The Global School Forum

circular economy image

The Global School at WPI supports innovative research and project-based learning to address the increasing complexity and diversity of global grand challenges such as health, energy, environment, food, water, mobility, and climate change. This year the Global School Forum focus' is on some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals that are at the heart of WPI’s interdisciplinary approach. 

Through our collaborations with partners across the globe in our network of global project centers, WPI students and faculty are working on many of the UN SDG's. Running through this year’s program is Climate Action (SDG13), one of the great global challenges of our era. Each term we will focus on another key area: Circular Economy and Sustainable Business (SDG12), Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG7), Quality Global Education (SDG4) and Global Health and Well-being (SDG3).

Please join us for this exciting series of Keynote speakers and discussions. Registration will open for in person or online participation before each event.

Preview Sovacool
Preview SDG 7

February 2024

Equity, energy and just transitions

February 1, 2024
Innovation Studio 203
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

The urgency, emergency, and necessity of low-carbon transitions is a given in most regions of the world. But low-carbon innovations, technologies, practices and policies can unintentionally exacerbate a series of inequities and inequalities with energy production and use. This presentation introduces conceptions of Just Transitions and energy justice as a way to remediate these concerns. It utilizes a novel framework looking at demographic inequities (between groups), spatial inequities (across geographic scales), interspecies inequities (between humans and non-humans), and temporal inequities (across present and future generations). This framework enables not only the identification of multiple and often interlinked inequities; it also points the way towards how to make low-carbon transitions more sustainable and just, with direct implications for business practices (and supply chains) as well as energy and climate policy.


Benjamin K. Sovacool is the Director of the Boston University Institute for Global Sustainability (IGS) and a Professor in the Department of Earth & Environment. He works as a researcher and consultant on issues pertaining to global energy policy and politics, energy security, energy justice, climate change mitigation, and climate change adaptation. More specifically, his research focuses on renewable energy and energy efficiency, the politics of large-scale energy infrastructure, designing public policy to improve energy security and access to electricity, the ethics and justice of energy, and building adaptive capacity to the consequences of climate change.

Preview Sustainable Development Goal 13
Preview New England Caribbean Latin American Studies

November 2023

Caribbean Climate Knowledge-to-Action: Critical Reflections on Locally-led Action, Disaster Preparedness, and Climate Education

NOVEMBER 10, 2024
Campus Center Odeum A&B
3:30pm - 5:00pm

A panel discussion to kick off the New England Council of Latin American Studies (NECLAS) conference featuring WPI's Global School Dean, Mimi Sheller, Stacy-ann Robinson of Colby College, Kevon Rhiney, from Rutgers University, and Nigel Brissett, Clark University.

This panel is organized around the themes of challenges of climate change adaptation strategies and climate reparations, including locally-led action, disaster preparedness and climate education. Examples will be drawn from Puerto Rico, the Hispanic Caribbean, and the Anglophone Caribbean region, including how both independent and non-independent territories are building climate knowledge-action networks and seeking to mobilize political-ecological claim-making across linguistic and jurisdictional differences.

Preview Sarah Vaughn Book Cover
Preview Sustainable Development Goal 13
Preview Sarah Vaughn Anthropology

September 2023

Erosion By Design: Sea Defenses in Guyana

September 8, 2023
Campus Center Odeum A&B
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Sarah will explore the intersecting socio-material and ethical demands that engineers confront in adapting sea defenses to climate change in Guyana. Focusing on the tensions in climate adaptation that create the possibilities for theorizing innovation as a key theme of counter-modernities in the Anthropocene and drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, oral histories, and archival research, she show’s engineers’ decision-making regarding whether or not to innovate sea defenses which is a fraught process dependent upon processes of erosion and the ontological (in)stability of specific infrastructures known as groynes. These dilemmas remind us that issues of innovation can create paralysis and haunt even the most elite spaces of climateadaptation.  Experts in climate adaptation arenas have the desire to create all kinds of affective attachments with people, things, places, and environments. I focus on their desire for a different, perhaps a more hospitable kind of world—shaped by their efforts to perform and demonstrate their credibility to others.

Sarah E. Vaughn is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.  Her research and writing have contributed to understandings of climate adaptation across the circum-Caribbean, particularly among experts in coastal Guyana and Bermuda. Working at the intersection of environmental anthropology, critical social theory, and science and technology studies, Vaughn’s research agenda is invested in examining how technology mediates people’s experiences of climate change.  Her writing has appeared in numerous academic journals as well as in literary and environmental magazines, and she is the author of the award-winning book Engineering Vulnerability: In Pursuit of Climate Adaptation (Duke, 2022).   

Preview Ann Moormann Headshot

March 2023

The first malaria vaccine has been approved! What’s next?

Ann M Moormann earned her PhD in Epidemiologic Sciences and MPH in Hospital & Molecular Epidemiology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She then trained at the Center for Global Health and Diseases at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She has been a Visiting Scientist at the Center for Global Health Research, Kenya Medical Research Institute in Kisumu since 1999. She is currently a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Department of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School in Worcester.

