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



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

Course selections: Already!?!

It’s that time in the semester where soon after your blood has slightly cooled off from a hectic midterm season, it’s time to focus on the new set of courses you will endeavor for the following semester. Depending on the amount of course preparation you’ve done for your next installment of courses, this can be a breeze. However, for those of us preoccupied with our current work load, the list of our new course work could have easily been missed.

By the time this post is published, a quarter of the school will have already selected their courses for their final semester of their undergraduate career: the seniors. It’s a bittersweet moment for this round of course selections. It’s the last time we’ll be able to have the free range of course selection that Tufts has to offer, but at the same time finishing off our assigned rigorous course work. Seniors be sure not to waste your last semester and think critically of what you want to challenge yourself with or what else you will want to learn!

I’m not going to lie, picking courses for this last semester was a bit of a challenge. I could do the whole “seniorities” schedule and minor in yoga during my final semester to begin to unwind from the tight-winded course schedule I needed to follow that past three and a half years. But instead, I looked at my final semester as a chance to explore and add more toward my major and personal interest. After needing to complete my sign up for my thesis and capstone project, I had the liberty of taking an course I desired. So, the curious 7 year old me had me enroll in ENP 166: Computer Interface Design with Michael Wiklund, REL 145: Tibetan Buddhism with Professor Joseph Walser, and finally COMP 20: Web Programming with Professor Ming Chow.

This is far from the notorious spring semester senior schedule, but I rather put my young brain to use. Give my toolbox a few each tools to apply in the real world. Continue to meet other curious Tufts students because all I have left is one. One semester. So I’m going to make it count.

#SeniorYear #Scheduling #SIS


Maintaining Motivation During Mid-Terms

As a senior, a lot is required from you. Not only are you finalizing your courses for your major(s) and minors and applying for graduation, but due to competitive acceptance rates in the work force, you have to juggle job applications, current internships, senior swag (rings, portraits, etc.) at the same time. Hopefully, if you’ve mapped out your entire Tufts academic career just right, you may be in better shape of giving you leeway to juggle.

The juggle may be difficult, but the courses you are taking now and in the future may be a key factor in keeping you motivate during the entire semester. The biggest advice I always give to students is find courses that intellectually stimulate you, while giving you a breadth of knowledge that can be applied outside the classroom into other facets of your interests, work, activities, and even sports. The most interesting courses I’ve taken here at Tufts, are the ones that compliment my major, yet are not part of the list of required courses needed for my major. These courses assist in your critical thinking skills while encouraging an application of what you are learning to a different audience–truly supporting the interdisciplinary education an elite university like Tufts can provide to its students.

Many friends and colleagues of mine will do just this as well. These are the courses that keep you motivated during midterms and finals because you are applying knowledge and skill in a different manner. Courses offered here at the ExCollege can do just that! They can provide these intellectual stimulus or application of your skill set in a different manner, or even bring your perspective into the class which others benefit from. Keep up the great work! Tufts is a difficult school, but it’s here to teach you to critically think, critically analyze, and formulate opinions and ideas that will benefit you in life after your undergraduate career.

#Midterms #Motivation #Tufts #EngineeringPsychology #HumanFactors

Has Our Creativity and Curiosity Decreased?

In an interesting article I read recently called “What is Creativity?–Cultivating Creativity”, it argues that there has been a steady decline in creativity since in the late 1990s. If we look around to our mobile devices, computers, films, art, design, science, etc., one can argue this may not be the case entirely. Well… with the majority of Hollywood films being adapted from novels and/or comic books, one can say film is one place where creativity has declined in the past two decades… Even if you look at the courses the ExCollege has offered to date have always been considered current, exploratory, innovative, and well received by the student body for decades.

In the article, the author discusses a time when he was in the supermarket with his son. His son asks him either do bananas grow on the trees from top to bottom, or bottom to top. The father pulls out his phone, Google’s the answers and in 30 seconds they knew all about how bananas grew, where, and when. Yet, the father stops himself and is upset to realized he did not give his son room to question and explore his thoughts before finding the answer. This is where I agree with the article, in many facets because we have the privilege of readily information at our finger tips, there is less room for exploration.

Exploration entices your curiosity and fuels your creativity. I’ve always been a very curious person about the things in our world and constantly think and question my surroundings. Growing up I was encouraged to do so by my mother, teachers, mentors, and sports coaches, and I’ve carried that into my early adulthood and will continue to do so. But let’s turn the mic around, do you think curiosity assist creativity? Is the readily available information more to our benefit than this article leads us to believe?

I always urge people to hold on to their imagination, just like when you were younger, careless, and bubbled with imagination. Hold on to seven year old you! Who knows, they might surprise you and help you configurate your paper or presentation in a manner that is innovative and more approachable to your audience. Or lend a hand in looking at your world with a new set of eyes. A fresh perspective. Give it a try! Here at the ExCollege, that’s what they’re all about. Exploration in an academic scope. See how much more you can learn when you start asking questions and ponder solutions before you come to the answer.

For more information on the article, please click HERE.

