Solve for X


X. Great band. The unknown. That something special. Where you are or where you want to be (as in marking the spot). Malcolm.


X. The distillation of Tufts University’s Experimental College. Fifty years old and still being born. Thousands of students, faculty, administrators, and alums. Courses that you won’t find anywhere else. Programs that pique the intellectual curiosity of the campus. A place where ideas are nurtured and sent off into the world.

X. Here. And how you’ll get to know us, what we care about, and how we think.

Spaceship Earth

photo courtesy of NASA

You may have wondered, who is that woman sitting in Howard’s old office scrolling through photos on NASA’s website?  I’m Amy Goldstein, the new Assistant Director at the ExCollege, and I’m thrilled to be here.  When I think about the Experimental College, I can’t help thinking about Spaceship Earth. That was the class I took in college that was the closest thing to an alternative, ExCollege-type course where I went to school.  Spaceship Earth was interdisciplinary, team-taught, and didn’t have a textbook – radical for the time!  We covered everything from global warming (referred to back then as the “greenhouse effect”), to sustainable agriculture, to the global population explosion.  Of course, Tufts now has an array of classes and programs on environmental topics and sustainability that I couldn’t have imagined when I was an undergrad.

The professor who created Spaceship Earth was a bit odd and truly memorable, and I’m indebted to him for encouraging my interest in social justice.  Even though I ended up an English major who went on to law school, it was Spaceship Earth that set me on a course of questioning the status quo and using tools like law to address inequality.

It’s amazing how one class and one teacher can have such a life-long effect.  That’s what we specialize in at the ExCollege.  I hope you’ll ride Spaceship Earth on over to 95 Talbot and say hello!

Mom, Apple Pie, and . . . Documentary?

As the new director of the Experimental College at Tufts, it’s my privilege to lead off with the first post on X, our updated blog. To this end, I want to share a few observations on something I’ve been thinking about a great deal lately: the surprising state of documentary these days.

Here at the ExCollege, for example, we’re offering a well-received course on doc theory taught by Natalie Minik, who’s a product of the Duke Center for Documentary Studies. In addition, on Sunday, October 11th, we’re co-sponsoring the Tufts premier of Codename: Pirat, a film by Erik Asch about his father, Bob, the long time director of the Tufts-in-Tubingen program, who may or may not have been a spy!

And my colleague here in the Film and Media Studies program, Khary Jones, is part of the creative team that just brought He Named Me Malala to the screen. I mention “screen” quite intentionally, because the film is currently showing at suburban multiplexes around Boston!

On a personal note, I’m in the very early stages of launching a long-form project about a breakaway Jewish congregation in Chicago, called Mishkan, that’s attempting to meld progressive politics with folk culture and ecstatic practice.

It seems to me that all of this points toward a sea change in American culture. Over the last twenty years, people have started paying attention to films other than features. Yes, it built slowly. And yes, it would be fair to say that interest has waxed and waned. And yes, it might also be fair to say that – call it what you will – this renaissance, this golden age of documentary, owes much to a bookend set of necessary evils: “reality” TV and Michael Moore. (Reality TV and Moore both warrant further discussion, but I won’t take the time now to do so.)

Equally as important, I believe the ascendance of documentary has been driven, in a fundamental manner, by the digitization of media, a phenomenon that cuts two ways.

First of all, thanks to digital cameras and editing software, shooting a documentary at a quality level that audiences will read as “professional” is now within the reach of anyone who can cobble together a few thousand dollars. Once upon a not so distant time, that figure would have been a few hundred thousand, at least.

Secondly, cable and the Internet have exponentially expanded the need for “content” (horrible word, great concept). And “content providers” – HBO, IFC, iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, and so on – have rushed into the breach, providing the means to promote and distribute small-budget films at a magnitude unimaginable in the 80s and 90s.

