“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.
PMI Global and Northeastern University Partnership Launch
The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the world’s leading project management organization. Now Northeastern students will be able to access discounts for PMI certifications, including Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM).
This special event will highlight the collaboration between PMI and Northeastern, how to take advantage of the partnership, and showcase the advantages of PMI certification
Protected: Leading the Pack: Northeastern University Faculty Thought Leadership Series
Meet the CPS Lecture—Making Connections in Project Management
Making Connections in Project Management: What professional project management is, why companies are investing in it, and how you can grow your career.
Northeastern University in Arlington is pleased to host a Taster Lecture with the College of Professional Studies focusing on our Master of Science in Project Management.
In this class, you will have the opportunity to hear a brief overview of the discipline, why it matters, and where it is growing. You will also learn how the College of Professional Studies offers an accessible but effective degree to give students the skills they need to join this growing revolution.
After a presentation in the main room, attendees will be able to learn more about specific areas of project management in small group conversations with Northeastern faculty members in breakout rooms. Enrollment counselors and academic advisors will be available in the main room to answer questions about applying and getting started in the program.
Workshop facilitator: Shannon Alpert
Dr. Shannon Alpert spent the first 15 years of her career leading projects and teams responsible for creating learning solutions in the telecommunications and financial services industries. She also consulted with K-8 and higher education organizations on project and portfolio management while also teaching online graduate courses at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Dr. Alpert joined Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies at the end of 2014 and served for over 6 years in the Doctor of Education (EdD) program. She was the lead faculty for the Integrative Studies concentration of the EdD program, principal instructor for the Advanced Research Design course, and dissertation chair for over 30 doctoral research projects. In 2021, Dr. Alpert joined the Professional Programs domain as a principal instructor for the Bachelor of Science in Project Management. In 2022, she became Faculty Lead for Project Management programs, including the Master of Science in Project Management, Bachelor of Science in Project Management, and graduate certificate programs.
We will also have time for a Q&A, so bring any questions you have for Shannon Alpert.
Meet the CPS: A Taster Lecture – An Analytics Case Study
The importance and applications of analytics
Northeastern University in Arlington is pleased to host a taster lecture with the College of Professional Studies focusing on our Master of Professional Studies in Analytics.
In this class, we will talk about the importance and applications of analytics and the different building blocks for it. We will look at application areas and use cases. We will also discuss what the job market looks like for analytics in general and what opportunities exist.
Joseph Reilly is an assistant teaching professor in the Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Analytics program at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies. Reilly acts as the innovation lead for the analytics program and provides program, faculty, student, and CPS support, as well as curricular oversight and best practices, including onboarding of new faculty. In addition to teaching a variety of analytics courses in his role as principal instructor, Reilly leads all general analytics-related operational program management, marketing, enrollment, and student-related issues, as well as advising activities. He leads academic integrity coordination across the domain, as well the development of noncredit offers, such as workshops.
Prior to joining Northeastern’s faculty, he worked as a senior product analyst and data scientist at Wayfair, where he designed semantic text extraction platforms to understand how suppliers, customers, and competitors described more than 10 million unique products. This drove a reduction in time required for suppliers to add products as well as iterative catalog cleanup efforts to remove erroneous values. He also implemented alerting and monitoring strategies for data science products to ensure product health in production, and automated human-in-the-loop processes to ensure timely, accurate review of model output.
During his doctoral work at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Reilly wrote and implemented novel technology-based science curricula that could formatively assess student performance and provide dynamic feedback for students as well as teachers. He also spearheaded the experimental design, implementation, and analysis of a multimodal learning analytics laboratory study that collected eye tracking, electrodermal activity, and posture observations on participants in a collaborative setting. Before pursuing his doctorate, he taught middle school science and high school chemistry for six years in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
We will also have time for a Q&A, so bring any questions you have for professor Reilly.
Meet Our New and Promoted Faculty
This year, the College of Professional Studies welcomed eight new faculty colleagues and celebrated five faculty colleagues who earned a promotion, whose accomplishments are listed below.
The faculty of the College of Professional Studies create exceptional learning experiences that are essential to our students’ success. Along with that demonstrated excellence, the faculty also share a commitment to exploring new ways of responding to the changing needs of our students. Our faculty members’ ingenuity, expertise, and creativity in program and curriculum development prove that education can persist and even flourish during difficult times.
Dr. Ammar Aamer
Ammar Aamer, PhD, is an associate teaching professor in the Project Management program.
Dr. Aamer has more than 22 years of industry experience in project management, operations management, supply chain management and strategic business. He has served as a consultant on systems and processes including lean manufacturing, warehousing, six sigma, process and quality improvement and simulation modeling for numerous companies including Volvo, TRW Automotive, and Gap Inc. This included organizing and managing executive management training, developing capacity and asset-utilization models, and managing several continuous improvement projects.
