Active Citizenship

Annie Leonard: The Story of Stuff

Annie Leonard, a passionate supporter of sustainability and author of The Story of Stuff, came to speak at Tufts on October 24. Her book explains “how our obsession with stuff is trashing the planet, our communities, and our health,” and is accompanied by an informative animated video narrated by Leonard. As the Common Reading Book for the Class of 2016, The Story of Stuff was given to incoming freshmen in an effort to encourage community-wide discussions throughout the fall semester. The book also accompanies Tufts’ vision for a more sustainable campus, as this school year has also seen the implementation of President Monaco’s new Sustainability Council.

Check out a segment from Annie Leonard’s lecture, filmed by Dan Jubelirer, A15, and listen for her shout-out to Tufts’ campaign to divest from fossil fuels! For more info on the campaign, visit Divest For Our Future.

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Student Research Trip to Burma

This summer, a few students from the Institute for Global Leadership’s program for Narrative and Documentary Practice traveled to Burma for 10 days. There, they worked with photojournalists Gary Knight and Philip Blenkinsop to put their learning and research into practice.

In this Tufts Daily video, you’ll meet a group of ambitious undergraduates who used the opportunity to interact closely with the Burmese people and carry out unique research projects. They also share some stunning photographs of the city, daily interactions, rituals, food, and nightlife they encountered throughout their travels.

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Benefit Concert for The Sharewood Project

The Sharewood Project, a free healthcare organization run by first and second year students at Tufts University School of Medicine, will host a benefit concert on October 13 to celebrate 16 years of providing free medical services around the Boston area.

The event is part of a partnership with the Longwood Symphony Orchestra and will feature works from  Robert Kyr, Mozart, and Prokofiev. According to the event website, “The orchestra’s members are primarily healthcare professionals, from students to staff, who have chosen Sharewood as a Community Partner for their Healing Art of Music program. All proceeds from ticket sales will support the important services that Sharewood provides.” These include clinical case management, laboratory screening, psychiatric, dental, ophthalmic sexual and women’s health, dental screening, nutrition counseling, vaccinations, and social services.

The Sharewood project, whose name comes from Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest idea of giving to the poor mixed with the idea of a shared learning experience between those receiving medical help and those providing it, relies entirely on donations and fundraising to provide their services. For more information on this year’s symphony fundraiser or to buy tickets, check out the event registration. For more information on Sharewood, check out this video that appeared on the NBC Nightly News last fall:

 

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Exhibition and Social Change

Rising senior Charmaine Poh, A13, lives international relations: spending her time between Singapore, New York City, and the hill, and she has even fit in a few trips to Nepal, India, and Burma. She’s merged her life experiences around the world with the Jumbo focus on active citizenship and shared her thoughts via her personal blog.

She recently attended a few exhibitions mixing art and social change:

Photo by Charmaine Poh, "You've Got a Fast Car"

And she was inspired to bring what she saw to the hill:

Over the last year or so, I’ve been trying to put what I’ve learned into practice at Tufts…. What I’ve managed to do is miniscule in scale in comparison to what could happen in the future, but I’m nevertheless optimistic.

I’d like to see the corporate and the non-profit world team up, breaking down the stereotypes each industry sees in the other, and in turn focusing their eyes on a common cause. I’d like to see fashion entities, arts festivals, museums and the like adopt this into their corporate social responsibility strategy, knowing that it can benefit them. And likewise, non-profits need to know that creativity does not necessarily mean a waste of funds. If anything, it’s time to think relevant. You need no further proof than charity:water to see the truth of this.

Check out more of Poh’s moments of inspiration here.

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Summer Reading

In addition to these great reads brought to you by the Tufts community via Facebook and TuftsNow, The Fletcher School suggests a fun and different alternative to your summer reading: student blogs. In a recent blog post, they highlight seven blogs worth a read from students working and researching in places as far and wide as Uganda and Guatemala. They also included a note from a Elia, a student interning in Libya, who is witnessing history while abroad this summer:

In this moment of jubilation in Tripoli, let me wish all of you the chance to experience — either directly for your own country, or indirectly through friends — a peoples’ first opportunity at political self-determination.

No matter the likely political troubles ahead, no matter democracy’s many flaws, no matter how much of a transitional government this new government in Libya will still be, the weight of today’s simple exercise is source of immeasurable joy in its own for millions of Libyans. You just can’t put it in words.

Witnessing fellow human beings go through something like this is truly extraordinary.

–A European who never had to fight with guns for the right to vote for his leaders.

For more on the Fletcher School and their extraordinary students, check out their blog, follow them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook.

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Tufts China Care Annual Report

This summer, Tufts China Care, an on-campus organization focused on helping local Chinese adoptees and special needs children in China,  proudly revealed the fruits of their labor for the 2011-2012 school year in their annual report. In this school year, they managed to raise 47% more funds which went toward the costs of surgeries for 10 orphans in China who suffered from cleft lip and palate, spina bifida, or hydrocephalus–a 25% increase in surgeries than previous years! Eighty percent of these funds came from their well-known fundraising fashion show, LUX 2012, which sold more than 400 tickets.

The group works with the local community through their group, Dumplings, in which China Care members mentor Chinese adoptees and help them explore their Chinese heritage and their Asian-American identities. The report features details from Dumplings as well as their CSA Atrium: The Forbidden City and bubble tea sales fundraisers. But the best part of their colorful report? The adorable pictures of the babies whose lives they helped changed, of course!

For more on Tufts China Care, you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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School’s in Session!

