Mentoring at Tufts

Jennifer Khirallah, Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. candidate

Often times as a graduate student you are tasked with mentoring undergraduate students. This may be a daunting task to some while others view it as an easy assignment. There is a lot of time and consideration that must go into mentoring other students. I think one of the biggest things overlooked is that the whole point of mentoring is to teach or inspire the student, and that goal needs to be constantly considered when you’re in this position.

I work in a research lab at Tufts where graduate students can mentor undergraduates on their projects. There is nothing official about the process, its more or less just finding students (or them finding you) that are interested in your research. They help with various aspects of the experiments including design, execution, and analyzing data. However, its beneficial to keep in mind that there is a learning curve, and they are there to learn and not necessarily to contribute right away. If they know that you want them to learn and practice instead of just being an extra set of hands, it takes a lot of pressure and expectations out of the relationship and keeps it purely educational. If they make a mistake in one of their experiments, they’ll be honest with you and you can solve the problem together.

To be a good mentor is to be human. You have to be empathetic and understanding. You have to want to teach them something they are interested in, and help them in all areas of their professional, academic, and personal development when asked. If you can be a good mentor to undergraduates, then you can learn something about yourself and develop your communication and teaching skills along the way.

I have found mentoring to be extremely rewarding. I have taught my students the value of research, and they have become better scientists and have learned about their own personal interests and dislikes. I have learned about myself as well, including how to act in a leadership position and how not to act. Relationships like these have the ability to shape both participants in various aspects and can be such a gratifying experience.

Why Tufts?

Qi Pan, History M.A. Candidate

As a student in the humanities, I am a book lover who likes to read all kinds of books, and my entrance to Tufts was a result of serendipity because of two books. The first, a collection of prose essays by Haruki Murakami, refers to his time teaching at Tufts. It made me curious about Tufts, and led me to search for Tufts online. And I found out that the Tufts motto is Pax et Lux. The unique mention of “peace” in the motto—which I understood from my one year of Latin study—was attractive to me as a humanities student. The second book was recommended by my good friend who studied history in a famous Chinese university. My friend and I are both interested in feminism. In a women’s history course, her professor led them to discuss the book Crossing the Gate to investigate daily life of ancient Chinese women. Coincidentally, this book was written by Xu Man, a professor at Tufts. I was excited that a Chinese scholar could be so proficient in English academic writing about Chinese history while gaining a high reputation in China. This definitely motivated me to apply to Tufts. Ultimately, Professor Xu Man has become my current mentor in the Department of History at Tufts.

Besides these two books, coming to Tufts was also out of practical considerations. My undergraduate program focused on liberal arts education, so I took many courses related to politics, philosophy, and sociology beyond my history major. Although my interest in a wide range of subjects enriched my experience and thinking, it also made me want to gain more skills in the area of historical knowledge acquisition. Therefore, when application season came, I decided to apply for the history master’s program to learn transnational history and historiography more systematically and improve my academic skills. At this point, Tufts’ MA in History program came into my consideration. Compared with the one-year programs in the UK and Singapore, Tufts’ two-year program gave me plenty of time, with more complete academic training. As one of the top universities, Tufts also holds rich academic resources and provides abundant opportunities in academia. My mentor from my bachelor’s degree also highly recommended Boston as a city to study the humanities in. Therefore, I finally decided to come to Tufts to experience this top academic training opportunity.

Although there are only ten new students in the History department, all of them have diverse backgrounds and different research interests, such as European history, women’s history, history of ideas, etc. In the mandatory historiography course, I have listened to the speeches of classmates from Harvard College and marveled at the questioning ability of doctoral candidates. As the only Chinese student, I was initially nervous in and out of class, but my professors and classmates were all friendly and open-minded. They have encouraged me, praised my presentations sincerely, and invited me to the party warmly. In addition to studying history, I’ve also taken part in a writing workshop held for international students from which I got to know some master’s and doctoral students from different disciplines.

Since coming to Tufts, I’ve been to Boston several times, taken a duck boat ride with friends, and gone whale watching. There are many opportunities to see musicals, concerts, baseball games, etc. in Boston, which made my Chinese classmates envious. Life in the suburbs of Medford is good and being at school is comfortable as well. As I am a liberal arts student, I am frequently in Tisch Library to read books and search for sources. When I am tired or stressed, I usually take a slow walk to enjoy the beautiful campus scenery, see the squirrels and rabbits on the lawn and take a nap in the chairs under the shade. The campus under the sun in September reminded me of summer dreams in many books, and the red leaves in autumn are also so pleasing. Thanks to my decision to Tufts, I am satisfied with my study-life balance in a foreign country.

