WPI students at Iceland Project Center

Student project team working from WPI's Iceland Project Center

WPI Receives Prestigious Recognition for Advancing Inclusive Access to Global Learning Opportunities

Award Highlights Global Projects for All Initiative
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February 13, 2024

In recognition of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s (WPI) commitment to immersive global experiential learning, NAFSA: Association of International Educators has selected WPI as winner of a NAFSA 2024 Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award for Campus Internationalization. Since 2002, NAFSA, the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange, has presented the awards annually to American colleges and universities that demonstrate outstanding commitment to and accomplishment in campus internationalization.

NAFSA defines internationalization as the conscious effort to integrate and infuse international, intercultural, and global dimensions into the philosophy of postsecondary education. The organization has chosen to recognize WPI for its Global Projects for All Initiative. The initiative seeks to maximize the number of students who participate in WPI’s Global Projects Program, in part by removing financial barriers.


Students at WPI Costa Rica Project Center

Student teams working out of WPI's Monteverde, Costa Rica Project Center

As a signature element of WPI’s project-based learning, the Global Projects Program gives students the opportunity to complete required research projects off-campus at more than 50 WPI project centers worldwide. The goal of the program is to help students become well-rounded and globally aware by working as part of a team to apply classroom knowledge and analytical thinking skills to advance solutions to real-world challenges.

The Global Projects for All Initiative was first introduced as a key element of WPI’s 2015-2018 strategic plan. It has marshalled financial and human resources to significantly expand student and faculty participation in the Global Projects Program. As part of the ongoing initiative, every full-time undergraduate student at WPI receives a one-time institutional scholarship of up to $5,000 to defray some of the costs of an off-campus project experience through the Global Projects Program.

“We are proud to receive this recognition of our innovation and the progress WPI has made in addressing the cost barrier global programming can present for students,” says Mimi Sheller, dean of The Global School. “The Global Projects for All Initiative has strengthened our high-impact undergraduate educational experience by ensuring more students can participate in the Global Projects Program. Our alumni report that this is an especially meaningful and valuable aspect of their WPI experience, and it prepares them well for their future careers.”

"We are proud to receive this recognition of our innovation and the progress WPI has made in addressing the cost barrier global programming can present for students." 
- Mimi Sheller, dean of The Global School

More than 1,100 WPI students participated in the Global Projects Program in the 2022-2023 academic year, including approximately 88% of third-year students. “The program’s immersive team-based approach promotes STEM-centered education through global learning at the intersection of science, technology, and society,” says Kathleen Head, director of The Global School’s Global Experience Office, which administers the Global Projects Program. “It’s centered around tangible problem solving in local communities and cultures where students may have no prior experience. By enabling students to apply their knowledge in the world and outside of their comfort zones, WPI is empowering graduates to become global leaders.”

The prestigious award from NAFSA is named for the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon of Illinois. Simon was an advocate for international education, global dialogue, and increased participation in study abroad programs by American college students.

WPI is one of three schools to win a NAFSA 2024 Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award. WPI received the award in 2003 in recognition of the Global Projects Program. This year’s winners will be honored during a reception on May 29 at the NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference & Expo in New Orleans, Louisiana.