choose to view mixing-and-matching as a lack of degree commitment or academic ambivalence, CPS is charging ahead with innovative approaches to deliver opportunities that work for learners, meeting them where they are.
Allison Ruda, Associate Dean for Curriculum Strategy and Product Innovation, and the Academic Quality and Assessment team she leads are the Change Agents helping CPS faculty adapt to the ‘new learning economy.’ The academic quality initiative they are leading is helping the college own its forward-thinking, agile, and systematized mindset that embraces innovative teaching. The approach supports the college’s overarching mission of establishing a global network of lifelong learners.
To bring this focus to Faculty, and to cultivate a “culture of quality,” AQA has launched its first QUEST (Quality Unleashed: Empowering Skillful Teaching) series of virtual workshops, scheduled to last at least through December 2023 and its lineup of workshops covers topics from Chat GPT to conducting course design self-assessments.
The team behind the QUEST Series and other quality initiatives includes Mamta Saxena, Assistant Dean, Academic Quality and Assessment; Ori Fienberg, Academic Affairs Specialist and Lecturer; Barbara Ohrstrom, Academic Director, Online Writing Lab and Lecturer; Asim Javed, Learning and Assessment Data Analyst; and Jennifer Turrentine, Digital Learning Specialist.
Ruda says the team’s desire to shine a light on outstanding teaching, and to use QUEST as a platform to exchange ideas and diffuse effective practices has been extremely rewarding. To date, faculty members from every CPS division have been active partners not only in initiatives like QUEST, but in other aspects of the quality initiative, such as revising the CPS syllabus template to include more inclusive language, enhancing course readiness processes with the integration of new tools, and modernizing and enhancing the CPS’ use of Canvas. Many of these elements are on track to roll out more broadly in late Fall.
Before managing the AQA initiative, Allison was Senior Strategist, Program Design, with Northeastern’s Online Experiential Learning team (now EDGE). In 2013, she earned her doctorate from CPS’ Graduate School of Education. Through her varied tenure with the college, her passion for consistent improvement is evident. In 2007, when she was first hired by the university as an Instructional Designer, online programs did not yet exist at Northeastern. Since then, she has witnessed a complete revolution in how CPS’s faculty-empowered approaches placed the college in an industry leadership position, resulting in other universities fast copying their approach.
“Under Chuck Kilfoye’s leadership, NU Online began in CPS and ultimately created a strong model for online course and program development for other institutions to follow. With the level of expertise and commitment of our faculty, and the experiences we’ve gained over a decade of doing this work, I believe it’s possible—maybe even inevitable—that with continued commitment and elbow grease, we will continue to be pioneers in this space.” Ruda said.
Why is Quality Assurance important at CPS?
Looking at opportunities and challenges from new perspectives is the best way to meet new learner needs. The AQA team’s expertise is helping CPS think creatively about building a learning community where it becomes easy to have consistency and clarity in a way that ensures academic quality and student success while establishing CPS as a leader for the broader Northeastern community.
Due to the significant amount of technological change, unbundling higher education requires different processes than what was required even ten years ago. This work requires a significant amount of organizational adaptation and change.
In line with the mission of CPS, AQA’s work is centered on designing a modern and engaging digital learning experience that fosters a lifelong love of learning. While Ruda and her team are at the beginning of the work, the goal is to eventually get to a point where CPS is centered on ‘measurable quality.’
“Allison and her team’s work is the essential piece that will enable us to really drive our mission across the globe, in a way that delivers what learners need. By enabling Faculty to work within a defined system and with valuable supports in place, they will be able to create deeply immersive learning experiences that will positively impact learners in a palpable way.”CPS Dean Radhika Seshan.
When asked where she thinks CPS is headed in five years, Allison says, “We want to be the college and university that people look at when they wonder what the future of higher education is going to be. When people are talking about access to higher education and how it is changing to make itself more available and accessible, we want CPS to come to mind first. Because that is what we do.”
Allison holds a Doctor of Education in Curriculum, Teaching Learning, and Leadership from Northeastern. She also holds an EdM in Technology, Innovation, and Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Mount Holyoke College.
