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Richard Vaz

“I’ve parachuted into a large and extremely well run operation,” Rick Vaz says of his new post. “I don’t plan to come in and make sweeping changes. I’m going to take the time to learn how things are done, and keep a gentle hand on the rudder, especially for the first year.”

With his decades of rich experience at WPI and his expertise in issues such as higher education reform and the internationalization of engineering education, it is no surprise that Vaz appreciates the smooth-running IGSD, as well as its signature role at the university.

Indeed, IGSD’s Global Perspective Program has won the university considerable recognition. The program was cited by the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 2000, when it named WPI one of 16 Greater Expectations Leadership Institutions. In 2002, the university was recognized by NAFSA: Association of International Educators for “doing exemplary work to internationalize the campus.” And in 2003, TIAA-CREF recognized WPI with the Theodore M. Hesburgh Award, which honors academic programs that enhance undergraduate teaching and learning.

As dean, Vaz will keep his finger on the pulse of students’ WPI experiences by carrying on with his long-standing role as advisor to scores of undergrads. “I also hope to continue going overseas to work with students at the project centers,” says the professor who has maintained a frenetic schedule working on projects in Ireland, Namibia, and Thailand, among other locations. “But for this first year as dean, I plan to stay closer to home.”

While he’s around, Vaz will roll up his sleeves to collaborate with his longtime colleague John Orr on undergraduate curriculum development. On this front, Vaz feels particularly fired up about early undergraduate education. “I believe that much of what we do in the IQP and global program is exactly what our first-year students need: training in critical thinking and problem solving, and in writing and research skills,” he says. “I’ll be very interested in exploring with John and others how we can integrate elements of the IGSD’s educational strategies more fully into the curriculum.”

Stepping back for a longer view, Vaz says, “I am thrilled to be part of this historic moment at WPI.”

—Eileen McCluskey

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Last modified: Sep 28, 2006, 09:57 EDT
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