Revised Strategic Plan Draft

New Vision, New Ideas, New Resources II

A revision of the WPI Strategic Plan for FY 2000 to FY 2010 for the period FY 2008 to FY 2015


Beginning in the fall of 1996, the faculty and administration of WPI worked together to formulate a strategic plan that would guide the university for the next decade. That plan, resulting from lengthy discussion, debate, and revision, was ultimately adopted by the faculty and Board of Trustees in 1999. It was entitled “New Ideas, New Vision, New Resources: An Ambitious Plan to Raise the University to New Levels of Quality and Prestige” (the Strategic Plan).

That Strategic Plan has since guided the university primarily by continually reminding the WPI community of our core values (Lehr und Kunst, excellence, close faculty/student interaction, collaborative learning and research, respect for all members of our community) and the continuing importance of both the WPI Plan and the Global Perspective Program to the appeal and effectiveness of our undergraduate programs. Some of the more quantitative goals of the Strategic Plan have been met, others are within reach, and still others remain elusive. Regardless of the particulars, the Strategic Plan remains a testament to the spirit of collaboration and shared vision that characterize WPI.

The Strategic Plan spoke plainly and forcefully about WPI’s leadership in engineering education, a rich heritage propelled into new prominence by the introduction and promotion of the WPI Plan in the early 1970’s. Greater recognition for the unique and powerful aspects of the Plan, now emulated by many of our competitors, remains an important but largely unrealized goal. Today, as a strong grounding in engineering and science is increasingly important for productive careers, WPI is poised to strengthen its leadership in both engineering education and higher education in general.

The Present Context

Not surprisingly, there have been significant changes in the factors recognized in the Strategic Plan and affecting the university in the decade since work to develop the Strategic Plan began. A new administration arrived at WPI in 2004, with the customary reconsideration of both vision and strategies; the economy of the Commonwealth, and especially of central Massachusetts, continues to reorient itself toward the life sciences; government support for student financial aid and faculty research has not kept pace with increases in costs; interest in science and engineering education continues to decline among American high school students; and the public has become increasingly concerned about the issues of affordability, access to, and accountability within higher education.

Nevertheless, the university’s core values, distinguishing characteristics, and general aspirations have not changed significantly since the Strategic Plan was adopted. Therefore, out of respect for the work that went into that plan and for the value of continuity, the present document serves to update, extend, and bring sharper focus to the previous Strategic Plan. It is intended to be considered together with that Strategic Plan, the university’s Mission Statement, and the President’s 2006 Vision Statement. Given the fullness of these companion documents, and in the interest of allowing for a continuing process of setting and measuring progress against realistic, measurable goals, the present document is relatively succinct.

The Process

Early in the 2006–07 academic year, President Berkey proposed the creation of a “Strategic and Campaign Planning Task Force,” whose charge would be to update and extend the current Strategic Plan and recommend a corresponding Campaign Plan for a major fundraising effort that would begin later in calendar year 2007 and extend to the university’s sesquicentennial year in 2015. By agreement between the Secretary of the Faculty and the President, the Task Force comprised five members of the faculty (three appointed by the Committee on Governance, two by the President), five members of the senior administration, one undergraduate student, one graduate student, the Secretary of the Faculty, and the President. The President’s Chief of Staff provided administrative support for the Task Force. The committee met on a weekly basis throughout C and D terms. At the conclusion of D Term, the President provided an outline of what had been discussed and asked members for feedback. The current draft is based on that outline and feedback.

The Revised Strategic Plan

The 1999 Strategic Plan set forth five Strategic Goals:

  1. Enhance the Quality of WPI’s Academic Programs
  2. Develop WPI’s Position as a National University
  3. Establish WPI as a Leader in Global Technological Education
  4. Improve WPI’s Campus Culture and Community Presence
  5. Expand WPI’s Educational Resources

These are important, general goals which will continue to reflect WPI’s aspirations for the foreseeable future. Goals 1, 2, and 4 are very broad, and worthy of additional refinement and focus. Goal 3 has largely been achieved, but represents an important continuing strategic thrust. Goal 5 anticipated what turned out to be a successful $150 million fundraising campaign. It speaks to us now as we prepare for the next campaign.

