2016 Global Fair Brings the World to WPI

WPI Global Fair puts the school’s 40-plus project centers on the map
August 30, 2016


• For students, in terms of their academic career, the WPI Global Fair puts the school’s 40-plus project centers on the map. And the off-campus study locales – which grew last year with the addition of three new centers in Cuenca, Ecuador; Panama City, Panama; and Worcester, England – is now expanding in a different way, says Erin Bell, assistant director of the Global Projects Program.

Offering an overview of the IQP, MQP, and HUA project center options, this year’s fair is tomorrow, Aug. 31, from 3 to 6 p.m. in Harrington Auditorium.

Bell says the Global Fair, expected to attract more than 800 people, is a great chance for sophomores and other students to explore not only the idea of project work in far-away places, but in locations closer to campus.

“Our feeling is that every project center has value, whether here in Worcester or abroad,” she says. “The work is the same; they are working with real-world problems. We don’t want students to feel like they have to go away; they can stay in the Worcester area and have a good experience and save a lot of money,” if that’s what they prefer, she says.

Broadening opportunity

One improvement this year, according to Bell, is that the program has ramped up its pre-application content to give students a better idea of what it's like to work and live in particular locations. For instance, if some students want to go to the Paraguay Project Center and they are vegetarians, they may want to know that Paraguay doesn’t have a lot of vegetarian food options. This information is available on the program’s Global Portal.

Another bigger upgrade in the Global Projects Program is an expanded student capacity in popular project centers.

“This year was about looking back at successful and popular centers, and to maybe go back more often,” Bell says. “It’s been a year to look at where we are.”

Rather than adding new centers, Bell says, WPI has expanded accommodations in some centers to double the number of students who had been able to study there in the past. For some destinations, including Copenhagen, Denmark, and Windhoek, Namibia, twice as many groups would be able to go to these, she says.

A project center in Switzerland that saw a gap year last academic year is also back on the list of offerings, Bell says.

Expert experience

The Global Fair—which all sophomores are strongly encouraged to attend—has students on hand who have spent time at the various project centers; they can answer questions and speak with students considering a particular area.

“They feel connected to their project center and want to give back,” says Bell of these Global Ambassadors. Bell herself has been to project centers in Ecuador, India, Greece, and Washington, D.C. 

Though it’s only a week into the academic year, and they may be having a lot of new information thrown at them, Bell welcomes first-year students to attend the fair, as well. A special area of the fair, the First Year Café, is set aside to help new students make connections on campus, meet returned students, and get information on how to prepare for project center work, whether it’s in the area of social issues, environmental sustainability, urban redevelopment, or anything in between.

- By Susan Shalhoub