Happy New Year, everyone!

EPIC Learning means that our students are experiencing a pedagogical approach that uses external collaboration (E), is project-based (P), is interdisciplinary in nature (I) and is an integral and explicit part of our curricula (C).  If we imagine all of our curricula and courses as being in a big box, each of the EPI components is part of the curricula and courses that we currently offer to our students.  Many, but not all, of the courses have external collaborators.  The same is true of projects.  Some have interdisciplinary approaches.  Some of our courses have two of the three, and some have all three.

One of way of picturing this is showing the curricula and courses as contained in a large rectangle.  Each of the individual components of EPIC Learning is depicted as a circle within the larger rectangle.  Sometimes two of the three components overlap, here shaded in green.  In some cases all three of the components overlap, as shown in red.

Slide 01

We currently offer many different types of courses, which appear as individual points within the Curricula rectangle.  Some of the courses have none of the EPIC components and lie outside of the circles.  Some courses have one of the components and lie within one of the circles, but are not in the areas where the circles overlap.  Some courses have two of the components and appear in the overlap areas, but not in the central area where all three circles overlap.  Some of our courses have all three components and appear in the area where all three circles do overlap.  Those are the courses and projects that are truly EPIC!

Slide 02

As we move our curricula more towards EPIC Learning, we need to bring in more of the individual components.  We would like to move into the green areas and then towards the red area.  We don’t have to do it all at once!  We can add each of the pieces as we go along.

As an example, let’s assume that we have a course that is currently being taught using “classical lecturing.” In our diagrams, it’s one of the points that lie outside all of the circles.  But since we know the EPIC Learning approach results in increased student learning, we want to move the pedagogy we are using in the course towards EPIC.  A first step might be to talk to a Wentworth colleague from a different department and invite her or him to give a guest lecture on a topic that falls within the learning goals of the course.  (I’ll use examples here from the class that I’m teaching with Ron Bernier entitled “Awesome: Regarding the Sublime in Art and Science” just because I’m so familiar with our class.  There are many of you who have done not only similar things, but things that are even better than we’ve managed!)  In my example, invited guest lecturers included Amanda Hattaway to talk about the sublime nature of mathematics and James O’Brien to talk about the philosophy of science.  Diagrammatically, the course moved from outside all of the circles to inside the Interdisciplinary circle, as shown here.  That’s a good step in the right direction.

Slide 03

Having seen positive reactions from the students about this change, we decide to include a final project as a part of the course.  The students are assigned teams and are asked to put together a multimedia presentation (Power Point is not allowed!) demonstrating their understanding of the sublime.  The final projects can and have included music, painting, infographics, videos, and anything else the students think is the best way to demonstrate the sublime.  (The students came up with things we didn’t even think of, like hardware to visualize music using speakers and water trays, and 3-D scanning and printing of mushrooms.)   In our diagram, the course has now moved into the area where the interdisciplinary and project-based circles overlap.

Slide 04

Continuing to improve the course, we decide to expand our thinking and include external collaboration.  One of us, Ron, has met a person at a conference who is both an Episcopal priest and an evolutionary biologist, and is working at Harvard.  He’s invited to give a guest lecture on how he incorporates both of these into his life and work.  We also invited the author of the book that discussed the similarities of Hubble astrophotos and American landscape art to visit Wentworth.  It was this book that was the inspiration for us putting the course together in the first place.  The course now has all of the components and has moved into the EPIC central overlap area.

Slide 05

It didn’t happen all at once.  It happened in steps, as we can see when we put all three diagrams together showing the individual moves.

Slide 06

There are many different paths that we could have taken to end up with an EPIC Learning course.  It only depends on how you want to put your course together.  We could have put the projects in first, in which case we would have moved from outside the circles to within the Project-Based circle.  We could have invited outside guest speakers first, and then we would have moved to within the Externally Collaborative circle as the first step.

Slides 07 and 08 Edited

Each part of EPIC doesn’t have to be done individually, though.  By inviting the Episcopal priest/biologist from Harvard first, we  could have moved from outside all of the circles to inside the overlap area of the Externally Collaborative and Interdisciplinary circles in one step instead of two.  If we had planned ahead, and put all of the pieces together at once before we even started teaching the class, we could have changed it from a non-EPIC course to a totally EPIC course in one step.

