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Empowerfest celebrates Northeastern’s past, present, and future

The North­eastern com­mu­nity on Friday and Sat­urday cel­e­brated the university-​​wide launch of its $1 bil­lion Empower cam­paign with Empowerfest, an exciting show­case fea­turing dozens of inter­ac­tive exhibits that high­lighted inno­v­a­tive stu­dent and fac­ulty research projects, as well as musical per­for­mances, food and many fun activ­i­ties for all ages.

Empowerfest served as the cen­ter­piece of Home­coming Weekend, which brought together gen­er­a­tions of alumni and cur­rent stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff to cel­e­brate the university’s momentum and show their North­eastern pride.

Empowerfest took over the Cabot Field House with global expe­ri­en­tial learning, use-​​inspired research, entre­pre­neur­ship and inno­va­tion, and ath­letics woven through the myriad hands-​​on activ­i­ties. These exhibits included star­tups sup­ported by IDEA, Northeastern’s student-​​run ven­ture accel­er­ator; a closer look at the university’s new 3-​​D Printing Studio; live touch tanks fea­turing species at the center of some of Northeastern’s marine sci­ence research; inter­ac­tive cyber­se­cu­rity, and game design demos; and global endeavors from Northeastern’s Social Entre­pre­neur­ship Insti­tute.

“Many of you have told me that you love what you are seeing here today,” Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun said during his wel­coming remarks. “But this didn’t happen by itself. The stu­dents, staff, and fac­ulty have been working hard. But more impor­tantly, you empow­ered them. You made it happen because many of you have invested in them.”

Fac­ulty and staff received a spe­cial pre­view of Empowerfest on Friday. About 2,000 people were expected to attend Empowerfest over the two days.

Diane MacGillivray, senior vice pres­i­dent of uni­ver­sity advance­ment, said cel­e­brating Empowerfest during Home­coming Weekend allowed for the oppor­tu­nity for North­eastern to honor its past while also look toward its bright future.

“This is bringing together a wider audi­ence to show­case what is hap­pening on this campus,” MacGillivray said. “We wanted people to come and redis­cover the pride of not just what has hap­pened, but what is hap­pening. A lot of people have expressed amaze­ment this is hap­pening at Northeastern.”

In May, North­eastern announced the launch of Empower: The Cam­paign for North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, a com­pre­hen­sive fundraising drive to secure $1 bil­lion in sup­port of pro­grams and ini­tia­tives, with a par­tic­ular focus on three strategic goals: stu­dent finan­cial sup­port and finan­cial aid, fac­ulty advance­ment and expan­sion, and inno­va­tion in edu­ca­tion and research.

The unprece­dented cam­paign aims to raise $500 mil­lion in phil­an­thropic sup­port and $500 mil­lion through industry and gov­ern­ment part­ner­ships by 2017, which together will shape the future of teaching, learning, and inno­va­tion in edu­ca­tion and research.

Richard A. D’Amore, co-​​chair of the Empower cam­paign, wel­comed everyone on Sat­urday and said it was great to see all of Northeastern’s hard work in action. Last year, D’Amore teamed up with fellow alumnus Alan McKim to make a com­bined $60 mil­lion gift—the largest phil­an­thropic invest­ment in Northeastern’s his­tory and which renamed the busi­ness school the D’Amore-McKim School of Busi­ness.

“It is fab­u­lous to see the energy,” D’Amore exclaimed. “We know all the met­rics that are hap­pening around here, the appli­ca­tions, the quality of the stu­dents, the great fac­ulty hiring, but to see it all in action is just great for us. We are all lucky to be part of this fab­u­lous insti­tu­tion. We all have to sup­port it to the extent we can. ”

Home­coming Weekend also allowed stu­dents, fac­ulty, staff, and alumni to see many of Northeastern’s ath­letics teams in action. Women’s vol­ley­ball held two games on campus this weekend, fans cel­e­brated their Husky spirit at Fan­Fest on Friday evening prior to the men’s hockey game against New Hamp­shire, and men’s bas­ket­ball earned its first vic­tory of the year by win­ning its home opener Sat­urday after­noon against Cen­tral Con­necticut State, 83–69.

The Var­sity Club Hall of Fame, which rec­og­nizes the accom­plish­ments of North­eastern student-​​athletes, coaches, and bene­fac­tors, held an induc­tion cer­e­mony and dinner on Sat­urday night to wel­come six new inductees.

The North­eastern Choral Society hosted an alumni recep­tion Sat­urday night as a lead up to its con­cert Sunday after­noon at Jordan Hall, which marked pro­fessor Joshua Jacobson’s 40 years as its con­ductor. And the sixth annual Big Dog 5k road race and walk was Sunday morning in Dedham, with par­tic­i­pants fin­ishing the new course on the new ath­letic track at the North­eastern Dedham campus.

At Empowerfest, every aspect of Northeastern’s momentum was on dis­play. Vis­i­tors got an up-​​close look at the real and robotic crea­tures from the Marine Sci­ence Center and ven­tured over to the Game Design Dome to play a variety of video games designed in campus facilities.

Atten­dees used the iCRAFT, an eye-​​controlled robotic feeding arm devel­oped by North­eastern stu­dents, to pick up candy, and enjoyed per­for­mances by musical groups on campus. As an added bonus, vis­i­tors also had the oppor­tu­nity to get their photo taken with the Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series trophy.

“It’s inter­esting to see the huge expan­sion taking place since I walked these hal­lowed halls,” said Phillip Mecajni, a double Husky who earned his under­grad­uate degree in engi­neer tech­nology in 1976 and his MBA in 1978.

Ali Fraenkel, an international affairs and human services major in the class of 2016, was one of sev­eral stu­dents man­ning the booth for North­eastern Students4Giving booth, an expe­ri­en­tial phil­an­thropy edu­ca­tion pro­gram that com­bines rig­orous aca­d­emic con­tent with real-​​dollar grant making.  She said the two-​​day event was a great suc­cess. “It’s great to touch upon what we do,” Fraenkel said. “It was exciting to engage in a wide range of conversations with Empowerfest guests and then gauge people’s interest based on those con­ver­sa­tions.”

“What­ever your pas­sion is, choose a piece of this uni­ver­sity and make it happen,” Aoun told the crowd.

– By Joe O’Connell

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