A Lunch with WPI's Global Ambassadors

What makes WPI's Global Perspective Program So Special?

  • Paul W. Davis, Dean, Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division
  • Natalie A. Mello, Director of Global Operations, Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division

Working for two months in Venice with the Consorzio Trasportatori, a team of four engineering and science majors from Worcester Polytechnic Institute optimized the boat cargo delivery system it operates in the Venetian lagoon and canals. The team combined sophisticated geographic information systems, clever data tracking, and carefully cultivated relationships with the individual boat captains in the Consorzio to design a system that halves delivery times and the attendant boat traffic, pollution, and canal damage.

Another team of WPI student consultants used its two months in Thailand to document for its government and electric utility sponsors the effects on small village communities of relocating them to accommodate larger generation plants. Through surveys and focus groups, the team documented both the importance of preserving a sense of community and the varied effects of relocation on the physical and mental health of individual villagers.

WPI students in Costa Rica synthesized expert knowledge of fish farming into bi-lingual educational leaflets that teach subsistence farmers in rural areas to raise the fish tilapia in a simple pond. The fish improve the family diet and add a cash crop. This spring, that work will be adapted for Namibia by other WPI students.

A WPI team in Melbourne startled the specialists in an environmental protection agency when it discovered through careful surveys that the response of commuters to public announcements of poor air quality was exactly opposite that anticipated: commuters forsook their usual public transport to drive their own cars, further degrading air quality under the false impression that they were escaping polluted air.

These projects are among the one hundred that are completed each year by the more than 300 WPI students-about 50% of a graduating class-whose project work takes them abroad for a problem-solving assignment at one of WPI's fifteen overseas project centers in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia, and (in 2003) Africa. (There are another seven domestic project centers that annually serve an additional 150 students.) These undergraduate majors in science, engineering, computer science, and management are developing international leadership skills while they master problem solving in the humanities, in their technical discipline, or at the interface between society and technology.

Because of its unique outcomes-oriented curriculum and its extraordinary commitment to global education, WPI sends more students of science and engineering abroad than any other American university. Giving study abroad opportunities to more than half of its undergraduates-of whom all but a tiny fraction are majors in technical disciplines-places WPI third among American doctoral granting institutions in the fraction of its graduates among all majors (including social sciences, languages, etc.) who have studied abroad. These in-depth, cross-cultural problem-solving experiences are an integral part of a WPI education in spite of the heavily burdened curricula and rigid accreditation requirements typical of science, engineering, computer science, and management.

For more information, visit the Global Perspectives Program Web site.

Who are the Global Ambassadors?

The Global Ambassadors are a student group that reports to and is supported by the IGSD. It consists of students who have participated in WPI's Global Perspective Program, and who wish to help promote the program to students, faculty, and other constituencies. The Global Ambassadors are a volunteer group, managed by a small student leadership team, and supported by Natalie Mello of the IGSD who serves as the advisor, and identifies opportunities, and provides resources.

Contact: Pauline Lamarche (lamarche@wpi.edu)
Maintained by: webmaster@wpi.edu
Last modified: Jan 14, 2005, 15:47 EST