An Extremely Beleaguered Feminist

Don’t chisel that on my grave stone just yet, though the events of the past week are pushing me over the edge:

Monday: It began when I awoke blurry-eyed Monday morning looking for the results of the previous night’s Oscar awards, since I had not been able to stay awake till the end.  I turned to The Boston Globe, and reading both the TV critic and the movie critic sent my feminist radar flashing.


First, I was pleased to see that Brie Larson won Best Actress for Room, but I could hardly get past the writer’s characterization of her role as “an extremely beleaguered young mother.” WHAT?  Now, in the interests of full disclosure, the writer of that Oscar recap is an esteemed visiting lecturer at the ExCollege, and I went to see Room largely on his positive review of the movie. And, to give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps “extremely beleaguered young mother” was a short-hand way of not requiring a spoiler alert for people who haven’t yet seen this disturbing film.

Spoiler alert: Room is about a woman who is a victim of kidnapping and repeated rape, who somehow raises a child amid physical and psychological torment. Yup, rape and kidnapping can sure make young moms feel extremely beleaguered!  Hmm, would a woman critic would have characterized Brie Larson’s role – or the movie as a whole – differently, I wondered?  Here’s one clue: the New York Times critic used the words “hell,” “inhumane prison,” “horrors,” and “terrors suffered by real victims” in her review.

Next, I turned to the TV critic’s piece on the Oscar spectacle, and ruminated on this phrase:

Rooney Mara arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Rooney Mara arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

“Seriously, imagine trying to make small talk with Rooney ‘Good Times’ Mara, who appears to have a case of RBF….”  RBF?  Google it.  Now, you may not have liked her gown, or her hairdo, or her make-up, but do you really have to write in a respectable newspaper that she looks like a bitch?

Flashback to Friday: This got me thinking about a lecture last week by Tufts Dean and Professor of Philosophy, Nancy Bauer.  Her talk on “How to Do Things With Pornography” combined philosophical theories with some 21st century realities of hook-up culture and objectification of women.

Nancy Bauer eventThe comment from Nancy Bauer that stuck with me (when confronted with Rooney Mara’s “RBF”) was about how every day women have to navigate the gender roles and culture we’re immersed in, and we end up feeling like “bad” feminists when we groom our bodies to fit male expectations.  Gosh, Rooney should have tried harder.

Back to Monday: But of course the Oscars weren’t about women this year, they were about white people.  So no surprise that there was little mention (none in the Globe) of the Oscar awarded to A Girl in the River, a documentary about honor killing, directed by a woman of color, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.  The film already led to a change in law in Pakistan. “That is the power of film,” she said, about her second Oscar-winning film.

imageTuesday, that is, Super Tuesday:  Good God, with all the real problems in the world, if I have to listen to one more comment about Hillary Clinton’s face, hair, make-up, pantsuit, or color choice I’m going to explode.  Not another regurgitation of her “problem” with younger voters!  My go-to news source said it best:

“Female Presidential Candidate Who Was United States Senator, Secretary Of State Told To Be More Inspiring”

Yes, The Onion.  You can’t say I’m humorless.

Wednesday: Hillary cleans up on Super Tuesday, but the talking head (male) tells me the upshot is we voted for “a third term of Barack Obama.”  Apparently, the first woman President would bring no experience or perspective or policy initiatives of her own.  Simultaneously on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court (5 men; 3 women) hears arguments (by a man) to uphold the most restrictive abortion law since Roe v. Wade.  The Texas law has shut down clinics, requiring thousands of women to travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion.  Or not.  Talk about beleaguered.

Thursday: The Donald Trump show continues.  Tonight we’ll be treated to another prime time opportunity to hear him demean Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.  How is it that I’m now rooting for Fox News?  An extremely beleaguered feminist indeed.  And still three days left in the week.