Tufts Campus, Qi Pan, 2022

Need an Ear?

Maitreyi Kale, Human Factors Engineering M.S. Candiate

Have you ever wanted to scream into the void about your problems? Vent to someone who’ll never gossip about you? Freak out about adulting in secret because everyone else seems to have their life figured out? Or just have a listening ear in the middle of the night?

One of the many perks of being a Jumbo is that you totally can! Ears for Peers is Tufts’ anonymous, student-run peer support hotline, and you can call or text Ears every night from 7 PM to 7 AM about absolutely anything. I’ve been a part of Ears for Peers (E4P) since my freshman year (Fall 2018), and it is by far the best most meaningful thing I do on campus. Why am I openly talking about being an Ear, if we’re supposed to be anonymous? This year, I am one of the Faces of Ears for Peers alongside the wonderful Libby Moser, and we are the only two non-anonymous members of the organization. You might see us around campus tabling for Ears, spreading the word about Ears as a resource and giving out free merch. I love being Face, because it means I get to talk about my favorite organization after having been anonymous for three years!

A lot of students don’t know this, but E4P is available as a resource to graduate students, too (and we sure do need it). So if you need someone to talk to, you can call us at 617-627-3888, or text us at ears4peers.herokuapp.com/ every night from 7 PM to 7 AM. We’re working on making it so you can text the number as well, so follow us on Instagram @ears4peers for updates on when that becomes possible! All Ears are Tufts students like you, so calls usually feel like chill conversations with a friend; we try our best to match the energy that you’re looking for! Since we’re fully anonymous and confidential, we’ll never know who’s calling or texting us, and you won’t know who you’re talking to, because our systems hide identifying information.

Ears are trained to handle a wide range of topics. With over 600 calls just last year, we’ve gotten calls about everything from relationship problems, to homesickness, academic troubles, to mental health struggles, and so much more. We’re familiar with Tufts resources on campus (and many off campus) and can provide personalized recommendations to callers if they’re interested. Despite being an Ear myself, I’ve called the line when I wasn’t on shift, because in bad moments, it’s comforting to know that I’m confiding in someone who doesn’t see me as a “burden”. 

Curious about what it’s like to be an Ear – besides gaining access to a secret group of actual superheroes as friends? Ears take 4 shifts per month, either from 7-11 PM or 11 PM to 7 AM. Shifts are taken in pairs, so you’re never alone, in a secret room that has beds, desks, computers, snacks, etc. so you can do homework, go to sleep, or exchange life stories with the other Ear on shift. When the phone rings or the text line goes off, you pick up, help someone out, and experience the fulfillment that comes with it. Sometimes, you end up having a great, hilarious conversation with a caller and get mad that you’re anonymous and cannot be best friends with said caller. And every now and then, your friends might ask you where you’re headed in the middle of the night when you’re on shift or attending a meeting, but it’s a secret, so you get pretty good at thinking on the spot, I guess?

Being an Ear has made me feel so connected to the Tufts community. I love talking to our callers and texters and hearing about their lives, being trusted with their most vulnerable selves. Sometimes, we get callers who reach out frequently throughout the year and it is a privilege to watch them grow over time and support them through their Tufts journey. Sometimes, Tufts students call us because they’re worried about a friend and just want to help. Every day as an Ear feels like a celebration of the inherent goodness of human beings! Every so often, a caller is hard on themselves about difficult situations and emotions, and you end up saying something to them that maybe you needed to hear yourself. I remember being devastated about the end of my first relationship ever during my sophomore year at Tufts, and while on shift, I received a call from someone going through a breakup. In supporting the caller as they processed their breakup, I found myself telling them “It’s okay. I know it’s not okay right now, but some day, it’s going to be okay, and that’s what makes it okay” and realized that I actually believed that I’d be okay for the first time since my breakup… I’d really needed to hear it myself. 

