VOLUME 13, NO. 1 DEC 1999
With centers in Worcester, Silicon Valley and beyond, WPI expands its global reach
The hundreds of students who made their way across the crowded floor of Alden Memorial in September to learn about the University's groundbreaking global projects program found a growing array of choices awaiting them. Featured at this year's popular Global Fair were new centers for major project work, including one in the heart of California's Silicon Valley, new places where students may complete their Sufficiency project off campus, and new focus areas for the Interactive Qualifying Project, including a new center in WPI's backyard that will expand the University's commitment to the Worcester community.
Participation in the program has been growing, as well. About half of the University's students travel to an off-campus center in the United States or abroad to complete a project during their junior or senior year. WPI has been working to make it easier for students to make the jump off campus by providing entering students with free passports and, starting last year, by holding an annual lottery through which 50 students have all of their round-trip airfare paid for (the free airfare program is made possible by the Sponsor Future Leaders Program).
Lance Schachterle, assistant provost for academic affairs, says the marriage of project work and off-campus study was a major innovation. "WPI students at our residential sites solve real societal-technological problems for sponsoring organizations while living and working as young professionals at the off-campus site. They benefit from an immersion in a culture new to them in ways that students, confined to classrooms, never can."
Here are recent highlights of the growing Global Perspective Program, which is now under new leadership (see story starting this page):
The Worcester Community Project Center
The Global Perspective Program will soon come home with the inauguration of the Worcester Community Project Center (WCPC). The center has received a $1 million leadership gift from the Stoddard Charitable Trust and a $500,000 grant from the Fletcher Foundation. The Stoddard gift will be used to establish an endowment for the center's operation and fund community improvement projects. Additional funding for the new center has come from the Ruth H. and Warren A. Ellsworth Foundation ($250,000) and the Mildred H. McEvoy Foundation ($60,000).
The focus of projects completed at the WCPC will be the needs and concerns of the Worcester community. Projects will
be recruited from private and public Worcester agencies, including local government, public interest groups, and charitable and educational organizations. They will concentrate on policy issues where recommendations can make significant contributions to improving the city. Likely topics for the first group of projects include marketing Worcester to high-tech firms, redeveloping industrial areas for new land use, and developing a pre-engineering curriculum for the Worcester Public Schools.
"We intend that this community resource serve as a gathering place for the community on issues that concern all of us," says WPI President Edward Alton Parrish.
The center will build on a long history of project work that has benefited the local community. Over the years, WPI students have completed dozens of IQPs in and for Worcester. Sponsors have included the city itself and its public schools.
The first off-campus project center with a permanent home, the WCPC will have offices for a director and support staff and space where professionals from the community can meet with WPI students and faculty.
Professor Finkel discusses Silicon Valley projects with students at the Global Opportunities Fair.
The Silicon Valley Project Center
The Silicon Valley in northern California is a legendary center for high technology and the entrepreneurial spirit. The home of such venerable high-tech powers as Apple, Sun, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Netscape, it is also the fountainhead from which a great many of today's successful e-commerce companies--including Yahoo, Infoseek and Excite--have sprung. What better place for students interested in Information Age careers to learn how today's good ideas can become tomorrow's breakthrough technologies and hot companies.
That was the thinking behind WPI's newest off-campus site for Major Qualifying Projects (MQPs), the Silicon Valley Project Center. The idea for the center was born in discussions that WPI President Edward Alton Parrish, Provost John F. Carney III and other senior administrators had with a number of alumni who have had successful careers as entrepreneurs and executives with Silicon Valley companies. They urged the University to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities for building links to the Valley's burgeoning computer industry and to tap into the considerable experience represented by the University's West Coast alumni body.
The new project center, directed by David Finkel, professor of computer science, will begin operation in January when 9 students arrive to complete projects for such companies as Microbar in Sunnyvale and Kana Communications in Palo Alto. Initially, projects completed at the center will focus on computer science and electrical and computer engineering, but Finkel says the scope will be expanded in the future to encompass other Silicon Valley industries, including biotechnology and chemical engineering.
The Silicon Valley Project Center is one of several off-campus sites dedicated to MQP work. The others are located in Limerick, Ireland, another hotbed of high technology, the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the Pratt & Whitney aircraft engine plant in North Haven, Conn.
IQP compendium available
Interactions 17, the latest in a series of reports on interdisciplinary project work and education at WPI, has just been published by WPI's Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division. It contains abstracts of Interactive Qualifying Projects (IQPs) completed in the 1997-98 and 1998-99 academic years, and a history of interdisciplinary studies at WPI. To request a copy, contact:
IGSD - WPI
100 Institute Road
London, Spain, Zimbabwe
The world of opportunities for students interested in going off campus to complete Interactive Qualifying Projects has grown this year with the start of new project centers in Worcester (see above) and Kariba, Zimbabwe. WPI's first formal project program in Africa, the Zimbabwe Project Program will welcome its first teams in the summer of 2000. Kariba is a small village on the shores of the world's second largest manmade lake, Lake Kariba, which is formed by the Zambezi River. Students will live in lodges at a modern campground and complete projects for game reserves, the local hospital, the tourist industry, and the village town council.
Students seeking exciting venues in which to conduct Humanities Sufficiencies have two new choices. Groups of students have been traveling to London for several years to complete Sufficiencies in drama/theatre and music. Next summer, that tradition will be formalized with the start of the London music Sufficiency program. Students will conduct projects that focus on the city's musical culture, past and present. A Sufficiency program in Madrid, Spain, starting in the spring of 2000, will host students interested in delving into the country's rich cultural history and improving their mastery of the Spanish language.
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