Richard F. Vaz co-directs the WPI Center for Project-Based Learning with Kristin Wobbe. Rick is Professor of Interdisciplinary and Global Studies and of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and has been a member of the WPI faculty since 1987.
From 2006 to 2016 Rick 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, curricular reform, and institutional change. In January 2016, Rick launched the Center for Project-Based Learning.
He has authored over 70 peer-reviewed or invited publications and directed student research projects in 15 locations worldwide, including Australia, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland, Namibia, Puerto Rico, and Thailand. In 2016, he won the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology from the National Academy of Engineering. From 2004 to 2010 Rick was a senior science fellow of the AAC&U.
Rick received BS, MS, and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from WPI. He has held systems and design engineering positions at Raytheon, GenRad, and the MITRE Corporation.
Kristin Wobbe is co-director of WPI’s Center for Project-Based Learning and the director of the Great Problems Seminar program, WPI’s first year projects program. Her teaching awards include the Moruzzi Prize for Innovation in Undergraduate Education, and she a corecipient of the 2016 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education awarded by the National Academy of Engineering. She received her BA in chemistry from St. Olaf College and her PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from Harvard University. She is the co-editor of Project-Based Learning in the First Year: Beyond all Expectations (Stylus, 2019). Other recent publications appear in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning and Diversity and Democracy.
Through her role as Associate Director for the Center for Project-Based Learning at WPI, Paula Quinn works to improve student learning in higher education by supporting faculty and staff at WPI and at other institutions to advance work on project-based learning. She believes project-based learning holds significant potential for increasing the diversity of students who succeed in college and who persist in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and she views her work with the Center as contributing to education reform from the inside out. 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.
Quinn holds an MA in Developmental Psychology from Clark University and a BA in Psychology from Case Western Reserve University. Her background includes working in the field of education evaluation, where she focused primarily on the areas of project-based learning; STEM; pre-literacy and literacy; student life; learning communities; and professional development. 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. She has worked on projects whose funding sources have included the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences, and the U.S. Department of Education.
As a Research & Evaluation Associate with the Center for Project-Based Learning, Kimberly LeChasseur focuses on what we know about the value of project-based learning, both here at WPI and at other colleges and universities where the Center is facilitating professional learning. She helps those at the Center and others invested in project-based learning at the college level to clarify, document, communicate, and use what they know about their work to improve the quality of project-based learning strategies in action. Kimberly facilitates professional learning about how to research and evaluate project-based learning and is available to co-design and draft evaluation plans, inform the selection or creation of assessments, and analyze data about the value and areas in need of improvement for research and evaluation of project-based learning. Kimberly has a joint appointment with the Morgan Center for Teaching and Learning where she focuses on supporting faculty in crafting strong scholarship on teaching and learning. WPI community members who would like to arrange a conversation or consultation with Kimberly should complete this form.