My favorite Ears tradition is The Gritch, which is a journal that sits in our room for Ears on shift to write in. The Gritch brings us closer together as a group, because we vent and respond to each other’s entries, and some Ears have even found love through writing to each other through the Gritch :’) Since Ears has been running since 1989, we have some Gritches from thirty years ago, and it’s super interesting to read first-hand accounts of what Tufts was like in the past! Like, I know it’s frustrating for us to deal with SIS to enroll in courses every semester, but did you know that in 1995, Jumbos used to line up outside Eaton Hall to register for their classes in person?! Can you imagine waiting in line for hours and only to find out that that course you really wanted to take filled up by the time it was your turn? It’s also fun to see what previous generations of Ears are up to now; Josh Wolk (A91), the founder of Tufts’ humor magazine The Zamboni, was secretly an Ear and wrote some of the funniest entries in the first Gritch ever. When I internet-stalked him (as one does), I found that he’s published a hilarious book called Cabin Pressure, which is about the time he returned to his childhood summer camp but as an adult counselor. A copy of that book now sits in the Ears room! 

Many people ask me why I decided to continue doing Ears during my master’s program, with everything else grad students tend to have on their plates. In an effort to end my history of overcommitting and overbooking myself (classic Tufts undergrad behavior), I promised myself to only give my time and effort to things I cared about most this year; Ears for Peers has contributed immensely to my growth as a person and my understanding of the human experience, so continuing to be an Ear during grad school felt like a no-brainer to me. As a bonus, some of my closest friends at Tufts were/are Ears, and our bonding nights spent playing board games, doing paint and sips, chatting around campfires, are some of my most cherished Tufts memories.  

Growing up in India, around a culture of shame and stigma surrounding mental health, I craved a community that acknowledged its significance and supported each other through these “hidden” difficulties. I feel proud to be going to a school whose students have set up such a unique, wonderful resource to support its community. I’m sure I speak for all Ears when I say: I know from personal experience what a difference it makes to have someone be there for you through a rough time. So, if you ever need anyone to talk to, know that we’re ear for you!

Tufts StAAR Center

Cyrus Karimy, Biomedical Engineering M.S. Candidate

Even before my master’s program officially started, I knew I would need to up my game. I have always worked hard in my academic career. However, I felt like I needed to work smarter to succeed. Success for me now is more than grades. It’s overall positive mental health (and having time to focus on it), having time for my loved ones, going to the gym multiple times a week, truly learning the material at hand, and succeeding in my laboratory work. I felt that working hard without the addition of working smart did not leave enough time in my schedule to do the other things that make me a complete person. 

In the second week of school, I decided to get ahead and schedule an appointment with the Student Accessibility and Academic Resources (StAAR) Center. The StAAR Center offers academic support through one-on-one academic coaching, writing consultations, tutoring, study groups, study strategies, and discipline-specific workshops. I went into my meeting knowing what I wanted, more time to do things that were important to me, but I didn’t really know how to get there. The StAAR center tutor was so kind and patient with me. In the first half of our session, we talked about who I was and what I was looking for. She quickly evaluated that I needed better time management, self-assessment, and breaking skills. 

Self-assessment was step one. What do I need to succeed and feel ready each day? Figuring these out and having them as non-negotiable activities would keep me in a place I needed to be. It’s important to know what you need in your life so that you don’t burn out while staying as happy and fulfilled as you can. For me, it was asking myself who are the people that take me out of the capitalistic matrix we live in? What are the activities that bring me forward toward my career, mental, physical, and spiritual goals?

The activities I came up with are:

  • Developing a proper morning routine to help me get in the best mindset I could for the day (stretching, journaling, etc.)
  • Going to the gym at least 5 times a week keeps my confidence and health in check
  • Making time for fun with friends and loved ones on the days when I don’t have classes brings me a lot of joy
  • Time to work on each course during the week so I don’t fall behind on my classes
  • Dedicating time to going to the laboratory for training
  • Developing a nighttime routine that would help me prepare for the next day, and having activities that calm my mind so I can fall asleep easier (meditation, staying off social media, writing my schedule for the next day, etc.)

Now that I have my activities set up it’s time for step 2. With time management, I now take all the activities I mentioned above and plug them into my new schedule. I had been carrying around a small calendar and trying to squeeze my agenda into every little box that represented a day in the month. The tutor saw that and actually gave me a new calendar book, that had the month laid out on one page, as well as additional pages that allow you to really dive into detail with what you want to accomplish that day.