Dr. Aamer has also served in various roles in education, including as assistant professor, associate professor, professor, and dean of the faculty of engineering and technology at Sana’a and Sampoerna Universities in Yemen and Indonesia. His publications include recent articles in the International Journal of Production Research, International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, and Benchmarking: An International Journal. His research is currently focused on the areas of data analytics and supply chain management, artificial intelligence and project management, lean six sigma, change management, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Prior to his academic and business management roles, Dr. Aamer worked as a senior industrial engineer at Gap Inc.
Dr. Aamer earned his PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 2005. He has also achieved the Project Management Professional designation from the Project Management Institute. He lives in the greater Toronto area and teaches at Northeastern’s Toronto campus and online.
Dr. Noor Ali
Noor Ali, EdD, is an assistant teaching professor in the Graduate School of Education.
Dr. Ali has been a K-12 teacher for 15 years. She is the principal of Al-Hamra Academy, where her work has included mentoring faculty and students in bringing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) -based experiential learning to the school. In this role she has also led initiatives focused on civic engagement among marginalized populations focused on social justice.
Dr. Ali’s writing on social justice, marginalization, leadership and curriculum has been published in academic journals including Follow The Leader and popular media outlets such as the Teach Better blog. Her book, Critical Storytelling: Narratives of Muslim American Youth, is forthcoming this fall from Brill/Sense. Her research interests include Critical Race Theory (CRT), and she has coined a CRT subset, MusCrit. She has extensive experience with citizen science, youth civic engagement, social justice and equity and interfaith initiatives.
Dr. Ali is a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Taskforce for the Town of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, and has served as a board member on the Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services, an organization that supports mental health. She has also worked extensively with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and serves on the Accreditation Commission of Independent Schools.
Dr. Ali earned her EdD from Northeastern in 2018. She lives in the greater Boston area and teaches at Northeastern’s Boston campus and online.
Jim Giumarra is an associate academic specialist and faculty lead for the Mechatronics Engineering program.
Professor Giumarra previously served as department chair for electronics engineering technology and chair of the mathematics and physics department at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, where he led the continuous improvement plan to ensure the relevance, sustainability and growth of the programs in the electronics department, developed a hybrid automation/robotics course curriculum fusing online instruction and an in-person lab model, and served as the sole faculty member on the school’s President’s Advisory Council. In addition, he was selected for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Teachers program to learn about Robotics and Controls at Texas A&M University and for the NSF-sponsored 20-hour “Revamping Robotics Education” workshop at Michigan Technological University, where he earned a certification as an instructor on the Fanuc industrial robot.
Prior to entering the education field, Professor Giumarra spent almost a decade in science research and engineering, most recently at Janis Research Company, where he designed custom cryogenic vacuum systems based on experimental requirements; expanded system design to include options for automation, vibration isolation, optical testing, in-situ magnetic field testing, and an in-situ device-feature measurement system; and developed and constructed control circuits for low-temperature test systems.
Professor Giumarra earned his master of science in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of Illinois in 2000. He lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.
Dr. Umesh R. Hodeghatta
Umesh R. Hodeghatta, PhD, is an assistant teaching professor in the Analytics program.
An engineer, a scientist and an educator, Dr. Hodeghatta specializes in analytics, machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, and cyber security. Dr. Hodeghatta has more than 25 years of experience in technical and senior management positions at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Cisco Systems, McAfee, and Wipro. As a data scientist, he helps business leaders arrive at data-driven decisions linked to their organizations’ strategies and financial goals. He has served in numerous professional organizations and regulatory bodies—including as senior technical advisor to the Government of India.
Dr. Hodeghatta previously served on the faculty of Kent State University in Ohio and the Xavier Institute of Management in Bhubaneswar, India, where he designed and taught courses. He was instrumental in setting up a high-speed optical network and data center with the integration of telephony and data in XUB. He has published in international journals and conference proceedings on topics ranging from “How to Build Chat-Bots Using Machine Learning and NLP” to “Can AI and Privacy Co-Exist?” Also, he is the author of two books: Business Analytics Using R: A Practical Approach and The InfoSec Handbook: An Introduction to Information Security published by Springer Apress. He also is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
Dr. Hodeghatta earned his master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Oklahoma State University and his PhD from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in 2015. He lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Portland and Boston and online.
Dr. Megan Kennedy
Megan Kennedy, PhD, JD, is an assistant teaching professor in the Doctor of Law and Policy Program.
Dr. Kennedy served for six years as assistant district attorney in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, working in both district and superior courts. As a criminal prosecutor, she focused primarily on cases of family violence and sexual assault, earning both the Spotlight Award and the District Court Prosecutor of the Year award.