Based on WPI’s Mission Statement, the 1999 Strategic Plan, and the President’s 2006 Vision Statement, and in order to guide program and facilities development, resource allocation, and general operations, the following Strategic Goals for the period 2007 through 2015 are proposed:

  1. Promote the continuing development of the WPI Plan as the essential core of WPI’s premier, science and technology centered undergraduate program.
  2. Further enhance the quality of academic programs.
  3. Strengthen institutional support for graduate education and faculty research primarily in areas of significant student demand, demonstrated leadership, potential for external sponsorship, and significant societal or national need.
  4. Support and value a high quality of campus life and sense of community
  5. Develop campus facilities according to an explicit plan for supporting academic and co-curricular needs and property maintenance.
  6. Promote WPI as a national university
  7. Develop non-traditional sources of revenue to strengthen the university financially and keep WPI affordable.
  8. Improve Alumni Relations.

Goal 1:  Promote the continuing development of the WPI Plan as the essential core of WPI’s premier, science and technology centered undergraduate program.

The WPI Plan, introduced in 1970, remains the defining core of our undergraduate program and WPI’s most important enterprise. Although modified over the years, the Plan remains appropriately centered on engineering and science, requiring of all students two major projects—one at the intersection of technology and society and the other in the major field of study—and a serious engagement with the arts, humanities, and social sciences. The experience of working in project teams, communicating results both orally and in writing, and succeeding in WPI’s fast-paced curriculum produces graduates well prepared for the challenges of a complex, competitive, and technological world. Regardless of their major field of study, WPI graduates know how to attack world-class problems, imagining what can be accomplished, and achieving the intended outcome.

Continuing enhancements to the WPI Plan suggest conceiving the undergraduate experience as a sequence of four themes, each complementing the core coursework in and related to the major field, and each corresponding to one of the years of study. A revised first-year program will include seminars emphasizing skills in written and oral communication and focusing on over-arching questions, as well as introductory involvement in project-based learning. In the sophomore year, coursework in the arts, humanities, and social sciences culminates in projects of integration and synthesis. The junior year experience includes the Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP), that many students will perform abroad in the Global Perspective Program. Finally, the senior year centers on the Major Qualifying Project (MQP), which, again, is often completed off campus.

The IQP and the Global Perspective Program constitute WPI’s most distinctive educational programs. The IQP focuses on the use of technology to improve aspects of society, and most students complete this required project abroad, within the Global Perspective Program. This program also enrolls students completing their arts and humanities requirement or their MQP overseas. We aspire to increase the number of WPI students participating in the Global Perspective Program, and to increase financial aid to help fund the increased costs to students of participating in this program.

The WPI Plan is a mode of teaching and learning that has proven to be highly effective in preparing students for productive careers and fulfilling lives. At a time when the need for creative, innovative leadership has never been greater, the WPI Plan remains a model of how best to respond to these challenges and opportunities. We desire to provide continuing support for the spirit of educational innovation that led to the WPI Plan. Specific areas for this support include the Center for Educational Development and Assessment, an increase in the interchange between WPI faculty and those of other institutions worldwide, and specific support for faculty who provide internal and external leadership in undergraduate science, engineering, and business management education.

Goal 2:  Further enhance the quality of academic programs.

We will proudly maintain strengths in the core areas of engineering, the natural and social sciences, the arts and humanities, and business management. We will continue to develop new academic programs that build on traditional strengths, reaching across disciplines to reflect the integration of knowledge and its contemporary applications. Examples of such initiatives include interactive media and game development, robotics engineering, environmental engineering, fire protection engineering, and metals processing. In the future, we may pursue initiatives in such fields as architectural engineering, science and technology communications, medical technologies, theatre and arts management, and so forth.

Close student-faculty interactions have always been a hallmark of WPI’s undergraduate program, and the value of this commitment of faculty time and devotion to students cannot be overstated. We will support these faculty efforts fully, by providing appropriate resources, as well as proper recognition and reward for excellent teaching and advising. Additionally, we will encourage and support continuing improvements to teaching effectiveness and curriculum development.

Further support for faculty will be provided through competitive salaries, additional endowed professorships, and the assurance that female faculty and faculty from under-represented populations will find a fully welcoming and supportive environment in which to put down roots and develop careers. Indeed, it is our intention to recruit and retain significantly increased numbers of outstanding female and minority faculty.

Undergraduate tuition constitutes the university’s primary source of revenue. To achieve a sustainable balance between revenues and expenses in a manner that ensures the high quality of the WPI experience, we plan to increase undergraduate enrollment to the range of 3,200 to 3,400 by the year 2015. This will require careful attention to the ratio of students to faculty and academic staff, and the availability and quality of teaching and learning spaces (classrooms, labs, project team suites, etc.), to ensure the continuing quality of all aspects of the undergraduate experience

Goal 3:  Strengthen institutional support for graduate education and faculty research primarily in areas of significant student demand, demonstrated leadership, potential for external sponsorship, and significant societal or national need.

