Northeastern U. Will Open Education ‘Hub’ in Silicon Valley Company

This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Like many colleges these days, Northeastern University is building an outpost in Silicon Valley. But the university touts its unusual approach, opening an education “hub” within a high-tech company.

The university will offer courses in the San Jose offices of Integrated Device Technology, which manufactures semiconductors. The outpost will offer a master’s program in engineering management and two certificate programs, one in data science and the other in technology-project management.

The Silicon Valley location is part of Northeastern’s Global Network program, which already has campuses in Charlotte, N.C., and Seattle. In Silicon Valley there’s significant demand for people with skills in technology and data science, so the university decided to create a more-focused program than the ones it has in its other locations, says Philomena V. Mantella, senior vice president and chief executive of Northeastern’s Global Network.

The programs will mix in-person and online components, and will be aimed at working professionals. Right now they are offered only to employees of Integrated Device Technology, or IDT, but they will open to the public this fall.

The new site is one of what Northeastern hopes will become many hubs. The university has no timeline in place to open additional offshoots in the region, but Ms. Mantella says other companies have expressed interest in hosting one.

Some of the other colleges that have set up remote campuses in California have struggled. This month Drexel University said it would close its campus in Sacramento. Ms. Mantella says she’s confident Northeastern’s effort will have staying power because it is experiential, covers areas of critical need, and is an original program that incorporates a number of the university’s schools rather than simply taking one of Northeastern’s existing programs and putting it in a different location.

And like a recently announced initiative in which the University of New Haven will offer courses at the offices of Galvanize, another Silicon Valley company, Northeastern’s new effort won’t require it to invest a lot of money in building its own campus.

Professional master’s degrees are “relative newcomers” in higher education, says Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern. The goal is to bring the programs to students, he says, not make them come to a campus.

IDT had more space than it needed, and is always seeking to increase its access to high-tech talent, so the company decided to offer the space to Northeastern, says Gregory L. Waters, the business’s president and chief executive, who is a graduate alumnus of Northeastern.

Construction is now under way at the facility, transforming a corporate environment into an academic one. There’s already a wall “decked out” in Northeastern colors, Mr. Waters says, creating a small college campus in the middle of IDT’s campus.

“I think it does improve the caliber of our employee body, but I also think it just creates a cool employee environment,” Mr. Waters says. “Having a graduate school on campus that you can actually walk over and see and touch — it’s fun.”