I’m Here to Make Friends

One thing I did not expect about parenthood is how weird it is to be an introverted parent. Between hours spent at the playground, a grueling birthday-party schedule, and the dreaded preschool parent social, it’s one forced interaction with my fellow parents after another. I don’t want to talk to strangers about raising kids, I just want to stare off into space for a little while. Is that so wrong?

To make matters worse, my introverted husband and I somehow managed to produce a dyed-in-the-wool extrovert. For my daughter, every stranger is a future friend. The likelihood of someone being anything less than completely delighted to meet her is so remote, so far removed from her experience, that it doesn’t seem to enter her mind as a possibility. Before her second birthday, my daughter started shoving me over toward other parents at the playground, exclaiming, “This is Mommy!” Then she would grin encouragingly at me, as if to say, “Go ahead! Make friends!” So when our Assistant Director, Amy Goldstein, encouraged me to run for Arlington Town Meeting, the biggest drawback wasn’t the late-night meetings or the rambling testimonies of aggrieved townspeople, it was having to spend more time talking to new people.

My neighborhood of East Arlington has changed a lot in the five years since we purchased our half of a two-family. A lot of these changes are great! What was a deserted Hollywood Video is now a vintage store and a restaurant. What was an empty foreclosure is now a newly-renovated condominium. There’s a new path to Alewife Station, new crosswalks, and new bike lanes. And a lot is still changing: our little extrovert is going to be one of 1,000 new students entering Arlington schools in the next five years, wentering the raceetlands that prevent our basement from flooding are in danger of being developed into condominiums, and there’s even a proposal to put in a traffic light right where I’ve been saying there should really be a traffic light. My precinct has a bunch of open seats and not enough “young” people. So I agreed to run for Town Meeting Member.

The first uncomfortable step was to attend a small gathering of citizens in my precinct to learn about the process of running for Town Meeting. The second uncomfortable step was to get signatures from registered voters in my precinct. And you know, people were really nice. They were warm and encouraging. They said they had seen me around and were happy that I decided to get involved. And hey, as an emotionally-intelligent introvert, The New York Times tells me I can succeed as long as I’m willing to stretch that comfort zone! Never mind that this 2015 piece cites the success of Jeb Bush, who subsequently withdrew from the race after months of bullying from noted extrovert Donald Trump. I’m not running for President of the United States. I’m running to be one of 252 people who attend some meetings.

Election day is April 2nd and there’s still a lot to do: postcards to send, meetings to attend, hands to shake, babies to kiss. It makes me think of the reality show cliché where, in the throes of competition, someone faces the camera and explains that the only thing that matters is winning, declaring, “I’m not here to make friends!” Well, it’s true that I’m running to win. I’m here to represent East Arlington, including young residents who might be too new, too busy, or too timid to get involved and share their voices. But maybe I’m also here to make friends

Explorations & Perspectives: Teach Your Fellow Undergrads Next Fall

Explorations and Perspectives are small seminars for first-year students designed and led by upper-level undergrads who teach in teams of two. Students choose a group as one of their advising options.  Explorations can delve into any topic; Perspectives topics have a media focus.  Applications are due March 18, 2016.

Perspectives: Race Representation in TV & Film

Perspectives: Race Representation in TV & Film

Who teaches an Explorations or Perspectives? One answer is juniors and seniors who are passionate about a topic and want to help guide incoming first-years.  Some work with an advisor to plan out a syllabus, and some were inspired by a class they took. Still others go on to teach in the spring through the ExCollege’s peer teaching program.


