Scott Jiusto, associate professor of geography at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and director of WPI's Cape Town, South Africa, Project Centre, has been named the CASE U.S. Professor of the Year for Massachusetts. The Professor of the Year program, jointly sponsored by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, each year recognizes the nation’s most outstanding undergraduate instructors.
Jiusto was honored for his contributions to WPI's Global Projects Program and, in particular, for his innovative and award-winning work as director of the Cape Town Project Centre. A member of the WPI faculty since 2004, he has advised student projects at several of the university's more than 40 off-campus project centers located around the globe. He has served as director of the Cape Town center since its inception in 2007. In Cape Town, he has worked with local partners to develop and advise almost 60 Interactive Qualifying Projects focused on improving water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH); early childhood development; local entrepreneurship; and other critical issues in the city's informal settlements and other disadvantaged communities.
In Cape Town, Jiusto has championed what he calls Shared Action Learning, which he described as "a way of understanding how students and faculty might come together with community members, local organizations, and government agencies to address pressing social issues." Working within that framework, he says the project center and local partners have "become remarkably adept at catalyzing tangible change in the built and social environment, developing a preschool, playgrounds, community halls, stormwater channels, job opportunities, enhanced tenure rights for residents, and a radically different approach to water, sanitation, and hygiene that combines many of the foregoing elements."
Meeting the need for proper water and sanitation facilities for the thousands of residents of informal settlements has been a challenge for the South African government. Through a series of projects undertaken in Cape Town over the past five years, WPI student teams, working closely with local partners and local residents, developed and implemented an innovative solution called WaSH-UP (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Upgrading Programme). The program developed a number of multi-purpose stations that provide water, toilets, laundry basins, and other needed services. More than simply meeting basic needs for water and sanitation, the stations also provide a much-needed center for community life and engagement.
As director of the Cape Town Project Centre, Jiusto has placed a special emphasis on carefully documenting the work of the student teams and the outcomes of the center's projects, both to benefit the students and to share the center's work with other educators, development practitioners, and students. Reports on the Cape Town projects are posted on the center's website (http://wp.wpi.edu/capetown/), and students are encouraged to write "scenes" as a way of reflecting on their experience learning from and helping bring about social change with others. "The website is becoming a valuable repository of upgrading strategies and learning," Jiusto said, "and a demonstration of how universities can educate students and support local sustainability efforts."
His work with the Global Projects Program has earned Jiusto a number of honors. In June, he and co-author Richard Vaz (dean of interdisciplinary and global studies at WPI) won the Leo Jansen Prize for Best Paper at the 7th International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development for work exploring the potential of community engagement programs, like the Global Projects Program, to impact society and academia. In 2012, a paper he co-authored with faculty colleagues at WPI (Michael Elmes, professor in the Robert A. Foisie School of Business, and Robert Hersh, adjunct teaching professor in the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division (IGSD), Erasmus University, and California State University San Marcos won the Best Paper Award from the journal Academy of Management Learning & Education (AMLE). The paper, "Teaching Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the Perspective of Place and Place Making," discusses the importance and advantages of employing a place-based approach to learning when teaching social entrepreneurship, a contention they support by spotlighting a water and sanitation project carried out in Cape Town.
Jiusto, with his students and colleagues, was honored for his work in Cape Town with a 2009 Mondialogo Engineering Award, presented by UNESCO and Daimler. The WaSH-UP program won a World Design Capital 2014 project designation in 2014. Jiusto was an invited panelist at the Keck Project Kaleidoscope Roundtable on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Learning for STEM Undergraduates in 2008 and a plenary speaker for the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) Symposium on Integrating the Sciences, Arts, and Humanities in 2011. WPI honored him in 2009 with the Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education, which recognized his work at the Cape Town Project Centre.
Before joining WPI, he had served as a research associate at the George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University, where he earned a PhD from the Graduate School of Geography in 2004. He also earned a BS in social theory, social structure, and change from Empire State College, State University of New York, and an MA in geography from the University at Albany, State University of New York.
Jiusto is the fifth WPI faculty member to be named Massachusetts Professor of the Year. The honor has previously been bestowed on Judith Miller, then professor of biology and biotechnology (2002); Robert Norton, now retired from his post as Milton Prince Higgins II Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering (2007); Jeanine Plummer, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, director of the university’s Environmental Engineering Program, and holder of the Schwaber Professorship in Environmental Engineering (2008); and Chrysanthe Demetry, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of WPI's Morgan Teaching and Learning Center (2011).