Slides 09 and 10 Edited

Many of our courses at Wentworth already include projects.  It’s part of what Wentworth is all about.  We use experiential learning to generate Career Success.  In many cases, to make courses EPIC we need to add interdisciplinary and external collaborations to what we already have in order to move towards the central overlap area.  As many of you have learned, working with outside collaborators isn’t as difficult as it might seem.  Many employers of our co-op students and alumni are willing to work with us if we only ask.

Slide 11

As we continue to improve our courses and work collaboratively, the size of the overlap areas will increase.  We have the advantage that we’re not starting from a situation where there is no overlap at all.  We already have courses that fit into all of the areas of these diagrams.  As we continue to implement more EPIC Learning courses, and the central overlap area increases in size, we will also be moving closer towards achieving our Strategic Vision: “By 2032, be the university of choice for Externally-collaborative, Project-based, Interdisciplinary Curricula for Learning (EPIC Learning).”

Slides 12-14 Edited

Greetings, Fellow Leopards!

This blog entry has been a long time coming, primarily because all of you have been doing so many things to keep Wentworth moving forward and becoming better and I’m just trying to keep up.  Now, it’s the middle of the Fall semester, and mid-terms should be over.  Grading them all will be keeping all of us busy over the weekend, at least.

During the gap between my blogs, the Academic Leadership Team has been very busy, mostly working on implementation strategies for EPIC Learning.  We had our most recent half-day workshop this past week.  I’m usually the one who says that when we think we’ve communicated enough, we’re usually too low by a factor of ten.  It was pointed to me out that I haven’t been communicating through this blog as well as I should be.  That is absolutely correct!  So here’s what we did at the October ALT meeting.

First, we welcomed some new members to the team.  Rick Trilling attended as a representative of Faculty Senate.  Beth-Anne Cooke Cornell, Chair of the Faculty Senate, normally attends the ALT meetings, but she had classes to teach.  This was the first ALT meeting for Robbin Beauchamp, the new Director of Career Services.

There were updates about the status of moving our curricula to include a half-day per week of EPIC Learning.  Time continues to march on.  The departments should be making their final changes to their curricula, and should be submitting them to the Institute Curriculum Committee for approval.  If you look at the timeline, we’re well past the midpoint in the time we had between starting the planning for these changes and actually starting to teach the modified curricula.

EPIC Learning Timeline - 2 Years - 141024

I use the word modified guardedly, since many of our programs already include EPIC Learning in some form.  Even if you look at the longer timeline which goes out to 2032, it’s obvious that we’re moving down the line towards the right and towards the first checkpoint of modifying our curricula and programs.  Implementation isn’t too far away even with this larger scale view.

EPIC Learning Timeline to 2032 - 141024

At the meeting, Associate Provost for Academic Operations Susan Paris gave the specific deadlines that must be in order to meet the Fall 2015 start date.  Because any new courses must be scheduled with the registrar, everything needing to be changed must be completed by early January, including ICC approval and submission to the registrar’s office.

I presented my perspective on how I think we should be moving towards EPIC Learning using a set of Power Point slides that can be found here (Provost’s Blog – 09 January 2014).  I’ve put the explanation of the slides in the notes, so if you download the file, click on the “View” tab and then click on “Notes Page,” you should be able to see both the slides and my notes.  Essentially, moving towards the overlap of external collaboration, project-base and interdisciplinary can be done in steps.  It doesn’t have to be done all at once.  The idea is to move the way our students learn into the center of the overlap area as illustrated below.  Sometimes we’re starting from completely outside of all components of EPIC; sometimes we starting from within one or more of the components, and, yes, sometimes we’re already there.  The overlap should get bigger over time as more of curricula move into the EPIC Learning format.

EPIC Learning - 141024

The ALT then spent some time developing an “EPIC Learning Readiness Snapshot.”  This was an attempt to measure where the members of the ALT felt their department and the Institute were along the path to achieving our goal.  Each ALT member was asked to indicate along the position of a 0 to 100 % chart where he or she believed her or his department and the Institute currently fell.  The results are shown below.  The median for the Institute appears to be around 70%, and the median for the departments is about 80%.  A few departments believe they have already achieved at least a half-day per week of EPIC Learning while one outlier is at only 30%.  This is encouraging.  I congratulate all of you on all of hard work that went into getting us so far up this steep path!  The chairs were asked to repeat this exercise in each department and bring the results of their polls back to the next ALT meeting, so you should be hearing about this soon.