Here’s what three leaders have to say:1454438455825

“Through the Perspectives program, my best friend and I had the opportunity to design and teach our own class about something we were both passionate about: advertising. We discussed, dissected, and digested advertisement campaigns and strategies through class discussion, debate, creative projects, and a guest speaker. As a peer teacher, I not only learned from my own research and experience, but I learned the most from my fourteen first-year students. Over the course of the semester, we became a family, and Tuesday nights became the highlight of my week.” – Kate Sienko, Perspectives leader, The Medium is the Message: The Evolution of Advertising in America

George Killian

I took an Explorations as a first-year about alternative education, and I remember it as a great experience: it was a way to break into the college world with these two upper classmen who could help you out and a bunch of other freshmen who were all going through the same thing.  It was this fun, more relaxing, outside-the-box class.  So when my friend asked me to be a co-leader, I thought back to my experience and thought, yeah, I’d like to be that mentor/advisor for someone like I had had my freshman year.” – George Killian, Explorations leader, Food & Society

The Perspectives class I taught last semester was such a success and reinforced the idea that I can do this, I can come up with my own ideas and teach about something that I’m passionate about.  I wouldn’t be teaching my own class now if it had not been for this Perspectives experience.  It’s opened the door to my ideas of what I can do later in life.  I’ve been interested in film, I’ve been interested in clinical psychology, but then when you add the idea that I can also be an educator – the intersectionality of those skills and all of my interests – it just opens the door to what I can do in my life in the future.”1381841_10201792729767595_34118891_n (1)  Sam Kitchens, Perspectives leader, Intro to Horror Film; current instructor for EXP-0053 Horror Film: Why We Make & Consume ItHorror

Check out all the info and download an application on our website.  Feel free to contact us at if you have ideas for an Explorations or Perspectives course that you want to develop.

A Pocket for Joseph

Everyone knows the feeling at some point… Your sock and underwear supply is running dangerously low and you just can’t put it off any longer. So, off I went last night to the nearest Laundromat – a fantastic spot on Somerville Avenue that has Wi-Fi and free drying!

Eventually, after some mumbling and grumbling, I had all my clothes in washers and I began to stare at the soapy colors going round and round. My grouchiness quickly disappeared when I suddenly remembered a children’s book my mother read to us.

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 4.53.15 PMA Pocket for Corduroy recounts the misadventures of a curious teddy bear. After seeing how his owner, Lisa, wears pants with pockets, Corduroy is determined to find cloth at the Laundromat to make his pocket. He is left behind at closing time, gets into some mischief overnight, and is reunited with Lisa the next morning. And, of course, Corduroy gets a pocket to hold a name card, just in case he gets lost again!

After reminiscinghqdefault about my own teddy bear – which my mother obviously sewed a pocket on to – I wondered whether the author was inspired during her own trip to the Laundromat. It would make sense, I suppose, but who else found similar inspiration?

Don’t ask me why, but my first instinct was to Google, “TED Talks laundry.” Sure enough, a global health expert and data analyst, Hans Rosling, spoke in 2010 about the washing machine being the greatest invention of the industrial revolution.

Rosling’s quirky lecture was derived from his own experience, as well as a tremendous amount of research and data. He explained global energy consumption, the factions of the population who have access to washer machines, and how economic growth and electricity can ”turn a boring wash-day into an intellectual day of reading.” He specifically mentions how women were freed from the laborious task of hand washing clothes to pursue new goals – Rosling’s mother could now read to her children, educate them, and teach herself English.

Moral of the story: find somewhere to inspire your “Corduroy…”

Or, just appreciate your washing machine!53129_10150106209853312_4839683_o

The Fandom Awakens

Alright… after trying to avoid reviews and conversations about The Force Awakens, and after seeing it crush box-office records, I finally watched the newest installment of the Star Wars saga!SW-THE-FORCE-AWAKENS

Let me preface the rest of this post, however, by saying that I never really considered myself a Star Wars fan – in fact, I was always rather indifferent to it…

So much so, that before heading to the IMAX Theater at Assembly Row last night, I realized that I either didn’t watch parts of the franchise or couldn’t remember much of what I did.

Personally, The Lord of the Rings is the first film series I ever fell in love with. I was the ripe age of nine when The Fellowship of the Ring was released, and my best friend’s father brought us to every opening night. I proceeded to fall in love with the books and all the product tie-ins that followed the films.

