Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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


A. Introduction

The ultimate reality of any academic program lies in the requirements that an institution established for the awarding of its degrees. In the evolution of the Two Towers Plan, the Goal of the College was established first, and then degree requirements consistent with that Goal were developed.

The Goal stresses response to the needs of the individual student, that he not only gain an understanding of a sector of science and technology, but also a mature understanding of himself; it is the Goal of WPI that the student should demonstrate that he can learn on his own, that he can translate learning into worthwhile action, and that he can become aware of the interrelationships between basic knowledge, technology and human need. The Goal stresses the development of self-confidence and an intellectual restlessness.

A degree requirement that rests almost entirely upon the satisfactory completion of a list of required courses would drive against the heart of the Goal. A degree based upon course requirement criteria does fulfill one objective - gaining an understanding of a sector of science and technology - but its required aspects have not been responsive to the needs of the individual student. By withholding from the student significant responsibility for his own program, it has neither helped him gain a mature understanding of himself nor developed the level of self-confidence that can only result from making responsible decisions. Courses alone do not usually provide the opportunity to translate learning into action, and, unfortunately, are often so compartmentalized that little if any relationship is demonstrated between basic knowledge, technological advance and human need.

Not only are new types of courses necessary to approach the Goal of the College, but a new framework is needed to provide a substantially increased opportunity for integrative work, independent work, and thoughtful, continuous responsibility on the part of the student for the attainment of his own goals.

B. Specific Degree Requirements

The Bachelor of Science degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute would be awarded upon completion of the following:

1. A normal residence of 16 Terms.*

2. Acceptable or Distinguished completion of a Comprehensive Examination in the major field of study.

3. Qualification in a minor field of study either by Sufficiency Examination or by overall evaluation of two Units of work in the area. Students majoring in a scientific or engineering field would normally fulfill the requirement in a humanities area. Students majoring in a humanities area would normally fulfill this requirement in a scientific or engineering area.

4. At least two Units established by Acceptable or Distinguished work in an advanced level activity involving Independent Study or Project work. one of these Units would have to be in the student's major field. An activity relating technology to society is recommended for the second Unit. Examinations may not be substituted for this requirement.

* Students with exceptional backgrounds or who would have demonstrated unusual accomplishment at WPI might, upon recommendation of the Council of Advisors (See IX, THE ADVISORY PROGRAM), take their Comprehensive Examination before the completion of the normal 16 Terms and receive their degree early if other requirements were met. In any case, however, early examination would not be recommended before completion of 8 Units in residence.

C. Degree Requirements and the Goal

It will be seen that the proposed degree requirements are not based upon satisfactory completion of a series of required courses or even a given number of courses, required or elective. It is the intention of the Plan that the Units would form an integral part of the student's background. In the end, he must demonstrate that he could integrate this background through the Comprehensive Examination as well as apply and develop this background in the completion of two Units of Independent Study/Project work, one Unit of which is highly recommended to be in the humanistic area. Heavy responsibility would be placed upon the student and his advisor for careful and thoughtful development of the individual student's program. Provision is made for the truly outstanding student to complete the requirements for the B.S. degree early. At the same time, the program could accommodate under-prepared students who might require more study before undertaking their qualifying Independent Study/ Project work and qualifying examinations.

Thus, the student would "not only gain an understanding of a sector of science and technology, but also a mature understanding of himself". He would be encouraged to learn on his own, translate that learning into action, and would become more aware of interrelationships between basic knowledge, technology and human need. By the very nature of the achievement, the recipient of a future WPI degree should have that self-confidence which can only come through the experience of being given responsibility and mastering it.

D. Transcript

The transcript of the WPI student under the proposed degree requirements should contain the following:

1. The student identification.

2. A list of Study-Conferences and Studies for which Acceptable work was done (A).

3. A list of Study-Conferences and Studies for which Distinguished work was done (AD).

4. A brief description of Independent Study/Projects undertaken, including one of the following conclusions: Not Acceptable (NA), Acceptable (A), or Acceptable with Distinction (AD).

5. Titles and brief abstracts of the two qualifying projects, names of project directors, and one of the following conclusions for each: Not Acceptable (NA), Acceptable (A), or Acceptable with Distinction (AD).

6. Title of the Comprehensive Examination, evaluated Acceptable (A), or Acceptable with Distinction (AD),

7. Title of the Sufficiency Examination evaluated Acceptable (A) or Acceptable with Distinction (AD), or the alternative overall evaluation of two Units.

8. Statement of Advisor's Assessment of the Student.

Should a student fail to perform acceptable work in a Study Conference or Study the matter would be treated as though the student never attempted the activity - it would not be recorded.

Since the program would be individual in nature, class standing, as such, would be indeterminate. Students with varying degrees of ability would be easily identified by their records.

The Council of Advisors, following review of the student's record would recommend to the Faculty qualified candidates for the degree.

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