The Institute is led by a diverse team of faculty representing disciplines in the humanities, engineering, sciences, and business. Institute faculty have extensive experience with all facets of project work—from classroom implementation and coordination of student project work around the globe to leading curricular change, spearheading faculty development, and supporting project-based learning across the curriculum. Each team will be mentored by one or more Institute faculty whose expertise aligns with the team’s needs, and the entire faculty will be available for consultation and guidance.

Chrysanthe Demetry
Mechanical Engineering;
Director, Morgan Teaching
and Learning Center

“Project-based learning is my favorite way to teach; I use projects in my courses on material science. In particular, I enjoy advising students doing service learning projects in their junior year as an interdisciplinary degree requirement.”


Marja Bakermans is an Associate Teaching Professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute where she is an instructor in both the first-year Great Problems Seminar Program and the Biology & Biotechnology Department. Marja possesses a strong commitment to student education and research, and a goal of hers is to stimulate students’ critical thinking and problem solving abilities while addressing ecological and conservation problems. Marja has presented work related to her teaching at multiple conferences and workshops including Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER), Ecological Society of America (ESA), and WPI’s Institute on Project-based Learning. Marja has a well-grounded research background, which informs her teaching of interdisciplinary topics. With >25 peer-reviewed and extension publications, Marja works to incorporate current research into classroom discussion. Her current research uses the latest GPS technology to identify and characterize habitat used by migrating and wintering Eastern Whip-poor-will populations to effectively identify priority habitats.


Randy Bass is Vice Provost for Education and Professor of English at Georgetown University, where he leads the Designing the Future(s) initiative and the Red House incubator for curricular transformation. For 13 years he was the Founding Executive Director of Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS). He has been working at the intersections of new media technologies and the scholarship of teaching and learning for nearly thirty years, including serving as Director and Principal Investigator of the Visible Knowledge Project, a five-year scholarship of teaching and learning project involving 70 faculty on 21 university and college campuses. From 2003-2009 he was a Consulting Scholar for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, where he served, in 1998-99, as a Pew Scholar and Carnegie Fellow. In 1999, he won the EDUCAUSE Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Technology and Undergraduate Education. He is the author or editor of numerous books, articles and digital projects, including recently, “Disrupting Ourselves: the Problem of Learning in Higher Education,” (EDUCAUSE Review March/April 2012); with Bret Eynon, Open and Integrative: Designing Liberal Education for the New Digital Ecosystem (American Association of Colleges and Universities, 2016); and with Jessie L. Moore, Understanding Writing Transfer: Implications for Transformative Student Learning (Stylus, 2017).


J. Elizabeth Clark, Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College/City University of New York, teaches composition, fiction writing, children’s literature, and the capstone course in the Liberal Arts. Her current scholarly interests include children’s literature, scientific literature for children, teaching with technology, ePortfolio, and digital rhetoric. She is a graduate of Lycoming College (B.A.) and Binghamton University (M.A. and Ph.D.).

She has been part of LaGuardia’s dynamic ePortfolio team since 2002 serving on the original research team and as the Interim ePortfolio Director in 2006. She has worked with the college’s assessment committee, the college’s technology committee, and the writing program, serving as its co-director from 2004-2010 and as director of the Accelerated Learning Program from 2014-2019. She often works closely with the Center for Teaching and Learning at LaGuardia, leading year-long professional development seminars on teaching with technology. Outside of LaGuardia, she is an associate editor for the International Journal of ePortfolio, a past-chair of the national Conference on Basic Writing, and a faculty member for AAC&U’s Integrative Learning and Signature Work Institute.


Chrysanthe Demetry is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). She earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from WPI and a PhD in Ceramics (Materials Science and Engineering) from MIT. She returned to WPI as a faculty member in 1993. Since 2006 Chrys has served as Director of WPI’s Center for Educational Development and Assessment, which was renamed the Morgan Teaching and Learning Center in 2010. In that role, she serves as a key partner in efforts to sustain and strengthen WPI’s commitment to high quality, innovative, project-based teaching and learning through instructional development programs and resources, oversight of new faculty programs and TA/PLA training, support for the scholarship of teaching and learning, and related strategic initiatives. She also co-directed the Bangkok Project Center for a number of years and regularly advises in the Global Projects Program. In 1997 Chrys co-founded Camp Reach, a project-based engineering enrichment program for middle school girls that received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Mentoring from the White House in 2011. She received the CASE U.S. Professor of the Year Award for the state of Massachusetts in 2011.

