Today, the students are leaving Venice. Another year has gone by...
The students have crossed the metaphorical bridge of sighs and are now flying back to the US to complete their education, with a major milestone behind them.
Next year, 28 more students will come and continue the work we started in this pivotal year. They will still be 20 years old, as they have always been, but I will be one year older. I will also be wiser, I think. This has been a challenging year for me, both on the personal and on the professional level, but these challenges bring about transformation and insight, which I am confident will translate into even more fulfilling experiences for us all.
The Interactive Qualifying Project instills great confidence in our students, who are thrown into a topic about which they know close to nothing, coached by advisors who typically are equally unfamiliar with the disciplines involved (clueless may be the word used at times). The students are put in a "sink or swim" situation (bordering on torture as the students probably perceive it). Yet - magically - they always swim away... It's an amazing process. And it works time after time; in Venice it has worked for over 500 students since 1988. It proves that they are lot more resourceful than they even know.
This great invention, the Interactive Qualifying Project, is what distinguishes WPI from all other institutions of higher learning and once again the intuition of the founding fathers of the "WPI Plan" was confirmed by this 20th anniversary year's teams.
We should be seeing the final reports and deliverables in the next few weeks before the start of term C (Jan. 13, 2009).
I look forward to that and to a new year full of creativity and success, as we continue to celebrate our anniversary until the fall of 2009!