Sex on Campus: As Learning Leads to Action

Next week, the ExCollege will be making its decisions regarding which classes will be offered to Tufts students in the fall! Mimi Arbeit went through this process last semester, and before jumping into the classroom, she wrote about what she hoped to bring to her students. Now teaching ‘Sexual Wellness on College Campuses,’ Mimi demonstrates the type of ExCollege instructor dedicated to establishing a vibrant and innovative classroom for her students in order to expand upon their current experiences at Tufts.

Written by Mimi Arbeit, Visiting Lecturer

I’ve wanted to teach at the Experimental College since I first accepted the offer to join the MA/PhD program at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development here at Tufts. And I knew what I wanted to teach, too. I even had the name of my class: Sex on Campus.

I came to Tufts after spending two years as the sole Health teacher at a middle school in Quincy. I loved teaching Health, and I really loved teaching the Sex Ed portions of Health. I loved being the one cool and collected person in the room while explaining the human reproductive system in detail. But I was also keenly aware that there’s a lot that I can cover with college students that I couldn’t cover in that middle school classroom.

Prior to my first job as a middle school Health teacher, I was, in fact, a college student, much like the people taking my class. I was a student on a campus with its own sexual culture that, over the course of four years, I observed and tried to understand. But what helped me most in college both personally and professionally was becoming a sexual health advocate—hearing from, counseling, and teaching my peers about how to engage in safe and fulfilling sexual experiences and relationships while at college.

And that’s exactly what students in my class will learn to do. I’m not an undergrad at Tufts and this isn’t my campus, so I can’t tell you what’s going on or how to understand it. In my class, the students will collaborate with each other to describe the sexual arena at Tufts as they understand and experience it. Then, they will weigh the strengths and limitations of various research and theories that might help explain what is going on and why. Furthermore, throughout the semester each student will work step by step to plan and prepare an advocacy project designed to optimize some aspect of sexual wellness on campus in some specific way.

I can’t wait to see what my students share with each other and how they choose to impact and contribute to their community here at Tufts. I can’t wait to see how much I learn, personally, from teaching the class.

We could even extend our impact beyond ourselves and beyond our campus. Scholars from many disciplines are paying increased attention to the sexual behaviors and attitudes of our nation’s college students, and they are making all sorts of claims. Journalists, activists, psychologists, sociologists, public health researchers, and other scholars argue over whether hooking up is “bad” for young women, whether hookup “culture” contributes to high rates of sexual assault on college campuses, or whether long-term relationships “should” be a priority for college students. What is the value in these arguments? Whose agenda are they actually serving?

I think all of these questions are distractions from real conversations about sexual justice and communal wellbeing. I think that Tufts students—that my students—need to talk back to these scholars and tell them about the complexity of sex, relationships, safety, and decision-making on campus. In order to do that, students need the opportunity to assess the institutional and cultural forces that constrain and facilitate what they want and what they do. And then, together, they can think critically and creatively about how to promote positive possibilities for sex on campus that make room for themselves and others in a multiplicity of ways.

And I consider it a pleasure and an honor for me to be starting that process with them.

Round 3 at the ExCollege

Written by Sarah Moser, currently teaching ‘Asian Cities in the 21st Century’

This January marks my third semester teaching a course at the Experimental College. I quickly became a fan and promoter of the ExCollege and its unique set of offerings. For me, teaching at the ExCollege is an amazing opportunity to explore topics relating directly to my research interests and expertise that I would not ordinarily get to teach at other institutions. I have taught my fair share of first year requirement courses, and while there is a sound logic behind having a core curriculum for majors, I find my ExCollege courses to be particularly energizing. Designing a one-of-a-kind course that overlaps with my current research and consulting experience is a breath of fresh air that stimulates my research and gives me a chance to integrate the most current and leading-edge material into the classroom.

The main thing that keeps me coming back is the students who take ExCollege courses. I have found Tufts students to be energetic, passionate, engaged in the world around them and rarely shy to take up a debate. They do not take ExCollege courses to simply fill a requirement, but to learn in some depth about a topic that is not offered in any other department. Because my own interests and background are interdisciplinary in focus, I structure my course content to be as interdisciplinary as possible, with readings from urban studies, planning, anthropology, geography, environmental studies, architecture and more. As a result, my classes tend to attract students from a variety of majors and nationalities. In one of my ExCollege classes we did a tally and discovered that there were more languages spoken by people in the class than there were people in the class!

