Worcester Polytechnic Institute

A Planning Program for Worcester Polytechnic Institute: The Future of Two Towers - Part Four: A Plan


A graduate program can enhance the quality of undergraduate education. The excitement and motivation of creative research and scholarship when transmitted to the undergraduate program is most beneficial. Both faculty recruitment and the level of faculty scholarship can be aided by the graduate program. Finally, in the context of the Plan, the graduate research activities can be an excellent source of projects for the undergraduate efforts.

The Planning Committee and preceding Planning Group have not made an intensive study of graduate education. The major thrust of the Planning Committee has been the study of the philosophy and the development of a plan for the undergraduate program. A graduate program subcommittee of the Planning Committee has studied the graduate program, and their report has been distributed to the faculty. This report made some important recommendations relative to the current status of the graduate effort. Another proposal has recently been prepared by several members of this subcommittee which suggests that WPI concentrate its graduate efforts in a center for environmental studies. This interesting proposal recommends a substantial shift in the type and philosophy of graduate education at the College.

The Plan submitted to the faculty in this report reasserts the emphasis on undergraduate education at WPI. It is felt that the graduate program should supplement undergraduate education, not supplant it.

Projections of the desired direction of graduate education are difficult to make, particularly at this time. First, just as with undergraduate education, the very form and substance of the traditional American graduate degree programs are being seriously questioned in many quarters. Second, with apparent shifts in national priorities, funding of the disciplinary research activities of the type prevalent since World War II is becoming increasingly difficult (1). Third, the present over-supply of Ph.D's in most fields is resulting in criticism of the trend for more and more colleges to establish or expand doctoral programs (2).

The present status of the graduate program at the College, as well as that of the undergraduate program, should be improved. While some research areas have developed a strength and capacity for self-support, others have continued sub-threshold and are heavily supported by the College. The lack of sufficient administrative and faculty coordination has resulted in a proliferation and multiplicity of graduate courses with low enrollment. The Planning Committee has recommended a coordinator of the graduate program to administer to its special needs (See XII, ORGANIZATIONAL CONCEPTS.)

In view of the above discussion, the Planning Committee make the following recommendations concerning graduate education at WPI:

1. The graduate program should support the educational Goal of WPI and should complement the undergraduate program. In considering the development of areas of graduate research or support, the governing criterion should be the relevance of the program to the goal of the College and to the education of our students. The funding of programs that do support this criterion should receive priority.

2. The graduate program should be an intrinsic part of the College academic environment. Those graduate programs that would tend to integrate faculty and graduate student interaction with the larger academic community should be especially encouraged.

3. Only those graduate areas that show strong promise of self-support should be given Institute funding for developmental purposes. In addition, this funding should be for a limited time period. Under these conditions, however, the funding level should be sufficient to provide realistic development.

4. For the immediate future a large portion of the energies of the faculty should be devoted to implementing and developing the proposed undergraduate program. Therefore, while it is important to continue developing and strengthening the present graduate program, a major change in this program should not now be attempted concurrently with the changes in the undergraduate program.

It is expected that as the undergraduate program gains momentum, a multidisciplinary graduate interest and need will evolve. This interest and need should be developed into a graduate effort that meshes naturally with the undergraduate program.

(1) Scientific American, Vol. 222, April 1970, p. 44. (_) Newsweek, March 16, 1970, p. 114.

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