It may be summer, but that doesn’t mean that minds are not a-churning on the hill! Aside from students in the always enlightening Tufts Summer Session courses, the hill is bustling with students taking part in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies. The Institute is an intensive, two-week, interdisciplinary seminar that brings together advanced graduate students, faculty, and practitioners from diverse fields of study. For those wishing to take part in the Institute outside the class, one of their main lecturers, Peter Levine, has taken to the blogosphere to give us an insider’s peek into his summer course. Check out a snippet from his lecture on Roberto Unger:

Here is a little fable (mine, not Unger’s) that illustrates how his theoretical position relates to everyday civic efforts:

A group of middle class students has volunteered to serve meals at a homeless shelter. They love the experience. During the reflection session later, one remarks, “Serving the homeless was so great! I hope that shelter will still be open in 50 years, so my grandchildren can serve.”

A progressive educator cries, “No! Our goal must be to end homelessness. You need to think about root causes, not just serve free food once a week. What are the fundamental causes of homelessness?” Chastened, the students do serious research and determine that homelessness results from poverty, which, in turn, is a byproduct of late capitalism.

They are trying to figure out what to do about capitalism when Roberto Mangabeira Unger happens to walk by. “No!” cries Unger. “You are assuming that the link between poverty and homelessness is natural or inevitable. You have seen patterns in our limited experience and have derived ‘lawlike tendencies or deep-seated economic, organizational, and psychological constraints’ from the data; these now limit your imaginations. We human beings have made the social world and we can change any part of it–not only the parts that you have identified as deep structures, but also any of the other elements or links.

“Your ‘confining assumptions … impoverish [your] sense of the alternative concrete institutional forms democracies and markets can take.’ By focusing on the biggest and most intractable factors, you guarantee defeat, whereas any part of the picture could be changed. It would be possible to have a capitalist society with poverty but no shortage of homes. What if we got rid of all zoning rules and rent control but gave everyone a voucher for rent? What if public buildings were retrofitted to allow people to sleep comfortably in them at night? What if some houses were shared, like ZipCars, and homeless people occupied the temporarily empty ones? What if …?

Peter Levine is the Research Director of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service and Director of their CIRCLE oranization, The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement. For more of his lectures, check out his blog on the Tufts Roundtable Commons.

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Tufts GlobeMed in Achham

This past June, Tufts GlobeMed reached their one year anniversary! GlobeMed is a student organization that partners with Nyaya Health to strive to bring health equity to rural Nepal. In their short time as an official organization at Tufts, they have accomplished an impressive goal:  they reached their fundraising goal by 161%. Three of their members are currently interning with Nyaya Health in Achham, Nepal, as an international GrassRoots On-site Work (GROW) team creating sustainable healthcare and providing knowledge to the Achham community. They detail their eye-opening experiences as they grow abroad in their blog, GROWing in Achham. In one of their entries, David Meyers, A13, describes the difficult contrast between his surroundings the reality of the area that he’s helping:
There is so much beauty here. Beauty in the scenery, and in tricks of the light. Beauty in the wedding of two staff members, and all of the staff’s incredible commitment to the hospital. Beauty in the resilience of the patients who walk for hours in the morning to get their treatments, and then walk hours back at night to go work in their fields. Beauty in the son who stays by his mother’s side as she struggles through MDR TB, and in the kid that pulled through from a case of Kala Azar.
But there is also hardship here in Achham. In the patients who we can’t help and who don’t make it back home.
This is a land of beauty that deserves beauty. That is why we do our work.

Keep it up, Tufts GlobeMed! Feel free to send some praise their way on their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

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Engineering Land

As current STOMP Fellows, Emma Rubin, E14, Hannah Garfield, E14, and Andrew Bennett, E15, more than understand the importance of multiple methods in teaching. From hands-on activities to written or spoken instructions, these fellows have done it all to teach K-12 students engineering and problem solving skills. This summer, they outdid themselves and created what may be the most creative and entertaining engineering video of all time to explain the different types of engineering–with Legos!

STOMP began here at Tufts in 2001 as a CEEO initiative, and has since grown within the university while also helping launch the program throughout the nation at seventeen other schools. For more on Tufts STOMP, check out their website.

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Dreams of the Middle East

In her first semester at Tufts, Alexa Stevens, A13, enrolled in Arabic 1 completely unaware that a subject as unfamiliar as Arabic would change the course of her life. Throughout her time at Tufts, her intellectual curiosity towards the Middle East grew into a love and respect for the area that led her to major in Middle Eastern studies, visit Iran the summer after her sophomore year, and study abroad in Jordan the fall of her Junior year. She keeps a blog chronicling her intellectual journey exploring the Middle East that begins days before she departs for Iran and continues through her college experience in which she explains what, or rather who, inspired her to follow her dreams overseas:

I could tell you that a semester in Jordan sparked my interest in the Cause, or maybe the weeks of travel to Israel and Palestine that I did after that semester, or that perhaps it was my intense study of the Middle East that brought me to delve further into the tightly-wound knot that is the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. But I would be lying, because really the thing that pulled me into a situation which has become highly academic, polemical and esoteric was its most essential element: a person. Namely, my second-year Arabic teacher Suhad. She told us about her family’s home in Gaza, about her experiences during the Second Intifada at Birzeit University, about the fifty-two days she spent between the Israeli and Jordanian borders as a stateless person, about coming to the US and re-doing her entire college education, and about the uphill battle she’s been fighting since birth. Her eyes pulled me in, right back to the center of this thing–the people whose lives will never be entirely their own, but rather a part of the intractable conflict in the Holy Land.

Check out the rest of her post and where her studies at Tufts have taken her here.

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