Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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


A. Introduction

The Planning Committee do not feel that they can delineate the exact details of the implementation of the Plan. This should be a function of the Dean of Program Operations and his staff and would require considerable planning. It is possible, however, to suggest a tentative calendar for implementation and to make certain recommendations that should enable WPI to proceed in an orderly fashion toward complete conversion to the Plan in a reasonable amount of time.

B. A Suggested Calendar for Implementation of the Plan

1970-71: An Implementation Committee, consultants, and administration would develop complete plans for a pilot program, including the administrative structure, advisory procedures, allocation of faculty, generation of on-campus and off-campus projects, and utilization of the physical plant of WPI for both educational and living purposes. Concurrently, all departments would undertake a thorough study of the content of their course offerings in order to design new courses to meet the educational requirements of the new program.

1971-72: First year of pilot program. Some members of the faculty would be involved on a full-time basis, others on a part-time basis, working with approximately ten to fifteen percent of the undergraduate student body, proportionately distributed by classes, except for seniors.

1972-73: Pilot program would be considerably enlarged with the addition of a large portion of the entering class as well as upperclass transfers from the regular program Approximately two-thirds of the faculty would be involved at least part-time.

1973-74: All faculty would be involved to some extent. Approxi- mately two-thirds of the students would be under the new program.

1974-75: All entering students and most upperclassmen would be on the new program. Upperclassmen under existing pro- grams could continue until graduation but no new students would be accepted under present graduation requirements.

C. Recommendations

1. A Dean of Program Operations should be appointed as soon as possible, and no later than September 1, 1970, to direct the development of a pilot program.

2. Each department at WPI should begin a detailed study of the content of its undergraduate program so that it can design new courses meeting the requirements of the Plan. This study should be completed no later than April 1, 1971.

3. The Dean of Program Operations, with the advice and consent of the Dean of Faculty, should appoint an Implementation Committee from the faculty to work with him during the academic year 1970-71. Those faculty selected should be released from 3/4 of their teaching responsibility for the year.

4. WPI should seek the advice of consultants from industry, govern- ment, and other colleges and universities in the development of the pilot program

5. WPI should appoint ten new faculty members, selected particularly because of the contributions they could make to the Plan as exemplified by their previous experience.

6. The new academic calendar, proposed by the Planning Committee (see Chapter VI), should be adopted by WPI, commencing with the summer term, 1971.

7. Upon adoption of the Plan by the faculty, the Admissions and Public Relations Offices should develop detailed brochures regarding the new academic program of the College and should embark upon an extensive campaign to educate guidance directors and other school officials regarding its operation.

8. WPI should seek special financial support for the pilot program as soon as possible.

9. Specific provision should be made to see that the entire program, both academic and environmental, is constantly reviewed. It is important that this evaluation include external advice.

D. Discussion

The proposed program of the Planning Committee represents a major revision in educational philosophy and teaching methods at WPI. While there have been significant changes in a number of departmental curricula since Planning Day I, these changes have been largely a matter of reducing the number of required courses and increasing elective capability. Nevertheless, the discussions that have taken place during the past year in connection with these changes represent an important development in faculty participation in curricular matters; there is a far greater interest in curricular revision than has been in evidence for many years. This is fortunate, for the implementation of the proposed Plan would require considerable effort on the part of all the College community, and in particular on the part of the faculty.

Initially, certain new appointments must be made. A Dean of Program Operations must be appointed as soon as possible, and he must be given sufficient academic and administrative support to be able to direct the development of a pilot program to be instituted no later than September 1971. Since the pilot program should provide a worthwhile method for a gradual conversion of the existing academic program into the proposed Plan, it would be essential that much care be given to its promulgation, The present faculty has many strengths, and the Planning 69 Committee believe that there are a large portion of the faculty who could and would want to play significant roles in the implementation process The problem here is that these same faculty are important to our present academic efforts, which must in no way be relegated to an inferior status, as long as there are students still on the campus who will graduate under present regulations. It would seem advisable, therefore, to appoint some ten additional faculty members as soon as possible, chosen because of their experience in project work. This would be expensive, since most of these individuals would be experienced educators. But the alternative of expecting our key faculty to do double duty would be more expensive in the long run, for these faculty would be unable to maintain their professional competence in the light of their extra work and would, therefore, lose their effectiveness at least partially.

While the Dean of Program Operations and the new faculty appointees would be involved on a full-time basis in developing the pilot program, all of the faculty would also be involved to some extent in curricular development. It must be emphasized that existing courses could not be converted with only minor modifications to the new types of courses of the Plan. This is obvious if consideration is given to the difference in intent between our existing and proposed curricula. Each department would need a study of its entire undergraduate offerings in terms of topics covered, not courses offered, so that each could build a new set of courses conforming to the new educational tools. The Planning Committee urge that this study be undertaken immediately and completed no later than April 1, 1971, so that the Dean of Program Operations and his staff could have sufficient time to incorporate these new courses into their implementation plans. It is equally important that the curricular studies conducted by each department would involve frequent communication with each of the other departments. WPI simply cannot afford to maintain departmental insularity. Where areas of mutual interest exist, there ought to be an economy in course offering by the introduction of courses satisfying the needs of several disciplines. If necessary, the Dean of Program Operations should be given authority to require departments with similar offerings to unify their courses. Finally, since the pilot program would involve a relatively small group of students initially, and would lead into the new program over a period of several years, each department would want to consider which courses in the new program might be suitable for credit in its existing curriculum.

The Planning Committee also urge that once the Plan has been adopted by the faculty, the Admissions Office begin an intensive campaign to acquaint the secondary schools with the proposed program. Presumably, the bulk of the student participants in the pilot program would come initially from the entering class in September 1971 and as the implementation proceeds, most of the new participants would come from the successive entering classes. It is imperative, therefore, that more than the usual brochure would be made available to the schools so that both the guidance officers and the potential candidates would understand what the Plan involves.

Concommitent with curriculum development, project generation, and dissemination of information regarding the Plan to the public (to attract both students and financial support), there would be a need for careful long-range planning of the physical facilities of WPI. The initial stages of the pilot program should not require major renovation, but as the implementation progresses, the need for suitable lecture halls, small seminar rooms, and project work areas would become increasingly important. Coupled with these academic needs would be the equally important housing requirements as well as the more subtle environmental requirements such as proper landscaping, campus parking, and architectural standards for renovation or new building.

The recommendations appearing above would involve expenditures in excess of the normal operating costs of the College. This would be particularly noticeable in the initial phases of the implementation period, when support must be given for a sizable number of people in volved with planning and the start-up operations of the pilot program. The Plan has both uniqueness and innovative qualities that should make support of a pilot program attractive to foundations and government agencies. WPI should take an aggressive approach in seeking support, not only because of the intrinsic worth of the Plan, but also because substantial funding would alleviate the necessity of resorting to half-measures or delaying various phases of the pilot program for financial reasons.

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Last modified: Fri Mar 5 15:28:11 EST 1999