The setup I chose for the overall calendar (image 1) was only to write the big due dates and events going on in my life. I’d go into detail about what I was going to do each day in the focused daily calendar (image 2). This helped me stay aware of what was coming in the future while allowing me to focus on what was happening day to day in an organized and visibly pleasing fashion.

Step 3 is breaking skills (how to take breaks efficiently). This one really got me. The first thing my StAAR Center mentor told me is “don’t go on your phone, especially using social media as a break.” This pointer has definitely helped me the most, I didn’t realize how draining absorbing content is. I’ve been trying to look outside my window, go on walks, or text my loved ones instead of going on Instagram, Youtube, etc., for my study breaks. This hasn’t been the easiest adjustment because I’m so used to going on these apps for my study breaks. I wish I knew beforehand that this was not actually resting my brain. 

Overall, I can see myself succeeding more in my classes and life in general. I’m getting good grades, I’m able to see the people that make me happy, my sleep has been better, and I’m going to the gym more than before! My planning skills allow me to get all the things done that I want to. It has taken some trial and error though. I’ve been learning how much time certain tasks are going to take. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and that’s ok! That’s life really, because nothing is perfect, including us. But what I’ve learned in these past few weeks is if I try my best to generally prepare, I can’t ask more of myself, and that’s good enough for me. Thanks for reading, until next time!

Why Tufts?

Christine So, Diversity & Inclusion Leadership M.A. Candidate

Tufts Memorial Steps, 2022

To be completely honest, I never imagined myself going to graduate school and furthermore to end up at Tufts.

Prior to being a graduate student here in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, I was at Michigan State University for my undergraduate degree doing a BA in Music with an Entrepreneurship minor. I originally thought I wanted to do a degree in Oboe Performance, but eventually found myself doing a BA in Music as I had a wide variety of interests within the classical music industry/fine arts.

My oboe professor at the time encouraged me to consider graduate programs as she felt I would be a good fit in the arts administration route. However, to keep my options open, I looked into programs that I felt also suited my other interests within music. Within the classical music industry, there are a lot of issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ). I became passionate in my undergraduate institution as a student leader advocating for DEIJ-related issues. As a marginalized person with intersecting identities, I became very passionate about bettering the communities I was a part of to better the student experiences. This passion continued into my career path, which leads to why I am here at Tufts.

When looking at graduate programs with a DEIJ focus, Tufts is one of the few in our country to have an actual master’s degree. Globally, the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Program is one of 14-15 master’s programs. Most institutions offer a certificate in this field, which Tufts also offers, but very few have  a master’s degree option. Despite Tufts being extremely competitive, I decided to shoot my shot and turn in my application. After about a month of feeling both nervous and excited, I got my acceptance into the program!

“O Show”, Student Orientation, 2022

When I saw the class that was accepted into the program, which was about 15-20 students, I knew I had to come to Tufts. To be 1 of 20 individuals, I felt Tufts wanted me to be here because I deserved to. The work in DEIJ is never done and I was excited to see what the program could offer me to further my passions in being an advocate in the spaces I care for. I was also accepted to be a Resident Assistant in the Beacon Street dorms for first year BFA students at SMFA at Tufts as well as the SMFA Student Affairs Graduate Intern for Programming.

It’s only been a month, but I’m excited to see how the rest of the semester goes. I have met amazing people in my program and at work and the Tufts campus is so cute. Coming to Tufts, I’ve realized more and more that I belong here with my peers and have worked hard to be a fellow Jumbo.

Why Tufts?

Tiffany Wu, Environmental Policy & Planning M.S. Candidate

Hi there, my name is Tiffany and I am one of the new Graduate Bloggers this year. I’m a first year MS student in Environmental Policy and Planning and am excited to share a little about myself and my program! 

I am from coastal Los Angeles and graduated from Cornell University in 2018. I spent two years working at a climate research lab at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and knew I wanted to attend graduate school to strengthen my technical skillset in data science and econometrics. A yearlong internship with the Stockholm Environment Institute at their Tallinn, Estonia office cemented my burgeoning interest in GIS and smart cities, which I hope to pursue in depth at Tufts. 

