Professor Kent Rissmiller of the WPI Department of Social Sciences and Policy Studies has been named associate dean of the university’s Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division. In his new role, Rissmiller will focus on enhancing on- and off-campus student projects. “When students travel abroad to work on scientific and technical problems, the social and cultural context becomes even more important. These are subjects that our students must learn if they are to be successful in a global economy,” he says.
WORCESTER, Mass. - Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Provost Carol Simpson has appointed Professor Kent Rissmiller of the Department of Social Sciences and Policy Studies as the new associate dean for the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division (IGSD). The appointment, effective Dec. 1, comes after a campus-wide search process.
The Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division is responsible for overseeing two of the most successful educational innovations to emerge at any college or university in the past half century, the Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) and the Global Projects Program. Through the IQP, all of WPI’s students, whether they are pursing studies in science, engineering, or the management of technology, are required to gain experience tackling problems that lie at the interface of science, technology and society. Though the Global Projects Program, they come to understand and appreciate other cultures, and to see – firsthand – how their lives and work will play out on a global stage.
"Through their IQP experience, WPI students learn that we solve scientific and technical problems in a social and political context, not just in a lab," Rissmiller says. "When students travel abroad to work on these problems, the social and cultural context becomes even more important. These are subjects that our students must learn if they are to be successful in a global economy."
The responsibilities of the IGSD also include the administration of many of the university’s undergraduate interdisciplinary programs. These include the major in technical, scientific, and professional communications, opportunities for teacher licensing, majors and minors in international studies, and the minor in law and technology. The IGSD also offers self-designed interdisciplinary majors through which students may pursue existing major programs that cross disciplinary lines, or develop their own major programs geared to their interests and career aspirations.
Rissmiller’s new responsibilities will include improving the IQP experience. He joined the WPI faculty in 1988, with a JD degree from Franklin Pierce Law Center and a PhD in political science from Syracuse University. He came to WPI after a year of teaching at New Mexico State University. He has taught American government, public policy, public law, and political theory.
Throughout his time at WPI, Rissmiller has devoted significant effort to teaching and advising IQP projects within the IGSD. He has advised close to 90 IQPs, which included his participation in the Washington, D.C., Costa Rica, London, Puerto Rico, and Zurich project centers.
"For the past two years, Professor Rissmiller has been involved in promoting the on-campus IQP program," says Simpson, who appointed him. "As associate dean, his focus will be on enhancing the IQP experience for students at our on- and off-campus project centers."
Members of the search committee were English Professor Joel Brattin, student Eugene Choi, ISGD Assistant Professor Rob Krueger, ISGD Director of Global Operations Natalie Mello, and Social Science and Policy Studies Professor John O’Connor.