This diversity of views, backgrounds and life experiences greatly enriches the discussions in the class. And it is the class discussions that form the core of each ExCollege class I have taught. From what I have experienced, Tufts students are keenly aware of the value of class discussions and are active learners. Jumbos are generally not the students who are content to sit quietly in the back row and just take notes. Out of the muddiness, confusion and at times tension of classroom discussions emerge flashes of understanding, of new insights, of original ideas and true critical thinking.

It is these ‘flashes’ of collaborative thought and originality that make teaching so deeply satisfying. To me, the ExCollege is the ideal mechanism to engineer such moments. As professors, we are provided with the tools we need to teach to our maximum potential: a group of passionate and highly capable students and the freedom and creative space to teach to our strengths and interests.

I have taught a course called ‘Planned Cities: Power, Ideology and Identity’ twice over the past two years and am now teaching ‘Asian Cities in the 21st Century’. In my current class, we are examining cities in a broad variety of geographical locations and a range of themes, including ‘green’ cities, social / cultural / economic / environmental sustainability, ‘creative’ cities, heritage, tourism, etc. While we are still at the beginning of the semester, I can tell already that it is going to be another fun, stimulating and dynamic class. When students asked last week if we could celebrate Lunar New Year in class this February, I decided to add a component about Chinatowns in Asian cities to justify eating Chinese take-out in class as part of the festivities. Never a dull moment in ExCollege classes!

The Interview Subcommittee: A Must-do Before You Graduate

Written by Erica Rigby, A’15 and student interviewer

There’s something to be said when students are offered the chance to sit on the other end of the interview table, influencing whether the prospective instructor before them is going to drive home all of the ExCollege values we’ve come to know and love. Being on an interview subcommittee sheds light on the vast number of intellectuals in our world who can teach classes. For the student who volunteers, it’s a mere three hours in a morning or afternoon that suits your schedule. Being on a subcommittee reveals the best qualities of our learning community, and ultimately deepens your Jumbo pride.

The handful of enthusiastic Tufts alumni who propose courses, some of whom graduated in the 1950’s and 1960’s, provided the most touching moments for me as the student interviewer.  These folks brought you a huge grin. They entered the room garnered in Tufts jerseys and baseball caps, carrying a briefcase of photos from their glory days as a student here. When asked why they wanted to teach their course, they expressed heartfelt desires to be present on the big hill and give back to the learning community that enriched them as a youth. This one older, eccentric Jumbo came into the room with the idea to watch detective films each week and discuss them with students over popped corn. They are thrilled by the prospect of an intergenerational, intellectual Jumbo journey.

How will you treat the topic sensitively? Can you describe how you envision the 2 ½ hours your class meets once a week? What sort of student do you envision signing up for this?  How can we pull in students who are international? Does it aim to integrate humanities and sciences? How will this strengthen the student as an active citizen? Can we make this global? These are some of the things we pin on our prospective instructors when we’re learning their visions for the semester. Through the series of inquiries, the values of Tufts arise: social consciousness, active citizenship, interdisciplinary thought, and global mindedness. Being an interviewer in general brings you a deeper pride in this Jumbo nation.

Processing Applications!

Now is the time of year when we are actively gearing  up for Fall 2013 courses. The journey is a long one for the courses proposed, and right now we are at the point where we will be interviewing candidates for the 22 positions open in the fall. Check out this infographic to see the steps required for choosing upcoming ExCollege classes!

Musings of a 2nd Year Student Worker

Written by Marcy Regalado, A’15.

The Experimental College: an idea that bubbled into my mind when attempting to figure out what exactly this could mean to a small freshman looking for an ordinary student job on campus, though this was no ordinary department executing ordinary tasks. No, the Experimental College reconfigures the rigid frame of what courses a university may offer to its students. The interdisciplinary ExCollege courses allow students to dive into topics with a new lens or focus, assisted by the expert(s) teaching the class.

There are always people here pushing the envelope and reinventing the ordinary and the expected; people who bring attention to exciting topics and subtopics yet to be examined. Our instructors are the experts in their fields. Wouldn’t you want to have a full-access pass to the expert of a burgeoning subject that enables you to look at a topic through a unique perspective? Working behind the scenes at the ExCollege allows me as a student worker to get first-hand access to these fresh ideas—to the ideas that add an edge to a subject, draw attention to an obscure (but very important!) field, or build a bridge between two topics that you never would have thought possible.

Working for the ExCollege has given me a look into what education can really do. Education at the collegiate level becomes more of an investigation rather than a fact collecting anthology. The ExCollege brings the investigative topics that students deem important off of a piece of paper (the application) and into the classroom. It is fascinating to take part in the process of determining what course proposals will ultimately make it into Tufts’ classrooms.

