Micro and Macro Influences from the ExCollege

The end of the foliage is near, the breeze getting cooler, and midterm season among us. But if you lift your head from the binds of your books or computer screens and look around, there is much to celebrate and notice at Tufts this year. The Experimental College, standing strong and getting it’s fall season home make-over, is celebrating 50 years here at Tufts University. I’ve been lucky to be a part of the ExCollege since my freshman year, bringing me to a consecutive four years with the ExCollege this spring, which in college years is a century. It’s been great to be fostered by a great family here at the ExCollege. My first year I was a student in “Blockbusters” a Perspectives course analyzing blockbuster films and the film industry as a business. I’m a student Board member on the ExCollege Board and an Office Assistant. Fast forward to my senior year, and I’m teaching an Explorations course called “From Brainstorm to Business” where we analyze  problems we see or encounter and ideas are simply the solutions and business ventures the execution. The mentee to mentor cycle occurs year after year here at the ExCollege, which to me is a prime example as to not only why it’s rejoiced by tour guides and lectures coming from all corners of disciplines, but why it’s celebrating it’s 50th this year.

We are in the mist of processing all of our proposals for Spring ’15 courses, and the pool of applicants is looking strong. I’ve seen all kinds of proposals for various classes while being an office assistant here at the ExCollege, but every year there is always a general handful of applications that never ceases to surprise me and spark my curiosity. This confirms my notion of creativity and curiosity and how it continues to thrive and coexist–something I believe the ExCollege fosters well through it’s course selection and general presence on the hill. Next week, I want to dive into this notion of creativity and curiosity, so please stay tuned!

You’ll be seeing me every Wednesday here on the ExCollege blog! Feel free to comment and ask me questions, or post to start dialogue with other readers. And since it’s parent’s weekend and you go with your family or your newfound college family (plus the weather will be gorgeous this Saturday) go to the Head of the Charles and cheer on your Jumbos’ crew team either Saturday or Sunday :)

Marcy Regalado, Engineering Psychology (Human Factors), Class 2015

#ProposalProcessing #ExCollege50th

Selecting ExCollege Courses

Over 100 proposals were submitted by candidates eager for the opportunity to teach in the fall semester. In just a few short days, the ExCollege Board will be meeting to determine which 22 of those courses will be offered to Tufts students. But how exactly do we go from the 100+ proposals down to 22?

The Life of a Proposal

 

 

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.

What if you could major in the ExCollege?

I asked our student workers to imagine a world in which you could major in the ExCollege. I asked them to tell me what courses they would take this spring to fulfill the requirements for this very unique major. This is the response I received from Lynne Koester, senior, English major, and ExCollege veteran.

First of all, I essentially am covertly majoring in the ExCollege.  To date, I have taken ten ExCollege classes (including internships) which is more classes than in my declared major of English.  Basically what I’m saying is that the ExCollege should give me a second diploma in May (hint, hint, Robyn).

The ExCollege’s mission is to add breadth to students’ educations that we might not get otherwise from our chosen paths.  I, on the other hand, focus on ExCollege classes because I realized at the beginning of my sophomore year that I wanted to have a career involving Sports Film/Video.  The ExCollege fills the gaps that Tufts’ offered majors leave, and I’ve consistently taken the film and sports classes that the ExCollege offers.

The End of the Year Evaluation for an ExCollege class asks how impactful the class was for each student.  One of the answers is “life changing.”  While that option seems a bit dramatic, I can say with absolute certainty that my college experience, career path, friends, activities—indeed, my life—would be radically different without classes such as Making Movies and Sports Journalism in the Internet Age.

Anyway, clearly I’m the ExCollege’s biggest groupie, so it should come as no surprise that I had a hard time picking which classes I would take if I could officially major in the ExCollege.  Beky asked for four or five, so here are my top…eight.

1. EXP-0050-CS: Media Literacy

I am hoping to take this class somehow despite the fact that I need to have all my evenings free for my internship (also an ExCollege class…) because it sounds amazing and totally applicable for everyone.

2. EXP-0020-S: Forensic Science: An Exploration

I am unclear as to how a class can get cooler.

3. EXP-0030-S: Sabermetrics: The Objective Analysis of Baseball

This is certainly a class I should take, but I know that I would be SO, SO, SO BAD at it, which is exactly why I should take it.  But, you know…got to keep my weeknights free.  Cop out.

4. EXP-0014-S: The Art of Improvisation

One of the teachers of this class is the owner of overall-jorts, which is hilarity I think speaks for itself.

5. EXP-0026-S: Architecture/Music: Sound and the Built Environment

Here’s a combination of two things that always amaze me and that I know less than nothing about.  Also, the teacher is probably one of the nicest people I know.

