Young Alumni: Where are they now?

Over the years, our undergraduates have blown us away with their amazing ideas, unique perspectives, and ability to catalyze change. Even after graduation, ExCollege alums seek out challenges in order to positively impact their community. I reached out to recent graduates to see where they landed after leaving the Hill, and it’s no surprise that our young alumni are now located around the world pursuing their goals in a variety of fields!

“During my time at Tufts I was a Perspectives Peer Leader, Station Manager, and Producer of the TUTV YouTube show “My Gay Roommate,” and an Interdisciplinary Studies Major with a strong focus in the Communications and Mass Media Program.  Post-graduation, I booked a one-way ticket to Los Angeles where I now attend UCLA School of Law.  I am hoping to concentrate in Entertainment Law after I survive 1L year.  In my free time, I’ve been conducting Tufts interviews and dreaming of Dave’s Fresh Pasta.” -Demi Marks, A13

“My year on the ExCollege Board undoubtedly helped define my Tufts experience. It’s very rare for an undergraduate to have a seat at the table (literally!), informing ExCollege policy and shaping the future of ExCollege courses and its role for years to come. From my first ExCollege class as a freshman (Reality TV in American Society) to my last seminar as a senior (Multiplatform Journalism), the application-based approach of the College and its instructors gave me a tangible, real-world edge and insight when planning my next steps and igniting my interests in research, media, social analysis, journalism, and beyond. I now work at Dateline NBC in New York.” -Brionna Jimerson, A13

Brionna at her senior CMS internship.

“My senior year was, in a word, busy, and so I never expected to be able to spin one more plate: teaching an Explorations seminar to incoming freshmen. My seminar, World War II in International Film, was however arguably the very best thing I did while on the Hill. Getting to design and teach this course was not only the perfect capstone to my undergraduate career, but it also made me realize that though I’ve been all over the world, the classroom will forever be my home—as I now wait for news from various PhD programs for Italian Studies.” –Niki Krieg, A12

“In Fall 2011, I co-taught an Explorations course entitled Food of France with my friend Lindsay Eckhaus. When we pitched the idea to Robyn Gittleman, she said, “Let me get this straight: You want to have freshmen cook you dinner?” We did incorporate sampling into each class, but we used cuisine as a prism through which to examine French history, politics, geography, and culture. Our students gave presentations about regional identity and specialties, and we had lively debates about the Michelin star system for restaurants and the increasing presence of fast food.

Alyson eating a French dinner with her Explorations class.

Alyson eating a French dinner with her Explorations class.

After graduating, Lindsay spent a year teaching English in Paris, and I am currently living in Rennes, where I work in a microbiology lab studying the bacteria responsible for cheese flavor. My project is funded by a Fulbright grant. Of course, I spend a fair amount of time tasting cheese, too.” –Alyson Yee, A12

“I served two terms on the ExCollege Board and also taught an Explorations course on soccer and society.  As a result of my service, I fell in love with higher education and enrolled in a Master’s program at the University of Pennsylvania in Higher Education Administration.  After receiving my Master’s, I found a position at Drexel University in graduate admissions where I help enroll students for Drexel’s College of Nursing and Westphal College of Media, Arts, & Design.  Although I work in admissions, I one day dream of starting an ExCollege at another university, and I continue to discuss my experience at the ExCollege with anyone who will listen.” –Danny Wittels, A11

“At the same time I was making movies for my Film Practice minor and working for the ExCollege’s Digital Imaging Center, I interned for several professional sports teams.   My last internship—as the Video Intern for the Boston Bruins—lasted past graduation and through the Stanley Cup Finals.  After nursing the ensuing broken heart for a month, I went to work as a Video Production Assistant for the Boston Red Sox, whose season ended just a bit more happily.  While I anxiously wait for Opening Day, I do freelance video work for the Bruins and for the United States Women’s National Soccer Team.” –Lynne Koester, A13

“As an undergraduate at Tufts, I had the honor of serving on the ExCollege Board during my junior and senior years. My ExCollege highlights include: students vs. faculty trivia nights, marathon Money Meetings, and, of course, taking ExCollege classes. I am currently in my second year of graduate school at the University of Virginia pursuing a PhD in American history. My dissertation focuses on the corporate restructuring of urban public education and examines the roots of why, amidst the partisan rancor of Obama’s presidency, there is a bipartisan consensus on public education policy.” –Benji Cohen, A11

ExCollege Beginnings

In 1953 when Nils Wessel began his tenure at Tufts, he set out to transform Tufts from a “good, gray school” into a “small university of high quality.” Wessel’s desire for concrete change on campus sparked years of committees, meetings, and investigative groups on the Hill; focusing efforts on change, innovation, and taking the kinds of risks essential to the vitality of an academic community. During the process, Wessel stated, “We discussed, argued, discarded, and amended a host of ‘brilliant ideas.’ Finally one day Sandy [Tredinnick], perhaps out of impatience, said to me, ‘OK, Bosso, if you had full say what would you do?’ I said immediately, without hesitation, ‘I would create an experimental college.’” That idea quickly took root, and the Experimental College came into focus in 1964 with the colloquium Contemporary European Novels, which was the first comparative literature class taught at Tufts and was open to the entire Tufts community.