Dr. Kennedy joined Northeastern in 2018 as a lecturer in the Doctor of Law and Policy program, teaching courses on law and legal reasoning, research methods, qualitative methods and law and policy concepts. Her research interests include courts and the decision-making of court actors; victims of crime; policy and legal reform; and research methods. She has published articles on the processing of court cases, the harsh sentencing of juveniles, and the dynamics of misdemeanor plea bargaining. In her current role, she is responsible for the research methods curriculum, student thesis advising, and teaching. Her prior teaching roles include positions at Southern New Hampshire University and the State University of New York at Albany (UAlbany).
Dr. Kennedy earned her law degree from Gonzaga University School of Law in 2002 and her PhD from the School of Criminal Justice of UAlbany in 2018. A member of the American Society of Criminology and the Law and Society Association, she is also licensed to practice law in Massachusetts. She lives in Seattle and teaches in Seattle and Boston and online.
Dan Koloski is professor of the practice in the Analytics program and director of professional studies at the Roux Institute at Northeastern University in Portland, Maine.
Professor Koloski joined Northeastern after spending more than 20 years in the IT and software industry, working in both technical and business management roles in companies large and small. This included application development, product management and partnerships, and helping lead a spin-out and sale from a venture-backed company to Oracle. Most recently, Professor Koloski was vice president of product management and business development at Oracle, where he was responsible for worldwide direct and channel go-to-market activities, partner integrations, product management, marketing/branding and mergers and acquisitions for more than $2 billion in product and cloud-services business. Before Oracle, he was CTO and director of strategy of the web business unit at Empirix, a role that included product management, marketing, alliances, mergers and acquisitions and analyst relations. He also worked as a freelance consultant and Allaire-certified instructor, developing and deploying database-driven web applications.
Professor Koloski’s previous work experience focused on the application of advanced analytical techniques to software testing, IT operations and cyber security. His teaching is focused on building the next generation of data citizens across the technical and business spectrum through delivery of technical and experiential education courses to graduate students. Professor Koloski directs the professional programs faculty team at the Roux Institute and delivers a variety of lifelong learning experiences for Northeastern industry partners.
Professor Koloski holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 2002. He lives in the greater Portland, Maine, area and teaches at the Roux Institute Portland campus and online.
Dr. Yvonne Leung
Yvonne Leung, PhD, is an assistant teaching professor in the Analytics program.
Dr. Leung previously served as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. She is also a scientist at the University Health Network, the largest research institute in Canada, where she designs and evaluates artificial intelligence (AI)-based psychosocial and supportive care services for cancer patients to improve quality of life and access to care.
Dr. Leung has more than 15 years of experience in psychosocial and mental health research and has secured over C$880,000 in personal awards and research funding as a principal investigator and over half a million dollars as a co-investigator. She has published 39 peer-reviewed journal articles in psychosocial care and health services research.
Currently, Dr. Leung is leading two projects using machine learning-based natural language processing algorithms to assist online support group therapists in tracking real-time participant progress and to develop Chatbot solutions for automated self-care support tailored to patients with metastatic breast cancer. Her expertise encompasses administrative databases, patient-reported outcomes, psychometrics, advanced statistical techniques including machine learning, trajectory analysis, latent structure analysis, and cluster analysis. She is also knowledgeable in qualitative analytic methods such as grounded theory and thematic and content analysis, as well as in interpretive descriptive methods. Among the courses she has taught are “Introduction to Statistics,” “Research Methods,” “Survey Methods,” and “Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analysis” to both healthcare professionals and senior analysts.
Dr. Leung earned her PhD in kinesiology and health science from York University in Toronto in 2011. She lives in the greater Toronto area and teaches at the Toronto campus and online.
Dr. Shanu Sushmita
Shanu Sushmita, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Analytics program.
Shanu Sushmita, who specializes in machine learning, data mining, information retrieval and health analytics, has worked for more than a decade as a researcher and teacher of computer science at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Most recently, she was an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington, Tacoma, School of Engineering and Technology, concurrently holding a faculty position in the Master’s in Business Analytics program at Milgard Business School at UW, Tacoma.
Previously, Dr. Sushmita was head of data science at KenSci, a Seattle healthcare company that provides AI platform for digital health and healthcare solutions. Her role included strategic planning, designing a vision for data science and managing a team of data and research scientists to demonstrate how healthcare payers and providers could use data and analytics to improve and standardize clinical care, reduce costs, achieve population health goals and make better strategic decisions for their organizations.
Dr. Sushmita’s research interests include applications of machine learning, information retrieval and utilizing data to improve user experience. In the course of her doctoral studies at the University of Glasgow, she taught courses in data science, analytics and natural language processing, and she has published on topics in healthcare, social media, artificial intelligence (AI) and information retrieval.
