WORCESTER, Mass. – Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has received the inaugural George I. Alden Award for campus-based educational excellence from the Colleges of Worcester Consortium. The award, presented during the consortium's first "Celebration of Higher Education in Central Massachusetts" on March 29, recognized the university's Worcester Community Project Center and its director, Rob Krueger, for their contributions to improving the quality of life for citizens of Worcester over the course of nearly a decade.
WPI President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey accepted the award from Susan C. Wyckoff, the consortium's vice president for academic affairs. Wyckoff noted that since 2000, when WPI founded the Worcester Community Project Center, 70,000 student hours and 3,000 faculty hours have been devoted to developing professional-level solutions to social, economic, and environmental problems identified by city and social service agencies and cultural and educational groups. Sponsors have included Broad Meadow Brook Audubon Sanctuary, the Regional Environmental Council, the Greater Worcester Land Trust, the Worcester Art Museum, and Centro Las Americas.
Established through the efforts of Associate Provost Lance Schachterle and others, and supported initially with gifts totaling more than $1.8 million from the Stoddard Charitable Trust, the Fletcher Foundation, the Ruth H. and Warren A. Ellsworth Foundation, the Mildred H. McEvoy Foundation, and the Hoche-Scofield Foundation, the center brings WPI's scientifically minded students and faculty together with Worcester organizations to address policy issues that are important to the city's future.
Krueger, assistant professor in WPI's Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division (IGSD), has been director of the Worcester Community Project Center since 2002. A geographer by training and an authority on sustainable development, he has focused the work of the center on the needs and concerns of the Worcester community, such as public education, youth services, neighborhood development, downtown revitalization, environmental protection, affordable housing, and transportation. Current priorities include a sustained planning initiative, open space planning, and renewable energy. In addition, under Krueger's leadership, the center has organized and hosted three major workshops focused on sustainable development for cities.
"It's an honor for the Worcester Community Project Center and its students and faculty members' work to be recognized, especially in a city where so many colleges are deeply engaged in projects that make substantial contributions to the people of our city," Krueger says.
The center was created, in part, to bring the benefits of WPI's Global Projects Program, which boasts more than 20 project centers throughout North America and Central America, Africa, Australia, Asia, and Europe, to WPI's home city. "WPI has become known for how its students solve problems of importance to communities around the world," notes Richard Vaz, dean of the IGSD, "but many people don't realize that WPI also has a vibrant student project program here at home. Similar to our projects abroad, WPI's work with Worcester helps students understand how the problems cities face require not only technical solutions, but also an understanding of their impact on the economy, the environment, and the quality of life for the city's residents."
The Alden Award for Excellence in Higher Education is named after George I. Alden, WPI's first professor of mechanical engineering, an innovative educator and accomplished researcher in mechanics and hydraulics. It recognizes campus-based programs that reflect the shared values, goals, and visions of the consortium and the Alden Trust, emphasizing creativity and promotion of higher education excellence and collaboration. Also on March 29, the Hanover Insurance Group Inc. of Worcester received the Alden Award for Community-based Higher Education Access, which honors an individual or organization in central Massachusetts that has championed access to higher education for nontraditional students and adults.