During the graduate school application process, I looked into a variety of programs at different institutions, including MS, MPP (public policy) and MSEM (environmental management) programs. I ultimately chose Tufts UEP because I wanted an interdisciplinary program that was well-established and involved working on real-world projects as part of the curriculum. This program is fully accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board and has a unique focus on sustainability and social justice. 

Rainbow steps behing Carmichael Hall and the residential quad.

The Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Department (UEP) offers an MA/MS in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, a mid-career Master of Public Policy, and an MS in Sustainability. While the core requirements for each program are different, students see each other in elective classes and at campus events. The Planning and Sustainability students also jointly participate in Field Projects during their first spring semester, where student groups partner with community organizations and agencies to come up with a proposal or solution. You can learn more about UEP’s programs from the Practical Visionaries blog (which is run by UEP faculty)! 

Getting to learn from professors, policy experts and practitioners in my classes has been a great feature, with some bringing their research and academic expertise, and others their decades of experience in consultancies and design firms. I also liked the smaller cohort sizes at Tufts that I knew would allow me to get to know people better — I would categorize the atmosphere of UEP as friendly, close-knit, and collaborative. 

97 Talbot Ave, Brown House. This is a central gathering space for students in the program and there are several common spaces, a classroom, and a kitchen. We also have snacks and a coffee machine 🙂

I have only been on campus for a month and a half, but it feels like longer as I already know my way around the buildings well and have gotten to know many of my classmates through our coursework, student organizations, and hanging out. I’m also starting to notice how UEP punches well above its weight and have met alumni in the Greater Boston area and beyond who are doing incredible work in the planning and policy fields. In fact, when I volunteered at the Southern New England Planning Conference in October — Professor Julian Agyeman was the keynote speaker — there were at least two dozen of us who were affiliated with UEP! 

I’m looking forward to what these next two years at Tufts may bring and am thrilled to be spending them in the Somerville / Medford / Cambridge area. Thanks for reading! 

Staying in New England for the Summer? Take a Trip to Lake Winnipesaukee!

By Jennifer Khirallah, Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate

Jennifer Khirallah, 2022

When summer comes to New England and you find yourself staying in the area, there isn’t a more beautiful place to visit than Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Although the lake encompasses various towns, generally from Medford you would take I-93N to NH104 for about a 2-hour drive. Spanning roughly 70 square miles and reaching depths up to 180 feet, it is the largest lake in New Hampshire. It resides at the foot of the White Mountains, allowing for breathtaking mountainous views from all over. The lake also has over 250 habitable islands, so rent a house to enjoy quiet and seclusion.

There is something to do for everyone on this lake: water sports, boating, drinking, eating, and sunbathing! Various restaurants are accessible by both boat and car all over the lake. A couple of notable ones include Town Docks in Meredith which is known for its 1-pound lobster roll and frozen mixed drinks. Another one is Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough famous for its breathtaking views, make sure to book a reservation far in advance for this spot! If you’re looking for something more casual head over to the NazBar at Naswa, a beach bar in Laconia with live music, good food, and seating on the sand.

If you want to go for a boat ride and relax for the day, take a boat to a flotilla spot and anchor for the day to relax in the water with other boaters in the area! Some major flotilla spots are Braun Bay and Paugus Bay. To venture onto land, head over to Center Harbor for some shopping and ice cream!

Jennifer Khirallah, 2022

Whether you’re going for just a day trip or staying a couple of nights, you can enjoy the beautiful weather, sunsets views, and food all along the lake. Oh, and don’t forget, on your way up to the lake make sure you stop at the Common Man Café for some fresh apple cider donuts!

My Research at Tufts: Lipid Nanoparticles

By Jennifer Khirallah, Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate

Jenn Khirallah holding a gel that analyzed the extracted DNA collected from editing liver cells.

Research at Tufts University spans a wide variety of areas with scientists and engineers that contribute to and advance their fields. I am working in the Xu Lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, where we study the use of lipid nanoparticles for small molecule delivery for therapeutic applications.

The Xu lab, located in the Science and Technology Center, is run by Professor Qiaobing Xu. We collaborate with different professors, institutions, and doctors to utilize lipid nanoparticles to deliver a therapeutic cargo for different treatments. These lipid nanoparticles have been designed to target specific organs and cells, such as the liver, lung, spleen, and brain, and therefore acts as a targeted delivery vehicle.