EPIC Learning Readiness Snapshot - 141024

The ALT then spent some time working in their college group identifying the most important next steps need to create more progress toward implementing EPIC Learning.  Each person was asked to write the one most important thing that she or he believed needed to be done for the department and for the college.  Everyone was then given time to see what everyone else had written down, and to volunteer to help in areas where they could do so.  We’ll all do better if we help each other out.

The ALT spent a lot of time reviewing and evaluating one of the questions from the Fall Wentworth Community Meeting.  “Which of the following is the most important priority for the implementation of EPIC Learning?”   The top three answers out of five were external collaborator identification and participation, funding and resources, and curricular modifications.  The ALT was split into teams of three and each team was asked to identify its top three ideas to address each challenge.  The ideas for each were grouped, and the ALT was given time to take a look at the work of all of the teams.  The information from both exercises will be shared with everyone after it’s been transcribed by Jane, who’s working on it as I write this.

WCM Question 9 - 141024

Perhaps the most exciting part of the day was a presentation by a team of architecture students – Siobhan Baker, Kiera Gates, Thomas Darr and Sam Maloney.  The have been working with a team of about 20 other students to have a Wentworth entry in the Solar Decathlon in 2017.  When they originally approached Interim Dean Chuck Hotchkiss, who then told me about it, I was skeptical.  This project would necessarily require Institute wide buy-in and participation, and significant amounts of space and financial resources.  However, it’s dangerous to underestimate our students!  The team has put together a compelling presentation based on a tremendous amount of research.  They’ve even contacted a number of teams that competed in the 2013 Solar Decathlon to get first-hand information and advice.  The ALT was so impressed that this will be a major discussion topic at our next meeting.  In the meantime, I’ve arranged for them to present their idea to the President’s Administrative Council and at an open forum on EPIC Learning for Wentworth students that will be held on 17 November.  I’ve often said that it would be our students who pushed us to make EPIC Learning happen, and this is definitely the case with this team.  Their fact sheet is attached here for your review (Solar Decathlon Proposal – 141024).

I’ll try to be more communicative in the future.  EPIC Learning requires EPIC communication.  There’s still a lot of work that’s been done that I need to tell you about.

EPIC Communication - 141024

Best Regards,


This time of year is always busy for all of us.  The spring semester is already in its fourth week and it seems like the winter break didn’t even happen.  We also have the summer to look forward to, so we’re right in the middle of it all.  However, it’s a great time to move things forward.  When the Academic Leadership Team (ALT) met last week, it was obvious that thanks to all of your hard work, we’ve made enormous progress in a lot of areas.  I’ll mention just a few of them here and give you an update on the major things the ALT is doing.


Please join me in welcoming three new people to the Wentworth community.  Cidhinnia Torres is the Director of Accreditation and Assessment.  Michael Oudshoorn is the chair of Computer Science and Computer Networking.  Kathy Ritter is Interim Director of the Alumni Library.

The Faculty Senate was represented at the ALT by Joe Santacroce and Beth-Anne Cooke Cornell.  Since communication among all of us was the major topic of this meeting, it was fantastic to have two additional representatives from the faculty who could help in getting information flowing both from the ALT to the faculty and from the faculty to the ALT.

Our Strategic Plan has been updated.  Please take a look at the new Strategy Map at http://wit.edu/strategic-planning/themes/Strategy-Map_1.10.14.pdf.

The wording of the Big, Hairy Audacious Goal has been changed to “By 2032, become the university of choice for externally-collaborative, project-based, interdisciplinary learning.”  The wording of strategy E-3 has also been changed.  Both of these are now consistent with our terminology discussed in my last blog post.  EPIC Learning has become a major initiative of our institution and it’s wonderful that we’ve all started using the same words.  It has even been noticed by people off-campus and is discussed by many of the candidates interviewing for positions here.  The phrase EPIC Learning seems to have gone viral on our campus.

Another important change to the Strategic Plan is the addition of a new strategy, O-6, “Diversity as a Business Practice.”  The O-6 team is truly interdisciplinary: Professor Leon Cort, Jen Cheng, Peter Fowler and Chris Haig from Student Affairs, Susan Morin from Human Resources, Trustee Wayne Johnson, and me, the provost.  While diversity was included as part of several other strategies, Diversity as a Business Practice will use the experience and success attained outside of academia and apply them across all aspects of Institute operations.  It will also build on the work we’ve already started to improve the campus climate and culture for everyone.

