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Oh, the Humanities

New Student Orientation program stresses the importance of arts and humanities

September 1, 2015
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WPI receives acclaim for cutting-edge research in a host of technological disciplines, but first-year students were encouraged to find value in entrepreneurship, making connections, and being curious during a New Student Orientation program that sought to inspire them to make the most of the university’s humanities and arts offerings.

Student John Bosworth, playing the part of WPI founder John Boynton, explains his background, the origins of WPI, and its founding tenets of theory and practice.During the program, associate dean Kristin Boudreau, professor and head of the Humanities and Arts Department, held a panel discussion by students who explained how embracing humanities and arts programs enriched their educational experience and will continue to be an asset in life.

The program also featured a video of 2014 Commencement speaker Bernard Amadei, founder of Engineers Without Borders, who urged the graduates to become global citizen engineers, artists, and scientists to take on the challenges of clean water, feeding the hungry, powering the world, and climate change.

The world needs entrepreneurs and engineers to collaborate in order to disrupt the status quo, he said. “Leaders are made, not born,” he said, urging the graduates to embody compassion and heroism to make their mark. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The program also featured a video of 2014 Commencement speaker Bernard Amadei, founder of Engineers Without Borders, who urged the graduates to become global citizen engineers, artists, and scientists to take on the challenges of clean water, feeding the hungry, powering the world, and climate change.

The world needs entrepreneurs and engineers to collaborate in order to disrupt the status quo, he said. “Leaders are made, not born,” he said, urging the graduates to embody compassion and heroism to make their mark. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Find what you like, and do it. Don’t look at it as a requirement.
John Bosworth
Student

“Everything we’ve talked about is creativity and making connections,” Boudreau told the Class of 2019. “We hope you find your way. But, as Dr. Amadei says, ‘It’s about finding yourself.’”

Prior to the video, student John Bosworth, wearing a grey top hat and brown double-breasted frock coat, played the part of WPI  founder John Boynton, explaining his background, the origins of WPI and its founding tenets of theory and practice.

Bosworth, a computer science major, was part of the four-student panel that spoke about the virtues of the humanities and arts. He advised the audience that their options are wide open. He satisfied his HUA requirements through participating in New Voices, WPI’s theatre program featuring student productions. He is also working on a video game that he plans to complete next year.

Student John Bosworth at the podium, dressed as John Boynton, with student panelists Katie Picchione, Norma Bachman, and Kevin Ackerman.“If you want to do anything at this school, you can do it,” Bosworth said. “Find what you like, and do it. Don’t look at it as a requirement.”

Senior Katie Picchione, WPI chapter president of Engineers Without Borders, described how she spent time in Guatemala with other member of the organization, designing a rainwater harvesting system for a small village. She also spent last D-Term in Costa Rica.

“Humanities are a valuable part of your educational experience,” she said, explaining that her focus on writing and rhetoric will help her in writing grant proposals and in her project work. “Pursue the things you’re passionate about.”

Norma Bachman ’17 looks forward to going to India for her IQP this academic year, and said her studies in German will be an advantage when she eventually does her doctorate work in Germany or Switzerland.

Kevin Ackerman ’16 performs in the WPI Jazz Band, and has enjoyed playing at the Freshman Barbecue and during the UMass Medical Walk for Cancer fundraiser. His IQP focused on sustainable transportation at WPI, and his project, a bike-share program for the campus, might be considered by the city of Worcester, pending a meeting with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, he said.

Following the program, Boudreau said the aim of the program is to inspire the students through what’s available to them in the humanities and arts, and to inspire them with the kind of values that the humanities and arts embody.

“They are the values of entrepreneurship, making connections, being curious, being comfortable with ambiguity, being open to possibility, being willing to talk to people across different disciplinary domains, and to put themselves in new places, new positions where something might occur to them that changes everything.

“We wanted to inspire them with people who could talk about their experiences. So, we invited students who had various experiences with humanities and arts who could talk about IQPs, MQPs, humanities requirements, study abroad, and what they want to do with their lives.

“And we had Bernard Amadei, who drives home the point that every life ought to matter, and every education ought to matter, and that these are young people who have been given the resources, and a fantastic, innovative education, and they shouldn’t just be going through hoops or stages to satisfy requirements. They should be taking an active role in developing themselves, and they should begin by reflecting on who they are and what impact they want to make in the world.”

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