September 05, 2017

The first few weeks of A-Term are always a whirlwind, from New Student Orientation and the Activities Fair to new classes and catching up with friends. One surefire sign that classes are back in session is the Global Fair, held annually to showcase the project centers available to students interested in completing project work off-campus during their time at WPI.

The global fair acts as the official kickoff for the Global Projects Program application process every year, gathering the entire program in one place (this year, the Sports & Recreation Center) and making the myriad opportunities visible and accessible to students.

Students get more information about a project center at a
past Global Fair.

“It’s a great opportunity to see the breadth of WPI offerings, both locally and around the world,” says Anne Ogilvie, executive director of the Global Projects Program. “There’s so much opportunity in that room. Students can hear from the project centers directors and from their peers who have been to our project sites.”

Ogilvie and her team strive to create a welcoming environment at the fair while students browse the locations they might visit to complete any of the three projects that are required to graduate: Humanities & Arts (HUA) requirement, Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP), and Major Qualifying Project (MQP). Over 1,100 students attended last year’s fair, with an even higher number expected this year.

A newer aspect of the Global Fair is the First-Year Cafe. Returning for its third year, the Cafe is a place for new students to meet with Global Ambassadors (students who have already traveled to various project centers), ask questions, and discuss the respective programs in more detail. Students will also have the opportunity to get free passport and visa photos taken during the fair.

While more students travel off campus for their IQP than for other projects, the Global Fair will also touch upon opportunities for MQPs and the HUA requirement. Whether students choose to travel across the city or across the world, it’s the experience that will take students further, and the fair will provide more information on how to apply to different centers, what will be expected of them in the program, and how to plan their time for it.

“Students applying this year have more choices than ever before,” Ogilvie says, going on to explain that in addition to the more than 40 project centers already available to students, this year’s fair will also include information on new locations and expansions of established centers.

Following the success of the Bar Harbor Project Center, where students work on projects in Acadia National Park, they’ll be piloting an expansion program with the National Park Service, giving students the option of studying in Acadia National Park in E-Term, or in Montana’s Glacier National Park in A-Term. The Costa Rica Project Center, currently in San José, will be expanded to the town of Monteverde, in the cloud forest, giving students access to a more remote, mountainous area.

The Israel, Japan, and Beijing project centers, which previously only offered MQPs, will now offer IQPs, as well. The Namibia Project Center will be open for an additional term, and the Ecuador Project Center will be expanded.


Albania Immersion

Want a closer look at a project experience? Follow 24 students and two faculty members as they traveled to Tirana, Albania, during the fall of 2016 for a journey that would impact them more than they could have imagined.


Although it can be tempting to check off a bucket list item of traveling to a certain country or city when selecting a project center, Ogilvie says that students should focus more on the opportunities available in each location, rather than the other way around.

“While there’s a temptation to fall in love with the location or country, really, the most important thing that the students can do is learn about the projects that are offered there, because that’s what they’ll be spending their time on,” she says. “They’re going to spend a total of 14 weeks [7 weeks of prep, and 7 weeks of on-site work] immersed in learning about their project and doing important work, so that should take priority over any location.”

Several student support services, including the Office of Financial Aid, Career Development Center, and Health Services, will also be present at the fair to begin discussions with students on how best to prepare to travel off campus given their own individual circumstances. the Housing & Residential Experience Center will also be at the fair to talk with interested students about new on-campus term housing options that can help students save money during their off-campus term.

So much activity and discussion can be overwhelming, but Ogilvie says those who prefer a quieter walk around the fair can attend during the middle or toward the end of the event to avoid the crowds. “There will still be many opportunities to ask questions,” she says, “and if you don’t have any burning questions, there are great opportunities to listen.”

This year’s Global Fair is Wednesday, Sept. 6, from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Sports & Recreation Center. For the first time, a reception for faculty and staff will take place immediately after the fair at 5:15 to celebrate the growth of the Global Projects Program, thank staff and faculty that support the program, and showcase advising opportunities for faculty at home and around the world.

- By Allison Racicot