Dr. Sushmita holds a B.E in Computer Science from North Maharashtra University and a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow in Computer Science. She lives in the greater Seattle area and teaches in Seattle and online.
Congratulations to five faculty members of the College of Professional Studies who have been promoted. The following faculty members have been recognized for their excellence in teaching and curriculum development. Promotion also recognizes their contributions to the college and university through their leadership, service, educational innovation, discovery and professional engagement in their fields.
Dr. Christopher Bolick
Christopher Bolick, EdD, has been promoted to associate teaching professor in the project management program.
Dr. Bolick, who has served at Northeastern since 2013 as a part-time faculty member, as a full-time faculty member and currently as faculty leader, brings extensive experience with a Fortune 40 company in project management and business process improvement.
In his role as lead faculty for the project management programs, Dr. Bolick has worked to establish faculty onboarding as well as faculty mentoring and support, as the program has grown in size and quality across six regional campuses. He was one of the first faculty members to pilot livecast teaching from the Charlotte campus to Boston, and Project Management under his leadership was the first program to be fully mapped as competency-based, allowing further development at the modular level and opening the door to badging and stackability for students through prior learning assessments. He has also served as chair of the CPS Academic Programs Committee, which oversees and shepherds all new program and program changes across all academic areas in CPS.
Dr. Bolick has taught graduate courses including “Project Foundations,” “Project Cost & Scheduling,” “Project Evaluation,” “Special Topics,” and “Project Capstone” in addition to partnering with organizations in the nuclear, pharma and municipalities fields to assess workforce needs and deliver certificates, multi-day workshops and credit-bearing courses. He presented at the Project Management Institute’s 2018 Technology and Talent Symposium and has co-authored a chapter in the areas of artificial intelligence, data analytics, and digital transformation as related to project management practices.
Dr. Bolick earned his EdD from Northeastern University in 2020.
Dr. Kelly J. Conn
Kelly J. Conn, PhD, has been promoted to teaching professor in the Graduate School of Education.
Dr. Conn has been a full-time faculty member since 2012. Informed by her previous career in laboratory science, she has developed and taught courses on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education including “Current and Emerging Practices in STEM Education” and “National and International Benchmarks in STEM Education.”
Dr. Conn is currently collaborating on a project to develop and expand experiential learning in elementary and secondary school classrooms by creating curriculum for the Network for Experiential Teaching and Learning (NExT). In this role, Dr. Conn has developed and taught courses for the Graduate Certificate in Experiential Teaching and Learning and serves as faculty lead for the Master’s of Education program in Learning and Instruction. She also teaches in the Doctor of Education program and serves as dissertation chair to several students.
Dr. Conn coauthored a book commissioned by the College of Professional Studies, The Lowell Institute School at Northeastern University (2015), and was lead science consultant to the Abakhokeli Project, a joint science-teacher-training effort of Northeastern and South Africa’s Western Cape Education Department. She has also served as the regional lead faculty member for the EdD program in Hong Kong.
Dr. Conn currently serves as co-investigator of a multi-year National Science Foundation grant that explores experiential, industry-connected learning experiences for high school students to foster interest and preparation for STEM careers.
She earned her PhD in biochemistry from Boston University in 1999 and has done postdoctoral work in neuroscience.
Dr. Shaunna Harrington
Shaunna Harrington, PhD, has been promoted to teaching professor in the Graduate School of Education.
Dr. Harrington teaches in the master’s programs in the Graduate School of Education, and also teaches and advises undergraduates in the PlusOne program, which allows students to begin working toward their Master of Arts in Teaching degree while completing their bachelor’s degree. She has taught courses on curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and on the history of K12 and higher education, and was the long-time faculty lead for the master’s programs foundation course, “Culture, Equity, Power and Influence.” Dr. Harrington has served on a variety of internal committees including the College of Professional Studies Joint Task Force on Faculty Workload and the Faculty Performance Review and Merit Pay Task Force. She currently serves as the board president for the Massachusetts affiliate of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Dr. Harrington began her career as a middle school social studies teacher in the Boston Public Schools and has continued to focus her teaching and activism on equity and justice education. She has been engaged in action research focused on teaching social justice in online settings and on deepening equity practices in teacher education. She also researches the history of education and has presented on a variety of topics from community schools created by Black parents and activists in Boston in the 1960s to American colonial education in the Philippines in the early 20th century. She served as a Humanities Scholar on the public history project, The Long Road to Justice, which documents how African Americans have sought racial justice in the Massachusetts courts.
Dr. Harrington earned her PhD in history at Northeastern in 2019.
