January 30, 2007

WORCESTER, Mass. – Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) was ranked seventh nationally among small research universities focusing on applied science in the recently released 2005 Faculty Scholarly Productivity (FSP) Index, a new study that compares academic programs at universities based on the scholarly output of their faculty. The university's industrial engineering program was ranked fourth in the nation in the same study. The industrial engineering program is offered by the WPI Department of Management, which is the equivalent of a traditional business school.

The 2005 FSP Index rankings, published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, is partially funded by the State University of New York at Stony Brook and produced by Academic Analytics, a for-profit company. Using data such as faculty publications, grants, and honors and awards, it ranks 7,294 individual programs in 104 disciplines at 354 institutions, as well as institutions as a whole, based on the research productivity of faculty members. As an institution, WPI is included in the broad category, Specialized Research Universities -- Applied Sciences, which includes 20 schools. WPI was ranked No. 7 in the category; Texas A&M University was ranked No. 1.

The No. 4 ranking for WPI's industrial engineering program is based on the fact that faculty members in that discipline publish extensively and are highly cited in research publications, suggesting that other researchers place significant value on their work, the according to the FSP Index. Launched in 1995, WPI's industrial engineering program "broke the paradigm for what industrial engineering education should be," according to McRae Banks, head of WPI's Department of Management, professor of entrepreneurship and strategy, and director of the Collaborative for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. "We started with a core of excellent faculty members who had a strong vision of what the program should look like. We added some of the top emerging scholars in the field, who have demonstrated repeatedly that our confidence in them was well founded."

Industrial engineering faculty members teach both undergraduate and graduate students at WPI. "For WPI students, that has meant an exceptional education that helps them understand the technical aspects of industrial engineering as well as the business and management aspects," Banks says. "They are well prepared to be change agents in organizations of all types. They are highly sought after as employees by organizations. And based on some preliminary results, they seem to be tracking quickly through organizations."

The mission of WPI's industrial engineering program is to prepare students for professional engineering practice, providing the foundation for careers of leadership in challenging global and technological environments, notes Sharon Johnson, associate professor of management and director of the industrial engineering program.

"The combination of the technical and business aspects of industrial engineering means that our students are ready to make immediate contributions as they start work," Johnson notes. "They broadly understand how organizations operate, so they can link their work to important goals. They can make the transition from textbook problems to real processes, where there are lots of competing objectives, thanks to WPI's project-enriched curriculum. Through these required projects, WPI students have a chance to practice the kind of problem solving they will need to do once they start working."