WPI Announces 2004 Commencement Speaker

Civil-Rights Activist and Math Educator Robert P. Moses to Lead WPI's 136th Graduation Ceremony

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5706

Robert Moses

Robert P. Moses

WORCESTER, Mass. - April 12, 2004 - Robert P. (Bob) Moses, founder and president of the Algebra Project Inc., will be the commencement speaker at Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) 136th graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 22. In his address to WPI's graduates and community, Moses will talk about "Federalism, Sharecropper Education in Civil Rights." After Moses' speech, the university will confer upon him an honorary doctor of science degree.

The Algebra Project is a national mathematics literacy effort aimed at helping low-income students and students of color -- particularly African-American and Latino/a students -- successfully achieve mathematical skills that are a prerequisite for full citizenship in today's technological society.

Moses developed the concept for the Algebra Project in the 1980s, and began to carry it out together with concerned parents, teachers, educators and activists. At the core of the AP is the "Algebra Project-Transition Curriculum," a five-step curricular process Moses authored to help middle-school students make the conceptual shift from arithmetic to algebra. The goal is to prepare students for algebra in the eighth grade, and thus a college preparatory math sequence in high school.

Today, the AP reaches thousands of students and hundreds of teachers a year in local sites throughout the country, with a particular focus on the southern U.S. The curriculum's results are well documented -- AP students show increased performance in mathematics, and greater numbers of AP students enroll in college preparatory mathematics classes.

Moses currently oversees the project's curriculum development program, and teaches algebra and geometry full time at Lanier High School in Jackson, Miss. In addition, he is the principal investigator for a National Science Foundation instructional materials development award to produce experiential-based, ninth-grade, algebra I course modules.

"Bob Moses is on the frontline of the under-appreciated effort of engaging the nation's next generation of scientists, engineers and technology professionals," says Edward Alton Parrish, president of WPI. "The middle-school years are a critical time when students opt out and become disinterested in math. If we are to remain competitive as a country, we can ill afford to turn off promising students from these careers that use math as a foundation. The work of Moses and the Algebra Project has brought this important issue to the forefront, and their curriculum has the important benefit of bringing much-needed diversity to these professions."

During his young adult life, Moses was a pivotal organizer for the civil rights movement as a field secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and was director of SNCC's Mississippi Project. He also served as co-director of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), a group that comprised all the major civil rights organizations working in Mississippi at the time. In that capacity, he was recognized as a driving force behind the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964, and in organizing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), which challenged the Mississippi regulars at the 1964 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, N.J.

Moses began his career in education by teaching middle-school mathematics at the Horace Mann School in New York City from 1958 to 1961. Later, from 1969 to 1976, he worked for the Ministry of Education in Tanzania, where he was a teacher and chair of the math department at the Same School. As a result of his accomplishments, Moses has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Heinz Award for the Human Condition (2000), the Nation/Puffin Prize for Creative Citizenship (2001), the Mary Chase Smith Award for American Democracy from the National Association of Secretaries of State (2002), and the James Conant Bryant Award from the Education Commission of the States (2002). Moses was born and raised in Harlem, N.Y. He received his B.A. from Hamilton College in 1956, and a master's degree in philosophy from Harvard University in 1957. He resides in Cambridge, Mass. with his wife, Dr. Janet Moses, a pediatrician. They have four children.

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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.

For more information, please visit our Commencement site...