Innovation in Undergraduate Education
Prof. Ángel A. Rivera
Humanities and Arts Department
Statement of Prof. Rivera's Nomination for the Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education (WPI - 1999, Also nominated in 2000)
My teaching pedagogy is oriented toward inviting students into a cultural and linguistic crossover that will give them the opportunity to experience a new world or cultural realm. I view the classroom as a window where students are provided with an opportunity to practice actively what they have been learning, and to take an initial look at the history, culture, and language of Latin America

My culture and literature courses follow similar tenets. The main idea is to allow the students to develop their own learning strategies and to participate actively in this process. To achieve this goal and to empower the students in this process, I assume the position of a conductor of their efforts. The Latin American cultures course I developed and taught in A term of 1997 is a good example of this subtle approach. In this course, students used a multimedia learning center to explore aspects of relevant topics in Latin American cultures and civilizations with the help of several state of the arts computer systems. I developed this course after coauthoring a proposal with John Trimbur, David Dollenmayer, and Lee Fontanella that resulted in a Class of 1956 grant to develop a multipurpose language and communication center. Readers can access several of the files the students created for this course on the World Wide Web system by visiting the Topics in Latin American Culture’s WWW site:

As part of my contribution to WPI’s community, I have developed four new courses related to Latin American media, culture, politics, economics, Spanish for business, business environment, and new trends in the sciences and engineering. These courses are the product of a joint effort with Prof. Susan Vernon-Gerstenfeld, who won a fellowship from the National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education: 1) Latin American Media: Reflections on Culture, Economics, and Politics in the 20th Century (In English). This is a survey course designed to help students to study the cultural, political, historical and economic development of Latin America through the use of cinema, newspapers, television, and other media. This course is intended to illustrate the main historical trends in selected Latin American countries during the 20th century, taking into account the richness and variation of perspectives portrayed by the media and, also, the use of media as a purveyor of culture, economics and politics. 2) Emerging Trends in Science, Engineering and Business in Latin America (In English). This is a survey course that will cover topics such as telecommunications and infrastructure development, and topics related to science, engineering, and business. This course will explore the impacts of geographic location and ethnic diversity in selected Latin American countries. 3) Latin-American Business Environment (In Spanish). This course has the objective of studying cultural etiquette and business behavior in Latin America. Also, it will investigate and understand specific cultural patterns in selected countries of Latin America that can influence business decisions and relationships, and 4) Technical and Business Spanish (In Spanish). This course focuses mainly on the acquisition and learning of vocabulary and concepts, in Spanish, related to business, engineering, and sciences. Students enrolled in this course will become familiarized with the writing of documents related to business (letters, applications, reports, etc.).

In addition, while at WPI, I have been responsible for coordinating the activities of the Spanish division in the Humanities and Arts department. Part of this coordination has included working with the German division to create minors in Spanish and German. Thanks to these efforts we have seen an increased interest of our students to study German or Spanish.