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.

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.

ExCollege Express: Everything Election

This week’s edition of the eXpress looks at the upcoming election week through the eye of the ExCollege!

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Who’s Who of the Election Night Extravaganza

With Election Night only 4 days away, the ExCollege is in high gear preparing for our Election Night Extravaganza! Following previous years’ trends, over 1,500 students will filter through the Campus Center on Election Night 2012. Such a large group of Jumbos deserves an equally large cast of student groups, faculty members, and comedy troupes to keep everyone up-to-date on all of the breaking election night news.

The Tufts Daily, The Observer, WMFO, and TUTV will all be located in the upper level lounge providing live coverage on the event and the election via the web, Twitter, and Facebook, and more!

Student groups will take over the Commons eatery as part of an Information Fair, feeding the crowd with extended coverage and analysis regarding key state races, ballot initiatives, the battle of both houses of Congress, and international perspectives. The Tufts Democrats, the Tufts Republicans, SSDP (Student for a Sensible Drug Policy), QSA (Queer Straight Alliance), ALLIES (Alliance Linking Leaders in Education and the Services), Tufts Sustainability Collective, Friends of Israel, SJP (Student for Justice in Palestine), and more will all claim spaces in the Information Fair.

Faculty members will be present throughout the event to answer questions, offer insight, and analyze statistics and news reports. Dean Jim Glaser (Political Science), Kent Portney (Political Science), and Steve Cohen (Education) will all provide commentary at key points during the night. Additionally, Dean Robert Mack, Dean Karen Garrett Gould, and Dean Bruce Reitman will be spotted among the masses. And, of course, President Anthony Monaco will attend the event to join the Tufts community on this very important night of the year! Student MCs Matt Stofsky, Mitchell Friedman, and Clay Grable will also keep the crowds entertained from the closing of the first polls to the announcement of the President!

The Election Night Extravaganza is the place to be on election night! Join your community and the Facebook event for this ExCollege and Tufts tradition.

Want to win $25 to Barnes & Noble?

Enter our raffle! The contestant who gets the most answers correct to the following questions will win a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card (stock up on some good reading or Tufts gear from the bookstore!). To enter, return your answers to the ExCollege office at 95 Talbot or email us at excollege@tufts.edu by 5pm on November 6. (Only one entry per person, please.) The winner will be announced at the Election Night Extravaganza!

1.     Who will win the U.S. Presidential Election?

              Obama ____                 b.    Romney ____

2.     Pick the party make-up of the incoming U.S. House of Representatives.

The current make-up of the U.S. House of Representatives is 190 Democrats to 240 Republicans, with five vacancies. RealClearPolitics, as of this writing, predicts 165 comfortable Democratic seats, 18 leaning Democratic, 216 comfortable Republican seats, 15 leaning Republicans, and 26 tossup races.

        Republicans ____                        Democrats ____         

(Hint: make sure your numbers add up to 435!)

3.     Pick the winner of the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts.

         Scott Brown ____                       Elizabeth Warren ____

Tiebreaker: On what date and time will CNN call the Presidential Winner?

                     Date ______         Time ______ am/pm

 The ExCollege in Action

Kim Foltz and Rebecca Pearl-Martinez’s class Rising Ride: Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation teamed up with students from UMass Boston this past weekend to venture into East Boston and onto Constitution Beach. Students from both courses measured the projected sea level rise on the beach, and their adventure capped off with a visit and discussion at the Salvadoran Consulate with Vice Consul-General Ena Peña.

Did You Know…

Homelessness in America was first offered through the ExCollege in 1987, taught by Rob Hollister. The course later moved into the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP) Department and continues to be a popular course taken by both undergraduate and graduate students!

Around Campus

Don’t let your excitement over the upcoming election end on November 6! Campus events span the entirety of next week and beyond, so be sure to scan through TuftsLife and Tufts Events to get your extended election fix. Keep reading for a sneak peek into two events focused on providing, analyzing, and discussing post-election news.

  • Why should you believe what you see on the news? Discuss this question and more with a senior producer from NBC News!

Marian Porges is a senior producer at NBC News and also received a 2012 Tufts P.T. Barnum Award for Excellence in Entertainment. Join Marian’s discussion Election Aftermath: Why Should I Believe What I See on the News? in order to delve into the complexities of the 2012 post-election news coverage. Head over to Eaton 201 on Friday, November 9 from 11am – 12pm if you are interested!

  • Want to understand what the election results mean for the future of American politics? Join IPC’s weekly policy forum!

The Institute of Political Citizenship (IPC) will be holding a forum titled “Election Recap and Looking Forward” to bring together Jumbos to talk about the final weeks of election campaigns and what a variety of election results mean for American politics moving forward. Join the IPC in the Rabb Room on Wednesday, November 7 at 9pm. Check out their main website for a list of all additional policy forums being held until the end of the semester!

A Freshman Perspective

Written by student worker Nick Golden, Class of 2016.

