Our Taste of Tufts Series: A Full Re-cap

The Taste of Tufts series initiated in 2012 aims to bring together faculty, staff, and students through the sharing of the amazing and ground-breaking research being done at Tufts. This fall, the ExCollege welcomed 4 faculty members to speak about their research and to initiate dialogue with a diverse audience. We’ve compiled a detailed listing of all Taste of Tufts lectures from this past fall so you can get a glimpse into the awesome things happening on our campus!

Ben Hescott, Computer Science

Professor Ben Hescott from Computer Science spoke as the opener of our Fall 2013 Taste of Tufts series. Professor Hescott dove into describing how the protein-protein interaction network is a collection of thousands and thousands of pairs of genes in some relationship. He compared this network to a social network like Facebook, where the ‘relationships’ can be represented as a graph. Professor Hescott informed the audience that in leveraging that information, we can actually devise new algorithms for biological discovery. According to Professor Hescott, his research presents algorithms using the protein-protein interaction network to discover compensatory pathways in yeast. These pathways are life’s “back-up” system and can be found using only high throughput data modeled like a social network.

Cathy Stanton, Anthropology

Earlier today, Cathy Stanton of the Anthropology Department spoke at our second Taste of Tufts lecture of the semester. She described her work studying traditional communities that have made their home on land now owned and managed by the National Park Service. Stanton has studied groups as diverse as the factory-worker Polish immigrant community in Salem, MA, engaging in what she calls “salvage ethnography,” to looking at how a traditionally run farm operates in the context of contemporary agricultural practices in Columbia County, NY. Most recently, the National Park Service asked Stanton to study the community of seasonal residents on Peddocks Island in Boston Harbor. Stanton said that although the traditional residents of the island were from three separate communities — Portuguese fishermen, summer residents who came to the island when cottages and hotels were built, and the officers and soldiers who were stationed at Fort Andrews on the island’s East Head — after five generations and years of intermarriage, the islanders now share a cohesive identity and sense of community that Stanton says is very much bound up in the unique place in which they’ve come together.

Read the full Tufts Daily article here.

Kelly McLaughlin, Biology

Earlier today, Professor Kelly McLaughlin of the Biology Department spoke at our Taste of Tufts lecture, discussing her work in developmental biology. McLaughlin works with South African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) as a model organism to study organ development and regeneration, specifically that of hearts and kidneys. According to McLaughlin, these frogs are ideal model organisms because they can be easily manipulated as embryos, their tissues can be explanted and transplanted, and because they’re transparent while developing, researchers can see their hearts beating and fluids pumping in their kidneys through their skin. McLaughlin’s lab looks at what effects turning on and off various genes within these frogs’ genomes have on their organ development. Some of the most fascinating work she’s done recently, though, arose after some of her colleagues asked her why so many frogs are disappearing. The answer? An herbicide called atrazine interferes with the frogs’ genetic pathways responsible for development, causing them to metamorphose into frogs before their bodies are physically capable of doing so.

Read the full Tufts Daily article here

Stephen Bailey, Anthropology

Dr. Stephen Bailey of the Anthropology Department joined us today for the final Taste of Tufts presentation of the academic year. Dr. Bailey spoke on his research looking at the growth and development of people living in high altitude climates. The majority of Dr. Bailey’s latest research focused on children living in Tibet. He and his colleagues looked at how elementary school children of different nationalities faired under the same environmental stressors. Going into the study, he stated that he and his team thought that adaptation to high elevations fell under the idea of “one size fits all” in that every human would adapt similarly to being at a high elevation. However, after diving further into his research, Dr. Bailey uncovered this to be untrue. Based on an individual’s genetic background, there are actually multiple ways of adapting to the high elevations both physically and physiologically!

Read the full Tufts Daily article here.

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.

 

The Agora, Fall 1970

Written by Benji Cohen, A11 and Summer Graduate Intern

The Background: Borrowing the event name Agora from the Greek for “gathering place,” the Experimental College held an open event on the library roof for students and faculty to talk to ExCollege instructors, learn about a variety of student organizations, and watch artistic performances.

The Event: The Tufts Observer opened their comments on the event by noting that the ExCollege “agora, probably the first in American history, was held on Wessell Library roof last Sunday evening.” For two hours, ExCollege course leaders dialogued with the over 300 visitors, while the Beelzebubs sang a capella and a modern dance troupe preformed. In addition, students groups like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA), and the Christian Fellowship used the agora as a marketplace, selling literature and dialoguing with their peers and professors. According to the Observer two “craftsmen peddled peace pipes.”

The Fight: The agora was “thrown open,” according to the Observer, by a “memorable verbal fray between members of YSA and SDS.” In the middle of the already chaotic event, student representatives from both groups tossed verbal jabs at each other attempting to one-up the other in front of the large student crowd. The Observer editorialized that the fight “added spice to it all.” When the fight finally died down, the Observer’s unofficial poll showed that “SDS appeared to win more popular support” than YSA. The reporter speculated, however, that the SDS victory may have been a result of the “weenies and home-made cakes and cookies” rather than their political ideology.

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.

Explorations & Perspectives 2013!

Congratulations to the Class of 2013!! A hush has spread into the ExCollege office (and all over the Hill) with so many seniors taking off to pursue exciting post-Tufts adventures. We’re already missing our seniors, but we can’t wait to start getting email updates and surprise visits!

With the summer slowly rolling in, the Commencement excitement is transforming into an excitement for the fall semester and a new batch of Jumbos. In June, the incoming Class of 2017 will be getting a lot of Tufts-tastic information in the mail, including the coveted advising programs list. Every fall, the ExCollege provides the option for entering freshmen to enroll in either the Explorations or Perspectives advising programs.

