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. 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, striving toward equitable opportunities and equal economic, educational, political, and social rights for all. 

Arts & Sciences Week Highlights Latin American Studies

From the inaugural Latin American Studies Project Awards, which features the best IQP & HUA Projects developed in Latin America, Central America, and Caribbean projhect centers during the 2018-2019 academic year, to an evening of music and performance art to celebrate Latin American culture, this year's Arts & Sciences Week highlights Latin American studies and influence at WPI. Learn more.

Social Justice News

Upcoming Events

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

Community Events

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

Lois Gibbs gave a lecture on her involvement with the 1978 crisis in Love Canal, in which she spearheaded a revolution that helped protect the health of more than 900 working-class families.

Social Entrepreneur in Residence Martin Burt

Week-long visits per semester by Martin Burt, an internationally recognized social entrepreneur, inspire and support our efforts of improving the lives of communities around the world.

Women Authors Evening

The annual Women Authors Evening hosts female authors and artists to spread creativity, unite community, and raise funds for Daybreak, the YWCA’s domestic violence service program​.

Faculty Initiatives Around Social Justice

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 WPI Stem facultyto 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.

WPI Advance grant

WPI Arts & Sciences Dean
Social justice is using our knowledge and technologies to help solve the most challenging problems we face--especially in under-resourced communities across the globe.
Jean King
Dean of Arts & Sciences
WPI professor emily douglas
I’m excited to work at a STEM university that educates future leaders on how we can use science and technology to address our most pressing global issues of equality, fairness, equity, and justice.
Emily Douglas
Professor and Department Head, Social Science & Policy Studies
WPI human resources Michelle Jones-Johnson
Social justice at WPI reflects our vision to include and engage “all great minds” in contributing to global solutions.
Michelle Jones-Johnson
Vice President, Talent and Chief Diversity Officer
WPI professor
As we begin to rely on visualizations to make high-impact and even life-critical decisions, there is a growing need to ensure that information can be perceived accurately and precisely.
Lane Harrison
Associate Teaching Professor, Undergraduate Studies & Computer Science
WPI sustainability director
My career mission has been to foster equity for all, regardless of origin, gender, religion, race. The overall goal is to create healthy communities through the idea of social equity.
Liz Tomaszewski
Facilities Manager, Associate Director, Office of Sustainability
WPI STEM Education Center
In the future, I hope to help shift the culture of STEM to be more inclusive, and create sustainable pathways for historically underrepresented or excluded groups to earn a STEM degree and a career that they are passionate about.
Kathy Chen
Executive Director, STEM Education Center
WPI human resources Michelle Jones-Johnson
Our ability to foster an inclusive campus climate, cultivate pathways for educational access and innovate through teaching and research will help WPI realize our aspiration to continue to inspire the next generation of global citizens.
Michelle Jones-Johnson
Vice President, Talent and Chief Diversity Officer

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

Climate Summit

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.