During her inauguration nearly two years ago, President Leshin called upon the university to look at the challenges in our own neighborhood, in the nation, and across the world, and ask, “How can we do better?”
That question became its own challenge as she asked the WPI community to work with her to develop a plan for the Institute’s near-term future. Through open retreats and a focused planning effort, more than 1,000 faculty and staff members, students, alumni, trustees, and friends took part, lending their imaginations and their voices to the process and sharing ideas that have crystalized into a blueprint called the Strategic Plan.
The nine initiatives detailed in Elevate Impact: A Strategic Plan for WPI, 2015–2018 underscore three major goals:
• Extend the success of WPI’s distinctive undergraduate education
• Expand transformative research and graduate education
• Enhance WPI’s reputation and visibility
Noting that this is the first full academic year of the Strategic Plan’s implementation, Leshin told a Town Hall Meeting last Friday that while some progress has been made, there is more to do, and her desire that more of the WPI community become engaged. She pointed out that each implementation area has at least two “implementation leads” to help facilitate reaching their goals.
“To me, the Strategic Plan is an opportunity to bring the community together to create a set of aspirations that we all buy into, to help us paint a picture of a vibrant future for the institution,” she said. “And, really, that’s the goal. Not to change who we are, not to try to do something that’s impossible, but really to bring everybody together and talk about what’s possible, and then focus our energies and efforts on getting there.”
Implementation Areas—their goals and some recent accomplishments:
More in Four
Lower the cost of a WPI education through accelerated paths and co-op. Goals include a 5-year BS/MS option, and 80 co-op participants by the 2017–18 academic year. To date, 17 co-ops have been approved for 2016–17.
Global Projects for All
Expand number and document impact of Global Projects. Creation of more than 300 new seats for IQPs, and 12 new project centers by the 2018–19 academic year, as well as initiate an expanded Global Scholars program. To date, ISRPs (individually sponsored residential projects) have been planned for Brazil, and capacity has been expanded at four existing centers to provide 111 new IQP seats in Switzerland, Copenhagen, Namibia, Japan, Worcester/Boston, and Beijing (MQP and IQP).
Major and a Mission
Empower students to pursue a more intentional path at WPI, and instill entrepreneurial mindset learning. Some 70 faculty participated in innovation and entrepreneurial workshops over the past summer; WPI received a second Kern Foundation Grant and hired a second innovation and entrepreneurial fellow.
Personalized Online Education
Create a student-centric paradigm for individualized education. Goals include converting two graduate courses in POE/CBE (personalized online education/competency-based education) format and enrolling 50 students in competency-based courses. To date, conversion of two graduate courses to POE has been completed, and development of Calculus I and II for refresher is 90 percent complete.
WPI PhD Plan
Implement a distinctive WPI PhD Plan to elevate PhD programs. Goals include the hiring of a Director of Graduate Student Professional Development, creation of a Center for Graduate Student Professional Development, and expansion of internship opportunities. To date, plans for off-campus experiences for PhDs are under development, and WPI has been awarded a $34,000 supplement from the National Science Foundation to support professional training.
Enable critically important research where WPI can have impact. Goals for the 2018–19 academic year include increasing research funding by 50 percent, increasing graduate fellowships times three, and increasing research visibility and impact.
Center for Project-Based Learning
Establish WPI as a recognized global leader in project-based education. Goals include the establishment of a Center Advisory Board, drafting and executing a professional development plan for WPI faculty, and engaging WPI faculty in research agenda. So far, a workshop proposal is under consideration by the Mukesh Patel School of Engineering Technology and Management in Mumbai, India; and there's been a successful delivery of the 2016 Institute, with 28 teams/24 institutions participating.
Develop a global strategy to maximize shared goals. Build upon WPI’s global reach and activities in three key regions: China, Europe, and Latin America, and implement Email for Life, a communication strategy to engage alumni via WPI email address. The progress today includes the hiring of an additional staff member to help manage international alumni, and memoranda of understanding have been signed with Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá (Panama), the University of Pernambuco (Brazil), the American Farm School (Greece), and ZHAW (Switzerland), with MQPs pending.
Foisie Innovation Studio
Showcase and expand WPI’s distinctive academic programs through the Foisie Innovation Studio. The one-year goals include having one-third of all WPI students involved in entrepreneurial learning, and 80 faculty involved in entrepreneurial learning, with 200 faculty involved in entrepreneurial learning by the third year. Through an IQP in 2015–16, input was gathered from students, and that data was used by architects in the final building design. Additionally two Tech Advisor Network alumni ventures were selected for the MassChallenge class, and Yael Schwartz was named Coleman Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Through goals and objectives designed to further the university’s excellence in education and research over the next three years, the Strategic Plan is intended to accelerate and extend WPI’s impact.
“The 2016–17 academic year is the first full academic year in the implementation of the Strategic Plan, so we’re very excited about all of the things that are ahead, and we’re building on the first few months with a ton of great progress already,” Leshin said. “There’s a team of people from across the campus—more than 200—who have been implementing the Strategic Plan, and this year is about getting more people engaged and making more progress; everything from global projects for more of our students to an expanded research program to elevating the visibility of WPI.”
The Daily Herd will examine each of the nine implementation areas individually over the academic year, talking with the respective implementation leads and others involved in their progress.