6. EXP-0033-S: Campus Community Emergency Response Team

Learning CPR and other, um…stuff that can save lives has been on my to-do list forever.  Hopefully not getting around to it won’t have some seriously not good consequences.  I feel like this class should probably just be mandatory for everyone.

7. EXP-0040-S: Positive Psychology Theory and Application

For when singing “Don’t Worry Be Happy” to yourself in the mirror stops working.

8. EXP-0056-CS: Making Movies

As an alum, I’ve got to throw this bad boy in there.  If you have any interest in film, this class will be simultaneously the best and worst thing that will happen to you.

The Proposal: A Process of Idea Babies, I Do’s and Engagement

Written by Nick Golden, Marcy Regalado, and Beky Stiles

Every semester, a new list of Experimental College courses appears on our website. This magical listing jumps across disciplines and contains unique courses like “A History of Pir‘arrrgh’cy” (I’m sorry…I couldn’t resist…). Each hand-crafted class goes through an intensive series of steps (I would say the academic equivalent to the Tough Mudder) to make it from proposal to classroom. The competition for a spot at the ExCollege begins with approximately 150 applicants, and it is the difficult duty of the Board to whittle that number down to 22.

The Idea

From scribbling down a thought in the middle of the night to being inspired by a project at work, ideas for courses pop up in very interesting ways. Professionals propose topics based on techniques and strategies used in the work place, grad students share ideas embedded within personal experience and their research, and current educators piece together dynamic courses related to contemporary issues. The ExCollege wants to hear from passionate and knowledgeable people; people who want to share their lives, knowledge, and ideas with Tufts students.

Manic Writing

The idea wiggling around in an applicant’s mind manifests itself onto paper and slowly transforms into an elaborate 13-week course syllabus. Applicants research reading ideas, brainstorm class discussions, and carefully craft writing assignments. Even after the creation of the syllabus, applicants must answer 9 other questions posed on the application regarding their background and the creation of the course. (I can only imagine the amounts of caffeine necessary to finish this proposal!)

Submittal

After completing the proposal, many happy applicants jump around excitedly while simultaneously hugging housemates and partners (this would be my chosen method of displaying post-proposal adrenaline-fueled excitement). The finalized proposal then finds itself sitting comfortably in an envelope destined for 95 Talbot Avenue. A few brave souls even follow their feet to Tufts to hand deliver their proposal to our front desk. (Note to self: invest in some ‘I submitted my ExCollege proposal!!’ stickers for future semesters.)

Bins & Processing!

New proposals get handed over to a student worker at our secret back desk. After skimming through the proposal to check out the syllabus, the student plunks the proposal in a bin to get copied, filed, scanned, and entered into our database.

Faculty Reviews

Robyn Gittleman (our Director) reads through each proposal and pieces together which proposals get sent to which faculty members. The newly scanned PDF versions of proposals electronically zip over to approximately 115 faculty members all across the Hill. After clicking on the PDF attachment and reading through the proposal, faculty members provide input on the depth, challenge, and clarity of the syllabus in addition to any overlap with existing Tufts classes.

Subcommittees, Subcommittees, and Even More Subcommittees

Subcommittees represent one of the most important steps in the course selection process. Subcommittees comprised of one faculty member and two students interview each candidate. The schedules of over 40 super busy Tufts students, 20 faculty members, and 150 applicants must be coordinated into 20 neat and tidy subcommittees. Beky Stiles (me! the Program Assistant) drinks enormous amounts of coffee during this task.

The subcommittee members ask applicants about the proposal, its creation, their background, and the purpose of the course. Subcommittees allow the ExCollege to receive crucial feedback as to how a proposal would translate into the classroom environment.

Selection

The ExCollege Board (made up of 5 students, 5 faculty, and the ExCollege staff) holes up in the conference room for an all-day meeting to determine what courses will make it to the coveted ‘Upcoming Courses’ list on the ExCollege website. The Board spends hours drinking caffeine, voting, and (most importantly) discussing the proposals. At the end of the day, the Board hand picks 22 strong courses that exemplify the ExCollege’s commitment to providing Tufts with innovative classes meant to expand upon the existing undergraduate curriculum.

The Class

Tufts students scurry to register for their top ExCollege choices at 9am on the first day of classes. Classes fill up quickly, and a former idea nudging at the back of someone’s mind finally becomes a reality.

Take a Class!

Now you should check out the 23 classes that made it through this process! Our list of upcoming courses is on our website for Spring 2013! Make your list of ExCollege class to take, and register at 9am on Wednesday, January 16.