CASE honors Jiusto
After nearly a dozen years teaching at WPI, Scott Jiusto, associate professor of geography, was recently named CASE Professor of the Year for Massachusetts, the fifth WPI faculty member to receive the award since 2002.
Jiusto’s work with WPI’s award-winning Cape Town Project Centre, for which he served as director since 2007, was especially influential. But his work to advance the Global Projects Program since he joined WPI in 2004 in general was noted as well. Jiusto’s contributions to dozens of WPI’s international project centers has established solid community relationships and local partnerships that have helped the centers thrive.
Modest about the CASE award, Jiusto deflects some of the praise. “It’s very nice and reflects on our program,” he says. “The nomination is about the program.”
The CASE award is sponsored by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. According to the website, honored undergraduate instructors nationwide are “those who excel in teaching and positively influence the lives and careers of students.” The CASE award is “the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring” and was awarded to four national and 35 state winners this year.
Jiusto’s work in Cape Town has fine-tuned what he refers to as Shared Action Learning, and the approach has formed the cornerstone of how the Cape Town Project Centre, in particular, operates. Shared Action Learning is an intricate development of relationships with and within the local and national community and related organizations to determine the best approach to implementing any new changes. Effective results come when all parties connect with each other and with the community so the work will be both meaningful and also most useful, he says.
Despite the challenges faced, Jiusto guided the Cape Town Project Centre to impact the surrounding communities in ways hailed as innovative. Working within the context of existing infrastructure and of the social system in informal communities, the center implemented water-based stations to give residents much-needed access to sanitation and clean water facilities but that also foster community interaction. Known as WaSH-UP (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Upgrading Programme), the stations meet basic living needs while also creating an important network of relationships among community members. But the center has also established other community locations like a preschool and a playground, with many of the changes bringing job opportunities for local residents.
As an advisor or director, Jiusto encourages anyone associated with a project center to learn about the community from those who live in it. “The students have to be very open to learning from community members,” he says. “But they want to do that. Connecting with people and having that fundamental connection as a human being is quite important.”
Because students spend the most hours and also the most concentrated hours with community members, Jiusto says their interactions are crucial. As students and faculty engage with the community and learn about what’s happening with community partners and what’s truly important to their lives, they gain a solid understanding of what makes the most impact. “That begins by what we learn from our partners,” he says. “Why we do what we do is created with our partners.”
As Jiusto hands over the director’s role of the Cape Town Project Centre to Nicola Bulled, assistant teaching professor, IGSD, he anticipates staying connected and will spend D-Term as an advisor in WPI’s Santa Fe Project Center. “It’s nice to move on,” he says. “It was a successful year, and it’s nice to leave feeling like things went well.”
– BY JULIA QUINN-SZCESUIL