In addition to project-based learning, her interests include faculty development and mentoring, use of e-portfolios to foster reflection and integrative learning, and women and girls in STEM. As co-PI on WPI’s ADVANCE Adaptation grant from the National Science Foundation, she is on a team leading efforts to address gender inequities among mid-career tenured and non-tenure track faculty with promotion reform and broader notions of scholarship.


Destin Heilman is a Teaching Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). He earned a BS from Penn State University in 2000 and a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 2006. Since then, Destin has served on the Faculty at WPI overseeing much of the curricular development in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as the Chair of Undergraduate Studies. He has hosted over 100 students in his research laboratory for their Major Qualifying Project (MQP) and has been actively involved in project based curricular design at WPI and at other Universities. In 2012, Destin founded the UMass Medical Project Center and Nexus Portal which has matched over 200 students with Faculty mentors for off campus MQPs. Destin was one of the founding participants in the Summer Institute for Project Based Learning and has served as a team coach and mentor each year to a new group of Faculty from Universities across the globe.

Destin’s interests include project-based learning throughout the curriculum, senior undergraduate research mentorship, student metacognitive strategies and learning modes, and outcomes-based learning and assessment. He oversaw a complete redesign of the general chemistry curriculum at WPI in the last 5 years to convert all labs to project based, integrative projects that serve nearly 900 students each year. Destin has won numerous Provost’s awards at WPI for mentorship of MQP projects, and in 2016 was awarded the Trustees Award for Outstanding Academic Advising.


Caitlin Keller is an Instructional Designer at WPI, primarily supporting faculty in developing courses for online, blended, and active learning environments. Caitlin has worked with the Center for Project-Based Learning on the design and facilitation of multiple workshops and as a consultant for course design initiatives at partner institutions. Caitlin holds a Master’s degree from Drexel University in Learning Technologies and Instructional Design and a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Lebanon Valley College. Prior to joining WPI, Caitlin was a high school chemistry teacher focused on inclusive inquiry-based pedagogy.


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.


Ryan Smith Madan is an Associate Teaching Professor of Writing & Rhetoric at WPI, where he also directs the university Writing Center. He earned his PhD in English: Composition, Literacy, Pedagogy, & Rhetoric from the University of Pittsburgh. In his 10 years at WPI he has incorporated project-based learning into many of his writing & rhetoric courses; he has also been faculty advisor for junior-level capstone projects abroad (in Costa Rica and Australia) and senior thesis projects of Professional Writing majors.

His research interests focus on the roles of writing instruction within institutions and the faculty development strategies that can help instructors (and students) foreground competing purposes for writing at the university—purposes that have consequences for assignment design, assignment sequencing, and instructor feedback. His scholarship has been published in Writing on the Edge, Reader, and Harlot: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion.


Charles Morse is the Associate Dean of Student Development & Director of Counseling at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Fifteen years ago he and his team at the WPI Student Development & Counseling Center (SDCC) developed a classroom seminar on “Student Project Team Dynamics” which was designed to enhance student teamwork and conflict management skills. Since then Charlie and SDCC staff have delivered this seminar hundreds of times at the invitation of faculty. Additionally, he and the SDCC staff developed and offer a two-part consultation model for faculty to refer under functioning student teams to in an effort to help them better understand and improve upon their team dynamics. Charlie authored a book chapter on “Managing Team Dynamics and Conflict on Student Project Teams” in the book Project-Based Learning in the First Year published in 2019. Charlie has served as core faculty at WPI’s Summer Institute for Project Based Learning for the past five years.


