WORCESTER, Mass. – Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) recognized seven distinguished members of its academic community during the university's annual Honors Convocation on April 22. The awards honored five WPI faculty members, a staff member, and a graduate student for outstanding research, teaching, advising, and contributions to the community.
Peter R. Christopher, professor of mathematical sciences, received the Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Teaching. The award recognizes faculty members for excellence in teaching coupled with outstanding professional contributions. Christopher was honored for his ability to “communicate challenging concepts in a way that everyone understands,” his citation noted. “His skill in sharing his knowledge with students in a clear and captivating manner, one that holds students’ attention for the duration of the class, is truly remarkable.” In Denmark to advise WPI student project teams, he “accepted” the award via a live video link.
Joel J. Brattin, professor of literature, received the Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Scholarship. The award recognizes continuing excellence in research and scholarship by faculty members over a period of at least five years. Brattin is internationally recognized for his scholarship on novelist Charles Dickens (he is also a leading authority on rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix). He was elected president of the Dickens Society of Americas in 2000 and helped bring to WPI the Fellman Dickens Collection, now a mecca for Dickens scholars.
Kristen L. Billiar, associate professor of biomedical engineering, received the Board of Trustees’ Award for Academic Advising, which recognizes the important role that academic advisors play in guiding and mentoring students through stages of professional and personal development. Billiar was honored for his unstinting efforts to make time to help his many advisees, for creating online advising resources, and for the interest he takes in not only helping students prepare for the future, but become responsible citizens.
Christopher J. Bartley, head men’s basketball coach, received the Denise Nicoletti Trustees' Award for Service to Community. Established in 2003 in memory of WPI’s first tenured female faculty member in electrical and computer engineering, it is presented to a member of the faculty or staff in recognition of passion and action in serving the needs of a community. Bartley’s remarkable success as a coach is exceeded only by the impact he has had on the community as a board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest and a mentor to WPI students. His example has inspired 100 students (the men’s and women’s basketball teams; four fraternities and sororities) to become Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Robert Lindeman, assistant professor of computer science, and Joshua Rosenstock, assistant professor of humanities and arts, shared the Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award. Presented in memory of a longtime faculty member in WPI's Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, the award recognizes innovation in undergraduate education. Lindeman and Rosenstock, who teach in WPI’s Interactive Media & Game Development major, reconstructed their respective Technical Game Development and Artistic Game Development courses to run in parallel, with synchronized and complementary content and joint projects, an approach to the teaching game development with little precedent at any university.
Saurabh Vilekar, a graduate student in chemical engineering, received the Teaching Assistant of the Year Award, which recognizes the contributions graduate students make to the quality and success of WPI’s undergraduate curriculum. Vilekar was honored for his “superb intellect and his motivation to deliver high-quality educational services to our students through extra office hours, help sessions, and mentoring activities,” according to his award citation.