Obviously, there’s much to work through. But for me, today, I’m left with these thoughts. We have a solid enrollment in the course. Erik’s film is garnering praise around the world. There’s funding and an audience within reach for my project. And you can buy tickets for Malala at Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge, and Showcase Cinemas in Worcester and Woburn, five or six shows daily, every day of the week.

The ExCollege courses I’ve taken at Tufts

I have been at Tufts for four semesters, and I’ve taken three ExCollege classes during that time. The first was my Perspectives class, Superheroes in the Media, which introduced me to the wonderful world of the ExCollege and Tufts as a whole. I adored this class because I got to watch and talk about superhero movies with a bunch of cool people and two rad leaders, and then get a credit for the experience. (The only movie we watched that I didn’t like was “Daredevil,” which is generally considered to be one of the worst movies of all time anyway.)

Then, second semester freshman year I took a class entitled On the Record: Communicating for the Government. This course was taught by a woman who had worked for the Clinton administration, consulted for the television show “The West Wing,” and had been a spokesperson for the Department of Justice in the Obama administration. Her experiences and stories made lectures fascinating and fun, and it was wonderful to learn the behind-the-scenes workings of the White House. Occasionally I’ve considered entering politics after graduation, probably in a communications capacity (think Sam Seaborn on “The West Wing”), and this course made me aware of the difficulties and excitement that is entailed in such a job. We wrote mock communications memos for a hypothetical president. We had Skype interviews with the NBC News Washington Bureau Chief and writers for Politico and AP. It was an overall fascinating, fabulous experience that gave me insight into a possible future career path.

Unfortunately last semester I was too busy to take an ExCollege course, but was still able to be involved due to my position as a Board member. However, this semester I had the time to take the class Gender, Sexuality, and Comics. (It’s especially great because this course counts for my CMS minor as well as being generally fun.) I’m a feminist nerd, so GS&C was the perfect course for me to take. So far I’ve had the opportunity to read a variety of graphic novels, and even create my own DIY-comic. It’s a very different course from anything else I’m taking this semester    mainly Political Science requirement classes, alas    and so every Monday night I’m able to kind of let go and just talk about comics.

Experimental College courses give students the opportunity to learn more on a topic they’re passionate about, or branch out and try something new. They connect people with different majors and extracurriculars. Visiting lecturers are generally experts in their field, so courses allow students to really see first-hand what a person in a certain career path really looks like. All in all, I have loved the ExCollege courses I’ve taken, and I hope that I will take many more in my final two years at Tufts!

Don’t forget: applications to be a Perspectives of Explorations leader are due March 11.


The ExCollege Board Is Never Boring

Being a member of the Experimental College Board over this past year has been an incredibly fun experience. “Fun” may seem like too casual a word for one of the most prestigious positions Tufts campus has to offer, but it’s genuinely the best descriptor. For me, being a member of the Board has been informative, challenging, inspirational, interesting, powerful. It has allowed me to meet new friends and colleagues, people with diverse skill sets whom I would not have come in contact with otherwise. It is a forum where I can speak passionately and be heard, where I can listen thoroughly to other opinions and reevaluate my own. Plus, there’s free food, which as we all know is the purest of motivators. So, in a word, fun.

The ExCollege Board meets on a monthly basis, in the conference room on the second floor. Over this past summer, the room was decorated with the timeline created for the 50th Anniversary Exhibit which was shown in Aidekman Gallery last year. When I sit in that conference room, I am surrounded by pictures of events in American and ExCollege history, a reminder of the importance of this institution and of the power that my position holds. At these meetings, we discuss and plan upcoming events, and prepare for course applications. At the end of each semester, we have our big “money meeting,” wherein we vote on which visiting lecturer courses will be accepted for the upcoming semester. These money meetings last for several hours, but fortunately everyone on the Board is great. Being around them and talking with them for such a long time is not a chore, but a treat.

I just can’t emphasize enough what a special experience being on the Board is for me. It’s a privilege to work alongside professors and fellow students, choosing courses and planning events that will benefit the overall Tufts community. I bet you’re thinking, “Grace really can’t be this insanely passionate about the ExCollege.” Well, you’re incorrect, because crazy enthusiasm for the things I love is my schtick.

