WPI Faculty Tapped for Honors in Teaching, Advising, Scholarship and Community Service

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

Worcester, Mass - April 15, 2003 - Five WPI faculty members and a graduate student have been given awards for outstanding teaching, advising, and scholarship. A new award was also given this year in memory of Professor Denise Nicoletti.

Helen Vassallo, professor of management, is the recipient of the WPI 2003 Trustees Award for Outstanding Teaching. Professor Vassallo, a resident of Worcester, has dedicated herself to the education of WPI students in the field of management for over two decades. Her energy and creative commitment as a teacher, scholar, advisor and lecturer have had an enormously positive impact on the academic lives of countless students. Her teaching style has been described as "unique," "enthusiastic," and "captivating." A well-known name and face on campus, Professor Vassallo is said to remember each and every one of her students' names. She is a gifted communicator who inspires her students in the classroom, in project work, in graduate classes, and around the campus.

Throughout the college community, Professor Vassallo has earned respect for her commitment to campus activities beyond the classroom and project forum. Her address at a Baccalaureate ceremony and another to those gathered at a Tau Beta Pi induction banquet are among her speeches cited as memorable by colleagues and alumni. Additionally, Professor Vassallo regularly supports the work of Greek Life at WPI, serving as advisor of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority. Her participation in theatre on campus has enriched the university's artistic life.

Jonathan Barnett, professor of fire protection engineering has been given the 2003 Trustees Award for Outstanding Academic Advising. Professor Barnett, a resident of Auburn, is primary advisor to 70 students and secondary advisor to another four. In addition to his full-time teaching responsibilities and his own research, he manages to make time generously available to his advisees. He has been recognized by his students for the insightful advising that he offers and has been known to go out of his way to ensure his students are doing well. He also takes interest in the welfare of his students and makes sure they are flourishing on all fronts. He fully understands the workload, emotional and intellectual adjustments each student makes since he is a former WPI student himself, having received both his undergraduate and post graduate degrees here. 2003 marks his 33rd year at WPI.

In his nomination citation, one student wrote: "Professor Barnett is one of the most hard working and productive faculty members on campus. Professor Barnett is made of what students dream of in an academic advisor. Through his guidance and support a significant portion of the WPI student body has benefited. He is well loved and respected by those students who have been privileged to have him as an academic advisor and a teacher."

Steven Bullock, professor of American history in the department of Humanities and Arts, is the 2003 recipient of the Trustees' Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Scholarship. Since coming to WPI in 1989, Professor Bullock, a resident of Worcester, has established an international reputation as an accomplished scholar in the field of early American history. Widespread recognition of both his scholarly research and his ability to convey ideas to a wide audience is testimony to his skills as an historian and the importance of his work in a broad historical context.

Professor Bullock's groundbreaking research into the complexities and subtleties of Freemasonry in America and around the world has set the standard for historical research and analysis in this field. His book, "Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order," has been cited as "by far the best work on the subject that has ever been written." His work reflects a wider interest in the social order, and his more recent research is on the "Politics of Politeness," a study of culture, class and power in provincial America. He was recently described by a reviewer as "one of the most imaginative and promising scholars working in early American history."

James P. O'Rourke, senior electrical engineer and manager of the electronics shop with Electrical and Computer Engineering is the inaugural recipient of the 2003 Denise Nicoletti Trustees' Award for Service to Community. The award was established by the WPI community to honor the memory of ECE professor Denise Nicoletti whose passion for life and humanity touched many lives. The award is given to a member of the WPI community who shows genuine care for the enrichment of life for others. O'Rourke, a resident of Worcester, received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from WPI and has been on the faculty since 1973. Known as a "volunteer extraordinaire," he offers his personal time and shares his broad interests and expertise to help anyone in need.

Eleanor Loiacono, professor of management is the recipient of the Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education. The award is presented in memory of Romeo L. Moruzzi, a dedicated professor and founder of the WPI Plan. Professor Loiacono, a resident of Natick, is being recognized for her integrated innovations in MG3740, Organizational Applications of Telecommunications. The course involves an externally sponsored design competition that requires students to develop a comprehensive network plan. In response to a "real" request for proposal (RFP), students submit a complete design for computer and communications equipment. The sponsoring company provides the RFP and the judges. Students present recommendations in the role of a vendor presenting to a potential customer. In addition, newly implemented labs ensure that students receive hands-on experience and familiarity with networking, including computer network settings, software tools, crossover cables and a small local area network. Professor Loiacono has also included guest speakers, a tour of the WPI network and group presentations on "telecomm hot topics" into the curriculum. The development and teaching of such a sophisticated experience are labor intensive and require dedication, vision and understanding of how to motivate learning, according to the award citation.

Recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, recognizing the contributions of WPI's graduate students to the success of its undergraduate curriculum, is Salvator Beatini. Beatini, a graduate student in the Department of Biology and Biotechnology, has assisted with numerous courses in the department for the past three years and has received praise from both students and professors.

About WPI

Founded in 1865, WPI is a pioneer in technological higher education. WPI was the first university to understand that students learn best when they have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom to the solution of important problems. Today its students, working in teams at more than 20 project centers around the globe, put their knowledge and skills to work as they complete professional-level work that can have an immediate positive impact on society.

WPI's innovative, globally focused curriculum has been recognized by leaders in industry, government and academia as the model for the technological education of tomorrow. Students emerge from this program as true technological humanists, well rounded, with the confidence, the interpersonal skills and the commitment to innovation they need to make a real difference in their professional and personal lives.

The university awarded its first advanced degree in 1898. Today, its first-rate research laboratories support master's and Ph.D. programs in more than 30 disciplines in engineering, science and the management of technology. Located in the heart of the region's biotechnology and high-technology sectors, WPI has built research programs - including the largest industry/university alliance in North America - that have won it worldwide recognition.