Initiated in 1972, Explorations served as an innovative advising program meant to act as both an academic and social introduction to the Hill. Each Explorations seminar is led by 2 upperclassmen who design the syllabus and course topic themselves. From “Robots, Space, and Civilizations of the Future” to “Road Trips and the American Identity” and much more, the 9 Explorations seminars open to the Class of 2017 will continue the tradition of offering an experience that uniquely combines advising, learning, and a sense of community. Check out the current Explorations courses here.

After the awesome success of the Explorations program, Perspectives joined the ExCollege advising line-up in 1988. Unlike Explorations, with course topics wide-ranging, Perspectives classes all work under the large umbrella topic of “media studies.” Pre-2014, Perspectives seminars focused around the idea of movies, but given the surge in new media, the program has been re-structured to encompass all types of media. “The Business of Hollywood,” “Medical Fallacies in TV and Film,” and 7 other seminars will be offered to incoming freshmen this fall. Like Explorations, each Perspectives seminar has been custom-built by two upperclassmen ready to guide freshmen through their first semester as Jumbos. For a full listing of Perspectives courses, head over to our main website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

^2012′s Explorations and Perspectives Peer Leaders in summer training! 

Here are some memorable quotes from our 2012 Explorations and Perspectives students:

What did you like best about your Perspectives seminar?

“I loved my group and my leaders. I feel very close with each of them, and I think it has made the transition to Tufts easier and more fun.”

“I really enjoyed the conversation we had in class. I feel like I learned a lot from my classmates.”

What did you like best about your Explorations seminar?

“I really liked the environment. My instructors fostered an atmosphere that blended learning and relaxing. I looked forward to class each week.”

“I loved learning and going in-depth about a subject that I probably would have gone a lifetime without knowing anything about if not for this course.”

What was the most important thing you learned in this course?

“I developed a personal philosophy, and I’m optimistic about humanity.”

“To think openly and abstractly about current issues.”

“The importance of experiencing everything and becoming involved in things at Tufts.”

With such powerful and positive reactions from our most recent Explorations and Perspectives seminars, we’re looking to have a strong and memorable start to our 41st year of offering these programs in 2013. Between both Explorations and Perspectives this fall, incoming first-years will be able to choose between 18 extremely interesting and challenging topics. With 14 spots up for grabs in each course, the ExCollege looks to welcome 252 freshmen into our advising programs this fall! We can’t wait!

Sex on Campus: As Learning Leads to Action

Next week, the ExCollege will be making its decisions regarding which classes will be offered to Tufts students in the fall! Mimi Arbeit went through this process last semester, and before jumping into the classroom, she wrote about what she hoped to bring to her students. Now teaching ‘Sexual Wellness on College Campuses,’ Mimi demonstrates the type of ExCollege instructor dedicated to establishing a vibrant and innovative classroom for her students in order to expand upon their current experiences at Tufts.

Written by Mimi Arbeit, Visiting Lecturer

I’ve wanted to teach at the Experimental College since I first accepted the offer to join the MA/PhD program at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development here at Tufts. And I knew what I wanted to teach, too. I even had the name of my class: Sex on Campus.

I came to Tufts after spending two years as the sole Health teacher at a middle school in Quincy. I loved teaching Health, and I really loved teaching the Sex Ed portions of Health. I loved being the one cool and collected person in the room while explaining the human reproductive system in detail. But I was also keenly aware that there’s a lot that I can cover with college students that I couldn’t cover in that middle school classroom.

Prior to my first job as a middle school Health teacher, I was, in fact, a college student, much like the people taking my class. I was a student on a campus with its own sexual culture that, over the course of four years, I observed and tried to understand. But what helped me most in college both personally and professionally was becoming a sexual health advocate—hearing from, counseling, and teaching my peers about how to engage in safe and fulfilling sexual experiences and relationships while at college.

And that’s exactly what students in my class will learn to do. I’m not an undergrad at Tufts and this isn’t my campus, so I can’t tell you what’s going on or how to understand it. In my class, the students will collaborate with each other to describe the sexual arena at Tufts as they understand and experience it. Then, they will weigh the strengths and limitations of various research and theories that might help explain what is going on and why. Furthermore, throughout the semester each student will work step by step to plan and prepare an advocacy project designed to optimize some aspect of sexual wellness on campus in some specific way.

I can’t wait to see what my students share with each other and how they choose to impact and contribute to their community here at Tufts. I can’t wait to see how much I learn, personally, from teaching the class.

We could even extend our impact beyond ourselves and beyond our campus. Scholars from many disciplines are paying increased attention to the sexual behaviors and attitudes of our nation’s college students, and they are making all sorts of claims. Journalists, activists, psychologists, sociologists, public health researchers, and other scholars argue over whether hooking up is “bad” for young women, whether hookup “culture” contributes to high rates of sexual assault on college campuses, or whether long-term relationships “should” be a priority for college students. What is the value in these arguments? Whose agenda are they actually serving?

I think all of these questions are distractions from real conversations about sexual justice and communal wellbeing. I think that Tufts students—that my students—need to talk back to these scholars and tell them about the complexity of sex, relationships, safety, and decision-making on campus. In order to do that, students need the opportunity to assess the institutional and cultural forces that constrain and facilitate what they want and what they do. And then, together, they can think critically and creatively about how to promote positive possibilities for sex on campus that make room for themselves and others in a multiplicity of ways.

And I consider it a pleasure and an honor for me to be starting that process with them.