Dr. Kristen Lee
Kristen Lee, EdD, has been promoted to teaching professor in the behavioral science programs.
Since her full-time appointment in 2013, Dr. Lee has taught courses including “Engaging Diversity and Difference,” “Stress and Its Management,” “Assessing your Leadership Capability,” “Group Dynamics and Interpersonal Conflict,” and has advanced Northeastern’s mission in a wide variety of ways. A pioneer in developing the college’s Experiential Network (XN) model and an innovator with the PlusOne stackable credential model, she is lead faculty member in behavioral science within the college’s Healthcare and Biotech domain, serves as faculty-in-residence in International Village, and earned the 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award. Her leadership on mental health and resilience has significantly shaped the university’s approaches to supporting students.
Dr. Lee also serves as a Global Resilience Institute Faculty Affiliate. Active on campus and in the media as an advocate for global mental health, Dr. Lee is a frequent conference presenter and author. Her 2014 book, Reset: Make the Most of Your Stress: Your 24-7 Guide for Well-Being, won Motivational Book of the Year in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She is also the author of Mentalligence: A New Psychology of Thinking: Learn What it Takes to Be More Agile, Mindful and Connected in Today’s World, and the upcoming Worth the Risk: How to Microdose Bravery to Grow Resilience, Connect More, and Offer Yourself to the World, and the Rethink Your Way to the Good Life column for Psychology Today. Her TEDx talk, “The Risk You Must Take” has been viewed more than 311,000 times.
A Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, Dr. Lee speaks and consults globally on resilience, has shared her expertise as a grant reviewer for U.S. federal agencies for more than two decades, and has spoken at more than 40 events across the university.
Dr. Lee earned her EdD in Organizational Leadership Studies at Northeastern in 2011.
Dr. Corliss Thompson
Corliss Thompson, PhD, has been promoted to teaching professor in the Graduate School of Education.
Since her full-time appointment in 2013, Dr. Thompson has taught research methods, research design, and social justice courses, including “Culture, Equity, Power, and Influence,” “Research Design,” and “Qualitative Research Methods.” Her work centers on her commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and she has contributed significantly to the development of NExT, the Network for Experiential Teaching and Learning, serving as a panelist and creating materials and workshops.
Dr. Thompson is passionate about using culturally relevant and experiential approaches in her teaching and mentoring. She uses research methodology and program evaluation approaches for deeper understanding and improvement of teaching and learning and helps colleagues and students employ the same approach. Dr. Thompson is currently principal investigator on a 2019 National Science Foundation grant focused on experiential learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for high school students. She has also served on a number of committees in the College of Professional Studies and the university, such as the Provost Search Committee, and she presents on topics of diversity, equity and inclusion across the university and beyond.
Before becoming a faculty member, Dr. Thompson worked in a research and evaluation office in a school district in North Carolina and at the University of North Carolina, where she earned her doctoral degree. She also was an elementary school teacher in Charlotte and Chapel Hill, NC.
Dr. Thompson earned her PhD in Educational Research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013.
College honors master’s and doctoral graduates, citing ‘ingenuity and resilience’, with ceremonies that emphasize service, perseverance and experiential learning.
The words of Brent Musson, (Doctor of Law and Policy ’20), captured the mood at the Doctoral Hooding and Graduation Ceremony of the College of Professional Studies in Matthews Arena Sept. 9—and at the Master’s Graduation Ceremony in the same location the following day: “Humanity at its best,” the 2020 Dean’s Medal recipient said in his remarks to the successful doctoral candidates, “is humanity in gratitude.”
Gratitude was in abundance both days as faculty, administrators, students and their families—as well as friends of the College worldwide via livestream—celebrated the graduates’ achievements in the face of extraordinary challenges. Speakers at the ceremonies praised the degree recipients for their perseverance in scholarship despite a global pandemic, their passionate commitment to learning and their determination to address real-world problems in their project-based learning and research.
‘Both humility and pride’
In his opening remarks on Sept. 9, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David Madigan, Ph.D., welcomed the College of Professional Studies (CPS) community, expressed his faith in the graduates’ future success and his pride in their accomplishments and celebrated their membership in Northeastern’s “powerful knowledge network” dedicated to the dream of a more just and equitable society. He was followed at the podium by Interim Dean of CPS Dr. David Fields, who noted the unusual degree to which CPS students break down the barriers between work and learning.
“Our doctoral students are already fulltime professionals and leaders in their fields,” Dr. Fields observed. “In true Northeastern fashion, they are researching what they live, and living what they research, every day.”
Dr. Fields went on to explain the significance of the hooding ceremony—so-called because doctoral students traditionally have the hoods of their academic regalia lifted over their heads by faculty.