The ALT reviewed the academic calendar for 2014-2015 (http://wit.edu/ssc/academic-calendar/index.html).  The most important things to note are that we are starting the fall semester a week later than normal, after Labor Day.  This was done to allow as much time as possible for the construction of the new residence hall at 525 Huntington Avenue to be completed.  You should also note that final exams in spring 2015 are scheduled for Thursday, Friday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  This is because Patriot’s Day is that Monday.  The due date for final grades will be extended from Friday to the following Monday, after graduation.

2014-2015 Calendar - 140207

The ALT was updated on the status of the work being done by three subcommittees tasked with reviewing academic advising.  There will be a new, expanded version of the advising handbook completed by the end of the spring semester.  Also, there will be additional training for faculty and additional training for students on optimizing the value of advising.  As a reminder, the ALT has developed the following statement concerning academic advising:

The Academic Advisor is one who helps students become more self-aware of their distinctive interests, talents, values and priorities; who enables students to see the connection between their present academic experience and their future life plans; who helps students discover their potential, purpose and passion; who broadens students’ perspectives with respect to their personal life choices; and sharpens their cognitive skills for making these choices.  Advisors teach students to negotiate the higher education maze.


Survey Results

Thanks to all of you who completed the survey on your enthusiasm for EPIC Learning.  The first figure below shows the overall results of 180 responses from full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, and staff as of 06 February 2014.  Your enthusiasm is overwhelmingly positive!  Thank you!  The most common answers were 5, 6 and 7.  The second figure shows the results for full-time faculty, adjuncts and staff separately.  The differences are interesting.  The most common answer for full-time faculty was 7, for staff it was 5, for adjunct faculty it was 4.  While I don’t have any data to help explain the differences, one possible explanation is that the full-time faculty have been discussing and working on EPIC Learning more than the other two groups.  The adjunct faculty probably know the least about it.  Communication with our adjunct faculty is one of our weaknesses.   In addition, a change to EPIC Learning would be harder on the adjunct faculty because of the additional time required to work with our students.

The overall results are encouraging and we should keep them in mind as we move to make EPIC Learning a reality.  The ALT recommended that we survey our students to evaluate their enthusiasm, too.  We hope to complete the student survey shortly.

Survey Results - All - 140207


Survey Results - Breakout - 140207

EPIC Learning Website

Tes Zakrzewski, Sang-Min Yoon and Chuck Hotchkiss have been working on an EPIC Learning website which should become available on Friday, 07 February 2014.  The address is www.wit.edu/epic-learning.  The site includes an Overview, Resources, Implementation and Examples.  If there are things you would like to see on the site, please let one of us know.  In addition, we hope to highlight your work in moving EPIC Learning forward, so please send us your own material and we’ll make sure it gets posted.

A good example of EPIC Learning is the NSF proposal recently submitted by an interdisciplinary group of faculty.  The goal is to obtain an atomic absorption spectrometer to do metals analysis.  [more to be included!]

Tactics, Measures and Targets (TMTs)

As discussed at the last Wentworth Community Meeting, the ALT identified 6 major items for implementation of EPIC Learning (see the figure below).  One of these is “criteria and metrics for success (assessment).

The ALT spent some time working on tactics, measures and targets (TMTs).  The ALT split into groups by college and developed initial ideas and next steps to ensure assessment was part of EPIC Learning.  We’ll be talking more about this as time goes on.  The TMT approach is parallel to that used in our Strategic Plan.  Every strategy has three tactics for implementation with associated measures to evaluate whether progress is being made.  Each measure has a target value with an estimated completion date.  Aligning EPIC Learning and the Strategic Plan will enable us to move both together in a synergistic manner.


At the Wentworth Community Meeting and at several department meetings that I’ve recently attended, one area of concern expressed by the faculty is that there is insufficient communication from the ALT to the faculty about what we are trying to do, and insufficient communication back to the ALT about faculty ideas and concerns.  While we try to communicate, according to John Kotter, it usually takes ten times the amount of communication as one assumes to be necessary.  The ALT spent a significant amount of the offsite meeting working through an exercise designed to demonstrate that true communication is difficult and must be explicitly worked on at all times.  Communication means that information is flowing in two directions.  Information that moves in only one direction is broadcasting; it is not communication until the circle is closed.  The exercise was also an excellent example of EPIC Learning in that it was experiential and not a lecture.

