Fifteen members of the teaching faculty have been named to a new tenure track that was created to recognize and reward excellence in teaching.
The group, nominated by deans and selected by Provost Wole Soboyejo, includes scholars from a range of disciplines. Some have been part of the faculty for more than a decade.
“These faculty members play a critical role in the university’s central mission to educate students,” Soboyejo says. “They are innovative teachers who have demonstrated their abilities to engage students to think, learn, work in teams, and pursue important projects that make a difference in our world. I am delighted that these talented teachers will now have the opportunity to pursue tenure.”
WPI launched the new tenure track for teaching faculty members July 1 after more than three years of study and discussion among the faculty, administrators, and trustees. Research universities such as WPI typically award tenure only to faculty members who balance teaching, research, and service, but the new tenure path opens the pursuit of tenure to those focused primarily on teaching, as well.
The university expects to appoint 15 teaching faculty members per year over three years—for a total of 45—to the new tenure track. They will be known as assistant, associate, or (full) professors of teaching and will be expected to spend most of their time teaching, while also demonstrating professional growth and service to their academic communities. The first 15 have up to six years to complete the tenure process, though many are expected to attain tenure sooner.
The creation of the new tenure track was part of a bundle of changes that also secured longer-term contracts, academic freedom, and faculty governance participation for full-time teaching faculty who are not eligible to pursue tenure. Those faculty members continue to be known as assistant, associate, and (full) teaching professors.
“The appointment of these 15 faculty members to these newly created tenure-track positions is a big moment for WPI and for academia; this breakthrough moment sets an important and innovative precedent for how universities can better respect and recognize outstanding teaching,” says President Laurie Leshin. “The creation of this tenure track demonstrates WPI’s stronger commitment to the professional growth and careers of our dedicated teaching faculty—and to our students, who will be the greatest beneficiaries of this promise to support excellent teaching. We made this change through productive collaboration between trustees, administration, and faculty, and I hope we can serve as a model to other universities.”
The first 15 teaching faculty members nominated for the new track:
Marcel Blais, professor of teaching in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Blais joined the faculty in 2005 and teaches courses in operations research, calculus, and financial mathematics. He also coordinates the financial mathematics program and has served as associate department head since 2017. Blais earned his PhD at Cornell University.
Esther Boucher-Yip, associate professor of teaching in the Department of Humanities and Arts. Boucher-Yip joined the faculty in 2012 and teaches courses in the professional writing program and in academic English for international students. She was awarded the 2021 Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Teaching. Boucher-Yip earned her EdD at the University of Leicester.
Farley Chery, associate professor of teaching in the Interactive Media and Game Development Program. Chery created a course for the technical art concentration at WPI, launched a studio art initiative, led a student art portfolio initiative, and has taught courses in visual technologies. He joined the faculty in 2016 and earned his MFA at Full Sail University.
Soroush Farzin, assistant professor of teaching in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He joined the WPI faculty in 2016. Farzin teaches architectural design studios and WPI’s Great Problems Seminar. He also coordinates the Architectural Engineering lecture series. Farzin earned his PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
John Galante, assistant professor of teaching in the Department of Humanities and Arts. A member of the faculty since 2016, Galante teaches courses in history and international and global studies, with a particular focus on Latin America, migration, and global networks of interaction and exchange. He led the creation of WPI’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Initiative. He earned his PhD at the University of Pittsburgh.
Destin Heilman, teaching professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Heilman joined the faculty in 2006 after earning his PhD at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He teaches biochemistry and general chemistry courses, is chair of the teaching faculty council, and was co-chair of the faculty task force that worked to create the new tenure track for teaching faculty members. In 2013, he received the WPI Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Academic Advising.
Courtney Kurlanska, assistant professor of teaching in the Department of Integrative and Global Studies. Kurlanska joined the faculty in 2017 and teaches courses in qualitative research methods, sustainable community development, and alternative economies. She is co-director of the Ecuador Project Center. Kurlanska earned her PhD at the State University of New York, Albany.
Ryan Madan, associate professor of teaching in the Department of Humanities and Arts. Madan joined the faculty in 2010 and has been director of WPI’s Writing Center since 2014. He teaches courses on writing, rhetorical theory, and pedagogy, and he advises senior projects in the professional writing major. Madan earned his PhD at the University of Pittsburgh.
Stephen McCauley, associate professor of teaching in the Department of Integrative and Global Studies. McCauley teaches and advises projects in the Global Projects Program as well as teaching environmental studies courses, and he co-directs WPI’s project center in Melbourne, Australia. A member of the faculty since 2013, he earned his PhD at Clark University.
Maqsood Mughal, assistant professor of teaching in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. A member of the faculty since 2018, Mughal teaches courses in electrical and computer engineering, digital circuit design, embedded computing in engineering design, and sensors, signals, and systems. He earned his PhD at Arkansas State University.
Rodica Neamtu, associate professor of teaching in the Department of Computer Science. Neamtu joined the faculty in 2017 after earning her PhD at WPI. She teaches courses on databases, database management software, data mining, and the social implications of information processing. Neamtu co-founded and co-directs WPI’s Bucharest Project Center.
Geoffrey Pfeifer, associate professor of teaching in the Department of Integrative and Global Studies. He joined the faculty in 2011. Pfeifer teaches philosophy and international studies courses, and he is an instructor in WPI’s Great Problems Seminar. He earned his PhD at the University of South Florida.
Gbetonmasse Somasse, associate professor in the Department of Social Science and Policy Studies. A member of faculty since 2015, Somasse teaches introductory economics courses, development economics, environmental economics, and econometrics. He is associate head of his department and director of WPI’s project center in Cape Town, South Africa. Somasse earned his PhD at Clark University.
Elisabeth ("Lisa”) Stoddard, associate professor of teaching in the Department of Integrative and Global Studies. A faculty member since 2014, Stoddard teaches courses focused on the environment, climate change, social movements, and justice with connections to public health. She is director of WPI’s Farm Stay Project Center in Paxton, Mass., and received the Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award in 2021. She earned her PhD at Clark University.
Sarah Wodin-Schwartz, associate professor of teaching in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Wodin-Schwartz joined the faculty in 2015 and teaches courses in the mechanics series and computer-aided design. She received the Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2021 and the Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award in 2019. She earned her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley.
– Lisa Eckelbecker