“The symbolism of the hooding ceremony at our doctoral commencement honors both the doctoral candidate’s work and the network of relationships that make that work possible,” Fields said. “[It] embodies both humility and pride, on both sides of the relationship, as faculty members welcome a new peer into their community.”
Faculty speaker Dr. Mounira Morris (B.S. ’91, M.S. ’95), assistant teaching professor and the co-lead for the Master of Education in Higher Education Administration program, offered her congratulations to the graduates and acknowledged the special challenges that had arisen during their studies, including the pandemic and the persistence of racial injustice. She quoted James Baldwin, noting his achievements as a playwright, novelist and civil rights activist: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
“To me,” Dr. Morris said, “this means that at times we will collectively endure hardship; however, we can use these experiences, especially as doctors, to offer wisdom, hope, and a better path forward.”
A longtime leader in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)—and currently working with colleagues at Northeastern to develop a new academic credential in DEI—Dr. Morris emphasized the power for good inherent in the attainment of an advanced degree, encouraging the graduates to find creative solutions to the challenges in their professions, communities and personal lives.
“We, as faculty,” she said, “ask that you take your research, and go out and change your world, your profession, your workplace and make it just a little bit better than before. We, as faculty, believe you can persevere and persist. We know you can.”
Dr. Musson, whose acceptance of the 2020 Dean’s Medal had been previously postponed due to Covid-19 precautions, suggested in his remarks that the attitude of an academic researcher is “not that of an author or maker, but rather that of an explorer.” He praised the selflessness and commitment of his peers and made a critical distinction between an undergraduate education—which, he said, “teaches a student how to learn”—and a graduate education, in which students learn “to use tools … to solve other people’s problems” and to create value, going “from inward-facing to outward-facing.”
He noted that, soon after a doctoral candidate’s academic journey begins, “we become acutely aware of what we’re signing up for; to spend the next few years engaged in the most rigorous intellectual exercise of our lives, to extract a single, pure, tiny drop of insight to ever-so-slightly raise the sea level of the ocean of human knowledge.”
And he described a moment of inspiration in what he termed a spiritual awakening: a street soccer game he had observed in West Africa more than a decade earlier, where, when a beautiful goal was scored, both teams celebrated. Drawing a parallel between the players’ selfless joy and the academic community he had found at Northeastern, Dr. Musson said, “These happy boys had purpose; and that purpose made them work together, against all odds to orchestrate a moment of greatness—a moment of pure, unselfish greatness.
“I’ve never circled a soccer field making wings with my arms,” he continued, “but research has made me part of our team, and this humbling honor is our winning goal.”
As Dr. Musson finished his speech, the audience rose to deliver a sustained standing ovation.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Dr. Madigan returned to the stage to offer closing remarks, praising the successful doctoral candidates for their “drive, dedication and sense of purpose.”
“The world is ever changing,” he said, “but you are prepared to meet—and conquer—its challenges.”
‘A day full of promise’
The following afternoon, Dr. Madigan returned to welcome master’s graduates to the arena on “a day full of promise.” He praised their “clear-eyed determination, discipline and hard work,” and offered special recognition to the faculty who, he said, by guiding the graduates to success, “have strengthened a legacy of knowledge and helped shape the future in scores of fields of professional endeavor.”
Following Dr. Madigan’s remarks, Dr. Fields spoke, celebrating the graduates’ global engagement and their cultivation of “the cultural competencies needed for a lifetime of contribution in a fast-paced, diverse, global society.” He went on to emphasize the benefits of their embrace of experiential learning, noting that in so doing, they had “addressed pressing, real-world problems” and become “well-prepared to lead from experience in the workplace.”
Dr. Fiona Creed, associate teaching professor and faculty director of the Global Studies and International Relations program, next introduced student speaker Ebony Small, ’21.
Reflecting on a year of adversity, Small observed “the pandemic itself could neither make nor break us” and asked graduates to consider the ways in which the challenges of the past 18 months had taught them to know their own courage, ambition, and steadfastness.
“We did not make it to this moment merely because we just-so-happened to survive a global pandemic,” Small said. “No, we made it here because we made the choice to value education and then fiercely pursued it. My dear friends and colleagues, despite the unexpected challenges of this year, we thrived. We grew. We changed.”
“This,” she concluded, “is what it looks like to turn a choice into a change. This is what it looks like to champion growth. Congratulations.”
From humble roots to world-renowned
Following an introduction by Dr. Earlene Avalon, associate professor and lead faculty for Health Administration and Health Sciences, graduation speaker Carl H. Whittaker, a philanthropist whose life path has spanned business, engineering and music, addressed the community.