I’ve developed a few new organizational charts for the academic division that show the formal, core communication pathways at the Institute, and one is shown below.  For most departments, there are both full-time faculty and adjunct faculty, as well as support staff.  As a department chair, it is important to realize that information must be given to ALL of the members of a department, and that ALL department members may have information that needs to be discussed by the ALT.  For deans, communication oversight is expanded across all of the departments.  For the provost, it is expanded across all of the colleges.

The ALT has expanded over time to include many people, as shown in the last figure of this blog.  It is an interdisciplinary team that tries to include representation from everyone involved with our academic programs.  Please feel free to talk to any of us at any time about any thing.  Since communication requires two-way information flow, it can start in either direction.


Academic Division Communication Map - 140207


ALT Org Chart - 140207

Best Regards,

Dear Colleagues,

After numerous discussions with faculty, department chairs, deans and the Faculty Federation and administration negotiating teams, it is obvious that I have not been as clear in my communications about our move to EPIC Learning as I thought I was.  I’m sure that some of this is due to my discussing my long-term vision of education in the future, something that I called the “logical extreme,” and the confusion that occurs when those long-range ideas are seen as being necessary for us to achieve in the next three years instead of the next twenty.  I will admit that I get carried away when I see the potential of what all of you can contribute to the career success of our students.  So, I will try to explain the proposed path for the next two or three years here and also give a brief outline of the next twenty.  Twenty years is a long time and many things will change between now and then.  We’ll be learning along the way.  That is certain.  And as we learn, the changes we make will make our students better and more successful.

First, though, it’s important to know that I am always open to hearing your comments about any of this.  One of the things that I am personally comfortable with is making changes as we learn more about what we’re doing.  As far as I am concerned, we can’t get better unless we assess the results of our actions, are willing to see and acknowledge not only weaknesses, but mistakes, and then make the corrections needed to make things better.  In a time of great change this may seem unsettling since the path to our goal becomes a meandering one and not a direct line from A to B.  However, the improvements made along the way cannot be overvalued.

If we look back over the past four and half years, the terms we have used have changed many times.  I think each change more clearly defined and improved our ability to understand our common goals.  Long before we began using the phrase “EPIC Learning (Externally collaborative, Project-based, Interdisciplinary Curricula for Learning),” we talked about “multidisciplinary teaching.”  How and why did we change every word, some more than once?

We agreed that the learning that our students achieve is actually more important than the teaching that we do.  We are trying to educate great engineers, technologists, designers and managers that contribute to making the world a better place.  Their ability to achieve career success is our fundamental goal.  So learning is more fundamental and important than teaching, even though excellent teaching is one of the ways to achieve excellent learning.

We discovered that the word multidisciplinary implies specialists from different disciplines working on the same problem sequentially, not necessarily together as a team.  Interdisciplinary, on the other hand, means working together on the same problem at the same time.  So we began talking about interdisciplinary learning instead of multidisciplinary teaching.

Wentworth, though, has always been extraordinary in its commitment to “hands-on learning,” even when other schools moved away from it.  They’ve now realized their mistake and are moving back towards what we’ve been doing all along.  We know that to succeed, you must learn, and that to truly learn, you must do.  There is direct data supporting this from sixty years of study in pedagogy, neurobiology and by direct observation.  So we added the term “project-based.”

When the new strategic plan was developed in 2012, faculty pointed out that our projects were based on real-world problems and that we should continue to work closely with our industrial partners.  Our graduates were known everywhere for their ability to immediately contribute to their employers success when they were hired.  They are “shovel-ready.”  “Industry-collaborative” was added by the Strategic Planning Committee.  One of the strategies of the new strategic plan was to implement what was now called industry-collaborative, interdisciplinary, project-based learning, or I2PBL.  The faculty led group working on this strategy realized that we do many kinds of collaboration, not only with industrial partners, but with other universities, hospitals, governments, non-profit organizations, communities, etc.  They recommended changing the wording to externally collaborative to reflect this wider circle of partners.

EIPBL, however, doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.  Marc Neveu from architecture coined the phrase “EPIC Learning” – Externally collaborative, Project-based Interdisciplinary Curricula for Learning.

It’s been a long, meandering journey for us all, but a worthwhile one that has importantly and fundamentally clarified our thinking and our goals along the way.  The rapidity with which we’ve all started using the phrase EPIC Learning speaks to our being much closer to getting it right.

The Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal in our strategic plan is “By 2032, to be nationally recognized as the university of choice for EPIC Learning.”  (OK, I paraphrased it a bit here!)  2032 was chosen because it’s twenty years after the start of the strategic plan.  Twenty years.  Not next week, not next semester, not next year, not even the next decade.  Twenty years.  When I spoke to some of the departments about where I see Wentworth going in the future, what I see as our final goal, I was speaking about where we might be in 2032, not in Fall 2015.  However, to achieve our BHAG by 2032, we have to start moving in that direction now – as Lao Tzu said, “Every journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.”  The sooner we start moving, the more time we’ll have to get it right.

In the last four and a half years, one of the biggest, if not the biggest, hurdle to implementing EPIC Learning has been identified as problems with scheduling.  I don’t know how many of you remember, but when I first joined Wentworth in 2009, it took one to two weeks for class schedules to settle down at the beginning of each semester.  We weren’t even getting the room assignments right.  Most of that has gone away due to the hard work of the faculty, chairs, deans and the registrar’s office.  However, it seemed like every time we began to discuss taking that first step towards implementing EPIC Learning, scheduling conflicts were cited as the primary reason that it couldn’t be done.  After trying to work through this issue (with some minor successes) for multiple years, it became obvious to many of us that a different approach than just patching things together was needed.  Putting patches on patches does not lead to a robust system.

Therefore, as one possible way around this impasse, we can set aside a half a day a week where we can make sure that our student schedules allow us the time needed to make EPIC Learning a reality.  A common time block can be used by all of you in whatever way you need it to be used to begin to implement some form of EPIC Learning.  “Small steps, Ellie, small steps.”  The journey begins with the first step.  The half a day a week was designed to help you overcome what appears to many of you to be an insurmountable obstacle.  I encourage all of you to be innovative in how this time is used.  The time and the scheduling should be used as you see fit to use it.  Not all schedules need to be changed.  In fact, since we won’t do this until the Fall 2015 semester, we have almost two years to figure out how best to achieve our goals.

Let me try to be as absolutely clear here as possible, because I think there are a lot of misconceptions that have been heard.  By Fall of 2015, we should put into place opportunities for all of our students to participate in some form of EPIC Learning.  This does not mean that all of the courses we teach will have all of the components.  This does not mean that we will no longer do any lecturing starting in Fall 2015.  This does not mean that every course will have externally collaborative projects by Fall 2015.  This does not mean that all courses will be interdisciplinary by Fall 2015.

Just now and at the Wentworth Community Meeting at the beginning of the Fall semester, I quoted the movie Contact – “Small steps, Ellie, small steps.”  We can’t just magically change everything all at once.  However, we can continue moving in this direction.  We have already taken our first steps.  There are EPIC Learning courses that have already been taught and are scheduled to be taught in the future in all of our colleges.  At the risk of leaving many of our successes unmentioned, I will note just a few: the Introduction to Engineering course, the new course using the Medfield State Hospital site, collaborations between math and engineering, between engineering technology and computer science, between manufacturing and industrial design, between interior design and architecture, between construction management and architecture and interior design.  Just before the holiday break there was a meeting to discuss a General Electric – Wentworth Center of Excellence.  The list of steps that have already been taken is very long.  This means that hundreds of our students are already involved in some form of EPIC Learning.  We may not have as far to go to achieve success in Fall 2015 as we think we do.

This is a good time to point out that the possibility of 0-4-2 courses during that half day is only one possible example of how to implement EPIC Learning.  I know that I said that having such courses is one possible solution.  However, it is not the only possible solution!  I know that I have told several departments and everyone at the Wentworth Community Meeting that 0-4-2 courses are the only solution.

I have been asked if there is a specific process to achieve EPIC Learning.  My answer has always been no.  There are currently 150 full-time faculty lines in our thirteen departments.  One hundred and fifty of you are certainly more intelligent, innovative and faster moving than I can be on my own!  I am sure you will invent approaches that I never would, even in my wildest imagination.  I know that you will be so innovative, so clever, and so involved with our students that I and everyone else will be amazed.

As we move forward, we should use our imagination and innovation to produce superior results for our students.  Experimentation is highly encouraged!  Not all of these experiments will work.  Faculty will not be punished for trying out new approaches.  Some will work and some won’t.  We learn at least as much from experiments that don’t work as we do from those that do work.  I have never taught a class the same way twice.  I know that there is always room for improvement.  Nothing is perfect.  Even astronauts, who are the world’s most highly trained people, make mistakes about 2% of the time.

