Critical Conversation Series

Jean King, Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, knows just how valuable sharing ideas and perspectives is to a community of passionate problem-solvers. Since 2018, WPI’s Critical Conversations Series has invited community dialogue around the tough questions posed by the world’s myriad complex issues.

The ongoing and constantly evolving series now includes topics sponsored by the School of Engineering, the School of Business, and The Global School. Several key conversations will take place in different parts of the nation, to engage with alumni and industries. Critical Conversations provides a vital forum for the WPI community and our strategic partners to respond to complex issues.


Lighting the Spark—Science and Creativity

Scheduled for Tuesday, September 28 (12:00-1:00 pm) during Arts & Sciences Week, this Critical Conversations event will be facilitated by Dean King and will feature WPI faculty members: Joseph Aguilar, Humanities & Arts assistant teaching professor; Carissa Olsen, Chemistry & Biochemistry assistant professor; Stacey Shaw, assistant professor of Social Science; and Joshua Rosenstock, professor of Arts, Communications and Humanities

Circular Economy

April 21, 2021

Join our panel discussion as part of the The Global School Virtual Event Series: EUROPE with our panel from 10:40 to 11:25 am. Jean King, Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, will moderate the panel that includes Adrian Burri, Head of Centre - Product and Process Development ZHAW School of Engineering, Zurich University of Applied Sciences and WPI faculty members Elke Rudensteiner, Joe Sarkis, and Mike Timko.

Student Mental Health: Surviving Isolation, Stress, Depression, and Anxiety

April 7, 2021

Many students are feeling the mental health impacts brought on by living through the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges of coping with the stress and isolation of the past year. This panel will help people recognize signs of depression and anxiety in themselves and their loved ones and will help identify indications that someone should seek help. Join the discussion to find out where to turn for help and other resources and learn ways to reduce the stigma of mental health issues.  

Social Media: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

March 9, 2021

What impact does social media have on people and our larger society? From fake news to deception, social media’s influence on global communities and on consumer and personal behavior is widespread. A diverse panel of WPI experts address the positive and negative power of social media.

WPI's COVID Response Science and Innovation

December 2, 2020

This event featured Rochelle Walensky, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who joined a panel of WPI experts. Faculty panelists outlined their current research and how it could be used by the medical community in COVID diagnosis and treatment. The panel was moderated by Jean King, Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences.

Social Justice at WPI: Technology in the Public Interest

October 7, 2020

In this Critical Conversations event, faculty from diverse disciplines shared their thoughts and answered audience questions relating to how technology can sometimes work against social justice and how it can better serve social justice. The discussion was moderated by Ben Nephew, assistant research professor, Biology & Biotechnology.

Climate: The Science of Change

February 5, 2020

The indications of climate change are all around us from rising oceans to wildfires raging across the globe. WPI’s efforts around climate change cross disciplines, and the panelists engaged students in discussion about what climate change looks like and what efforts are helping mitigate climate change.

Artificial Intelligence

November 6, 2019

Artificial intelligence (AI) impacts everything from healthcare to entertainment. Businesses and organizations use AI to predict consumer behavior, improve how children learn in school, and track potential disease spread. Even our cars use AI. This panel discussed these topics and more at this Critical Conversations event.

The College Affordability Crisis: Is Online the Answer?

September 20, 2019

With college affordability and the continued need for affordable higher education options in the news, WPI’s panel addressed the shift toward online opportunities.

Fast Forward: Global Impact of 5G Network

April 3, 2019

WPI faculty members brought the emerging 5G (fifth generation) technology to the forefront to discuss how this universal wireless connectivity of smart devices will hold a disruptive role in research, business, and society. Panelists explained how the technology works, gave examples of what it is, and analyzed its impact.

Genetically Engineered Humans

December 5, 2018

This inaugural Critical Conversations Series event focused on the scientific, societal, and ethical considerations of CRISPR technology, a tool that allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function to create genetically engineered humans.