Dr. Moormann has mentored aspiring scientists from around the world and values diversity, equity, and inclusion within her research team. She is an elected Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences (FAAS) and a Fellow of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (FASTMH). She is the Chair of the Young Investigator Award Committee for the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Dr, Moormann is a recognized expert on immunity to Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) malaria and Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) in the pathogenesis of endemic Burkitt lymphoma (eBL), two infections associated with higher incidence of this childhood cancer. Her laboratory focuses on understanding how immune cell composition and functions during early childhood shape the development of protective immunity against malaria. 

Malaria was responsible for 247 million illnesses and 619,000 deaths last year and continues to be a global health priority. In 2021, the World Health Organization approved the first malaria vaccine (RTS,S) for use in young children residing in high malaria transmission areas, even though this vaccine has less than 50% efficacy. There are additional challenges before malaria vaccines will make an impact in the fight against malaria, such as limitations in production and ethical distribution within resource-constrained areas where malaria is most prevalent and the healthcare infrastructure is the most fragile. Nevertheless, there is hope. The next-generation of malaria vaccines are under development and research studies are underway to continue to evaluate intrinsic and extrinsic factors which impede malaria vaccine efficacy. How a child’s immune response differs from that of adults will be reviewed as well as what we think we can do to further improve malaria vaccination strategies.  


January 2023

Open Education, Global Learning, and Social Justice

Dr. Glenda Cox is a senior lecturer in the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT: at the University of Cape Town and her portfolio includes postgraduate teaching, Curriculum change projects, Open Education, and Staff development. She holds the UNESCO chair in Open Education and Social Justice (2021-2024). She is passionate about the role of Open Education in the changing world of Higher Education. Dr. Glenda Cox is currently the Principal Investigator in the Digital Open Textbooks for Development (DOT4D) initiative. Her current research includesanalyzingg the role of open textbooks for social justice.

Growing inequity continues to manifest within and between higher education institutions of the Global North and Global South, highlighting the plight of the disadvantaged versus the advantaged in the system (Holscher & Bozalek, 2020). In addition to the challenge of high university fees impeding access, there are challenges related to the cost and appropriateness of textbooks in higher education (Cox et al., 2019) – all of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the widening inequality that has manifested as a result (Hargreaves, 2021).

Internationally, research has highlighted the importance of providing access to textbooks and online educational resources in order to maximise returns on remote learning necessitated by the pandemic, particularly in the context of unequal access to learning materials and curricula (Mishra et al., 2020; Reimers & Schleicher 2020).

The work shared in this presentation emerges from research conducted within the Digital Open Textbooks for Development (DOT4D) project, an open textbook research, implementation and advocacy initiative which investigates the current ecosystem of open textbook publishing and provides implementation support in open textbook publishing activity at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The project operates with an underlying social justice agenda.


November 2022

Energy and Climate Change: Lessons Shared from Aotearoa-New Zealand

The Global School Forum for 2022-23 follows a series of UN-SDG themes; for B term we are focusing on Goal 7, Affordable and Clean Energy (the other three themes are responsible consumption and production/circular economy; good health and well-being; and quality education, with an overarching theme of climate action). 

While we have seen widespread development of renewable energy technologies and attention to the critical need for a clean energy transition in order to minimize climate change impacts, this process does not always center attention on environmental justice as it proceeds. Please join us at The Global School Forum in B term, as we engage scholars, NGO and local government leaders, and the business sector to explore the ways we can transform our fossil-fuel-based global economy into a more sustainable system, anchored in clean energy that is accessible to all.

The panel will review the history of how renewable energy has evolved in Aotearoa-NZ (where electricity is currently generated from 85% renewable sources); how the country continues to innovate around energy to move towards net zero emissions; the role that Aotearoa-NZ’s energy system plays in policies related to climate change mitigation and decarbonization; and how leaders there are engaging the challenges of energy hardship and justice across the country.

Stephen Batstone, Director of Whiteboard Energy, New Zealand 

Cristiano Marantes, CEO, Ara Ake, Taranaki New Zealand

Antonia Burbidge, Manager - Climate Change Commission, Wellington, New Zealand 

John Campbell, CEO and Founder, Our Energy, Wellington New Zealand 

Jenny van der Merwe, Renewable Energy Lead, Kāinga Ora-Homes and Communities, Wellington, New Zealand



August 2022


Environmental performance platforms like LEED (green buildings) and SWEEP (solid waste) play an important role in slowing humanity’s race toward catastrophe, but, unfortunately, these types of approaches are structurally incapable of providing long-term solutions to humanity's environmental problems. We need to begin now to think about a radical revisioning around the valuation of transactions and a full "ethonomic” accounting of the impacts of transactions in order to bring about a sustainable future.

Rob Watson, LEED Fellow, is an international leader in market transformation in solid waste, green buildings, and sustainable tourism. He is best known as the “Founding Father of LEED,” which he launched in 1993. Under Rob’s direction, LEED became the largest and fastest-growing international standard by which green buildings are measured. Author Thomas Friedman called Rob "one of the best environmental minds in America." In 2019, Dartmouth Alumni Magazine recognized Mr. Watson as one of the "25 Most Influential Alumni" in the College's 250-year history.