WPI Leadership To Light the Way for Nation's Colleges and Universities

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - Worcester Polytechnic Institute has been selected as one of 16 Leadership Institutions to help improve higher education in America. In a Dec. 6 announcement, the Washington, D.C.-based Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) named WPI to its Greater Expectations Leadership Consortium, which aims to create networks of colleges and universities using innovative practices in undergraduate education. Leadership Institutions such as WPI will form the hubs of these networks, helping other colleges and universities to improve their educational programs.

"Over the next two-and-a-half years, there will be a series of workshops and meetings to bring people from colleges and universities together to learn from these models of innovation," said Richard F. Vaz, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate dean of the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division, who will serve as WPI's liaison to the consortium. "Every one of the 16 will hold a workshop on their campuses while working with a national panel to spread the message, 'You should be doing what these people are doing.'"

The 16 Leadership Institutions join six earlier recipients of a Pew Leadership Award to form the new consortium. The Pew Charitable Trusts and Carnegie Corp. of New York have underwritten the effort.

"WPI has been chosen for this recognition because of your visionary design to improve achievement for all students," said Andrea Leskes, vice president for Education and Quality Initiatives and director of Greater Expectations, in a Dec. 6 letter to WPI President Edward Alton Parrish. "We firmly believe your faculty and staff will contribute importantly to the work of the Greater Expectations Initiative, just as the institution will serve as a model for other colleges and universities across the country."

According to the AAC&U, institutions selected for this honor were characterized by innovation, a culture supportive of undergraduate students and a link between liberal arts and preprofessional study. In addition, they showed a "learning by doing" approach to off-campus work in community projects or internships

"We got this award because the AAC&U sees us as not only an outstanding technological school but also because of the strength of our liberal education," Vaz said. "Our Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP), in which students study the impact of science and technology on society, is unique to WPI. It's something no one else does. Another strong point was our global programs, which place our students in international locations to work on real-world problems. The AAC&U examiner remarked the WPI experience causes a 'transformation' and a 'striking change' in our students between their freshman and senior years."

In addition, WPI was singled out for its wealth of other innovations, including tutorial programs, support efforts for new students, faculty development and more.

WPI is the only technological university to earn the Leadership Institution award. Here's the complete list of Leadership Institutions:

  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Colgate University
  • Duke University
  • Central Connecticut State University
  • Indiana University-Purdue University
  • State University of New York at Stony Brook
  • The Evergreen State College
  • Hampshire College
  • King's College (Pa.)
  • Prince George's Community College
  • University of Hawaii-Kapi'olani Community College
  • Richland College
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Nebraska
  • University of Southern California
  • United States Air Force Academy

The AAC&U purposely singled out excellent institutions from the entire range of public or private, small or large and community or four-year colleges and universities.

Earlier Pew Leadership Award institutions are Alverno, Babson and Mount St. Mary's colleges, Eastern New Mexico and Portland State universities and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Founded in 1865, WPI enrolls 2,700 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students in science, engineering, management, social science and humanities. Under the WPI Plan, students complete preprofessional projects in their major course of study; in the humanities and arts; and on the effects of technology and science on society.