Learn more about the QUEST Series.
“I wanted the women to tell their stories” – Tracy Threatt
Northeastern graduate making female veterans feel less ‘invisible’ with help from the George W. Bush Presidential Center
CPS Alumn, Tracy Threatt, helps female veterans feel less ‘invisible’. She was recently named as a scholar in the Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, and she embodies the college’s ethos of bringing opportunity to those she meets.
Insurance Analytics and Management Virtual Information Session
We’ll be covering how an MPS in Insurance Analytics and Management can help you be successful in one of the most essential industries in the world with a forward-thinking, data-driven approach. You’ll learn how Northeastern prepares you to stand out and thrive in this rapidly growing field and discover a multitude of career paths available to you.
During the event, you’ll also:
- Hear from Yvonne Leung, assistant teaching professor; Connie Emerson, associate teaching professor; and more.
- Learn about the core features of our flexible insurance analytics and management program, including available concentrations and experiential learning opportunities.
- Discover the latest industry trends and emerging technologies incorporated into the program.
Date: July 10, 2023
Time: 08:00 AM to 09:00 AM
Event Category: Online
Beyond the classroom
Discover How Three Dedicated CPS Professors Empower Underrepresented Entrepreneurs
In 2021, visionary CPS professors Francesca Grippa, Youngbok Ryu, and Carl Zangerl leaped at the opportunity to further the College’s founding principles: meeting Learners where they are and going beyond the classroom to deliver opportunities.
After the country found itself in a second civil rights wave in 2020, politicians and public leaders scrambled to produce fiscal resources to eliminate race-based discrimination and level the economic playing field with a fervor not seen in over 60 years. Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS), a legacy champion of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion well before it was trending, found itself in a position to receive external support for something it had always upheld.
Grippa, Zangerl, and Ryu were well-positioned and eager to take full advantage. Through their individual experiences teaching Learners and seeing the challenges they faced as they applied education to improve their lives and communities, the Professors each had their own understanding of where additional resource provision would prove beneficial.
The US Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation both opened bids for a five-year and three-year grant opportunity to support diverse small businesses and after securing funding in 2021, thanks to these Professor’s passion for their work, The CPS Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship was born. Its sworn mission of ‘contributing to economic development and community resilience by promoting inclusive, equitable innovation and entrepreneurship and assisting small businesses in addressing their technical and managerial challenges’ laid the groundwork for a three-pronged service platform for small businesses; it included: the Inclusive Entrepreneur Fellowship Program, Technical and Managerial Assistance and Procurement Research on Supplier Diversity in higher education.
About the Lab:
The Lab assists both historically disadvantaged entrepreneurs whose business models are centered on giving back to their communities and businesses with strong missions to help disadvantaged communities. It largely provides small, minority-owned (Black, Brown, women, LGBTQ+, Indigenous) businesses in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island with resources they can use that to improve their business operations, evolve their business models, increase market reach, or tackle other challenges, and ultimately improve their communities.
We asked how the Lab fits with CPS’s overall offering. Francesa Grippa, Executive Director of the Lab, said with her soft and rich Italian accent [she hails from Lecce, Italy], “Because we give opportunities to improve lives through learning; because we engage Learners in real business challenges to provide that experiential aspect; and because we care about inclusive prosperity beyond the classroom, we want to genuinely give Learners the tools to be successful, not just dole out diplomas and send them on their way. For us, going outside of the program model and reaching outside the classroom to support these Entrepreneurs is a perfect fit and exactly where we need to be.”
Inclusive Entrepreneur Fellowship Program & Technical/Managerial Assistance
The Fellowship Program hosts annual cohorts of small business owners – some of whom are existing CPS Learners or recent Alumni – who receive support, mentorship, and training to grow their venture, learn how to respond to RFPs, or negotiate contracts. Fellows have the opportunity to tap into Northeastern University’s vast entrepreneurial ecosystem including research centers and institutes, start-up labs, and potential funding resources. Qualifying applicants have to be in business for at least three years. The program is a la carte, not curriculum based, and true to the CPS mission of fostering the development of lifetime learners, focused on meeting Fellows where they’re at. Now in its second year, the current cohort is scheduled to graduate this September.