There are many completed and ongoing projects in our lab that have use our lipid nanoparticles in applications such as cancer vaccines, gene editing liver cells, and neurotransmitter-derived lipidoids for brain delivery. I am working on two projects; one project analyzes the use of a liver targeting lipid nanoparticle for treatment of metabolic disorders and the other project aims to analyze and optimize the long-term stability of mRNA-loaded lipid nanoparticles.

I found my passion in this research subject during my various experiences in both research and industry. I worked with different types of nanoparticles for a plethora of applications and eventually found this cutting-edge approach in the Xu lab. The research done in our lab is pushing boundaries and progressing medicine today. Being part of that advancement makes me excited to go to lab every day!

I work extremely independently, and this has pushed me to think more critically and to rely on myself for my needs and goals. I set my own experiments and timelines and am directly responsible for the progress of my projects, which is teaching me about time management, planning, and adaptation. Research has so many bumps that I have learned to adapt in order to save an experiment, which has taught me how to be a quick decision maker under pressure. Overall, the Xu Lab has interesting research and I find the work fascinating. I am grateful to be involved in a laboratory with direct clinical translation and to contribute to the drug delivery field. The technology being developed in this field is revolutionary and can change modern medicine as we know it.

A Week in the Life of a First-Year Tufts EL-OTD Student

By TJ Pinto, OTD ’24

Medford/Somerville, Mass. – A view of the Jumbo statue on the Academic Quad with students walking to and from class. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

            Prior to coming to Tufts, I was so curious to learn what life as a graduate student was like. For me personally, graduate school at Tufts is quite a bit different from my experience at my undergraduate institution. For starters, my undergraduate institution was larger than Tufts, with many of my lectures having anywhere from 100-300 students in it. At Tufts, my cohort consists of only 32 people, and this group is sometimes split into even smaller groups for certain courses. The purpose of the first year of the Entry-Level Occupational Therapy Doctoral program is to create a solid foundation, making very unfamiliar concepts feel like second nature by the end of the first year. This allows us to enter our practice classes with an understanding of a lot of the basics of the profession, like how to write SOAP notes, common health conditions we’ll see in practice, and general developmental themes and theoretical models throughout the lifespan for children, adolescents, and adults. While my overall schedule may change a bit each week, this is what a week in my life is like as a first-year OTD student at Tufts.

Tisch Library, Medford campus.

Monday

            On Monday mornings, I make my way up to the library for my Topics in Emerging Practice Areas class. As someone who has always been very focused on the idea of working in a more medical setting, like a hospital or an outpatient clinic, this class has opened my mind up to numerous practice areas that I did not know were possible for OTs to work in. Many weeks, we have speakers come in to share about the emerging practice area that they work in, such as working in homeless shelters, refugee health, transgender health, and more. Throughout the semester, we are also working in groups to come up with ideas for our own emerging practice areas, practicing how to create an effective elevator pitch for our practice area, how to present to stakeholders, and of course, considering how OT would be crucial to this emerging practice area. My group’s project is focused on the idea of a canine training program for adolescents in the inpatient mental health setting, working on various occupations, such as education, vocation, Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), and social participation.

In the afternoon, I have my Occupation & Adaptation (O&A) class. Last semester we had an O&A class focused on children and adolescents while this semester is specifically focused on adults. Through this class, we are learning about the developmental themes and theoretical models of the adult life cycle, ranging from early to late adulthood while considering physical, psychological, and social changes and the influences of numerous factors on one’s life experience. This class has a service learning component in which we volunteer with an organization in the community with the adult population. This class also has a lab component, allowing us to take the lecture material from earlier in the class and to apply our knowledge in a more hands-on way, which I have found to be useful in really drilling concepts down in my head.

Following O&A, the last thing that I have in the day is meeting with my Project Connect group. Earlier in the semester, a professor reached out to me and some classmates about being facilitators for Project Connect, an initiative through Tufts Counseling & Mental Health Services that allows graduate and undergraduate students to form meaningful connections with other students on campus. Each week, my classmate and I meet with a small group of graduate students to have guided conversations about our lives and experiences, working towards forming connections with one another. It has been a fun and enjoyable opportunity for me to interact with students from other programs that I normally may not have had the opportunity to meet.

