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Miami Brings a Vibrant Energy to the Northeastern Network

A Conversation With Maria C. Alonso

CEO and Regional Dean, Northeastern University, Miami

This September, Northeastern University will welcome roughly 100 students to its new Miami campus in the Wynwood neighborhood. In anticipation of the opening of the university’s newest campus, we spoke with Maria C. Alonso, CEO and Regional Dean of Northeastern University, Miami. Dean Alonso is a longtime banking executive and former president and CEO of the United Way Miami. Known for her civic engagement, she’s the former chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council’s economic development strategic plan.

“In terms of style, I’ve been told I’m open, direct, and collaborative. I’m deeply rooted in the community and grateful to work with talented and committed professionals, both locally and across our global university system.”

-Maria C. Alonso, CEO and Regional Dean, Northeastern University, Miami

Why Miami? How does this new location fit into the Northeastern ecosystem?
I am a Miamian. I’m very proud of where I’m from and where I live. We have an incredibly diverse and dynamic community representing a rich mosaic of cultures, immigrant mettle, and the stubborn desire to succeed. Our community’s DNA mirrors what Northeastern stands for as an institution. We’re bold, vibrant, and unrelenting in our pursuit of excellence—and for a better tomorrow.

“I’m deeply honored to be a part of the Northeastern family and have this opportunity to establish and lead our presence in Miami.”

-Maria C. Alonso, CEO and Regional Dean, Northeastern University, Miami

What do you think of the media’s predictions that Miami is the next Silicon Valley?
Miami, like Silicon Valley, is unique. Our economy is transforming from a service-based market to a technology and finance hub. The “Miami Movement,” coined by Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez, reflects the number of companies, including high-profile companies like Amazon, SoftBank, and Goldman Sachs, opening and expanding operations here. During a time when capital markets have contracted, Miami has attracted a record $5.8 billion in venture capital investments.

But this is more than a moment—it’s the result of a sustained effort to diversify our economy by leveraging our strengths: our entrepreneurial culture, our diverse population, our strategic connections to Latin America and our access to foreign direct investment, and our quality of life.

And the Miami campus has a role to play. Our goal is to accelerate transformation by creating the skilled talent pipeline needed, unlock partnership opportunities, including research, and unleash the impact of our global network.

How might Northeastern students and the Miami community benefit one another?
This can play out in many ways. Northeastern is new to the community, so we first need to establish ourselves, which we’ve started doing through outreach and events.

During the school year, students will develop a deeper connection to the community through participation in co-op’s and volunteer programs. While Miami is an incredible place, it’s also a place of need. Our students can broaden their understanding of the factors driving socioeconomic disparities and be inspired to spearhead solutions. In this way, we become stronger as individuals, an institution, and a community.

What drove the choice to establish the campus in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood?

Wynwood is a Renaissance story. It was an industrial and gritty area a generation ago, but in the early 2000s, pioneering artists and avant-garde galleries started transforming the neighborhood. Eclectic restaurants and retail followed, and by 2010, the area was recognized as a technology incubator, where many companies moving to Miami over the last few years are now located. Now in 2023, it is a rising neighborhood—literally!—you can hear the construction in the background.

The choice to locate in Wynwood is a bold statement reinforcing what we already know as members of Husky Nation: We are a university like no other. We meet students where they are and where they want to be. Building the campus in this vibrant area signals our commitment to economic growth and innovation in this community and beyond.

Reflecting on your experience as a student, was there anything missing from your experience that you wanted to see applied to the Miami campus?
I was a dedicated student and embraced every dimension of my education, including studying piano and dance. However, I wish I had access to experiential options that balance real-world and classroom learning. It is so powerful to assess what you want—and don’t—in a career and to have the ability to course correct while still in school.

Experiential insight powers Northeastern University and will be the center of the student journey at Northeastern University, Miami.

Looking four years into the future, how would you define success?
If I had a crystal ball, I would like to see us delivering robust programs aligned to industries’ diverse needs to a thousand domestic and international students. We will have a thriving entrepreneurship track and be considered a partner of choice by hundreds of organizations. At the highest level, we will add value to the Miami community and the Northeastern ecosystem overall by contributing research and solutions to pressing global problems.

“We have an opportunity to build something with a long-lasting legacy that will change the course of students’ lives. That’s powerful. That’s why I’m here.”

-Maria C. Alonso, CEO and Regional Dean, Northeastern University, Miami

With a busy academic year ahead, do you have any plans for a summer vacation?
Funny, you should ask. I was listening to Ginni Rometty, Former Chairman and CEO of IBM, being interviewed by Adam Grant for his podcast, and she brought up the idea of reframing priorities if you only have 20 summers left. What would you do with that time? For me, it’s travel. I think that comes back to the experiential notion of wanting to learn in different ways.

My husband and I recently traveled to Costa Blanca in Spain’s Alicante province to celebrate his birthday. Moorish architecture is pervasive in the area, and the dialect differs greatly from Castilian Spanish, which I am fluent in. It was a wonderful way to absorb all the elements of culture: art, history, language, and food. I’m privileged to be able to see the world—and I hope to do more of that this summer!


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