Geoff Pfeifer is Associate Professor of Philosophy and International and Global Studies (TRT) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. He teaches philosophy courses, global studies courses, and for WPI’s distinctive project-based Great Problems Seminars Program for first-year students. His research and teaching interests center around social and political philosophy, global and social justice, critical theory, and critical pedagogies. His work with Lisa Stoddard in this last area of interest has focused on helping students and faculty understand the impact of institutionalized forms of racism, sexism, stereotyping, and bias in their classrooms and pedagogical methods. Together they have developed and piloted a number of modules that help students and faculty understand and address the ways that such biases impact student learning, student teams, and campus communities. This work is ongoing with an eye toward making it responsive to multiple contexts. In addition to a number of book chapters, Geoff’s work can be found in Philosophy and Social Criticism, Globalizations, Human Studies, The European Legacy, Crisis and Critique, Continental Thought and Theory, Contemporary Perspectives in Social Theory, and The Journal of Global Ethics. He is also the co-editor (with West Gurley) of Phenomenology and the Political (Roman and Littlefield International, 2016) and author of The New Materialism: Althusser, Badiou, and Žižek (Routledge, 2015).


Rhodes received his B.A. from Indiana University at Bloomington and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before moving into national higher education work, he was a faculty member for twenty-five years. Rhodes is currently Vice President for the Office of Quality, Curriculum and Assessment and Executive Director of VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) where he focuses on the quality of undergraduate education, access, general education, ePortfolios and assessment of student learning.
Rhodes has many years of experience leading undergraduate curriculum development efforts, teaching public policy at the graduate and undergraduate levels, developing learning outcomes assessment plans, and forging inter-institutional collaborations with community colleges and high schools.
Recently at AAC&U he lead the project on faculty driven assessment of student learning supported by the Fund for Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE) and the State Farm Companies Foundation entitled Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE). VALUE faculty teams developed rubrics for the full range of essential learning outcomes that can be used with authentic student work to demonstrate quality student learning. His office furthers the importance of clearly articulating the qualities of a well-educated person, creating coherent educational programs that cultivate those qualities, and assessing to determine if they have been achieved through general education, the majors, and co-curricular work.
Currently, he leads two new initiatives: Quality Collaboratives, involving campuses and state systems in nine states exploring ways in which the Degree Qualifications Profile might be used as a guide for determining student competencies on the broad range of Essential Learning Outcomes identified with student success in the context of transfer from two to four year institutions. And the Multi-State Collaborative/VALUE project, working with nine states and 84 institutions to use the VALUE rubrics to assess student work for select learning outcomes to pilot nationwide benchmarks for learning and improvement.
Rhodes has published extensively on both undergraduate education reform issues and in his academic field of public policy and administration. His many books and articles cover such issues as integrative learning, assessment, e-portfolios, high school-college connections, and public policies affecting urban American Indian communities.


Carolina Ruiz is a Professor of Computer Science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). She earned BS degrees in computer science and mathematics and an MS in computer science at the University of Los Andes in Colombia, and a PhD in computer science at the University of Maryland, College Park. Carolina has been on the WPI faculty since 1997. She is associate department head of Computer Science and is founding and core member of the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Data Science, and Neuroscience programs at WPI.

Carolina’s research is in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining and deep learning, and their applications to medical domains including sleep, stroke, obesity, and cancer. She also works on interdisciplinary research bridging computational thinking and science education. Carolina has authored over 80 peer-reviewed research publications. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Henry Luce Foundation. Carolina has advised over 12 high school students, 150 undergraduate students and 35 MS and PhD students in disciplinary and interdisciplinary research projects. She has also advised projects at the intersection of science, technology and society at the WPI Project Centers is London, England and Wellington, New Zealand.


Valerie Smedile Rifkin is an Instructional Designer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She assists faculty with the design, development, and delivery of both online and face-to-face courses, with the goal of promoting a positive and engaging learning experience for all students. Valerie has 15 years of experience working in higher education, primarily in online graduate education, faculty support, and instructional design. She holds an M.S. in Instructional Design and Technology and an M.A. in Anthropology from Brandeis University.