I’m trying to think of my favorite part of being a part of the Board, and I’ve decided that its the relationships that I’ve made with my fellow members. I’ve known Robyn and Howard since I was but a tiny first semester freshman, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that the ExCollege staff feels like my on-campus family. One of my fellow student Board members, Becca, taught me in a Perspectives course last year, and so I’ve thought of her as a friend and mentor for a while. But I didn’t really know any of the other Board members when I first started, and I’m pleased to say that has changed.

As a Political Science major, I probably would have never gotten to know at least half of the faculty members represented on the Board, who each come from several different departments. I definitely wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to speak with them informally about proposed courses, and have my opinion treated as equally important to theirs. The ExCollege conference room is a special place, because it puts students and professors on a level playing field. Our voices are listened to with equal regard in Board meetings, and I believe this creates a really interesting and special bond between students and professors.

Due to weekly meetings for student Board members, I’ve also had the privilege to become friends with some incredibly intelligent, focused, friendly undergrads. Each of these dedicated students has interests that encompass all different fields and activities. Being on the Board has allowed me to meet new people and actually form good, unique relationships with them.

There’s a chance that I may be studying abroad next year, and will have to relinquish my position as student Board member. But I still have the remainder of this semester to get some fine work done, and I’m comfortable in the knowledge that someone (almost) as good as me will take my place. Being a member of the Experimental College Board has been amazing, and it’s not over yet.

External Reviews and Student News

The Experimental College is currently undergoing an external review, which is an exciting opportunity to explore the department’s strengths and weaknesses. This also allows students and faculty to reminisce on the ways in which the ExCollege has enhanced their lives. As a student Board member and active participant in all things ExCollege, I was asked to participate in a lunch which took place earlier this afternoon with the reviewers and fellow student leaders of ExCollege programs. Not only did I get free food, I also got the chance to learn more about my peers.

At the lunch, I got to hear Board members, peer teachers, and Explorations and Perspectives leaders speak. As a sophomore, I was the youngest participant in the lunch, so it was really interesting to hear from older students about how they were so positively impacted by the ExCollege. I know that the ExCollege has made my collegiate life better and more interesting, so it was fun to hear from others who had similar experiences. I intend to teach a Perspectives class when I am a senior, and I got to hear former Perspectives leaders talk about what the application and teaching process entailed. To be honest, it made me even more excited for my future here at the ExCollege.

It was also interesting to hear the opinions of the external reviewers, who seemed to be truly interested and engaged with what each student had to say about the ExCollege. One of the things that I’ve always loved about the ExCollege is how much student input is valued, so it was nice to have that tradition continued in the external review. I liked hearing the accounts of other students, but I also really enjoyed talking about my own experiences with the ExCollege. I love to talk, and I love the ExCollege, and I love sandwiches, so this was basically the perfect lunch opportunity for me.

It’s easy for me to get wrapped up in my own little world, unaware of what’s happening beyond my own commitments and ambitions. This lunch was a nice reminder of the breadth of the ExCollege’s influence; it hasn’t just shaped my experiences, but the experiences of countless Tufts students before me and will continue to affect countless of students after I am gone. It was good to remember in a group what makes the ExCollege so great: its focus on students and student opinion. That aspect is what enticed me to take a Perspectives class my first semester freshman year, what drew me to apply to a position as an office assistant. I have been involved with the ExCollege in numerous capacities: as a student, as an employee, and as a Board member. In every position that I have held, my perspective has been appreciated and taken into account. It was nice to learn that the ExCollege has been such a positive influence on other students as well by hearing the accounts of my peers during this lunch.

I believe that the external review is crucial, not only because it gives the ExCollege the opportunity to reevaluate and revisit its purpose, but also because it is an opportunity to further inform outsiders of what the ExCollege is and the importance of its mission. The ExCollege is a large part of what makes Tufts unique, and I think that its strengths should be broadcast to the academic world. Hopefully what was said at this lunch, and during the external review in general, will be taken into account not only by those active within the ExCollege but also by those who may wish to emulate its tenets.