An entrepreneur’s experience
Fellow Alumni Gayl Crump Swaby has experienced first-hand what the Lab can do. She is president of the mental-health provider New Generation Consultants and as an experienced counselor with a master’s degree in social work from Boston University and an Ed.D. in child and youth studies from Nova Southeastern University, her expertise combines rigorous scholarship with years of real-world experience. Particularly in her work with children, Swaby says, “My purpose has become my passion.”
As an entrepreneur, however, she felt she still had a lot to learn.
“The business side of running a business was not something that was taught in school,” she says. “I didn’t have a lot of those skills and I wanted to get a deeper dive into looking at financials and business models. How do I finance it? Anything and everything related to managing a small business.”
At the Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, she found exactly what she was looking for. Over the course of her fellowship, Swaby gained critical knowledge of negotiating contracts, setting fees, managing expenses, and working with subcontractors—all knowledge and skills she could apply directly and immediately to her professional life. She also learned strategies for increasing sales and practical techniques for boosting her leadership skills. Along the way, she earned the badges that now adorn her LinkedIn profile: Building Blocks of Strategy, The Finance of Funding, and Commercializing Your New Venture.
“The program helped me to really begin to scale my business up and think about what it means to be a small business owner,” Swaby says, “especially being a Woman of Color—and how difficult it is just getting access to resources and being able to break through barriers. The fellowship program helped me to think about not only not letting those barriers get in the way but the ways in which I can remove those barriers or get the support to remove those barriers.”
The research arm of the Lab is a persistent powerhouse; its work is close to the heart of Youngbok Ryu, who leads the effort on Supplier Diversity. Census analysis projects that in 2045, the US will have a complete demographic shift, placing people who identify as white in the minority – this affects all sectors. “The Higher Ed sector represents billions of dollars of spending each year. Our hope is that Supplier Diversity can be one way to close a significant socio-economic gap,” Ryu says.
The research team has so far published two impactful reports on the subject.
The goal is to expand the Supplier Diversity research beyond New England and really engage not just owners of vendor companies, but also bring in the Procurement professionals who have the authority to implement institutional changes needed to remove internal barriers faced by smaller players, the same businesses that are most likely owned by Black, Brown or other minoritized people. The work in this area has the potential to be game-changing for the Higher Education sector and create an effective blueprint for how to implement this change.
Grippa notes that faculty across Northeastern have begun to recognize the program’s effects, and she is hopeful that momentum will continue to build for the Lab and the entrepreneurs and students it serves. She said, “Our efforts have been contagious, and we have been able to forge new alliances and collaborations that will help us to achieve even greater success in the future.”
Learn more about the Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship: https://nl4ie.sites.northeastern.edu/ie2-fellowship/
Read the Supplier Diversity reports: https://nl4ie.sites.northeastern.edu/supplier-diversity/
Submit a request to the Lab for Business Assistance: https://nl4ie.sites.northeastern.edu/business-assistance/
LAB on Boston Chamber of Commerce’s website: https://bostonchamber.com/thought-leadership/growing-into-larger-contracts-northeastern-and-drb/
Mass. colleges fall short of the goal to expand minority contracting: https://www.wgbh.org/news/education/2022/06/06/mass-colleges-fall-short-of-goal-to-expand-minority-contracting
2nd Annual Webinar on Supplier Diversity in Higher Education
The Northeastern Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship’s webinar on June 22 will highlight the preliminary findings of a survey of procurement professionals in higher education. How are they translating words of institutional commitment into action? What are the drivers of greater supplier diversity? And what steps can to be taken to sustain progress?
Joining us to share their perspectives are Nicole Obi, President and CEO of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Jerry Epps, Director of Vendor Diversity at Babson College and member of the Lab’s Advisory Council, and Roy Anderson, lecturer and former VP of Global Procurement at MetLife.
To register for the webinar, click here.