Masters and doctoral programs comprise distinct types of graduate education. MS programs in engineering and in the sciences are more closely related to the undergraduate experience than to research-intensive PhD programs. Like the MBA degree, many of our other master’s degree programs are intended to prepare students for professional careers. The increasing practice of coupling master’s and undergraduate degree programs, sometimes in different fields, such as those combining engineering and science with business management, or the “professional master’s degrees” in mathematics and science, should be encouraged and further developed. The Division of Continuing and Professional Education, with its distance education (ADLN) component, is an important contributor to graduate enrollment. Sparing use should be made of master’s degree students as research assistants, as these roles are more appropriately filled by PhD students.

Doctoral programs should be supported in areas of significant faculty research strength, and are intended to attract graduate students with superior research capabilities who can make significant contributions to the university’s research enterprise as part of their graduate education. The goals of doctoral education are both excellence and relevance, not broad coverage. Opportunities for joint PhD programs and related collaborations with the University of Massachusetts Medical School will leverage our strengths in biomedical engineering and the life sciences.

As part of the strengthening of institutional support for graduate education, the practice of charging graduate student tuition to external faculty research grants must be reduced or eliminated altogether, as it places too heavy a burden on the grant budgets. More generally, the university’s overall approach to tuition charges for graduate education should be reviewed and revised to ensure that our programs are competitively priced and generating appropriate net tuition revenues.

Effective marketing and recruitment of graduate students, and efficient handling of applications, financial aid awards, and related students needs, are critical elements of enrollment success. Institutional resources should be leveraged to the maximum extent possible (such as in making multiple-year commitments of financial support to outstanding applicants, even though the precise form of the out-year support may not be known), with the departments, the admissions office, and the Provost’s Office working creatively and in concert to attract and retain outstanding students.

Graduate students constitute an important component of our campus community, and should be afforded every consideration regarding campus services, including residential, academic, and social life. The re-establishment of a Dean for Research and Graduate Education provides a focal point for these considerations.

Excellent research administration and services are vitally important to the success of the research programs, including support for proposal development, award management, technology transfer and commercialization, and proper space and facilities operations. Relationships with key corporations will be strengthened to provide additional opportunities for research collaboration and funding, and for career opportunities for graduate students.

The emphasis on sponsored research discussed under this goal is not meant to minimize the expectation and importance of scholarly activity, whether funded or not, on the part of all members of the faculty. Indeed, the most successful college and university teachers are often those who continue to contribute actively to the scholarship and literature of their fields, or to creative work in arts. Our primary focus remains on education, however, and the objectives relating to research and its sponsorship should complement, but not overshadow, our commitment to excellence in undergraduate education.

Goal 4:  Support and value a high quality of campus life and sense of community

While the previous strategic plan took a quantitative approach to goals for diversity, we propose now to focus more on pluralism and the respect for differences in all aspects of campus life, including within academic programs. It is important that all qualified individuals find a welcoming and supportive environment at WPI.

We will emphasize a customer-service orientation to staff services via personnel training, evaluation, recognition, and reward.

We will make WPI a leader in career opportunities for women through such efforts as targeted marketing and outreach programs to women faculty and students, a review of the tenure and promotion processes to ensure equitable treatment, and a formal mentoring program for young women scholars.

We will promote student learning outcomes including leadership, community involvement, moral development, conflict resolution, social awareness, world citizenship, personal responsibility and student satisfaction as important goals for campus life.

We will foster a stronger sense of community through living and learning spaces that create new opportunities for connection, including the recently-opened residence hall, which will bring more undergraduate students back to campus; the Goat’s Head restaurant in Founder’s Hall; and the forthcoming sports and recreation center.

We will ensure appropriate observance of significant civic, cultural, and religious dates and holidays (e.g., WPI Founders’ Day, Martin Luther King Day, Veterans’ Day, major religious dates); we will increase the number of outside speakers on a broad range of important topics; and we will encourage service to the Worcester community.

We will continue to promote particular enrollment goals in order to increase and secure the quality of the undergraduate population, including recruiting aggressively outside New England and abroad, increasing female enrollment, and attracting strong students from underrepresented minorities.

Goal 5:  Develop campus facilities according to an explicit plan for supporting academic and co-curricular needs and property maintenance.