I suppose that – unlike Tolkien’s Middle-Earth – I never had anyone expose me to Lucas’ galaxy far, far awastarwarspostery. And this was a stark contrast to the two people accompanying me last night. Howard Woolf, for example, can only be described as a huge sci-fi fan, as well as a Jedi Master at Tufts when it comes to anything film related.

Consequently, sitting next to a couple longtime fans cemented some high expectations! The pressure was on, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been more focused during a recent movie.

But since I’m really not “qualified” to evaluate this or any of the Star Wars franchise, I’ll spare you my long-winded feelings about The Force Awakens. I will say, however, that my expectations were happily met.

More importantly, it also met the expectations of the two fans I was with! Episode VII seemed to stay true to its predecessors and the Star Wars brand, while also being open enough to welcome in new fans and leave me wanting more. I left wanting to delve deeper into Lucas’ universe and watch/re-watch its prequels. I even started watching some of the saga’s best moments online.

So what are you waiting for? If you weren’t a fan already, this is your chance to jump on board.

P.S. Don’t tell your little brother you’re going because he might throw out a huge spoiler…

Lesson learned…

It’s All in the Food…

The amazing thing about Thanksgiving – and really all holidays – is that everyone celebrates them differently. The one easy way to understand that: FOOD. Sure, turkey and pie have become mainstays in households across the county, but we all have unique traditions and customs that transform this national celebration into our own special day.

Anne-Marie sits down with her family on Thanksgiving Day to a table full of traditional Vietnamese dishes. Rachel, who came to the US from Cuba, digs into congris, roasted pork and maduros. And Adam, whose family is Italian, sits down to a spread that includes – you guessed it – meatballs!

As a first-generation American, our Thanksgiving dinner is infused with some Portuguese flare. At my aunt’s house, that means almost solely Portuguese dishes – they’ve stayed away from turkey, cranberries and stuffing somehow.

At my father’s house, however, you will find an interesting mix between Thanksgiving staples and Portuguese classics.

  • Sure, we have a roasted turkey, but it’s stuffed with linguiça and chouriço.
  • Next to that, you’ll find some carn e assada (roast beef) and bacalhau (cod fish).
  • Next to the mashed potatoes there are Portuguese-style roasted potatoes.
  • Next to the corn are some couves (sprouts).
  • And of course, the prequel to all of this is some kale soup, or calde verde!

338492_10150563764893312_221959095_oAs a child, I was always fixated on our family’s traditions. In fact, I would actually get upset if something didn’t go according to plan – or my perceived plan: “Mom, what do you mean you didn’t make the bean cake!?”

I actually hated bean cake… but it just didn’t seem the same without certain foods or individuals to share them with. But with age, I understood that traditions inevitably change or evolve. Our once gigantic Thanksgiving dinner, where my parents hosted twenty or so relatives, shrank to a more modest dinner with my immediate family.

Time changed our family dynamics because “life happens”– as a close friend likes to say. But it does. Children become adults with their own families, people move away, an325614_10150563820848312_1131881396_od others may no longer be with us.

I like to think the ten-year-old me had it half right, though, because there is one tradition that remained relatively constant: our FOOD.

I will look at our spread tomorrow and think simultaneously about how alike and different we are from other families. Anne-Marie, Rachel, Adam, and I may all be celebrating Thanksgiving – but our dinner tables will tell much different stories.

And that is something to be thankful for.

The Insides of a Thought or Emotion: An Interview with Colette Robbins

I met artist Colette Robbins in 1995 and recently had the opportunity to interview her for X. about some of the visual, psychological, and scientific themes she explores in her work. Robbins lives and works in Queens, New York. She attended the Maryland Institute College of Art and received her MFA from Parsons, The New School for Design. She is represented by 101/Exhibit in Los Angeles and teaches at Hofstra University.


