WPI in the mid-1960s was mostly a traditional institution with classes taught straight out of the textbook. Mandatory ROTC, Saturday classes, and lack of visitation of females in the dorms were the things that students protested. A few pioneering faculty began making small changes in the curriculum to require more creative thinking from students.
WPI at the time was facing financial challenges. President Harry Storke, preparing to retire and hoping to leave the college in good stead, looked to the young faculty to create a new program for WPI through the Curriculum Study Committee and later the President’s Planning Group. From the President’s Planning Group came “The Future of Two Towers,” the seeds for the WPI Plan. The exhibition highlights the creation of the Plan, elements of the Plan, the global program, the IQP and MQP, and a look ahead.
Although I came to Gordon Library in 1974 as the first WPI archivist, when implementation of the Plan was in full swing, I was removed from what was going on as I concentrated on organizing WPI’s historical records. Curating this exhibition forty years later, has made me realize just how courageous and dedicated the founders and implementers of the Plan were. There was so much involved in changing the entire program of the school, from the way classes were taught to 7 week terms and project work, everyone on campus had to be involved in implementing the program.
Not everyone did bought into the vision. Some left, others adjusted. Over time, aspects of the Plan have changed causing outcries of “the Plan is dead” by some of the first Plan faculty. But if we look at the work WPI students do around the world, using their technical knowledge to help people in a variety of circumstances with confidence and sophistication, it is easy to see that the intent of Plan is alive and well.
The exhibition is on view at the Gladwin Gallery, Gordon Library ground floor, adjacent to the WPI Curation, Preservation, and Archives.