How the ExCollege Slowly Took Over My Life (In a Good Way)

Hi there blog-readers, my name is Grace and I’m the new student author of ExChange. I’m a sophomore majoring in Political Science and minoring in Mass Communications and Media Studies, with the vague goal of someday using these skills to become a writer. (Don’t ask me what kind of writer. I haven’t gotten that far yet.)

This is me. You can totally friend me on facebook or add me on twitter, @Grace_Segers, and I promise I won't think you're creepy.

This is me. You can totally friend me on Facebook or add me on Twitter, @Grace_Segers, and I promise I won’t think you’re creepy.

The ExCollege is probably my home away from home within the Tufts campus. I’ve been working here as an office assistant since I was but a wee first-semester freshman. When I first got to Tufts, I didn’t think I was going to get a good work study job on campus. But then I interviewed for a position at the ExCollege, and the rest is history. My little back office is a haven, and I have access to the Keurig Coffee Maker, which is nice.

I also took two ExCollege classes last year; a Perspectives course called “Superheroes in the Media” and a course taught by a visiting lecturer called “On the Record: Communicating for the Government.” I adored both of these classes, as I got to learn more about what I am passionate about (politics and fictional characters in spandex).

At the same time, the ExCollege was preparing for its 50th Anniversary Gala. I got to compile old documents, articles, and pictures regarding the ExCollege, send out invitations, speak with alumni about the event on the phone. When I attended the Gala in April 2014, I got to see how the ExCollege has helped and shaped the experiences of alumni across decades.

So I was working for the ExCollege, taking its courses, and attending its events. But that wasn’t enough for me! I decided to apply to become a member of the Experimental College Board, and was accepted. Now I get to plan the cool events and help pick out classes, a great power that comes with great responsibility and fills me with great glee.

I’m now taking another ExCollege course, “Gender, Sexuality, and Comics,” which is super fun and conveniently also counts for my minor. I spend half of my week working and attending meetings in the little brown house that the ExCollege calls home. I like to be here, and I like the people, and I want to be involved in any way that I can. If I could do more for the ExCollege, I would.

In addition to being a Board Member/office assistant/student at the ExCollege, I am also an Arts and Multimedia editor for the Tufts Daily and Co-Chair for the Entertainment Board. I’m also the secretary for the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Society at Tufts, because if you hadn’t gathered this already, I’m a gigantic over-achieving nerd.

I firmly believe that college is what you make of it, and the experiences you have here can and will shape your life in the future. I know that deciding to apply for the office assistant position at the ExCollege was a wonderful idea with unforeseeably amazing consequences, and I know that my time here has and will continue to make my time at Tufts fantastic.

Power of e: spruce


Power of e, Logo by M. Regalado, 2014

“Power of e” is a series of my exploration of student innovative ventures and creations by Tufts students. Tufts students flex their passion through skills they’ve acquired in and out of the classroom and this is the stage to highlight these amazing students. “Power of e” will be featured on the blog at least once a month. Be sure to let me know your thoughts on these features and if there is anything you are working on, contact me :)

In my first feature, seniority takes hold. This week I’m featuring spruce created by current Tufts seniors Angus Schaefer, Bernita Ling, and Misako Ono. spruce heightens individuals visibility through  stylish resumés, elaborative logos, chic business cards, and eye-catching posters to gather a creative design edge against their competitors. But it doesn’t stop there! If you need a stylish design boost in any capacity you can run your idea by spruce.