Tuesday

            Tuesdays begin with my service learning placement for my O&A class at an adult day habilitation program for adults with developmental disabilities. My co-leader happens to be the same person I facilitate Project Connect with, my classmate and friend, Chloe. We actually ran groups at our current site last semester too, though, at the time, it was for our Group Theory class, where we were learning how to run effective groups as future OTs. Last semester, Chloe and I focused our groups on mindfulness and arts and crafts. Moving into this semester, we wanted to change our focus to Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), creating weekly cooking groups. Fortunately, our service learning site has an accessible kitchen, allowing us to run these groups with a number of participants. We’ve made everything from pasta to cookies to quesadillas. With each group, we must use our OT-lens to adapt the group so that each person is able to participate. These groups are a fun challenge for me and Chloe while also being very enjoyable for our fantastic group members, who always seem to enjoy the process from start to end–– though of course, eating is by far the best part.

Following our service learning placement, Chloe and I will head back to campus for our Clinical Research class. To be completely transparent, this course was one that I was pretty intimidated by as someone who has been awful at math since the first grade and is easily intimidated by statistics. Fortunately, this course is not just a lecture-heavy statistics refresher. We also have the opportunity to work on a group research project throughout the entire semester, using this to implement lecture material in a way that is more enjoyable. For example, at the beginning of the semester, we all stated our preferences for our research project prior to being grouped together, with the topics including perfectionism, sleep, mindfulness, and positive emotions. After being placed in the positive emotions group and taking a pre-test, my group and I found an evidence-based treatment intervention for increasing positive emotions in one’s life. We then implemented this intervention in our lives for one month, then we took a post-test to inform our research paper. Eventually, we will present our findings at the end of the semester.

Wednesday

            I only have one class on Wednesdays, my Health Conditions II class. This is the second of three required Health Conditions courses, which are courses that focus on different conditions each week that we will see as clinicians. We focus on the incidence and prevalence, etiology, occupational consequences, short and long-term impacts, and OT interventions associated with each condition. One really great aspect of this course is that we commonly will have speakers come in from the community to speak about different conditions or practice areas related to certain conditions. For example, we have had OTs come in to speak about working with individuals with spinal cord injuries/disorders and low vision, as well as professionals from other fields, like a certified prosthetist to teach us about limb deficiencies, amputations, and prosthetics. We have also had certain lectures in which we learn about a specific condition, like stroke or Parkinson’s Disease, then have a community member living with this condition speak about their experience and how OT could help.

Following Health Conditions II, I have a mandatory open block set from 12-1:20pm, which is a time that is set aside each week for the department (including students) to hold meetings, speakers, events, and more. Students in the OT program are automatically considered to be members of the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA), which is an organization that will often bring in guest speakers for these open blocks and will hold social events.

After the open block, I walk back up to Bendetson Hall, as I am a student worker in the Office of Graduate Admissions. In this job, I do everything from administrative work, writing blogs, assisting with virtual open houses, and giving in-person or virtual tours to prospective and admitted graduate students. I loved my job working in undergraduate admissions as a campus tour guide at my undergraduate institution, so it has been great having the opportunity to continue this in graduate school.

Bendetson Hall, Medford campus.

Thursday

            My Thursday mornings begin with Clinical Reasoning II, a foundational course that is focused on the evaluation process, interviewing skills, documentation, and more. Prior to taking Clinical Reasoning I last semester, the idea of sitting in a course like this sounded like it would be so dry. However, these courses have turned out to be a favorite of mine. Throughout the semester, I can genuinely see the improvement that is being made. I feel more and more like an OT each week. Lately, we have been focusing a lot on documentation, which is a really important subject area, as documentation is necessary for insurance coverage, justification of treatments, and more. My class has been practicing documentation skills through simulation cases this semester, whether it be through a real patient that we can access through an online video simulation library, or written cases. Each week we practice a new skill, whether it be goal writing, SOAP notes, or getting comfortable with using codes for evaluations and interventions in our notes. These are all skills we will very likely use on a daily and even hourly basis as future practitioners. I’m looking forward to seeing how I will continue to strengthen my clinical reasoning skills throughout this course and in future courses.

