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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.

Catherine Whittington, Biomedical Engineering

Professor Whittington’s work to integrate inclusive teaching practices in the biomedical engineering curriculum uses intentional and creative ways to engage students in considering
critical social justice issues relevant to medicine and biomedical engineering. While co-teaching BME 1001, she integrated bioethics and bias in healthcare throughout the
course rather than in a single unit. She enhanced course content with more focused materials, discussions, examples, and assessments. By bringing healthcare and social
justice to the forefront in introductory biomedical engineering, she broadens students’ learning and prepares them to be innovators and changemakers.

Ahmet Can Sabuncu, Mechanical Engineering

Professor Ahmet Can Sabuncu's role in the collaborative design of a project-based engineering experimentation course and his study of its educational efficacy, emphasizes accessibility
and skills for the future of work by turning away from high-end equipment in favor of low-cost experimental materials that are widely available to any student in any location. Through skillfully sequenced modules with a gradual increase in cognitive complexity, students learn the necessities of careful measurements and analyses as they utilize sensors for temperature, strain, pressure, vibrations, and motor-control.

Andrew Teixeira, Chemical Engineering

In the era of COVID-19, without physically being present, it is challenging to convey the gravity, complexity, and intertwined nature of each valve, fitting, or probe needed in Chemical Engineering labs. Andrew Teixeira rose to the challenge and, with the support of his colleagues, designed and delivered an experience for students that not only accommodated WPI’s TechFlex model, but also generated a teaching and learning model for the future. With the introduction of pan-tilt-zoom cameras, augmented reality glasses, and a software interface, remote students, local students, and faculty were synchronously brought together in real time. The AR glasses worn by students in the lab broadcast what the wearer saw to the online partner. With PTZ cameras, remote students could pan around the lab and see what their colleagues were doing. At the same time, everyone could work on virtually located spreadsheets, diagrams, and calculations.

Joshua Rohde, Humanities & Arts

Professor Joshua Rohde has been transforming and improving choral studies through his innovative programming and teaching. Joshua uses music as an important educational device to broaden students’ worldview and encourage their personal engagement with important social issues. From singing Japanese lullabies, Muslim greetings, and Baltic folk songs, to singing works in Hebrew, Joshua integrates music with thematic material that addresses critical social issues such as homelessness, refugee crises, gender equality, and racial violence.

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 parential leave and similar situations)
  2. Hold the title of Assistant Professor, Assistant Professor of Teaching, 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 9. Self-nominations are 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 January 13 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 January 13. The award winner(s) will be announced at the Faculty Awards Convocation in April, and each will receive $4,000 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 January 13.

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