Ninety-nine years ago, on a windswept beach in North Carolina, a spindly machine made of ash, spruce and steel rose briefly into the salt air, propelled by a noisy four-cylinder engine. With a lone pilot struggling to keep its muslin-covered wings level, the ungainly craft settled back onto the sand 12 seconds and 120 feet later. For the first time in history, an aircraft had made a sustained flight under its own power.
The first flight of the Wright brothers' Flyer inaugurated the Air Age--a century of extraordinary technological achievements that enabled winged vehicles to fly ever faster, higher and farther. It should come as no surprise that WPI alumni, faculty and students have played roles, both small and large, in many of the pivotal milestones of the first 100 years of powered flight.
With this issue of Transformations, we begin a yearlong focus on WPI's role in the evolution of aviation and space technology. We invite readers to help us plan the rest of this special year by sending us ideas for future stories.
WPI's place in the story of powered flight is just one of the more noteworthy outcomes of the university's historical emphasis on preparing scientists and engineers who are well equipped to apply their classroom learning to change the world for the better. In the last issue of Transformations, we introduced you to a new marketing initiative that aims to make more people aware of the university's unique curriculum, its history of innovation, and its many contributions to our society.
The program continues to move forward; here are just a few recent developments. You can read more about these initiatives at WPI's marketing Web site.
- This fall, the second flight of WPI's broadcast ads went on the air in Greater Boston (TV) and Hartford and New Haven (radio). As you'll recall, we're targeting parents and high school teachers and guidance counselors--individuals who influence the college choices of prospective WPI students. The ads, which focus on WPI's history of innovation, quality of education, unique curriculum and well-rounded students, are designed to build awareness and name recognition for the university.
- When the annual "America's Best Colleges" issue of U.S. News & World Report was published in September, 52,000 subscribers in the Boston Metro area (an area we are focusing on with our marketing program) found a three page "advertorial" on WPI in their copies. The article, which gave an overview of our distinctive academic and research programs, was titled "Worcester Polytechnic Institute: A National University Like No Other."
- In October, the Board of Trustees endorsed our new visual identity system, which includes our new logo, as well as comprehensive visual identity standards to assure that these important new WPI assets are used properly and consistently across all of our printed and electronic communications.
- In May, we will present several outstanding Massachusetts high school teachers with the inaugural WPI Technological Humanist Award. The recipients (who must be nominated by their students) will be recognized for their efforts to help students see that science and engineering are about more than numbers and formulas--that they are, in fact, tools for addressing the world's important problems. The award is designed to build awareness among prospective students (as well as parents, teachers and guidance counselors) for the unique outcomes of our educational programs: well-rounded young men and women who understand the complex social environment in which scientists and engineers live and work. WPI has long called such individuals technological humanists. It's the same idea we've captured in our new positioning statement, "The University of Science and Technology. And Life."
With these activities, the marketing program we launched under a year ago is building speed and climbing to new heights. While WPI's journey to increased recognition and national visibility is well under way, there is still a lot of ground to cover before we reach our destination. We're happy to have you along for the flight, and we promise to keep you informed about the milestones we pass along the way.
Michael W. Dorsey
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Last modified: Sep 02, 2004, 10:50 EDT