In January 2016, Richard F. Vaz was named the inaugural Director of WPI’s Center for Project-Based Learning, which provides support to colleges and universities looking to implement or enhance project-based learning.
From 2006 to 2016 Vaz served as WPI’s dean of interdisciplinary and global studies, with responsibility for the Interactive Qualifying Project, WPI’s interdisciplinary degree requirement. He oversaw substantial growth of WPI’s Global Projects Program, a worldwide network of over 40 centers where more than 900 students and faculty per year address problems for local agencies and organizations. His interests include experiential and global learning, sustainable design and appropriate technology, curricular reform, and institutional change.
He has authored over 70 peer-reviewed or invited publications and directed student research projects in 14 locations worldwide, including Australia, Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland, Namibia, Puerto Rico, and Thailand. He is a member of ASEE, and from 2004 to 2010 was a senior science fellow of the AAC&U.
Dr. Vaz received his BS, MS, and PhD in electrical engineering from WPI, and has been a member of the WPI Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty since 1984. He has also held systems and design engineering positions at Raytheon, GenRad, and the MITRE Corporation.
Prior to becoming the Associate Director for the Center for Project-Based Learning, Paula worked in the field of education evaluation, focusing primarily in the areas of project-based learning; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); pre-literacy and literacy; student life; learning communities; and professional development. She has worked on projects whose funding sources have included the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences, the U.S. Department of Education, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Davis Educational Foundation. She contributed to a study of WPI alumni and employers of WPI alumni that revealed that project-based learning had substantive and long-term positive impacts on students.
Her work capitalizes on her deep desire to positively impact the field of education, the enjoyment she receives from collaborating with others, and her love of research methods and research design that she developed while earning an M.A. in Developmental Psychology from Clark University and a B.A. in Psychology from Case Western Reserve University.
Paula believes project-based learning holds significant potential for increasing the diversity of students who succeed in college and who persist in STEM fields, and she views her work with the Center as contributing to education reform from the inside out.