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

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.
 

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.

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.

James Cocola, Humanities and Arts

Professor Cocola has made humanistic study at WPI more applied, real world, and engaging for his students. Digital Humanities represents the intersection of humanities and technology. Attuned to the technologies and media that appeal to students, Professor Cocola created digital archives, hyperlinks, interactive assignments, and online forums to foster peer interaction and create critical learning communities. Digital Humanities is also a source of opportunities for students to make a difference for local cultural organizations through their work in the humanities and arts.

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 10. 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 January 10 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 10. 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 January 10.

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