Hippocampus, Graphite Painting on Paper, 2013

I’ve seen you refer to your pieces as “Rorschachs,” after the psychological test, but they also evoke body parts like pelvises, nipples, and anuses. It feels very Freudian. Can you talk a bit about this tension between the bodily and the psychological?

I love the Rorschach test as a format because its reference to mammalian symmetry makes our meaning-making brains start to see faces or demons. I love that adding a texture from water or a cave inside of the Rorschach format makes the viewer think of imagery from the body. I think our ideas are so linked to our psychological states, that I am happy to hear that translates in the work.


Parietal Lobe, Graphite Painting on Paper, 2014

Your pieces have titles like “Hypothalamus” and “Basal Ganglia.” The texture of your work references geological forms and there is also a sense of artifact, of something being passed on or inherited. I recently read an article about new discoveries in epigenetics, that psychological traumas or resiliencies actually impact our DNA and are passed down to future generations, and it immediately made me think of your work. I am wondering if this, or any neurological research informs your work.

I think that the new discoveries in neuroscience like this one really help psychologists get better and better at helping people determine the roots of their anxiety and depression whether they are physiological or habitual. Also these discoveries help debunk much of the mythology we have built up around mental illness as a culture. I hope that my work helps open up a conversation about mental illness through the discussion of the Rorschach test, since that test has become an icon of psychology.

That is interesting that you see them as an artifact and then you think of genetic information being passed on from generation to generation. I think that our emotional states can be like very nuanced landscapes with cracks and crevices and with rough and smooth patches that very directly can influence those around us. I personally think of my pieces like the insides of a thought or emotion. Even though emotions or being emotional can be stigmatized as being bad, we are all made up of so many emotions and our interactions with the world are based on our emotions and emotional states.


Basal Ganglia, Watercolor on Paper, 2015

I’ve known you for 20 years and I’ve followed your work. Your background is in painting, and then a few years ago you started working in graphite, and have recently started using watercolor and incorporating color again.  You also co-curated an exhibition that discussed uses of color among New York-based vs. LA-based artists. Can you talk a bit about this transition, why you went more monochromatic and then back to color?

I decided to go with an achromatic palette because color no longer became an important part of what I was trying to communicate. I wanted the focus to be on the values and textures, so removing color was a way to put the viewer in direct contact with what I was trying to say. However, I am always changing, and now I want to incorporate colors to create a different atmosphere in the mood of my work. The show I co-curated about LA-based artists using colors vs. NYC artists’ use of no colors was a show that allowed me to playfully observe why people living in different locations use color differently in general.

You teach painting at Hofstra University and have also done some consulting for emerging artists. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or art historians who may be reading this?

For any career in the arts, in order to thrive, you need a community that supports you. Sometimes you have to build that community from scratch, one person at a time.

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.


Peer Teaching through the Years

We extended our Peer Teaching application deadline to November 8! If you have an expertise and want to share it in your own classroom, get in touch with us before filling out your application. We are very excited to see what classes will be proposed by undergraduates for the upcoming semester.

Giving in to a bit of nostalgia, we went through the past few years of peer-taught courses and compiled some great course descriptions. Based on the unique and innovative classes offered over the past 3 years, we know that we’ll have a fantastic line-up of peer-taught courses this spring!

The Art of Improvisation
Taught by Rachel Shoenbrun (A13) and Adam Bangser (A14)

Do you love to make people laugh? Are you spontaneous? Do you love to tell stories?

This course teaches the exciting art of improvisational comedy. Students in this course will explore the basics of improv performance, including scene building, agreement (“yes, and”), basic narrative skills, and physical characterization. At the same time, we will be reading important improv texts, discussing improvisational theory, and relating its principles to our daily lives. Our work will be inspired by the teachings of the improvisational experts and theorists such as Keith Johnstone, Del Close, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler (founder of the improv troupe My Mother’s Flea Bag at Boston College). The structure of this course will be highly interactive and discussion-based, with field trips, guest speakers, and group performance. No experience necessary.