President Nils Wessel Tufts Digital Collections and Archives, http://hdl.handle.net/10427/2354

President Nils Wessel
Tufts Digital Collections and Archives, http://hdl.handle.net/10427/2354

Fast forward 50 years, and the ExCollege now offers over 100 courses each year to almost 1,500 Tufts students! Over those 50 years, the ExCollege continues to represent Wessel’s original vision of a continually evolving, experimental institution on campus. Programs originally fostered through the ExCollege have even found their way into the main Tufts curriculum, showcasing the ability of the ExCollege to make a long-lasting impact on Tufts!

We’ve listed just a few of the languages, courses, and programs that began through the ExCollege:

LANGUAGES THAT BEGAN AT THE EXCOLLEGE

  • Hebrew
  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Swahili
  • American Sign Language
  • Portuguese

PROGRAMS AND AREA STUDIES THAT GREW OUT OF THE EXCOLLEGE

  • Dance
  • Computer Science
  • Women’s Studies
  • African American Studies
  • Photography
  • Peace and Justice Studies
  • Institute of Global Leadership and EPIIC
  • Native American Studies
  • Communications and Media Studies

COURSES THAT WERE FIRST TAUGHT THROUGH THE EXCOLLEGE

  • History of Jazz
  • Race and Awareness within American Society
  • Homelessness in America
  • Death Penalty in America
  • Screenwriting

Reflection on Creating Change

Renee’ is a member of the ExCollege course, Contemporary Issues in Transgender Studies, taught by Ladawn Sheffield, and Renee’ wrote the following reflection as part of an assignment. Ladawn had her students participate in “Community Exploration and Engagement” by attending an LGBTQ event and prepare a reflection paper on their experiences.

Renee’ Vallejo reflects upon time spent at this year’s National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, held in Houston, Texas.

By Renee’ Vallejo

Self-love. Affirmation. Empowerment. These three words express how I felt throughout my time at the National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change in Houston, Texas. There were many important things that I took away from the conference. First of all, I met Laverne Cox and what an amazing, inspiring human being she is! As the keynote speaker I could not wait for her to walk out onto that stage and own the crowd with her words and presence-and that she did. From this, I realized the true importance of feeling strength in my ability to highlight my individuality. Self-acceptance begins with me being aware of my uniqueness-with speaking and living my truth.

Renee' with Laverne Cox at Creating Change.

Renee’ with Laverne Cox at Creating Change.

Out of the twelve or so workshops that I attended the one that left me as fulfilled as I have ever been was a workshop on self-love held by the Brown Boi Project. One of the discussion groups I participated in was about how one should maintain self-care when feeling alone. Fear used to determine how I lived my life, but after hearing so many different stories and witnessing the flow of so many tears, I now believe in facing everything assertively and rationally. As individuals, we must learn to take the time to pause and remind ourselves about all the beautiful things that we are. Learning is teaching and teaching is learning. I know of nothing more valuable, when it comes to the all-important virtue of authenticity, than simply being who I am. The journey of self-love is eternal for all.

All of the discussions and thoughts that occurred during this conference personally reminded me of the constraints of “rebelling” within society. Rebellion implies going against the norm, and the norm is in constant flux based on changing times, social movements and generational gaps. For this reason, many people feel that the strides LGBTQetc groups have made imply that “nontraditional” sexualities have become some type of norm. That would mean that the stigma of rebelling by being part of one of these groups has been lessened in some way, but that is sadly not the case. When it comes to rebellion, there is always a new way that one can deviate and be considered an outsider, especially in terms of sexuality. I believe there to be no original of any sexuality because although people may identify with the same label, that label may not mean same thing to them. We make the labels, the labels do not make us. We are all unique and that is how our sexualities originate- from within.

My experience with rebellion has been one of weighing consequences against the glorious benefits of liberation. As a teen, I prioritized social acceptance, but was unsure about being embraced if my internal were to match the image of myself that I desired. Ultimately, I became dissociated from the reflection I saw each day. I could choose to live in this duality, or merge the reality of my experience with life around me in an attempt to be comfortable.

My appearance is one that lands on the masculine side of the spectrum, although I am female bodied. While most people view this as rebellious, I merely believe that policing bodies or allowing myself to be policed is unacceptable. We are worlds of queerness and social status apart from one another. It is fascinating to me that people can use the exterior to judge or determine what aesthetics are appropriate, yet simultaneously, I could never envision my interior encased in any other skin than that which I possess.

Visibility is key if we are to be inclusive of all identities, but sitting back and listening to others is just as important as speaking. Sit up. Speak up. Listen up. “Loving trans people, I believe, is a revolutionary act. And I believe when we love someone we respect them and we listen to them; we feel that their voice matters and we let them dictate the terms of who they are and what their story is” – it could not have been said any better by Laverne Cox.