5 Signs You’d Make a Great Peer Leader

1.  You love to talk about Tufts and everything Jumbo.

Does your heart race just a little bit faster when you see an opening to talk about Tufts? Have you been guilty of talking up your favorite program on campus or discussing a controversial campus policy at 3AM in your dorm’s lounge?

That’s the kind of passion that we’re looking for in our Explorations and Perspectives Peer Leaders. As a Peer Leader, you’ll be guiding a group of wide-eyed, excited, nervous, and awesome first-year students through their first semester at Tufts. Everything will be new to your students, and they need an experienced hand to guide them through the bombardment of new information, people, and places. You’ll also be leading them through orientation week, and a love of Tufts and sharing your knowledge will certainly make your students feel more at home on the Hill.

2.  You love to learn.

Our Explorations and Perspectives seminars are not like other Tufts courses. Our Peer Leaders have a certain degree of knowledge regarding their course topic, but the seminar is meant to be an exploration of learning for both the students and the teachers (how cool is that?). You’ll not only be engaging your students, but they’ll be making you think more deeply about the topic at hand.

Kacey Taylor and Charlotte Rea taught "The Portrayal of the U.S. in International Film" this past fall.

Kacey Taylor and Charlotte Rea taught “The Portrayal of the U.S. in International Film” with a group of highly motivated freshmen.

3.  You don’t back down from a challenge.

Being an Explorations or Perspectives Peer Leader is a lot of work. You design your own course, get intensive training from some pretty great people at the ExCollege, work your way through orientation week with your 14 freshmen, and then go through 4 more months of learning, teaching, and being awesome as you explore your course topic with your students.

But at the end of it all, you’ll come away a stronger teacher, mentor, academic, and friend. You get the full support of us here at the ExCollege, other Peer Leaders, and (perhaps most importantly) your students. The bonds created through this program have literally lasted throughout lifetimes, and the slight challenge of planning, training, and teaching is 100% worth it.

4.  You have a knack for the creative and the innovative.

With “experimental” in our name, it’s kind of a giveaway that we want to provide our students with an innovative, interactive experience in the classroom.  Our Peer Leaders introduce over 250 freshmen every year to this mindset of the ExCollege, and they never fail to amaze us.

Since you design your own course as a Peer Leader, you get to experiment with teaching methods, topics, projects, discussions, and so much more. So get creative! Try something new, and explore the different ways that you can inspire your students.

David Nunez-Ariza and Jeremy Gross taught "Hip-Hop as Culture" this fall, and they painted the cannon with their students when they discussed the history of graffiti.

David Nunez-Ariza and Jeremy Gross taught “Hip-Hop as Culture” this fall, and they painted the cannon with their students when they discussed the history of graffiti.

5.  You take the time to listen.

It’s important to underscore the fact that you’re not just a teacher in an Explorations or Perspectives classroom. You’re also there to act as a mentor to all of your students—helping them traverse the freshmen year terrain and supporting them whenever they encounter an especially difficult obstacle. Whenever your students come to you, you need to listen closely in order to provide the best support.

Over the years, students in Explorations and Perspectives classes praise the availability and openness of their Peer Leaders. That stems directly from our Peer Leaders’ abilities to actively listen to students and balance their roles as instructor, mentor, and friend.

If you want to join the Explorations and Perspectives experience as a Peer Leader, then apply today! All applications are due on Wednesday, March 12.

Questions? Contact us at the ExCollege by calling 617-627-3384, emailing excollege@tufts.edu, or dropping by the office at 95 Talbot!

The ExCollege brought me to Tufts, and the ExCollege has kept me here.

Written by Kumar Ramanathan, A15

“Wait, what ExCollege class are you taking?”

This is a question I have asked friends, friends of friends, and strangers in Dewick more times that I care to count. My personal investment in each and every class comes as a surprise to some, but in every case I’ve heard fascinating and enthusiastic stories that make me proud to be a member of the ExCollege Board.

kumar

Kumar Ramanthan:
A15 and ExCollege Board member

I first met the Board in April last year, walking into the conference room as the perpetually nervous freshman that we all remember being. What struck me immediately was how friendly the group that faced me was, and how passionate they all were about making the ExCollege the best place it could be. Each member of the Board has their own interests and quirks, but all of those come together to make the right kind of mix that a place as eclectic as the ExCollege needs.