We receive about 145 course applications for approximately 23 spots. Getting to work one-on-one with Robyn Gittleman (Director), Howard Woolf (Associate Director), and Cindy Stewart (Assistant Director) on these course proposals is always the best part of my job. It’s refreshing to be in conversation and working with adults that are looking out for the best interests of the students. The ExCollege openly welcomes the opinions of Tufts’ students, and the college respects, listens to, and considers all suggestions made. The course evaluations that we receive at the end of each semester are taken into account for future courses, and the ExCollege continuously uses these evaluations to enhance the student experience through new initiatives, programs, and classes.

My friends are always asking me what the ExCollege is doing, what courses we are offering, and what resources we have for Tufts students. The ExCollege is a department that puts the student first. It highlights interdisciplinary subjects.

It’s where ideas are made into challenging and insightful courses. The ExCollege gives me the privilege to be a part of a department that puts innovative ideas in the classroom for Tufts students to challenge themselves and to gain new perspectives.

Here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again

As I write this, my computer screen displays this word document as well as one ginormous spreadsheet. This spreadsheet is not just any ordinary numbers-y (clearly I have been thoroughly trained in the secret arts of Excel) spreadsheet. This spreadsheet spans columns and columns and exists for one reason: to coordinate interviews for over 100 ExCollege applicants.

The ExCollege offers interviews to a good portion of potential instructors. The interviews serve as our method of getting into their heads, to sneak around a little bit and to understand how the paper version of the course will translate into real life. Subcommittees consisting of two current students and one faculty member interview all of the applicants. Each subcommittee usually meets for 2 to 3 hours and interviews 4 to 6 applicants. With the 100 or so applicants called in for an interview, it means that I get the oh so exciting task of piecing together the schedules of about 20 faculty members, 45 students, and 100 applicants into approximately 21 neat and tidy subcommittees.

When I first got this job, Melissa Burke (last year’s Program Assistant) fully warned me that this was a task that many would balk at. She showed me her spreadsheet, and my senior self giggled a little and thought “eh, not too bad.” My senior self was so so wrong.

Cindy Stewart (the ExCollege’s Assistant Director and secret wizard) told me that the subcommittee puzzle equated to one massive GRE puzzle. (She is absolutely 100% correct, and I’m glad that I am getting some GRE practice…because I have yet to open my GRE practice book, oops.) To solve this puzzle, I need a few things:

  1. Coffee (personal favorite: a Voldemort from the Res)
  2. A mountain of paper clips (to clip together the hard copies of everyone’s schedules into subcommittees)
  3. The correct brain mode (an awake brain = a productive brain)

When all of these things align, I begin madly scheduling for a few days. After the spreadsheet comes together, I sigh, take a victory lap, and call all of the applicants. Yes. I do call each and every applicant to let them know about their pending interview. Despite this taking a few hours, I love this part of subcommittee scheduling because people get excited!! Really truly excited! I feel like I’m magic and just raining down happiness on the people I call—it’s a pretty good feeling after the end of a very long process.

Knowing and Believing in John Steinbeck

Written by Madeline Hall (A13), who co-taught the fall 2012 Explorations seminar “Steinbeck’s Humanity.”

Teaching my Explorations seminar was perhaps the single most beneficial academic choice I made at Tufts; the curiosity and depth of the student’s inquiries shed greater light on the worth of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden than I could have ever guessed. Further, they held a mirror to my own experience at Tufts, launching my mind perpetually to the past of my own freshman year. Be it a trope or not, their genuine and committed involvement in the class taught me more about myself than any class in which I had ever been enrolled.

East of Eden served as my spiritual text from the day I finished it. Completely taken by the story of family strife, Biblical mystique, and the rage between good and evil, East of Eden quickly became the text by which I lived my life. The depth of its contents and every thematic helix that spiraled from its plot made the book an ideal candidate for intensive study. This logic made the absence of East of Eden from virtually every syllabus on Tufts’ campus that much more puzzling; how could it not be taught, with its rich understanding of the intricacy of human conflict and confusion?

My conviction in the book’s offer of salvation was shared by my Explorations seminar co-teacher, the friend who initially encouraged reading the book in the first place. Bolstered by our mutual love of the literature, we crafted a syllabus in the comfort of our own confidence – this book was the best, and surely others would feel the same, right?

Cue the crippling doubt that consumed me on the first day of class. Standing in front of the students called to mind what standing in front of a firing squad must feel like; the intimidating circle of first-years, armed with skepticism and adolescent insolence, were perfect soldiers suited to destroy my flimsy defenses. My understanding of body language became so acutely attuned to each student’s minor movement that a crossed pair of arms suggested utter disinterest and a yawn condemned my every effort to teach.  I was certain of their suspicion as a result of my own disbelief: how did someone decide I was qualified to teach?!

