The Dean’s Discourse
“April showers bring May flowers,” so says the old rhyme. But in academia, April brings showers of activities as the academic year wraps up in earnest. Having spent the bulk of my career in both for-profit and non-profit organizations, the pace is breathtaking. Allow me to share just some of the highlights.
Atop the list is Accepted Students Day. Having been through this process as a parent last year, I know the excitement of these days for prospective students and their parents. In the Business School, we have entertained families in six different sessions. We don our WPI paraphernalia and share the benefits of studying at The Business School with our unique focus at the intersection of business, technology, and people. Having this opportunity to speak to students and parents makes me more reflectively. Is this the right place for that bright-eyed individual staring back at me? Without reservation, I can say, “Yes!” We are The Business School for Engineers, Scientists, and Changemakers. It is why I came to WPI to study Management so many years ago. The Business School provides the opportunity to study with scholars and practitioners who are also technologists. Together, we are the adaptive leaders who apply technology in a business context to work at the leading edge and employ innovative methods to solve problems that matter to people. We do not know how many of these students we might “close” in these sessions, but I am always revved up for them. Business represents the tenth most popular major to which prospective WPI students applied, and we want to make the most of that.
Project Presentation Day is also an April staple. It is the opportunity to see the culmination of all a student’s experience through their Master Qualifying Project (MQP) presentation. We see the apex of the student experience as students synthesize all they have learned by focusing on real-world problems, sharing those outcomes with others. It is a true demonstration of mastery. But what makes this so special is to see this balance of business and technology. And we saw that balance in every project from improving the way signage is purchased and scheduled at a Woo Sox game, to understanding material strength for a Department of Defense project, to an Enterprise Resource Planning system for Gompei’s Goat Cheese, and a lunar robot for NASA. Add to this that nearly one dozen industry professionals join us to judge our student’s projects. I receive almost as much joy seeing the astonished expressions of the judges who marvel at our students as I do from the students themselves.
April also brings award season. Our students and faculty have worked so hard this year and it is gratifying to celebrate their accomplishments. Several Business School faculty were recognized at the Trustee’s Annual Faculty Celebration of Achievement dinner. Faculty will also be recognized at the Faculty Convocation. Business School students are racking up recognition as well. MIS major Alexse LaGuerre received the Gertrude R. Rugg Award which recognizes the Outstanding Woman Student. MIS major Natalie Mohn and Business major Callan Moriarty were awarded the Salisbury Prize, a prize awarded to graduating students who have faithfully, industriously, and with distinguished attainment completed all requirements for the bachelor’s degree. Caitlin Kuzma, Industrial Engineering major, was awarded the Kranich Prize, which honors students who best exemplify excellence in the humanities and arts and the integration of these disciplines in their undergraduate experience. Also, PhD student Scorpio Rogers received the Man of the Year Award from the National Association of Negro Business & Professional Women Club, Inc – New Rochelle Club.
This has additionally been a season for events, one of which the Mass Fintech Hub Bootcamp hosted by the WPI Business School, with Professor Rob Sarnie leading the way. More than 75 attendees from ten colleges and universities joined industry leaders to affirm that FinTech is more than finance and technology. It is across all industries, is interdisciplinary, includes diversity, equity, and inclusion, and must drive social change. Speaking of driving change, Professor Michael Elmes led an insightful webinar “Climate Changing Business – Tales of Innocence and Innovation from Aotearoa - New Zealand.” Speakers spoke passionately about how governments and businesses could come together to address climate change and the efforts underway in New Zealand.
In all, April is a wonderful season of celebration and recognition. At the center of our celebrations are our faculty, staff, and students, of whom I am most proud. We have worked hard in this year, particularly as we navigated through COVID, so the recognitions are well deserved. Therefore, I add to the shower of praises. We have been busy, but the busyness gives way to blooms – the flowers that will restore us in May.
Rev. Debora Jackson