A director of the Herb and Maxine Jacobs Foundation—which supports the College’s “A2M” or “Associates to Masters” program, offering an accelerated pathway from a community college associate’s degree to a bachelor’s at the College of Professional Studies and a master’s degree in Biotechnology at Northeastern’s College of Science—Whittaker began by invoking Northeastern’s origins as a vocational school offering evening classes, run by the YMCA.
“We all know that Northeastern is now a world-renowned university, highly ranked in many fields,” Whittaker said. “But inside this world-class institution is still the legacy of that 1898 night school.”
Whittaker linked this history with Northeastern’s emphasis on internship experiences, co-ops, and other programs that connect students to “great employers and great jobs.” He applauded the graduates for their effort and creativity in juggling jobs, families, and studies, urged them to embrace the role of mentor for other aspiring scholars, and invited them to fight income inequality—as his foundation does in part by supporting scholarships at Northeastern.
“I am inviting each of you to join my fight against economic inequality by encouraging at least one or two others to join you in earning an advanced degree,” Whittaker said. “Just be ready when you see a family member or neighbor who would value your guidance. Your friendly support might be thing that leads someone to a more prosperous and fulfilling life.”
The Doctoral Hooding and Master’s Ceremony were livestreamed from Matthews Arena. Click the links below to view recordings of the ceremonies.
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The Pandemic Made the CPS Class of 2021 Double Down and Remain Focused
The pandemic was remembered at the College of Professional Studies’ master’s degree graduation ceremony on Friday as a unifying force that bred a kind of resilience and flexibility that allowed students to bend, but not break, under the pressure of a global health crisis.
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In these virtual workshops, designed by expert Northeastern practitioners and delivered on your terms over three weeks, you will have the opportunity to practice applying new skills immediately. Each workshop is designed to help you understand what skills you have today, and how to take them to the next level.
Choose from ten high-demand skills areas, ranging from Coaching and Providing Feedback to Building Resilience and Data Literacy Fundamentals.
Choose from the following workshops:
Leading Remote Teams
Developing Your Leadership Capability
Cultivating Personal and Professional Resilience
Supportive Feedback and Coaching for Professionals
Stats for Starters: Using SPSS
Data Literacy: Understanding and Working with Data
Enhancing Your Cultural Awareness AI Readiness
Visit https://cps.skillstack.northeastern.edu/ to learn more and enroll in a course.
Fighting Fire with Information
In California, Rachael Brady’s Northeastern master’s capstone has yielded an award-winning method for identifying arson.
On her 18th birthday, Rachael Brady (right, CPS ’16) stared through the windshield of her mother’s Hyundai at a steadily growing plume of gray smoke. The family was headed directly toward the ominous cloud, on their way to celebrate at Red Lobster on the east side of Redding, California, but they weren’t fazed.
“It wasn’t close enough to be afraid of,” Brady says. It was just a fact of life: “Summers in California, smoke columns in the air. It’s just one of those things. As common as snowstorms in Massachusetts.”
That fire, dubbed the Bear Fire because it had been sparked near Bear Mountain, burned out of control for five days in 2004, scorching 11,000 acres and destroying 80 homes. It had started when a local resident, disregarding fire warnings, had decided to mow his lawn in 106-degree August heat. For his carelessness, he was later convicted of arson and sentenced to four years in state prison.
More than a decade later, Brady would devise a method to reduce the number of such disasters—and to help authorities catch some of those responsible for them. She grew up in Redding, a city of about 92,000 nestled into the foothills of the Cascades at the northern end of California’s storied Central Valley. It’s a place where wildfires are a constant concern, and one she describes as “very rural” and community-minded.
“Where I grew up, one of the things when you got to be about 18 was you did some type of community service,” Brady says. “The day I turned 18 was the day the Bear Fire broke out, which was one of our more devastating fires around the Redding area, until last year and the Carr Fire. So that was how I got into it.”
She started as a volunteer at her local fire department, then applied for a job as a night dispatcher at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, widely known as Cal Fire. She got the job, and she found she loved the industry and her colleagues at Cal Fire, and that she was good at staying calm while dispatching rescuers to help people in need. The hours, however, weren’t ideal.
“About three or four years in,” she says, “I found GIS. And I figured out the night shift was not where I wanted to spend my life.”
Brady’s introduction to Geographic Information Systems came when a Cal Fire captain nearing retirement handed her responsibility for managing the department’s Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, a tool that uses layers of GIS data to help users map the best response routes in emergencies. As new data and technologies come online, the system requires continual upkeep to ensure that help arrives as soon as possible. New to GIS and CAD, and with little other technical experience, Brady plunged in.
“I teach GIS now to some of our new CAD people,” she says, “and I tell them, ‘I’ve been where you are.’ [For instance,] at first, I didn’t know that you could make a major road and a smaller road different colors. I lived in a black and white map for six months before somebody came along and said, ‘You know you can symbolize the roads, right?’ And I was like, ‘Wait, what?!’ But then I thought, ‘Well, what else can I do?’ And that’s kind of how I fell in love with it.”