As the semester passed and the students consumed the book, though, my own incredulity abated. I understood that they were as new to college as I was to instruction, and that our respective efforts had brought us together in this class. I knew the book, knew my own passions and abilities, knew the worth of the course; all it took was the introduction of the students, eager and incredibly bright, to turn this knowledge into true belief in myself.

Even now, I cannot fully grasp my good fortune. Perhaps, as I have done so often, Steinbeck can speak more clearly to my greatest marvel in regards to this experience: “It is one of the triumphs of the human that he can know a thing and still not believe it.” I know the class has changed me; I simply still cannot believe it.

Teaching Perspectives

Written by Samantha Tye (A13), co-teacher of the Perspectives seminar ‘Films of Genocide.’

I can only imagine the thoughts going through my students’ heads the first time that we met as a group. Sofi Shield and I started out full speed ahead asking for names and dorms and hometowns. We wanted to hear about summer adventures while we simultaneously spewed out advice. I knew we were talking a mile a minute, but our excitement to meet our freshmen was too strong to contain. After about ten minutes of our premature advice-giving, one brave student raised her hand and asked, “Wait, isn’t this a class about genocide?”

I guess it wasn’t clear to our freshmen that during orientation week we would act as their advisors; help them get acclimated to campus and registered for their first semester. The stark contrast between new school year excitement and the somber topic of genocide added to the hilarity of the moment. Sofi and I burst out in laughter, realizing how absurd we must have seemed. The class was sitting patiently, ready to delve into crimes against humanity, and there we were, blabbing about our favorite professors. We quickly explained the misunderstanding, and our students joined in with laughter of their own. Needless to say, this broke the ice and set a wonderful tone for the remainder of our semester together.

It is hard to say what my favorite part of each week’s class was. Even as the semester went on, our freshmen never ceased to amaze us with their insight and perspective on the films we watched. They expressed wonderful commentary about portraying genocide through film and thoughtfully spoke about ethical dilemmas within the genre. I truly believe that I learned as much as the students did about genocide films. Sofi and I learned even more about being leaders, working with others and conducting a class.

On a simpler but equally enjoyable note, our weekly check-in at the beginning of each class was refreshing and allowed for continual relationship-building. I think all of us—teachers and students alike—really appreciated the twenty minutes we took to shares highs and lows of the previous week. We got to congratulate successes and suggest solutions for troubles. Our classroom environment was unlike that of any “traditional” Tufts classroom experience. Sofi and I were much more our students’ equals rather than their superiors.

Sometimes, when Sofi and I would be drawing up lesson plans, we would refer to our students as the “little ones.” We would quickly correct ourselves, however, because it didn’t feel right to establish that much distance from our students. Far before the end of the semester, we realized the “little ones” were first and foremost our friends and peers.

The Express!

Friday, February 1

Join the ExCollege: Become a Board Member or a Peer Leader!

Dive into the inner-workings of the ExCollege by joining the ExCollege Board or becoming an Explorations or Perspectives Peer Leader.

The ExCollege Board consists of 5 faculty members and 5 students and meets once per month. The Board tackles policy, discusses ExCollege initiatives and programs, and ultimately decides what courses will be offered to all Tufts students each semester. Each Board meeting allows both student and faculty members to plan ahead for the ExCollege while offering a welcoming atmosphere where everyone’s voice is heard. Download an application now and submit it to the ExCollege by February 22nd.

Have you ever wanted to teach at Tufts? Consider becoming a Peer Leader through the Explorations or Perspectives programs. Teams of two upperclassmen lead a first-year seminar in addition to acting as orientation leaders and mentors for their group of first-year students. Design your own course, earn 1.5 credits, and have a great teaching experience! Check out the FAQs for both programs, download an application, and submit your course proposal by March 13th. You can even head over to our blog to read about the experience of a Fall 2012 Explorations leader, John Dame. An Information Meeting for both Explorations and Perspectives will be held on Tuesday, February 5th at 9:30pm in Room 220 of the Campus Center.

A Taste of Tufts Review: Sam Sommers

Written by Lenea Sims, A15 & ExCollege student worker

With the new semester comes a new lineup of A Taste of Tufts! Sponsored by your very own Experimental College and supported by the SPIRIT Fund, A Taste of Tufts is a lecture series dedicated to bringing some of Tufts finest professors in front of a crowd that may not normally get to see them speak. This semester’s series began today with Associate Professor Sam Sommers from the Psychology department. Professor Sommers opened up his talk—titled “Examining Racial Diversity: A Behavioral Science Approach”—by acknowledging the differing views often surrounding his topic. “There’s a lot of discussion and debate about diversity,” he said. “It’s a particularly controversial and polarizing concept.”