There is widespread enthusiasm for the construction of a new sports and recreation center, a facility that must be completed no later than 2011. The recreaton center represents the central pillar of a larger plan that also calls for the creation of 600 parking spaces on the baseball and softball playing fields, with fields recreated on a covering deck; the renovation of Harrington Auditorium; the demolition of the structure connecting Harrington to Alumni Gym; and the rehabilitation of Alumni Gym for academic or administrative use. These related aspects of the plan must also be accomplished.

The opening of the new WPI Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park has brought world-class facilities for research and graduate education for the life sciences and biomedical engineering. A primary use of the space released on the main campus is to create an undergraduate science laboratory center in Goddard Hall, and to provide additional classrooms and faculty offices in Salisbury Hall. These are important projects to complete in a timely fashion.

There remains a need for additional academic space on the main campus, space that would better reflect our distinctive modes of teaching and learning, as well as the contemporary style of collaborative work in many research and corporate settings. Such a facility would provide small spaces for project teams, open spaces for organized collaborations or simple brainstorming, and classrooms well appointed with appropriate technologies. Likely occupants for such a facility would be the Departments of Computer Science and/or the newer interdepartmental programs such as robotics engineering and interactive media and game development, although the teaching and learning spaces would not be exclusively restricted to these departments and/or programs.

WPI should establish a school of management with programs rooted in its strengths in technology, engineering, and science with a strong emphasis on the processes of innovation and entrepreneurship. The school should be located in a dedicated building with complete, modern teaching facilities, faculty offices, and student support spaces.

Additional residence facilities should be constructed, in part to replace aging current buildings and further to increase overall residential capacity to approximately 70 percent of the undergraduate population (including fraternity and sorority houses).

More generally, a comprehensive plan and schedule for the renovation and preservation of existing buildings, especially Stratton and Kaven Halls and the Project Center, must be developed.

Goal 6:  Promote WPI as a national university.

WPI remains relatively unrecognized outside the northeast United States. We will continue to promote the excellent work of our faculty and students, and the University’s leadership in engineering and science education and research.

It is important to continue to expand the university’s applicant pool—an effort that will be aided significantly by a strengthened national profile. In this regard we will ensure that our marketing and enrollment strategies are aligned, that we vigorously promote WPI as a leader in global technological education, and that proper cultivation is accomplished with key guidance and advising personnel at secondary schools likely to send outstanding students, especially female and minority applicants.

Goal 7:  Develop non-traditional sources of revenue as a means of strengthening WPI financially and keeping it affordable.

We remain too dependent on traditional tuition revenues. Accordingly, we will continue building the Division of Corporate and Professional Education, to provide custom programs (both credit and non-credit) to corporate clients, career development opportunities to individuals, and labor force development programming to the region. We will continue developing Gateway Park as a mixed-use, science-based neighborhood providing opportunities for corporate partnerships and income from rents and ground leases. We will increase faculty sponsored research to fund investments in research infrastructure, released time for faculty researchers, and support for graduate students. Additionally, we will strengthen our Summer Term programs to provide a richer variety of opportunities for a wider range of students.

Goal 8:  Improve Alumni Relations

More than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate alumni comprise the largest component of the WPI family. Their active participation in our community, and their continuing interest and support are vitally important to the university’s success. We will strengthen our relationship to alumni by: providing enhanced career services; providing an on-line community (alumniconnect.wpi.edu); reaching out personally through the President’s “Imagine and Achieve” programs across the nation and abroad; expanding the number of regional alumni clubs; reforming the alumni leadership structure; and engaging faculty more directly in alumni relations. The number and significance of the ways in which alumni can contribute to WPI’s mission will be expanded.

In summary, we seek to develop a new, shared vision for WPI’s future, embodied in a comprehensive multiyear plan that will serve as a blueprint for crucial investments in people, programs, and physical plant. Our proposed strategic goals will touch virtually every aspect of life and learning at WPI. They will enhance our capacity to teach the next generation of educated citizens and leaders in a wide range of fields of study and professions, promote and expand knowledge through research, and serve society through both. We offer this initial draft for your consideration and comment.

Strategic and Campaign Planning Task Force Membership

Dennis Berkey, Chair

Dexter Bailey, Vice President

Professor Michael Elmes

Professor Michelle Ephraim

Charles Gammal, undergraduate student

Professor Nikolaos Gatsonis

Merrill Lamont, graduate student

Sarah Mackey

John Orr, Provost

Professor Eric Overström

Stephanie Pasha

Janet Richardson, VP

Professor Kent Rissmiller

Jeffrey Solomon, VP

Kristin Tichenor, VP

Professor Helen Vassallo


December 1, 2007