Being part of this team has been a wonderfully positive way to impact the lives of those around me. From organizing the Election Night Extravaganza to debating over the last two classes to be approved, each meeting is unabashedly and wholeheartedly directed towards making Tufts a better and more fun place. Most of all, being surrounded by such dedicated faculty and students has made me look at and appreciate Tufts in whole new ways.

The ExCollege brought me to Tufts, and the ExCollege has kept me here. My time in the Board is one of the most rewarding, fascinating, and fun experiences that Tufts has offered me, and I can’t wait to keep doing it.

The ExCollege is now accepting applications for the 2014-2015 Board. If you’re interested in applying, download the application from our website. All applications are due February 21.

An Inside Look at Spring Registration

In 1964, the ExCollege began its journey at Tufts with over 60 students, staff, and faculty participating in one class: The Contemporary European Novel designed by Seymour Simches, Juan Alonso, and Sol Gittleman. This course was not only the first comparative literature course taught at Tufts, but also the first class dealing exclusively in modern literature taught in translation. Fast forward 50 years and the ExCollege houses over 50 courses offered for credit to Tufts students. This spring, almost 800 students enrolled in an ExCollege course, ready to dabble in the experimental and be immersed in the wonderful world of innovative, interactive education.

ExCollege Spring 2014 Numbers Vertical_small

 

Out of the 24 selected Visiting Lecturer courses, 11 filled to capacity with excited Tufts students. So what were these popular classes?

  • American Superheroes: Power, Politics, and Morality
  • 2D Animation
  • The Corset and the Crown: The History and Politics of Fashion
  • Medical Spanish
  • The Mind’s Eye: Neuroscience in the Movies
  • Positive Psychology
  • The Right to Privacy in Modern America
  • Experimenting with Philanthropy
  • On the Record: Communicating for the Government
  • Introduction to Sports Management (an online course)
  • Microfinance

Tufts students continue to amaze us with their ability to tackle challenging topics, projects, and discussions in the classroom, and we can’t wait to see what this semester has in store for our ExCollege classes!

Diving into ExCollege Course Selection

In less than one week, the ExCollege Board will convene to make the final decisions regarding what courses will be offered during the spring semester at our Money Meeting. The Money Meeting is an all-day meeting where the Board members vote on what courses should be offered to Tufts students for the upcoming semester. Their voting decisions are informed by faculty reviews of the course proposals as well as feedback received from interviewing the candidates.

Each member of the Board, students, faculty, and ExCollege staff alike, receives equal voting power, an ExCollege policy that has carried on from the earliest days of the Board. The Board first met in May 1964 and quickly broke the established Tufts tradition by inviting 3 students to sit-in on Board meetings. By 1966, the Board unanimously agreed that the 4 student representatives on the Board would be granted full voting rights. From these early ExCollege moments, the ExCollege became a natural liaison between students and faculty while also functioning as an institution that both students and faculty use to shape the academic and social landscape of Tufts. Now our Board consists of an equal number of students and faculty (5 each) which allows for comprehensive discussions of programs, courses, and ideas from multiple perspectives.

The ExCollege continues to stand as a student-centric department, and we always want students directly involved in decisions that are made. This is especially true when the ExCollege dives into the process of selecting courses. We want to offer courses that challenge students, use innovative teaching methods, cover unique topics, and (of course) are courses that Tufts students want to take. As we head into the Money Meeting next week, the Board will certainly have some lively conversation about what should and should not be included in the ExCollege course line-up.  Our discussions and decisions are sure to lead to a great group of courses for Tufts students to take in the spring!

