This year's Arts & Sciences Week featured Latin American Studies Initiative, which brings together on- and off-campus communities to confront critical issues that affect Latin America, the Caribbean, and the wider world. Through collaboration among the university’s four schools—Arts & Sciences, the Global School, Business, and Engineering—the initiative involves diverse forms of engagement between WPI and the region, as well as broader issues and activities with particular relevance to Latin America. Learn more.
Social Justice STEMs from You
At WPI, we work every day to increase our engagement with social justice through research, teaching, projects, and community engagement—critical to the mission of The Global School at WPI. From climate change research to closing the socio-economic divide between populations and communities, an increasing number of WPI's students, faculty, and staff are coming together through events such as the inaugural Summit on Social Justice and other initiatives in their passion to create a more just world through innovative, life-changing STEM solutions.
Here, we take an action-oriented approach to social justice issues, striving toward equitable opportunities and equal economic, educational, political, and social rights for all.
Latin American Studies Highlighted During Arts & Sciences Week
Social Justice News
Social Justice in Project-based Learning
WPI’s intensive project-based learning initiatives—the Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP), Major Qualifying Project (MQP), and Great Problems Seminar (GPS)—tackle problems related to social justice and give students hands-on experience working on economic, educational, political, and social inequalities. Recent examples include:
Addressing franchised bus emissions and their impact on disadvantaged communities in Hong Kong
Developing and testing an African village exhibit to promote understanding of the interconnected impacts of water and food insecurity and environmental justice issues on Australians and Africans
Designing a web-based tool to connect minority postdoctoral researchers in the STEM fields with lecture organizers to break barriers and level the playing field
Social Justice Summit
WPI's first annual Social Justice Summit brought faculty, staff, and students together to discuss social justice in STEM and shape the future of social justice at WPI. The event featured a keynote by IBM software engineer and social activist Asima Silva ’01, '02 (MS CS).
Social Justice Series Inaugural Speaker Lois Gibbs
Social Entrepreneur in Residence Martin Burt
Social Justice Faculty Initiatives
WPI is dedicated to supporting faculty as they integrate STEM into social justice-focused social science and humanities courses, and incorporate social justice content into STEM-based courses.
With support from Teaching and Innovation grants, administered by the Educational Development Council, Academic Technology Center, and Morgan Teaching and Learning Center, WPI offers many courses that work to integrate STEM and social justice through assignments, problem sets, and more. This includes a 2018 Teaching Innovation Grant to PIs Lisa Stoddard and Emily Douglas to work with faculty and staff across WPI to integrate topics of social justice and STEM into curriculum in labs, projects, and assignments.
Eight activists—including WPI alumni Shahbaz Soofi, founder and CEO of WooRides, and Asima Silva, founder of EnjoinGood.org—worked with students in the “Social Media, Social Movements, and the Environment” class to discuss how they work with people in STEM fields through their activist work, as well as help the students learn about their own path to activism.
- WPI began the STEM Faculty Launch Workshop to help graduate students and post-doctoral researchers—particularly women and traditionally underrepresented minority candidates—seeking tenure-track positions in the STEM fields.
Co-PIs Jeanine Skorinko, Chrysanthe Demetry, Natalie Farny, Elizabeth Long Lingo, and Susan Roberts received a $1 million ADVANCE grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to evaluate and clarify the promotion criteria for tenured and non-tenure track faculty, examine gender biases in promotion, and initiate a new mentoring program for associate faculty members.
Donna Riley, head of the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, hosted workshops and talks on integrating STEM and social justice in the classroom, and what a career that integrates STEM and social justice looks like over her two-day visit.
Student Clubs and Organizations
WPI students’ passion for social justice is reflected in the clubs and organizations they run, participate in, and continue to create. Some examples include:
- Gender Equality Club, striving to overcome the barriers of gender discrimination through both awareness and empowerment
Students for a Just and Stable Future, envisioning a world where all living beings have their needs met and people resolve their conflicts peacefully
The Green Team, dedicated to promoting and increasing sustainability on campus
WPI SMART (Students Mentoring Active Responsibility Together), advocating for social responsibility in terms of alcohol awareness, alcohol responsibility, and bystander awareness
Food Recovery Network, recovering leftover food from WPI’s dining halls and on-campus events and donating it to people in Worcester who are in need
Diversity in Games Club, providing a safe space for discussion and events concerning marginalized groups within the gaming community
In spring 2019, WPI hosted a Climate Summit “takeover” on campus to amplify awareness about this critical topic and connect those with climate-related projects and research. The event sought to bring attention to the breadth of climate change-related scholarship, innovation, and teaching happening within the WPI community and to catalyze discussion about how WPI can address this critical global challenge going forward.
Social Justice Community at WPI
Service and community engagement are a way of life at WPI. Our social justice community includes faculty members, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, and alumni passionate about the pursuit of justice and social change. Get to know a few of them.
Toni Joy '19
Toni worked on a project to build a systems dynamics model that simulated access to healthcare for both urgent and non-urgent patients. “This was incredibly eye-opening because many people in the U.S. are not able to receive the care they need when they need it due to demographic, economic, or social constraints,” she says.
Seth Tuler, Instructor, Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division
Tuler’s interest in social justice is focused in the policy arenas of public health and climate change. Because of his expertise on social risk issues related to nuclear waste, he served on the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High Level Radioactive Waste, and was asked to co-author two technical reports for President Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.
Suzanne LePage, Associate Teaching Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering
LePage’s career mission has been to foster the development of innovative solutions to public problems. She has served as a professional planner and volunteered for local government, a community garden, and farmer's market. She is especially interested in developing and supporting community networks and local food economies, as well as an increase in safe neighborhoods and equitable access to healthy food.
Michael Elmes, Professor, Foisie Business School
With a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Theory, Elmes has taught courses in organizational behavior and change at WPI since 1990. Elmes started two WPI project centers and currently directs the New Zealand Project Center, which focuses on the complex and ethically challenging interactions between human systems and natural systems including wildlife and disasters (earthquakes, floods, and tsunami). He is interested in food justice, justice, and power in organizations, and has engaged in research and written papers related to food justice, food security, social innovation, and economic inequality.