Phew! It’s been a fast couple of weeks into my first year of college now, and what a few weeks it has been. From midterms to activities and clubs, Tufts has been an experience and a half. Nothing, however, has really captured my attention as much as the ExCollege. The ExCollege was one of the main draws for my applying to Tufts as well as for my eventual decision to attend the school. I found the possibility for students to teach unique courses as well as the wide variety of visiting lecturers a uniquely potent program that Tufts had to offer its students. As a freshman, I’ve been lucky enough to participate in the ExCollege in multiple ways.

Over the summer, the freshmen had the opportunity to choose if they would like to take an advising course, and, excited as I was, I spotted a course called “The Role of Rising Powers in the International Order,” an Explorations course taught by seniors that would not only teach about the unique material but also inform the freshmen taking the class on how to manage all the possible trials and opportunities of the first semester of college. The course invites open discussion at the same time as it provides a place for freshmen to debate and find counsel from experienced and qualified students who represent some of Tufts’ best and brightest. From my experience in taking this class, and seeing hearing about others, I can tell that more ExCollege classes are in my future.

At the same time, I have also had the luck to work at the ExCollege itself, as a student assistant. Seeing the ExCollege from the inside has been a fascinating experience. The number and breadth of courses that people of all walks of life apply to teach give the great people at the ExCollege the ability to really decipher which courses, with the help of student and faculty reviewers, will best educate and invigorate the student body of the school. From courses on superheroes in American media to investigatory journalism to public policy and science-fiction, the possibilities are virtually endless.

Altogether, the ExCollege has become a prime fixture of the first few weeks of my college experience. It seems to touch on so much of what I’ve done, am doing, and seek to do. I don’t know a lot about where the rest of my experience at Tufts will go, but what I do know is that I can tell that the ExCollege will play a part in it.

The Express: Weekly Updates from the ExCollege

 

Friday, October 5, 2012 

Applications, Applications, and Even More Applications

Today is the day: Visiting Lecturer applications are due! The stack of applications grows higher and higher on our desk. The sheer number of creative course ideas that flow into our office makes our minds spin. Even after almost 50 years, the proposals maintain a high level of originality, very thought-provoking content, and clear expertise on the part of the applicants.

 The student workers continue to pump all of this information into our database so that we can prepare for the upcoming interviews and final reviews. Out of these mountains of proposals, our spring courses await their discovery!

To find our spring courses, we rely on the input of both faculty members and students! Keep reading to learn how to get involved in the selection process!

 Get Involved!

With the busy season upon us, it is time for you to become involved in the ExCollege! We rely on input from students and faculty when selecting courses for upcoming semesters.

So volunteer on one of our subcommittees! Each subcommittee consists of 1 faculty member and 2 students. The subcommittees interview 4 to 6 excited applicants, and the time commitment is only 3 hours total between 10/29 and 11/9.

So if talking with a cool faculty member, a fellow Jumbo, and an exuberant applicant (all while helping out the ExCollege!) sounds like the perfect way to spend 3 hours, then volunteer now! Email rebekah.stiles@tufts.edu to receive a volunteer form.

As always, call us at 617-627-3384, email us at excollege@tufts.edu, or drop by 95 Talbot Ave. with any questions!

The Half Century Mark

In a mere 18 months (April 2014!), the ExCollege turns 50! 50 years of experimenting on the Hill, enriching the undergraduate experience and curriculum, and bringing together the greater Boston and Tufts communities. Explore the ExCollege’s history during the upcoming months as we gear up for our 50th anniversary. We will be posting interesting tidbits on Facebook, Twitter, our Blog, this e-newsletter, and more! Be sure to also check out the ExCollege’s most monumental historic events now added to our Facebook timeline.

In the Classroom

Did you happen to spot two groups of freshmen running around campus this past week? They may have been the students in Kerry Eaton’s and Sabrina Gordon’s Explorations course “The Impact of Social Media. Kerry and Sabrina gave their students the task of completing a scavenger hunt, with the catch being that one group received the use of one iPhone while the other group was forbidden to use any technological resource.

As the students rushed around campus, the team with the iPhone completed the tasks (ranging from scoping out the number of treadmills in the gym to finding the hours for Carmichael Dining Hall) more quickly and easily than the team banished from technology. However, the team that got their workout running up and down and all around the Hill without the iPhone interacted much more with each other and with the people around campus. Kerry and Sabrina chose to complete this exercise to showcase that the amount of information available to us 24/7 through the use of a smartphone can hinder our interactions with other people.

Did you know…

Computer Science courses began in the ExCollege back in 1968. The Computer Science Department is now a popular and thriving part of Tufts, with 35 students graduating in 2011 with a degree in Computer Science.

Around Campus

With the halfway mark to the semester quickly approaching, do not forget to take advantage of the events held around campus! With guest speakers, special luncheons, conferences, and more all being a part of the Hill’s dynamic atmosphere, everyone will find something to excite them. Keep reading for information about two upcoming events!

