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The Educational Development Council (EDC) annually solicits nominations for the Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education. Romeo was a dedicated professor of Electrical Engineering and a founder of the WPI Plan. This award in his memory has been presented annually since 1999 to recognize early career faculty members who have made specific innovations or improvements to undergraduate education at WPI that have resulted in benefits such as enhanced motivation, conceptual understanding, reinforcement of knowledge, or real-world applications of theory. 

Meet Recent Moruzzi Award Winners

Carlo Pinciroli, Computer Science

Professor Pinciroli has found a way to strike a balance between rigorously teaching content and fostering an engaging learning environment in RBE 3002, by successfully introducing elements of gamification in his classes.  As Carlo explains: I structure each class as a sequence of small units of increasing complexity. These units, together, form a “quest” — a challenge with a significant goal. Each unit has sub-goals, which act as “monsters” to slay. A small set of tools are offered as possible “weapons”. I then challenge the students to solve the problem at hand

Elisabeth (Lisa) Stoddard - Global School & Social Science & Policy Studies

Professor Stoddard’s work builds on existing research in team dynamics in important ways. The tools she developed include a process for developing team agreements regarding goals, communication, division of work, and strategies to address problems. At the heart of the process is an asset or strengths-based approach to teaming, where students and teams identify their individual and collective assets. The skills for each aspect of the project are then identified and matched to team members’ assets. Together this approach helps reduce the bias and stereotyping which can interfere with team performance.

Raghvendra Cowlagi, Aerospace Engineering

Traditional controls courses use an unrelenting “theory-first” approach, producing steep learning barriers for students. Professor Cowlagi significantly improved senior-level courses in Aerospace Engineering by providing strong real-world connections to theoretical subject matter. His most noteworthy innovation is the introduction of personalized experiments that students can conduct at home using smartphones or Arduino kits, collecting and analyzing data that are personally relevant. Because of these approaches, his students have successfully learned advanced concepts, such as Kalman filtering, that are typically reserved for graduate study.
 

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Raghvendra V. Cowlagi, Ph.D. alt
Raghvendra V. Cowlagi, Ph.D.

Sarah Wodin-Schwartz, Mechanical Engineering

Professor Wodin-Schwartz makes innovative use of high-impact practices to increase student engagement in the introductory mechanics series. Through the creation of hands-on learning activities, she helps students develop physical intuition about forces and moments in the world around them. Using innovative and authentic projects, she contextualizes engineering practice in real-world settings and connects engineering to its social outcomes. One such project was distinguished as a gold star exemplar by the national KEEN network and has been adopted by other faculty at WPI and elsewhere.

Renata Konrad, Foisie Business School

Over a five year period, Professor Konrad worked to integrate and improve an ambitious, real-world project with industry partners in an undergraduate course on simulation modeling and analysis. To address the gap between theory and real-world problems, she partnered with a client organization to introduce a project component in her course. Students appreciate how the project develops skills, introduces them to simulation software, helps them manage projects in the workforce, and exposes them to nontraditional applications of industrial engineering.

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Renata Konrad, associate professor, Foisie Business School at WPI alt
Renata Konrad, associate professor, Foisie Business School at WPI

Patricia Stapleton, Social Science and Policy Studies

Professor Stapleton integrated role-playing into her courses to make international relations students active learners. Students learn about international relations by taking on the role of policy makers and diplomats of different countries. Integrated with these activities are intensive writing assignments and media campaigns. She has communicated the results of her work for the course at the American Political Science Teaching and Learning Conference and the Western Political Science Association Annual Meeting. She has also mentored faculty at three other institutions to adopt her role-playing simulation.

Dirk Albrecht, Biomedical Engineering

Professor Albrecht’s ambitious course redesign demonstrates that significant hands-on learning experiences are feasible in large undergraduate classes and have substantial benefits for students. His redesigned bioinstrumentation course epitomized WPI’s motto of “theory and practice” in a particularly challenging context: a course with more than 100 students, most of them sophomores, and no scheduled laboratory. Handed a course that students seemed to dread, he refocused learning around a relevant and tangible goal: for each student to build their own electrocardiograph (ECG) instrument, from scratch, to measure their own heart signals.

Eligibility

In order to be eligible for the award, a faculty member must meet both of the following requirements at the time of nomination:

  1. Appointed at WPI in a full-time position for less than six full years (with allowances made for “stop the clock” situations)
  2. Hold the title of Assistant Professor, Assistant Teaching Professor or Assistant Research Professor, Instructor, or Professor of Practice

Nomination Process

Any student, staff, or faculty member who wishes to nominate an eligible faculty member is asked to complete a brief online form by December 20. Self-nominations are also welcome.  After the form is submitted, nominees will be notified.

The nominee will be in the best position to define the focus of the nomination and to solicit support letters. Nomination packets must be submitted by February 1 and consist of the following: 1) a two-page statement written by the nominee; and 2) up to three support letters. The nominee and letter writers should send their documents independently to morgan-center@wpi.edu by the deadline of February 1. The award winner(s) will be announced at the Faculty Awards Convocation in April, and each will receive $3,000 in professional development funds.

Advice to nominees

  • Please note that strong nominations focus on a “specific innovation or improvement” as opposed to general excellence in teaching. The initiative need not be new or innovative on a national scale; specific improvements to undergraduate education at WPI are valued. At the same time, the selection committee does consider the level of innovation evident in the project.

  • The two-page statement should include the following: a thorough description of the specific innovation or improvement that is the focus of the nomination; the rationale for the initiative; and evidence of student learning benefits.

  • The strongest nomination packages typically include input from both colleagues and students. Nominees are encouraged to communicate the focus of the nomination (i.e., the specific innovation or improvement) to letter writers so that they can tailor their comments appropriately.

Advice to letter writers

  • Because of the nature of the award, the most helpful letters emphasize the innovation or improvement that is the focus of the nomination rather than the nominee’s personal characteristics as a teacher or general excellence in teaching.

  • Letter writers are encouraged to describe the degree of innovation in the project, how the nominee’s initiative has improved undergraduate education, and/or evidence of benefits to student learning. A one page letter is sufficient.

  • Send letters directly to the Educational Development Council at  morgan-center@wpi.edu by the deadline of February 1.

Learn more about the Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education and recent award recipients.