The wicked challenges that confront global society, including COVID-19 and other global health threats, poverty and inequality, racial injustices, energy transitions, rapid urbanization, biodiversity loss, the ethical integration of AI and other new technologies, and of course, anthropogenic climate change. Intersecting unevenly with all of these issues, climate change is manifest in complex ways in locales around the world. As we face these unprecedented challenges and seek to pursue a just, greener, and more resilient world, WPI draws on decades of action-oriented research affirming that process and engagement are as central to solutions as are technologies and resources. WPI’s Department of Integrative and Global Studies (DIGS) presents the Collaboration for a Better World speaker series as a platform to foster engagement and community around pressing global issues. Leading thinkers and practitioners from within and outside WPI will share emerging research, discoveries, and innovations that direct us toward urgently needed collaborative strategies for transforming socio-ecological systems and creating a better world. In partnership with WPI’s other Schools (Engineering, Arts & Sciences, Business) and other offices on campus, the DIGS and wider Global School community welcome students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends into dialogue and conversation around these important themes.
WPI's Department of Integrative & Global Studies (DIGS) is a unique academic department that functions as a gateway for students and faculty to connect with and make a difference in communities around the world.
As part of The Global School at WPI, the department serves three vital components of WPI’s project-based learning model. The Great Problems Seminar gives students and faculty the opportunity to combine disciplinary lenses to explore holistic approaches to global problem solving. The Interactive Qualifying Project is a distinctive interdisciplinary project experience that challenges students to examine the impact of science and technology on society to address social issues and human needs. The Global Projects Program is WPI’s signature study- and work-away program.
Building on WPI’s distinctive interdisciplinary, project-based approach to education, a Community Climate Adaptation (CCA) Master’s program—a joint program between the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and DIGS—offers students training to support communities and organizations as they adapt to the impacts of a changing climate around the globe. Students also have the opportunity to pursue Individually Designed Interdisciplinary Majors that are approved, supported and overseen through the department.
Through DIGS, new research and academic programs will continue to emerge and develop through a dedication to interdisciplinary research with real-world impacts.
Tackling the World's Problems
In the Great Problems Seminar (GPS), first-year students tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems, helping them to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence needed not only for the rest of their college career, but for life. This two-term, introductory project-based course—taught by two professors from different disciplines—allows students to step outside their disciplines, work in teams, and delve into issues of global importance.
Project Immersion: Bar Harbor
WPI students aren’t your typical learners, and the Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) is not your typical study abroad. Each term, students and faculty members travel to one of 40+ project centers around the country and the world to put theory into practice. Follow 20 students and one faculty member as they travel to Bar Harbor, Maine and embark on a distinctive immersive project experience working with a local sponsoring organization.
WPI Recognized as Gilman Top Producing Institution
The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship supports undergraduate U.S. citizens of limited financial means to study abroad with the goal to “reshape study abroad to make it more accessible and inclusive for American students.” WPI was named a Top Producing Institution for the 2018—2019 academic year, earning additional recognition as a top producer of STEM students as well among medium-sized colleges and universities that produced scholarship winners.
WPI Receives 2019 Seal of Excellence for Commitment to Generation Study Abroad
Since 2016, IIE has recognized the U.S. colleges and universities that have made strategic commitments to the Generation Study Abroad initiative and achieved their goal of increasing the number of U.S. students studying abroad from their campus before the end of the decade. This year, 28 campuses, including WPI, were recognized by IIE for meeting their Generation Study Abroad commitments and successfully increasing the numbers of students participating in study abroad.
NBC10 interviewed Sarah Strauss, professor, integrative and global studies, for its report on WPI’s new master of science program in Community Climate Adaptation. “We wanted to use the existing infrastructure and extend it to the master’s level to create an interdisciplinary with the specific goal of helping communities adapt to the impacts of climate change,” Strauss said
Advancing Resiliency Projects in Puerto Rico
In Spring 2021, sensing that pandemic-fueled international travel restrictions were not going away anytime soon, Professor Emeritus Scott Jiusto and Associate Professor Gbetonmasse Somasse began looking for an alternative travel experience for students scheduled to head to the Cape Town, South Africa, Project Center they co-direct. They weren’t alone. Many global project center directors were faced with the same conundrum, recognizing that—for many students—leaving campus and traveling abroad are essential parts of the distinctive Interactive Qualifying Project experience.
A Project Center Close to Home
“Whether it’s because of on-campus responsibilities or a local job, not all students want to travel far [for their IQP],” says Lisa Stoddard, associate professor of teaching and director of the Farm Stay Project Center. “Regardless of where they go, we want all students to have the chance to experience the mainstay of a WPI education.”
Alumni Success Story: Kristophe Zephyrin '21
Even as a child, Zephyrin had grand ambitions to save the world and improve the human condition, starting with a dream of creating urban green spaces in his hometown of Houston, Texas.