            My second and final class of the day is my DEC Seminar I course. This course is the first of three courses that are aimed at preparing us for the Doctoral Experiential Component (DEC) portion of the curriculum. The DEC is a 14-week experience in our final year of the program where we’ll work on a specific DEC project. This semester, I am preparing materials that will be viewed when pairing me with my mentor for my future DEC project, such as an ePortfolio containing my resume, OT vision, clinical interests, and more. In this course, my class is often broken up into three smaller sections, allowing each student to receive feedback on ePortfolio materials and assignments in class from our professors and/or classmates, which is much less intimidating and doable with 8-12 people rather than the entire cohort. I have found this course to be very helpful for my professional development as a whole.

Friday

            I actually do not have any classes on Fridays this semester! This means that I am able to work in the Office of Graduate Admissions in the morning, push myself to be productive and do some schoolwork in the afternoon, and then enjoy the evening however I see fit, whether that means I’m hanging out with friends or laying in bed watching Netflix to unwind after a long week.

Credit: Alonso Nichols/Tufts University

Weekend

            My weekends vary from week to week, though this semester, my friends and I have been making a more active effort to have fun on the weekends. We will often take the Red Line on the T (the main subway system for the Boston area) from Davis to places like Cambridge or Boston to get food, explore the area, and more. There’s also a new Green Line stop that is being constructed directly on campus, known as the Medford/Tufts stop, which will be another great way to get into the city. My current favorite place in Boston would probably be the North End, as I am a huge fan of Italian food and this area is amazing for this. There are also so many great coffee shops, parks, and places to hang out with friends as well. Of course, I’m still very new to the area, so I have a lot of exploring left to do.

As someone who spent the past ten years living in a rural town in Delaware, the change of pace has been incredible. I remember getting to campus last summer and sitting on top of the Tisch library as I talked to my friend from home on the phone, watching the sun as it set over the city and the Boston skyline began to light up beneath the night sky. I remember being so excited about the fun and spontaneous experiences that were to come, like the Red Sox vs. Yankees game my friends and I attended last minute for just $9 last summer. Being at Tufts has allowed me to broaden my horizons, learning from faculty with incredible connections and experiences in the field I am pursuing while being able to gain valuable hands-on experiences from the very start of my program, both in and out of the classroom. While my weekly schedule is jam-packed with classes, service learning placements, and numerous extracurriculars, I am truly so thankful to be here at Tufts.

Community: What is the GSC?

By Jennifer Khirallah, Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) serves graduate students across all areas in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), School of Engineering (SoE), and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts (SMFA at Tufts). The GSC is responsible for organizing events, funding student research travel, and aiding and funding graduate student organizations (GSOs). Some of the notable events hosted by the GSC are Pub Nights, the Annual 5K Run/Walk, Apple Picking, the Graduate Student Research Symposium, and many more. These events aim to serve the needs of all the students in these graduate programs by bringing them together, giving them tools to succeed, and connecting them with necessary resources.

I am currently the Community Outreach Chair on the GSC’s Executive Board (e-board) and thus have a unique perspective on how it runs from the inside. It’s amazing to be part of such a great group that serves such a large community. By being involved on the e-board, I see how this large organization runs in order to anticipate and meet every need of these students. In this role I have organized a clothing swap, a beach cleanup, a food drive, valentine’s day cards for soldiers, and the annual 5k (happening on 4/22/22)! These events have united the Tufts and Medford community to allow students to give back while having fun and meeting other students.

The GSC e-board members each play a specific role in its smooth functioning. The President oversees all operations and plans Graduate Student Appreciation Week. The Vice President aids the chairs and runs the graduate student lounges at Curtis and West Hall. The Secretary manages the social media, advertising for the GSOs, and curating the newsletters. The Treasurer is in charge of managing the graduate student fund and distributing it to GSC chairs, GSOs, and graduate student travel awards. There are six GSC chairs that each aim to serve different groups and interests: Academic, Arts & Humanities, Community Outreach, International, Social, and Student Life. There are subcommittees of these chairs that have volunteers and department reps that help out with organizing and planning events. If you’re interested in getting involved in the e-board, there are elections on 5/3/22 and anyone and everyone is encouraged to apply for these positions! For more information check out the GSC’s website )!

If you have any questions or concerns about any aspect of your graduate life at Tufts, or if you would like to become involved in the GSC, please do not hesitate to contact us on our website. Check out Jumbo Life and the GSC website  and follow us on Instagram for upcoming events!