The provosts, deans and department chairs have been working the entire Fall semester on the scheduling of the half-day in Fall 2015 and achieving our BHAG by 2032.  A few words about this work are appropriate here and you should take a look at the implementation schedule below.  The Fall 2013 semester was used by the chairs and deans to identify the most important steps needed to allow us to most effectively implement EPIC Learning for all students in the Fall 2015 semester.  The Spring 2014 semester will be used by the faculty in the departments to plan changes.  Summer and Fall 2014 are available to prepare any curricular changes that might be necessary.  Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 are for obtaining the ICC approvals (if needed) so that changes can be submitted to the registrar.

EPIC Learning Two Year Timeline - 131218

(please click on the image to see a full-size version)

Seen on a longer timeline, some form of EPIC Learning opportunity will begin for all students in Fall 2015.  We can review these initial trials and improve them for the Fall 2016 semester and begin expanding EPIC Learning, if it’s successful, in Fall 2017.  We have from Fall 2017 to Fall 2027 for the development of a full EPIC Learning approach.  Finally, we have the five years from 2027 to 2032 to achieve our BHAG, national recognition as the university of choice for EPIC Learning.

EPIC Learning Twenty Year Timeline - 131218

(please click on the image to see a full-size version)

Best Regards,

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome back to a new academic year at Wentworth!  As all of you know from my announcement at the Wentworth Community Meeting, starting in Fall 2015 a half-day per week will be set aside for EIPBL – Externally-collaborative, Interdisciplinary, Project-Based Learning.  (There has to be better terminology and a better acronym.  I’m open to all suggestions.)  The Academic Leadership Team has been working on the general implementation of EIPBL into our curricula and the specific implementation of the half-day per week approach at all of its offsite meetings since July.  The two faculty workshops in Spring and Fall were designed to generate interest in working in interdisciplinary teams and in using projects in our pedagogies.  The next faculty workshop will be held on Tuesday, 19 November from 3:30 to 5:00 pm and will focus on external collaborations.  All of this is aimed at achieving the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal in our new strategic plan: By 2032, to be the university of choice for industry-collaborative, interdisciplinary project-based learning.

One of the approaches being using by the Academic Leadership Team (ALT) is Edward de Bono’s “six thinking hats” (http://www.debonogroup.com/six_thinking_hats.php).  The general concept is to separate thinking into six clear functions and roles.  Each of the six hats is a different color – white, yellow, black, red, green and blue – designating information, optimism, judgment, intuition, creativity and the thinking process itself, respectively.  We are trying to be as comprehensive as possible to allow the implementation to occur smoothly.  At the ALT’s most recent meeting, we reviewed all of the ideas that were generated over the summer and began to identify the critical steps that are needed to be completed for each of the six hat functions.  The department chairs will review the results with everyone at the next departmental meetings.  I hope to visit each department before Thanksgiving to make sure that all of our lines of communication are open and that everyone has a chance to discuss this major change in how we teach and learn with our students.

There have already been some major changes made by some departments to get a head start on using EIPBL.  Last Spring, 132 first-year students and 6 faculty taught the Introduction to Engineering course in an interdisciplinary format.  It will be expanded to 216 students and 10 faculty in Spring 2014.  Also in Spring 2014, students and faculty from six programs – architecture, interior design, industrial design, construction management, mechanical engineering and civil engineering – will  work together on a project based on rehabilitating one of the historic buildings at the Medfield State Hospital site that has been closed and shuttered since 2003.  These two projects are in addition to many other interdisciplinary projects that have been initiated in the last several years.  In many ways, we can look at them as pilot projects for the more general changes that will be implemented in Fall 2015.

The ALT is also working on two other initiatives that should result in major improvements to the academic operations of the Institute. 

Three teams are working on improvements to academic advising.  One team is developing a robust advising manual that will bring all of the information required into a single document that faculty can easily use when advising students.  The second and third teams are investigating how best to communicate best practices to students and to faculty to optimize the advising process.  The ALT views advising as much more than scheduling classes.  Good advising will help students develop both professionally and personally as fully as possible.

The ALT’s third project is working as a group to improve the faculty evaluation process.  The annual evaluations and the faculty planning worksheets are important components in continually improving the Institute, student learning, and ourselves. 

2013-2014 should be another exciting year at Wentworth Institute of Technology.  I’m looking forward to it and I sincerely hope all of you are, too!

Best Regards,