A Look at Medical Spanish

Written by Benji Cohen, A11 and summer graduate intern

Background: In 2008, a Tufts student approached the ExCollege with an idea. As a soon-to-be medical school student, he wanted to put his Spanish skills to use with his patients. However, he felt that his more traditional Spanish language education did not give him the full skill set necessary to interact with people as a medical professional in a hospital.

The ExCollege gave the student the opportunity to reach out to prospective instructors for a course entitled “Medical Spanish,” and the student received a few applications from interested individuals. Ultimately, Josep Vicente was chosen as the “Medical Spanish” instructor. Josep Vicente, an interpreter at many local hospitals, sought to meet the immense demand for Spanish-speaking health professionals.

First Taught: Fall 2008.

Status: In the Spring 2013 semester, Josep taught Medical Spanish for the sixth time. The demand for his course among the student body has only increased over time.

What Made it Special: Buttressing the established curriculum at Tufts, Medical Spanish is a practical outlet for Spanish language learners. Josep does more than just provide students with the necessary language and vocabulary training. Through a series of role-playing exercises, his class is imbued with a strong cultural emphasis in order for students to practice how to interact with, while simultaneously assisting, individuals who may not be fluent in English. According to Josep, this dual focus is key because in medical interpretation health professionals must understand both the verbal and the non-verbal cues from patients. As the Latino population in the United States continues to grow, Medical Spanish can literally mean life or death.

Reflection: A Tufts Daily editorial in 2008 applauded Josep’s class for reflecting “the type of cultural fluidity that has come to define our country, while also allowing [Tufts] to adjust to the times.” The editorial lauded Medical Spanish for embodying “what a Tufts education is all about.”

The Beginnings of EPIIC

The beginnings of the EPIIC program stem back to the Experimental College. The ideas that eventually served as the foundation of EPIIC began as ACOIL and the Symposium Project! Benji Cohen (A11) dug into the history of EPIIC this summer.

The Symposium Project

The Background: In the fall of 1985, Robyn Gittleman had an impromptu meeting with an academically curious Tufts student who wanted to promote intellectual life outside of the classroom. This conversation resulted in the creation of the Advisory Committee on Intellectual Life (ACOIL), which, as Robyn told the Tufts Observer, would create forums and discussions that were “intellectually challenging.” ACOIL was made up of three student representatives and Robyn. One of the committee’s first acts was to place national newspapers at “neutral locations on campus,” which ACOIL hoped would inspire off-the-cuff conversations between students about current events.

The Class: ACOIL’s first semester-long program was a seminar on International Terrorism and Political Violence led by Sherman Teichman and taught through the ExCollege. Robyn told the Observer that the class incorporated in-depth readings and brought in guest speakers with an expertise in terrorism. From the beginning of the fall semester, the class aimed to illuminate the basic issues and develop a keen understanding of terrorism, and then put their work toward a full-day symposium in the spring.

The Simulation: In November 1985 Sherman devised an eight-hour terrorist skyjacking simulation exercise for his students. On a Saturday morning, students reported to Braker Hall where they were confronted with the fictitious, albeit quite timely (a TWA flight had been hijacked in June 1985 by Hezbollah), news that a plane travelling from New York to Rome had been taken over by an extremist group called the Revolutionary International Phoenix. As the Tufts Daily reported, students played a variety of roles, which included the terrorists themselves, the American government, and the negotiating team. Sherman noted that that exercise helped students understanding “the frantic feeling of helplessness” and the “confusion that arises during crises not only intellectually, but emotionally. It’s an exercise of your entire brain.”

The Symposium: From February 28 – March 1 a collection of distinguished public intellectuals, academics, and policymakers descended on Tufts to participate in the culminating symposium sponsored by the ExCollege. The guests included: Dr. Michael Klare, ExCollege instructors from 1975 and defense correspondent for The Nation, Professor Martha Crenshsaw of Wesleyan University, and Tim Russert. The Boston Globe and the New York Times wrote expansive write-ups about the conference, and both publications noted the lack of consensus from the experts on how to deal with terrorism. The Tufts Daily estimated that 600 Tufts students and faculty attended the event.