Architecture/Music: Sound and the Built Environment
Taught by Amelia Wellers (A13)

As Goethe once observed, “I call architecture frozen music . . .; the influence that flows upon us from architecture is like that from music.” Spaces speak—are you listening?

Sound is an omnipresent influence within our environment, but very few people actually listen to what they hear. This class will explore the many dimensions of how sound interacts within the built environment, exploring topics including archaeoacoustics, aural architecture, space and sound analysis, music and performance, visual art, film, hands-on sound production, and as many other applications as could possibly be deemed reasonable. We will take field trips to our own Granoff Music Center as well as to Boston Symphony Hall and engage in guest lectures given by some of the leading Boston area acousticians. Informal studio sessions and conceptual discussions invite students to synthesize their own diverse experiences in the soundscape of our world. The ultimate goal is to take creative license in forming your own perceived “point of audition.”

Game Strategy
Taught by Aaron Bartel (A12)

When playing Monopoly Scrabble or Clue, do you just go by the rules? Or have you ever thought about the strategy that’s involved? This course will explore the skills and understanding that’s necessary to actually win common household games. We will focus on the strategy implemented in these games by employing game theory, economics, statistics, and balance of power dynamics. Classes will consist of an examination of a certain strategic element within the context of a game, and then the exercising of that strategy in class by playing the game in question. Games explored will include students’ choices along with the following: Texas Hold’em, Risk, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Hearts, Spades, President, Bridge, Connect 4, Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Chess, Scrabble.

Alpinismo: The Culture and Science of Mountain Climbing
Taught by Nick Levin (A11) and Ryan Stolp (A11)

Why do humans feel the need to travel into and immerse themselves in the highest and harshest environments on the planet?

This course presents the history of alpinism and how it has developed into one of the most extreme endeavors humans have undertaken. It will also include the practical skills of rock, ice, and mountaineering, as well as theoretical, philosophical and alpine environmentalist perspectives. Through skills practice, presentations, guest lecturers, reading responses, discussions, and a final expedition planning project, students will thoroughly explore the art of mountaineering.

Psychology, Magic, and Performance
Taught by Marcell Babai (A11)

This course will introduce students to an exploration of the psychology that makes magic work and makes it an entertaining art. As such, it combines study with performance.While specific techniques will be taught, the focus of the class is an analysis of how the techniques and psychological cues work together. To further the understanding of performance we will also briefly examine the history and evolution of technique, as well as examine how these concepts apply to other non-performance situations. In addition to a discussion of relevant theory, throughout the semester students will be preparing to perform short, close-up magic routines.

Investigations in Hypnosis
Taught by Aliza Howitt (A12)

Have you ever gone to a hypnotist show and seen your friends cluck like chickens? Maybe you thought it was a fluke or wrote it off to voodoo science. Well, not so! Hypnosis is a legitimate field that is often neglected by mainstream psychology curriculums.

This class is here to rectify that. In this course students will take a closer look at how hypnosis actually works. We will cover a variety of materials, providing students with an intimate knowledge of the history and science behind hypnosis, as well as an understanding of possible clinical applications and contemporary research on the subject.

HBO’s The Wire: TV and the American Inner City
Taught by Alex Hart (A11)

HBO’s The Wire has been called “a display … that must be considered alongside the best literature and filmmaking in the modern era.”

Through close analysis of of key episodes, this course will use The Wire to explore the societal and institutional processes that shape and influence the lives of inner-city Americans. We will journey through the first four of The Wire’s five seasons, examining the politics, societal influences, and institutional practices that affect the lives of the urban poor.

Readings will accompany viewings of the program, examining topics such as community policing, the economics of drug trade, the loss of jobs in America, underrepresented subcultures, and undocumented labor. The different academic viewpoints will provide a view into a disenfranchised community, located in the center of the American city. Participation and discussion will provide the fuel for the course.


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.