The President of Northeastern University, Joseph Aoun, is now somewhat of a YouTube celebrity, having been in a total of four short films in the past year.
The videos promote Northeastern’s “Presidential Speaker Series: Profiles in Innovation,” in which the university brings high profile guests to campus. And although the lectures are serious, Aoun’s videos are anything but - they are goofy and creative films that highlight the president’s lighthearted personality.
Each video lasts one to two minutes, and has anywhere from 1,500 to nearly 3,000 views. In one Aoun dances around his office with a rumba cleaner. In another, he plays the custodian working in the president’s office.
Aoun said he has enjoyed making these short films because they enable him show off his fun-loving side.
“I wanted to express a side of me that everyone might not see everyday,” Aoun said.
Aoun is very involved in the filmmaking process, and will often contribute some of his own ideas, he said.
“I have to feel that [the video] presents me, that’s why I have to be involved from day one,” Aoun said.
Renata Nyul, director of communications at Northeastern University, said Aoun is always a good sport, and that he is willing to take on any character.
“He is definitely the man behind these videos,” Nyul said. “He wanted to do something that is a whimsical, innovative way to profile these speakers.”
The “Presidential Speaker Series: Profiles in Innovation” has featured four guests in the last year, including the principal creator of the supercomputer IBM Watson, the co-founder of the company iRobot, and an airspace sculptor models her work after French artist Henri Matisse.
The most recent speaker – Dr. Leroy Hood – makes an appearance in the short film. In the early 1980s, Hood developed an automated DNA sequencer that was used for the Human Genome project.
The video opens with President Aoun realizing that he has been double-booked; he has a meeting in Seattle the same time he is scheduled to attend the speaker series at Northeastern.
Aoun then receives a call from the speaker, Dr. Hood, who wants to discuss potential topics for his lecture.
“I could talk on the biotech industry, or the health care reform, or DNA cloning,” Hood says.
Aoun has his answer. He asks Hood, “Wait, wait Lee. What did you say?”
Lee replies, “You know my work on DNA mapping and DNA cloning.”
“Cloning sounds great Lee,” Aoun says. “I’m looking forward to your lecture.”
Aoun spends the next two weeks manufacturing a “cloning machine,” with the help of Lee’s writings, “DNA Mapping and Cloning: a collection of works by Dr. Leroy Hood.”
After several failed attempts, Aoun manages to clone himself. But the clone is a miniature version of himself. He then makes another clone, but this time the clone is too large.
Realizing his defeat, Aoun stares into the camera, saying, “I need Lee.”
Aoun said he just wants to show that university presidents can have a good time too.
“Fun is good,” Aoun said. “And fun is presidential.”