  • Interested in understanding the ways in which we can actively work toward social and racial justice? Attend “An Evening with Mel King” on Wednesday, October 10th!

Mel King stands as a crucial member of the great-Boston community. His roles as a teacher, youth worker, state representative, historic mayoral candidate, and more all reflect his importance in the community development movement in Boston. Come hear King speak on Wednesday, October 10th at 6pm in Alumnae Lounge! Admission is free. Check out the Tufts events page for more information.

  • Passionate about global health issues? Then watch next week’s Friedman Seminar Series!

The Friedman Seminar Series will feature Roger Thurow, award-winning journalist for the Wall Street Journal and now Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, in a seminar titled The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change. The talk will be live webcast beginning at 12:15pm on Wednesday, October 10th. Register on Wednesday through the Friedman School’s website to watch the live webcast.

Behind the Scenes: The Student Worker Perspective

Ever wonder what it would be like to work at the ExCollege? Lenea Sims, sophomore and new student worker at the ExCollege, reflects on why she chose to work here at the little brown house on Talbot Ave!

Like most other students here, Tufts is the only university I’ve ever attended. However, I think I speak for all students that go here when I say that this place, this home away from home, is like no other university—no other place, frankly—in the world. I love that when I wake up everyday, I’m destined to meet someone with an entirely different background than me. While this could surely happen at any other school, something about this dynamic at Tufts is different. Maybe it’s because I have a Canadian roommate from Hong Kong, and suitemates that have lived not only all around the globe, but also in Tufts’ backyard of Boston. Or perhaps it’s how these people interact with each other: in a way that is both engaging and educational. Most likely, however, is that Tufts goes to great lengths to facilitate these conversations between people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and interests. This dedication to enriching students reaches the depths of all disciplines at Tutfs, but is perhaps most thoughtfully embodied in the Experimental College.

When a position at the ExCollege was brought to my attention, I jumped at the chance to work in the cute little brown house, which has quickly become my home away from home (away from home). No matter how simple my work may seem in the moment—researching contacts for a mailing list, picking up copies of films from Tisch, advertising our teaching series all around Davis—I take so much pride in knowing that I am contributing to one of the most progressive teaching institutions on not only this campus, but also on campuses worldwide. The very idea of bringing people with different views and stories to teach to us (very lucky) students, is just plain awesome. We often overlook how lucky we are to have a program like this, one that really wants to see us become more well-rounded students, students capable of creating stories of our own. Now that I work at the ExCollege, though, I come face to face with this realization everyday. I am thrilled to see ideas coming in for new classes and even more thrilled to hear from students in current classes how much they love their ExCollege courses.

We are all so privileged to go a school like this one and to have a program that embodies our university’s ideals so beautifully. With that, I encourage you to take full advantage and enroll yourself in something fun—something meaningful— next semester: an ExCollege course!

And It Begins!

This past Thursday, we welcomed our Explorations and Perspectives student leaders back to the Hill with one very delicious dinner. The meal ended with a multi-layered chocolate cake and a talk about what it truly means to be an inspiring, courageous, and effective teacher. Steve Cohen, a senior lecturer in the Education Department, highlighted the fact that to critically engage a room full of students and to awaken their passion for learning, the method of relying material and cold hard facts needed to meld together for a truly outstanding educational experience. With this thought freshly imprinted on their minds, Steve sent our student leaders to work creating propaganda posters. Armed with speeches delivered by Communist, Nazi, and Socialist leaders from the World War II era (as well as one very large bag of crayons), groups of students chose which party they would represent with their poster.

Groups huddled around blank posters discussing their party’s point of view and how it would best be captured in propaganda form. Once inspiration hit, each group took up their crayons of choice and set out to convert the masses. The last few minutes of the exercise crept up quickly on quite a few groups, and teams furiously colored their posters together in order to finish their masterpieces.

The presentations followed, and each group provided strong reasoning behind their choice of word and image on the poster as they related to the ideals of their chosen party. As Steve wrapped up his lesson, he posed a very simple question to the entire group, “Will you remember that lesson? Will you remember what you learned?” Everyone nodded their head up and down enthusiastically.

As our student leaders soon welcome first year students to Tufts and begin their teaching journey, Steve’s lesson of what it means to engage and challenge a classroom remain on their minds. They have the tools necessary to tackle the upcoming semester with vigor and excitement. Here’s to our 30 student leaders creating classroom environments that will not only positively impact the way their students think about the world, but what it means to be a dynamic member of the Tufts’ community.

Catching our breath

Phew! We’re a bit behind the ball on posts, but it’s because we had a fantastic spring semester! Faculty presentations from A Taste of Tufts and student films from TuftsFilmWorks and great reviews of our spring courses … it’s all good. Now that things are quieting down a bit, I’ll try to post a bit in the next few weeks about what’s happening over the summer and what’s coming up for fall. Stay tuned!