Introducing the Roux Institute’s Academic Program Leadership

(L:R) Aileen Huang-Saad, Director of Life Sciences and Engineering; Dan Koloski, Director of Professional Programs; Bruce Maxwell, Director of Computing Programs

Blending entrepreneurship with academics to build experiential and innovative learning experiences

The Roux Institute’s academic leadership team includes three all-star faculty members who blend innovation with academia, designing learning experiences for Roux Institute students and partners that are grounded in professional practice with a forward-thinking approach.

“I’m delighted to be joined by three innovative and energetic colleagues who are very creative and collaborative, and who are dedicated to delivering high quality programming for our learners,” said Mike Pollastri, Senior Vice Provost for Portland and Academic Lead of the Roux Institute. “The three of them bring a really cool synergy to the work they do together, based on their unique combination of backgrounds in academics and in industry. Since all three are new to Northeastern, they bring a fresh perspective to our experiential education mandate.”

Aileen Huang-Saad, Director of Life Sciences and Engineering, has spent the last 14 years at the University of Michigan creating programs to transform student experiences, closing the gap between higher education and practice. Prior to entering higher education, she worked in new venture biotech, the defense industry, and medical device testing. Huang-Saad’s current research areas are entrepreneurship, innovation, and transforming higher education, and she wants her students to have more real-world experience than she had when she was a new biomedical engineer.

“I want to provide students with real-world and classroom learnings so that they are prepared to be the best possible candidates for any job and have something meaningful to talk about at an interview.” Having observed that experiential learning successfully encouraged entrepreneurship in her students, her research is focused on how evidence-based practices transform student learning and outcomes.

Director of Computing Programs, Bruce Maxwell, has over 15 years of experience working in the startup space and believes the Roux Institute “provides an opportunity to combine entrepreneurship and academics to customize and create content that addresses specific needs that results in an excellent, hands-on learning experience for our learners.” Maxwell is also a professor and former chair of the Computer Science Department at Colby College, a Roux Institute academic partner.

Dan Koloski, Director of Professional Programs, spent two decades in the software industry, working in application development, product management and partnerships, and helping lead a spin-out and sale from a venture-backed company (Empirix) to Oracle. “Everyone on the team comes with the high energy of a start-up, and we’re all committed to figuring out how to provide the best possible experience for our learners.”

Everyone on the team comes with the high energy of a start-up, and we’re all committed to figuring out how to provide the best possible experience for our learners.

Dan Koloski

Director of Professional Programs

Combining expertise to create new pathways

The Roux Institute provides an opportunity for people without a background in computer or data science, for instance, to enroll in a graduate program that will help them to transition to a career in tech. Koloski shares, “I teach students from ages 22 to 52, who have a huge variety of backgrounds in both non-technical and technical disciplines, and it’s been very fun to watch them embrace these new challenges and to see how quickly they progress.”

To build the best possible learning experiences, Koloski says that the academic leadership team “shares best practices for both curricular and co-curricular offerings as well as supports each other’s focus areas with expertise and content from our respective areas as appropriate.”

About his work with fellow academic team leads, Maxwell says, “I’m working with Dan on how we can combine an introduction to machine learning with project management or leadership to create something that’s aimed at a particular segment of the business population who is now working with, developing, and supervising projects that involve a machine learning component.”

He adds, “I’m also working with Aileen on how computer science, engineering, and health sciences fit together in this space. This is something that has been happening at the undergraduate level but is not so common at the graduate level. The Roux Institute allows those barriers to be broken down, so we have an opportunity to create some new and really interesting things.”

Expanding access and opportunities for Maine

“The Roux Institute is going to be transformational for the state as we help build an ecosystem in the new, data-driven digital economy. We are just entering the start of what will be a decades-long transformation that will be almost as powerful as the advent of the Internet. The world needs people with interest, skill, and brainpower to take advantage of data and technology to solve our most pressing global and local issues – and we as an industry haven’t supplied them yet. Maine has a real opportunity to participate in a big way in these new areas.” Adds Koloski, “We work very closely with our partners to design workforce upskilling for their current employees and augment their talent pipeline for new employees.”

Maxwell was drawn to the Roux Institute, in part, by the opportunity to promote access and diversity in his field through the Align programs. “The Align program developed by Northeastern’s Khoury College of Computer Sciences was built with the intention to give people without a background in computer or data science a chance to go into those fields, change careers, and move into tech. This is an important pathway to recruit people to an area which desperately needs diversity and a lot more people.”

In addition to expanding access, Maxwell adds, “We can help grow the Maine economy and make Portland a destination for people who are interested in artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer sciences, and health sciences.”

“I think the thing that impresses me the most about our learners, is how excited they are to help build this ecosystem here in Maine,” Koloski shares. “I’m most excited to see the ripple effects of the ecosystem that we will build here. It will be visible in small ways, like a group of peers who otherwise wouldn’t have met, and in big ways, like working with companies to attack big problems. Those ripple effects are the long game, and the biggest reason to do what we are doing.”