#Creativity #Curiosity #Exploration

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



The ExCollege and the Future of Higher Education

Today we began our 50th anniversary celebration weekend with a conference on the future of higher education. One of the conference highlights will be reflecting on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and how their presence will impact the traditional university. During the Fall 2013 semester, the ExCollege created a Quidnunc that allowed students to take MOOCs and discuss the experience with a group of peers. Ken Garden, ExCollege Board Chair and faculty member in the Religion Department, participated in the Quidnunc and shared his thoughts with us on MOOCs.

Written by Ken Garden, Religion Department and ExCollege Board Chair

2013-2014 has been a particularly eventful year at the ExCollege. In addition to our usual offerings of innovative and timely classes taught by practitioners, academic instructors, and students, we are celebrating a half century of the ExCollege at Tufts. The event will be marked by two exhibits on the ExCollege’s history, a gala held on April 12th, and a conference on the future of higher education on April 11th. The longevity of the ExCollege and the outpouring of support for its 50th anniversary speak to the vital role it plays in the life of the Tufts community.

Higher education is in the midst of one of its biggest experiments in years in the form of the Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC. The New York Times dubbed 2012 the “Year of the MOOC.” That year, Google’s Sebastian Thrun started a new company, Udacity, to offer free online university courses to as many students as wanted to enroll in them. He was so confident of the promise of MOOCs that he predicted that within 50 years there would remain only a small handful of higher education providers, the rest of the world’s universities having been swept away by this new “disruptive technology.” Stanford sponsored a new MOOC consortium, Coursera, and Harvard and MIT followed suit, launching EdX later that year.

It seemed fitting that the ExCollege should join the conversation on the MOOC. A group of Tufts students and I, including our own Board member Kumar Ramanathan (A’15), set out to look into this experiment ourselves, each of us enrolling in a MOOC. Between us, we enrolled in courses on topics ranging from contraception, to the hero in ancient Greek literature, to irony in the writing of Søren Kierkegaard, to the history of architecture, to the letters of Paul.

Our experiences in many cases echoed what we had read about the MOOC experience. Having paid nothing for the course and with no non-virtual connection to the instructor or other students, several of us stopped taking courses that didn’t interest us and enrolled in other ones. Online multiple choice quizzes, discussion boards, and peer-graded essays were a pale substitute for classroom interaction and instructor-graded assignments. While we all saw a real threat to companies that sell university courses on CD or DVD, we saw no mortal threat to the traditional brick and mortar university. Sebastian Thrun came to a similar conclusion at the end of 2013, declaring that his own Udacity had a “lousy product.”

Still, we also saw ongoing experimentation with the MOOC and all of us felt we learned from the courses we took. It will be interesting to see what it evolves into and what kind of role online courses, massive or otherwise, come to play in higher education.


TuftsNow also reflected on the ExCollege’s exploration into the world of MOOCs with an article written by Gail Bambrick.

Neuroscience and the Movies

Last fall, Emily Hueske and Steve Ramirez submitted a course proposal aiming to fuse together the worlds of neuroscience and the big screen. After a rigorous course selection process, their proposal was selected to be taught this spring! They’ve had an incredibly successful semester thus far, and they took a few minutes to reflect on the early weeks of their truly experimental classroom.

“Why is it that Jason Bourne can remember how to maneuver a car at 120mph, how to disarm an assailant in a second, and how to land properly after jumping off a building, yet he can’t remember his own name or past?”

 This is one of the first questions we were asked while introducing our experimental course on neuroscience and Hollywood. The answer lies in a remarkable property of the brain’s multiple memory systems, but the first week was just a teaser. To learn the full answer, we asked our students to join us on a semester-long tour of the brain’s structures and functions, but viewed through the lens of Hollywood. We were beyond thrilled at the turnout on day one and immediately realized a wonderful nugget of truth regarding the multi-disciplinary culture at Tufts: only at the ExCollege could such a symbiotic relationship between movies and neuroscience exist and be taught.

When you think about it, Hollywood has infused some of the most influential scenes in cinema with neuroscientific backdrops: Neo uploading Kung Fu to his mind; Cobb incepting an idea within a dream; Tyler Durden’s true alter-ego; Jason Bourne’s high-octane amnesia. A common thread that ties these movies together is the idea that the brain is the mind’s physical substrate through which ideas, memories, and personalities can be artificially enhanced or distorted. Each week, we use neuroscience as an arc to weave in and out of what Hollywood often gets right or wrong. Every class is sprinkled with movies clips, culturally relevant and science-tinged scenarios that are to be addressed in groups, and, of course, adrenaline-friendly discussions.

The level of engagement each student brought to the table blew us both away. For example, early on we voyaged into the world of memory manipulation and Inception. After teaching our students the nitty-gritty science behind distorting real memories, we began our Socratic style dialogue.

Nearly every student had a unique, scientifically sound interpretation of Inception that neither of us had originally considered. This, simply put, was as delightful as it was enriching. It was a very real two-way street of insight between the students and us. Everyone was both student and teacher at a given point throughout the class. Indeed, having Hollywood and neuroscience both act as pedagogical tools to teach the Tufts community was originally experimental, but the results in this first pass have been an inspiring testament to the ExCollege’s mission.

In our class, we ask our students to digest the following: neuroscience currently is reaching a point where ideas are rapidly being plucked from the tree of science fiction and grounded in experimental reality. We believe that with our team-oriented approach to teaching and learning, suddenly Jason Bourne’s amnesia and its neural underpinnings are—like the mind—not just orderly, but intelligible.