WPI Receives International Award for Innovation in Student Mobility and Expanding Access to Global Projects

International higher education award spotlights pillar of WPI project-based learning model
Media Contact
May 11, 2023

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has been awarded a 2023 Institute of International Education (IIE) Andrew Heiskell Award in the category of student mobility and exchange for its ongoing efforts to expand access to the university’s Global Projects Program.

 The award promotes and honors outstanding initiatives in international higher education by recognizing innovative and successful programs in several categories. It is named after Andrew Heiskell, a former chairman of Time Inc., member of the Executive Committee of IIE’s Board of Trustees, a renowned international and cultural philanthropist and a longtime supporter of international education.

 WPI received the award for its Global Projects Program and Global Projects for All initiative. A signature component of WPI’s project-based learning model, the Global Projects Program facilitates student travel to more than 50 project centers across the USA and in 30 countries around the world.

 “The IIE Heiskell award serves as recognition that WPI’s renowned approach to global project-based learning remains the gold standard in international experiential education, and we continue to innovate and expand access,” said Mimi Sheller, inaugural dean of The Global School.

WPI’s project-based learning approach that blends theory and practice to confront the world’s challenges includes the Interactive Qualifying Project, or IQP, and the Major Qualifying Project, or MQP. Juniors at WPI participate in the IQP, a nine-credit-hour requirement that involves students working in teams, with students not in their major, to tackle an issue that relates science, engineering, and technology to society. Seniors take on the MQP, a team-based, professional-level design or research experience. Both IQPs and MQPs can be completed through the Global Projects Program.

Through the Global Projects Program, WPI students across every school and major immerse themselves in new, diverse cultures and tackle complex, real-world challenges using interdisciplinary team-based approaches.
  • Mimi Sheller
  • Inaugural dean, The Global School
Mimi Sheller

Launched in 2017, Global Projects for All aims to expand participation in the Global Projects Program by developing new centers, increasing the number of terms programs are offered at existing centers, and increasing financial assistance to all students. Beginning with the class of 2022, all undergraduate students have been eligible to receive a scholarship of up to $5,000 to defray the cost of participation in the Global Projects Program. The goal is to remove financial barriers and create opportunities for students of all backgrounds to access the award-winning off-campus opportunity for immersive experiential learning. In the 2022-23 academic year, approximately 88% of juniors participated. Over their four years at WPI, approximately 85% of all students participate in the program.

The Global Projects Program is a core program of The Global School that combines STEM-centered education with the promotion of integrative global learning at the intersection of science, technology, and society. 



 “Through the Global Projects Program, WPI students across every school and major immerse themselves in new, diverse cultures and tackle complex, real-world challenges using interdisciplinary team-based approaches." Sheller said. “The resulting student research projects are highly meaningful to local partners and communities, making a transformative impact on the lives of our students and alumni.” 

 More than 90% of recently surveyed WPI alumni reported that their experience of international travel through the Global Projects Program had a positive impact on their lives after graduation.

Each year more than 1,200 undergraduate students travel to project centers, supported by WPI's Global Experience Office and faculty who direct the project centers, advise student projects, and prepare students academically and culturally in a full-term preparatory course offered by the Department of Integrative and Global Studies prior to travel. Graduate students in interdisciplinary global programs, such as the master’s degree in community climate adaptation, also may conduct field research at global project centers.