Fifty years ago this spring, the WPI faculty approved the WPI Plan, a radically new, project-based...Read Story
President Laurie Leshin sits down with Provost Winston (Wole) Soboyejo
LL: Welcome, Wole. There’s so much happening in academics here right now. I’m really excited about getting moving on The Global School. What are your thoughts on this?
WS: I think The Global School is the next evolution for us. We are going to build on a culture of project-based education … this blend of research and education that can inform policy and have an amazing impact on our project-based activities all across the world.
LL: We‘re taking WPI’s famous global projects program to the next level.
WS: Yes, I think we’re building on our what I call “our special sauce.” It’s the way we approach projects, solve problems, and integrate with our partners across the world for major impact.
LL: The global school’s all about crossing disciplinary boundaries, but you’re thinking about that on a much larger scale. Tell us about some of the cross-cutting themes you’ve been focused on.
WS: The most exciting areas in science and technology today are at the interfaces where we can have groundbreaking discoveries driving the technologies of tomorrow, and changing the lives of people across multiple generations. There are many areas we’re pushing. One is looking at materials and manufacturing, which goes back to our early origins but also now connects with machine learning to create the manufacturing of tomorrow. We have groups on campus doing world-leading research, working with industry and groups of companies across the globe to drive the future of materials and manufacturing. In the bio space, we have of innovations in neuroscience, new advances in bio manufacturing, and many new areas that connect the frontiers of biology and engineering.
LL: Health and medicine together with engineering and data. Absolutely. And then the smart world of course.
WS: Smart world is this eclectic mix of robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, sensors, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles—all representing a new era in technology. It represents how we could collectively bring all those areas together to drive the future of technology in ways that impact the world. And the new building represents the next stage of collaborative learning as well. When you integrate these areas into global initiatives, you have a framework that supports The Global School in a way that’s truly unique.
LL: All of this provides cutting-edge, educational opportunities for our students. And, of course, they’re at the center of everything we do. So how are these new initiatives going to drive the future of WPI education?
WS: We connect our research to our teaching, and I think that’s the sweet spot for WPI. As we look to the future of project-based education, we want to bring together cutting-edge approaches in project-based education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, connecting them to our strengths in STEM education, and then bringing together the hands-on and theoretical components in a way that will continue to make WPI students leaders of tomorrow.
LL: Plus, we are continuing to think about new degree programs, new offerings. We now have a bachelor’s degree in data science, and we are constantly innovating around our current academic offerings. And that to me is, is so exciting—the connection from groundbreaking research all the way to the classroom with our students. Thank you for your work in our academic enterprise. I’m very excited to see what comes next.
WS: Thank you, Laurie.