All great ideas stem from a problem that an entrepreneur wants to solve with their product or service being a unique solution. I contacted Bernita Ling, a fellow Engineering Psychology major and design wiz who is one of the founders, to uncover spruce. Bernita explains: “Image matters. [The problem we] saw was many people here at Tufts who are incapable of generating the image they wanted for themselves, and we saw an opportunity for ourselves to help them.” 

spruce founders

Spruce founders from left: Angus, Bernita, and Misako

Once a great idea has been cultivated and formulated, an A-team is essential to generate this idea to life. This creative trio have been friends since freshmen year and approach their creative work together with immense passion, “which is one of the most important traits to have in a venture like this,” Bernita stresses. All of the founders had been doing creative work on their own before spruce: Angus – poster and logo design, Misako – photography and design, and Bernita – photography and design. Combining talent and centralizing skill set into one service, spruce was born. From the first glance at their website, the design layout is flat, straightforward, minimal, and clean. Bernita expresses the look and feel of the website maximizes the impact, while maintaining their own personal aesthetics without distracting from the content.

spruce has been showing great traction and the founders have been busy! Hopeful, the founders should see growth based on the positive reviews from their early clientele. “We aren’t positive what the future holds, which only makes it more exciting. Whatever happens, we are sure that spruce will remain as an essential starting point for all three of us in our future careers.” From one entrepreneur and designer to another, best of luck my friends! Excited to see what else is in store for you! If you would like to get in contact with spruce, you can use their contact form here on their website.

#PowerOfe #Entrepeurneurship #TuftsIdeas #Seniors



The Astronaut Has Landed!

Last evening I had the pleasure of joining alum Captain Rick Hauk, A’62. Now I personally always get so gitty when meeting an alum as it’s the chance to speak with someone who has gone through a different Tufts, but you both share the same love and fond memories of was it was like being in college. But the most important thing I learn from alums is what they learned here at Tufts in and outside of the classroom prepared them for their next adventure.

For Rick, his next adventure was space. While at Tufts, Rick majored in Physics while also being a part of the Navy ROTC program here.  Soon after graduation, Rick was commissioned for 20 months in the Navy. After his service, he  was selected for the Navy’s Advanced Science Program receiving his Master’s in Nuclear Science from MIT. He piloted his first shuttle in 1983 and also commanded the first salvage mission in history in 1984, as well as the first shuttle launched after the Challenger tragedy in 1986. 

It’s evident that Rick utilized both what he learned in the classroom and out in the world to assist him in being such an renowned individual. So what have you done at Tufts to help guide you to your next adventure? No matter the experience, every moment you spend in the classroom, in your student groups, internships, and beyond, they all will add a perspective to what you will do next–even if the next experience has nothing to do with it. Again I ask you, what courses, social issues, work opportunities and more will you take to better yourself for a great future after Tufts?

#Astronaut #Alums #JumboPride

What I Learned From The Rugby Field

November… The month that is consisted of lingering midterms, the ending of sports seasons, preparing for final papers/projects, and Thanksgiving. The most surreal and bittersweet moment is when something you’ve been a part of is coming to a close. I am talk to all of you student athletes out there. Regardless of whether you’re on intramural, club, or varsity, it’s a groups of students who come together on their athletic interest and skill. A unity consisting of any and all types of people coming together to play the one sport you all love equally.

This is something I’m experiencing at this very moment. Tufts Women’s Rugby ended our season with a loss against a regional championship game against Stonehill College. On the pitch, I looked around the 25+ other women who I’ve been playing side by side either for just this season up to my entire college athletic career. This sport has given me the ability to learn something new, master a skill, and then mentor and teach others joining. I look back and remember when I was the confused freshman. The transitions of skill and identity shifting throughout my career. I had the pleasure of getting to know other women outside of their academic interest and see a side of people that a classroom just doesn’t set the stage for: camaraderie.

Of the million other extra curricular activities I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of, Rugby has been one of the few that I carried through all four years here at Tufts and where I can find community and friendship. I’m curious, what has your experience been with your sports team? What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned on or off the field? If there is one thing I could say I took away from rugby, it would have to be learning to mentor others. Mentorship has been a large part of my career regardless of I was the mentor or the mentee. Cheers to a great final season!

#TuftsSports #TWRFC #StudentLife