The technology had captured her imagination, and she wanted to take it further. Based on her experience with GIS as a dispatcher, she gained a promotion—and a ticket out of the night shift—to Cal Fire’s Northern Region Office in Redding in 2013. Then, when she finished her bachelor’s degree in 2014 while working full-time, her husband suggested she continue her education. She searched the web, found the College of Professional Studies’ online offerings, applied and was accepted. Being able to complete the coursework remotely, she says, was critical.
“I think having the online option gives people who have an idea of what they want to do, or are already working, that opportunity to still do school, versus having to go to campus and be on-site,” Brady says. “I live in California. I would have had to move [to Boston] for two years. I’m married, and I have a job, you know? It just wouldn’t have worked.”
Brady’s coursework at Northeastern included classes on crime analysis and the use of open-source GIS software, as well as a “Crisis Mapping for Humanitarian Action” course in which she and other students used GIS technology to support relief efforts in Nepal following a devastating 2015 earthquake. What really brought her professional and academic worlds together, however, was her work on a capstone project with Professor Cordula Robinson, now a senior research scientist at Northeastern’s Kostas Research Institute. The idea for the project, which would crown Brady’s master’s degree in Geographic Information Technology, originated back in Redding.
“A couple of the chiefs and I were sitting around, probably about six months before I started the project,” Brady says, “and I said I need a good capstone project. It’s coming up. What are some ideas?”
They tossed a few thoughts around, and then someone suggested trying to find a way to identify cases of serial arson.
“I asked, ‘Well do you guys think we could identify serial arson using GIS?’” Brady says. “We all stared at each other. Then they said, ‘Well, that’s the question for you.’ And I said, ‘I think we could do it. I mean, it’s just human behavior—it should cluster. And that’s [something] GIS identifies. It identifies clusters. We should be able to make this work.’”
When Brady proposed the idea, Robinson saw its merit immediately, and in the months that followed, she provided expert coaching as Brady designed just such a system. As part of the testing process, Brady’s boss at Cal Fire had given her data on many past fires. Some had already been identified and adjudicated as serial arson cases, while other data described fires caused by lightning strikes, discarded cigarettes and other natural or accidental ignitions. Brady wasn’t told which were which.
“I really liked what her boss did,” Robinson says. “Rachael had to do her analysis and then go back and say, ‘this is where I suspect there is serial arsonist behavior, based on the patterns that we’re seeing in these data, and this is where I don’t think we are seeing serial arsonist behavior.’ Her boss looked at her work and found that there was a really high correlation.”
After that proof of concept, Brady was set loose on real data. Her analysis combined GIS with crime pattern theory (Brady also holds a certificate in crime and intelligence analysis) using techniques pioneered by Canadian criminologist D. Kim Rossmo. Whereas before, Brady says, between 30 and 50 fires would have to be lit before Cal Fire could conclude there was an arsonist at work, her innovative application of GIS has brought that number as low as 10.
“Our reaction times are getting better,” she says.
The results in her first year were eye opening.
“We had had three serial arson arrests in 2015 already,” Brady says, “So we had the data set, and we knew there were three already in there that we could easily identify as a baseline of whether we were on the right path or not. So, we ran the analysis. The system pulled out the serial arson groupings that we knew about already, but it also identified a bunch more.”
Stakeouts ensued, cameras were placed in areas of suspicion, and arrests soon followed. At least one suspect later pleaded no contest to setting four wildfires. In the years since, other cases have been opened, and Brady has been called to testify as an expert witness, preparing maps for courtroom exhibits and explaining her work to juries. She was recognized in June by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), which honored her with its Government Achievement Award, and the most recent conviction stemming from her analysis was secured in October, when another California man was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for lighting a series of fires.
For Brady, success in identifying the patterns of serial arsonists has been the culmination of a professional passion. It has also meant a boost in her career. In February, she was promoted to the role of Research Data Specialist. Officials from Cal Fire’s southern region have begun to embrace her approach, and in January, for the first time, she will have the opportunity to analyze data from the entire state of California. She also believes the techniques she has developed hold the promise of putting even more powerful tools in the hands of fire and law enforcement officials at a time when the imperative to stop fires before they start is more urgent than ever.
“One of the next questions that I want to see if GIS can answer is, can we predict where the offender will next light their fire?” Brady says. “We never know where the next one’s going to be, but that’s the next step. We’re always working backwards, and I want to try to work forwards. Can it be predictive? If I know what your pattern is to this point, can I take that and feed it in and have it tell me where you’re most likely to do it next?”