Legacy: The Symposium Project taught through the ExCollege continued annually through 1990-1991. Topics ranged from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip crisis to the United States’ drug policy. In 1991, Sherman created Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) and moved the program to the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership. The current framework of EPIIC continues to resemble that first ExCollege seminar.

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.

 

Peer Teaching at the ExCollege

Since 1967, the ExCollege has provided Tufts undergraduates with the opportunity to design their own course and teach fellow Jumbos through the Peer Teaching program. Peer-taught courses often revolve around current issues; allowing for dynamic classroom spaces that make students re-think and re-shape the way they view the world. Currently, the ExCollege is on the look-out for Peer Teachers for Spring 2014. If you are a student and want to share your expertise in your own course, please apply! Before you submit your application, please get in touch with us (excollege@tufts.edu or 617-627-3384) with your course idea. The application is available on our main website. The deadline for applications is November 1.

Peer-taught course topics over the past 46 years continually morph based on changing student needs and contemporary issues. From 1970′s course “The Draft” to 2012′s class “Game Strategy,” exceptional peer instructors challenge their students while igniting dialogue and sparking ideas.

For a glimpse into the world of Peer Teaching, our intrepid summer intern Benji Cohen (A11 and former ExCollege student board member) put together a snapshot of the Spring 2007 course “The Future is Lost: The TV Series as Cultural Phenomenon” taught by Chadwick Matlin (A07) and Ed Kalafarski (A06).

The Course: The Future is Lost: The TV Series as Cultural Phenomenon, Spring 2007

The Peer-Teachers: Chadwick Matlin (A07) and Ed Kalafarski (A06) used ABC’s smash-hit drama “Lost” as an academic text to analyze the future of media and the intersection between technology, media, and economics.

Lost and Society: The class explored how the show has become a pop culture sensation, but equally importantly how ABC markets and positions the show in its television lineup. In addition, the online community devoted to “Lost” demonstrated, in Chad and Ed’s eyes, a significant turning point in the relationship between media and society. As Chad remarked, “the Internet is bringing people together to deal with something that is usually referred to as just a hobby, but here it’s becoming what people do when they come home from work for three hours at night.” Chad marveled that “Lost” mobilized “people in our reality based on a fictional show,” and attempted to teach his students that such mobilization was targeted by ABC executives because showbiz, after all, is a business.

Reception: Chad and Ed’s course received local, national, and even international attention and acclaim. Chad and Ed’s class was featured in the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Huffington Post, and NPR,  “Lost” producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse caught wind of the class from California and had a conference call to answer students’ questions, and Chad was interviewed by BBC radio.

Reflection: Chad told the Tufts Daily that in the end “Lost” was an entertaining means to an academic end. He said, “we’re instructing students on the new media landscape, and what it means to watch TV in the 21st century in the Internet-dominated world that we live in.” As ExCollege Director Robyn Gittleman told the Globe, Chad and Ed created “a very thoughtful syllabus that explored all aspects of the show. . . . It had many, many layers with different educational goals.”

Where Are They Now: After graduating from Tufts, Chad was an associate editor at TheBigMoney.com, Slate’s business site. He has written for Fortune.com, New York, The Atlantic, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Columbia Journalism Review, and Talking Points Memo. He is currently a senior editor for Reuters Opinion, Reuters’ online commentary arm. Ed received a Masters in Computer Science from Brown University in 2009. He has worked for Google since 2007, focusing on the Google Maps app. In addition, he was the project manager and lead developer for Slate’s “Map the Candidates” tool during the 2008 presidential election.

Preparing for our 50th Anniversary

2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Experimental College at Tufts. In preparation for a series of events this coming spring, we’re very busy sorting through old course books, posters, newspaper articles, instructor bios, and so much more in order to put together a comprehensive look at the past five decades. Diving into such a rich and complex history produces some wonderful ExCollege artifacts that need to be shared! As we come across these interesting ExCollege facts, figures, and photographs, we’ll be sharing them on our blog.

Here is an early sampling of photographs discovered going through old reports created by the ExCollege.