After briefly acknowledging the ethical and legal side of the debate, he quickly turned to what he knows best, saying, “What are the effects of diversity? How can we study the question of diversity empirically that tells us something about the societal effects?” He then dove into some of the more recent studies done in his lab at Tufts; each one completed with the aid of undergraduate and graduate students whose names he happily credits in his findings. In one, for example, he found that when white students interact with someone of a different race, they often experience more anxiety and show signs of cognitive depletion—symptoms that they don’t nearly as often display when working with another white student. In other words, when faced with dealing with someone of a different race, students became so concerned about making that person like them, that they became mentally exhausted.

Professor Sommers closed his talk and took a few questions, ending by reminding students to always go into situations looking to have a genuine connection rather than worrying about if the person they were dealing with would like them in the end. It’s a concept he admits is a bit “Mr. Rogers-sounding,” but we can all agree that it’s certainly a nice outlook to have.

Updated Taste of Tufts Schedule

After some minor shuffling around, the ExCollege has updated its schedule for this semester’s Taste of Tufts presentations. Be sure to reserve every Friday from 12pm—1pm on your calendar to catch up on the latest faculty research.

  • February 8: Ken Garden, Religion
  • February 15: Nina Gerassi-Navarro, Romance Languages
  • February 22: Anthony Monaco, President
  • March 1: Mary Davis, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning
  • March 8: TBA
  • March 29: Ayanna Thomas, Psychology
  • April 5: Benjamin Hescott, Computer Science
  • April 12: Noe Montez, Drama and Dance
  • April 19: David Harris, Provost and Senior Vice President

Sneak Peek into the Annual Newsletter

Each year, the ExCollege produces a massive newsletter, the E-News, to update current students, faculty members, staffers, and alumni on the most important ExCollege news. A range of articles are written by various authors for a wide range of perspectives! You can look forward to reading articles by:

  • Sara Harari, A12 and creator of “A Taste of Tufts”
  • John Harrison, A12 and former ExCollege student worker
  • Sarah Moser, returning Visiting Lecturer of “Asian Cities in the 21st Century”
  • Mimi Arbeit, Visiting Lecturer of “Sexual Wellness on College Campuses”
  • Kumar Ramanthan, A15 and student ExCollege Board member
  • Phil Starks, ExCollege Board chair
  • Madeline Hall, A13 and former Explorations Leader
  • Samantha Tye, A13 and former Perspectives Leader
  • Robyn Gittleman, Director of the ExCollege
  • Howard Woolf, Associate Director of the ExCollege
  • Beky Stiles, A12 and ExCollege Program Assistant

Be on the lookout for the latest edition of the E-News in late February! In the meantime, glance over archived newsletters to learn about previous ExCollege endeavors.

Still searching for the perfect study group?

Worried about that upcoming test or confused by your homework? Don’t know anyone in your class yet? JumboStudy, a new mobile peer-to-peer study service, can help! Log on at http://jumbostudy.tufts.edu to view available study groups for your classes or propose new study groups. Where and what you study is up to you! For more information, check out http://sites.tufts.edu/atfellows/projects/jumbostudy/.

Did you know…

Every year the ExCollege receives over 140 course proposals from professionals, grad students, educators, and more in the greater-Boston area wanting to teach. The process to whittle that number down to 22/23 takes an entire semester of sending out solicitation materials, processing each application, interviewing each candidate, and holding the full-day Board meeting in order to finalize the upcoming semester’s course list.

Around Campus

New semesters always bring about a lot of ‘firsts’: first semester trip to the Rez, first day of classes, first Sunday Sundae (& Thursday), and (of course) first special event of the semester. If you haven’t yet attended an event, make your first event outing one to remember! Check out these upcoming programs, and be sure to scroll through TuftsLife and Tufts Events for even more insight into happenings on the Hill.

  • Get your art on by heading over to a Tomasso Lecture!

The Department of Art and Art History presents “Michelangelo, Bandinelli, and Bernini: The Long Goodbye.” This Tomasso Lecture will be given by Dr. Maria Loh of University College London. Head over to Granoff 155 at 5:30pm on Monday, February 4th to dive into the world of art history. See the full event flyer here.

  • Want to take your business idea to the next level?

The Tufts $100K Business Plan Competition is gearing up for 2013! An Information Session will be held on Wednesday, February 6th from 12pm to 1pm in Anderson’s Burden Lounge. Be a part of one of the country’s biggest university-sponsored competitions, and earn money to transform your idea into a business. Submissions are due February 22nd.