David Spanagel is an Associate Professor of History in the Department of Humanities and Arts at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Mass. He has been active as an innovator in curriculum and instructional approaches. He co-developed the “Power the World” course (one of the first Great Problems Seminar themes offered as part of WPI’s First Year Experience) back in 2007, and he co-developed the course “Extinctions: Who Will Survive?”, an addition to that program in 2017. He has pioneered collaborative learning approaches in the history capstone projects that he advises for students completing the Humanities and Arts requirement at WPI. He also works periodically with colleagues to update WPI’s history of science and technology course offerings (negotiating a comprehensive overhaul in 2009, and a reconsolidation with greater topical flexibility in 2017). Prior to acquiring a Ph.D. in the history of science at Harvard (1996), David’s first graduate degree (an M.S. Ed.) involved academic research into mathematical problem-solving techniques and pedagogy. Thus, his very first publication was an article on “Solving Extreme Value Problems Without Calculus,” published in The Mathematics Teacher (1988).


Sarah Stanlick, Ph.D., is a faculty member in Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She was the founding director of Lehigh University’s Center for Community Engagement and faculty member in Sociology and Anthropology. She previously taught at Centenary College of New Jersey and was a researcher at Harvard’s Kennedy School, assisting the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power. She belongs to organizations like the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) and the International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE), as well as co-chairing the Imagining America Assessing the Practices of Public Scholarship (APPS) research team. She has published in journals such as The Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, The Social Studies, and the Journal of Global Citizenship and Equity Education. Her research interests include health and human rights, global citizenship & civic identity development, and how technology can empower, connect, and support vulnerable populations.


Elisabeth (Lisa) Stoddard is an Associate Teaching Professor at WPI in the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program, and teaches in the Great Problem Seminar Program through the Global School Stoddard is also the director of the Farm Stay Project Center. Stoddard’s teaching and research focuses on different areas of social justice, including environmental, food, and health justice, as well as social justice in STEM education and critical pedagogies. Stoddard, Geoff Pfeifer, and their colleagues have received multiple grants to examine issues of bias and stereotyping on undergraduate student project teams, and the impact this has on student learning and experience. Some of this work and associated resources can be found in Stoddard, Elisabeth; G Pfeifer. 2018. Working Toward More Equitable Team Dynamics: Mapping Student Assets to Minimize Stereotyping and Task Assignment Bias. ASEE Paper ID 22206. This work can also be found in a book chapter by Pfeifer and Stoddard in Stoddard’s 2019 co-edited volume Project-Based Learning in the First Year: Beyond All Expectations, from Stylus Publishers.


Rob Traver is a Teaching Professor within the WPI Global School and the Project Center Director for Asuncion, Paraguay. He has held positions at the Harvard Graduate School of Education as Lecturer on Education and Program Administrator of the Harvard College Undergraduate Teacher Education Program and served two years on the Board of Editors of the Harvard Educational Review. His academic education publications appear in Educational Theory, Teachers College Record and the Handbook of Research on Teacher Education, 2nd ed. Practitioner oriented papers appear in The Science Teacher and Educational Leadership. He has coached higher education project-based learning teams since the inception of WPI’s Project Based Learning Institute and offered workshops on writing and assessment. A chapter, “Assessment of Project-Based Learning in the First Year” with Rebecca Ziino Plotke in Project-Based Learning in the First Year: Beyond all Expectations (2019) may be of interest to Institute participants.


Richard F. Vaz is Professor of Interdisciplinary and Global Studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). He earned the BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Electrical Engineering from WPI, and has served on the WPI faculty since 1987. From 2006 to 2016 Rick served as WPI’s Dean of Interdisciplinary and Global Studies, overseeing the Global Projects Program, a worldwide network of 46 centers where more than 900 students and faculty per year address problems for local agencies and organizations, as well as WPI’s interdisciplinary research project requirement, the Interactive Qualifying Project. In 2016, he established WPI’s Center for Project-Based Learning, which has provided support to over 150 colleges and universities looking to enhance student learning with project experiences.

Rick’s interests include experiential and global learning, faculty development, curricular reform, and institutional change. 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. From 2004 to 2010 he was a Senior Science Fellow of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. In 2016 he was awarded the National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education.


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.