This comic was born out of the pandemic-induced stress (of course). I am an international student from India, dealing with the crazy COVID situation there, topped off with imposter syndrome of a student who’s about to graduate. The comic signifies inner strength and the need for self-care, but in a rather wacky way. It is also one of my first attempts of turning my journal writing into a comic strip with personalized illustrations.
Written by Abigail Epplett, M.A. 2021 in Museum Education
Need to get away from campus for the day? There are plenty of things to do away from the hustle and bustle of Boston. If you love to spend time outdoors or learn about history, check out the region where I am from: the Blackstone River Valley. Extending from Worcester in south-central Massachusetts to Pawtucket in northern Rhode Island, this National Historical Park offers a wide variety of activities and destinations, from zoos and museums to hiking trails and bikeways. You might even check out the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at the Tufts University campus in Grafton, MA. As I continue to shamelessly plug my home region, here are some suggestions for what to do on your day in the Valley.
Worcester is the second largest city in Massachusetts, edging out Springfield by about 30,000 residents. While diminutive in comparison to Boston, the city offers art, culture, and history without the high price of parking or traffic. See fine art from around the world at the Worcester Art Museum, whose exhibits range from an enormous Greek floor mosaic and a medieval armor collection to special exhibits highlighting baseball-inspired fashion and early American folk art. Explore local history at the Worcester Historical Museum & Salisbury Mansion, where an entire exhibit is dedicated to Harvey Ball, the Worcester native who created the smiley face. If you’re traveling with children, or you’re young at heart, visit the eclectic Ecotarium, part children’s museum and part zoo. Be sure to say hello to my favorite residents, Salton and Freyja, the mountain lion siblings who live at the museum’s Wild Cat Station. If indoor adventures aren’t your style, swing by the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center in Worcester to check out the exhibits and grab maps of local trails before heading south for a day of biking & hiking. If you miss this venue, don’t worry! Similar visitor centers are located in Whitinsville, MA and Pawtucket, RI.
Biking & Hiking
The Blackstone Valley Greenway is a project to
connect Worcester to Providence through a series of bike trails. Currently,
three sections of off-road, paved trails make up seventeen miles of the
bikeway, with further expansion in progress. The path crosses through many of
the towns in the Valley and is a great way to get some exercise while touring
the area, with plenty of signage along the way. Visit the Captain Wilbur Kelly
House Transportation Museum beside the path in Lincoln, RI to learn more about
the Blackstone Canal and the Industrial Revolution.
Follow the remains of the canal by biking or
hiking on the historic towpath from Plummer’s Landing in Northbridge
to Stanley Woolen Mill in Uxbridge. Take note that some areas of this path are
badly eroded. If you want a less arduous trip, stick to the walking tour near the Canal Heritage State Park portion
of the trail. The visitors’ center at River Bend Farm also provides
parking and restrooms, along with areas to picnic, fish, and canoe or kayak.
Just down the street is West Hill Dam Reserve, which is managed by the
Army Corps of Engineers. The reserve permits dog walking and horseback riding
on the trails, and swimming is permitted on the beach.
For more easy biking and walking, head south to Lincoln, Rhode Island for two different outdoor experiences. First, you can roam the fields of Chase Farm, located between the Hearthside House Museum & Hannaway Blacksmith Shop and Historic New England’s Eleazer Arnold House. The blacksmith shop holds classes for smiths at any level on most Sundays, while both houses offer led tours. If you would rather stick to a path, visit Lincoln Woods, part of the Rhode Island State Parks. This slightly hilly three mile loop takes walkers and bikers around a pond suitable for swimming, fishing, and boating. When looking for more extreme outdoor adventures, check out Purgatory Chasm State Reservation in Sutton, managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Hike the trail through the chasm, or bring your own rock climbing gear to scale the walls. Make sure to wear closed-toe shoes and carry plenty of water. The hike back is longer than you think! If you enjoy long walks without a climb, try Douglas State Forest, also managed by DCR. This trail system connects to the Southern New England Trunkline Trail, which runs near the Massachusetts – Rhode Island border for twenty-two miles.
Even More History!
If you’re a tinkerer or inventor, you’ll love the Willard House & Clock Museum in North Grafton, MA. The small museum showcases over 80 clocks made by the Willard family during the 18th and 19th centuries. The building itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and retains its original character. The spacious lawn of the museum makes it an ideal place for plein air painting and photography. Museum of Work & Culture in Woonsocket, RI houses multiple exhibits on the lives of mill workers in the Blackstone River Valley, focusing on the experience of French-Canadian immigrants to the region. Life-sized reproductions of houses, a church, a parochial school classroom, and a union hall combine with video presentations and sound effects to create an immersive experience.
To see the mill that started the Industrial
Revolution in the United States, visit Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark in
Pawtucket, RI. The building is currently closed as its programs undergo a
transformation after its purchase by the National Park Service. Current signage
around the building tells the story of the mill, although it’s unclear when
tours will begin again.
Nature within Your Grasp
Animal lovers might hesitate to travel abroad to see their favorite species, but here in the Blackstone River Valley, exotic animals are never more than a few minutes away. You can see over 850 species from around the world by visiting family-owned Southwick Zoo in Sutton, MA. My favorite exhibit is the Deer Forest, where visitors can pet and feed tame fallow deer. While you can’t take a deer back to campus, you can bring home fresh fruits and vegetables from nearby farms. Visit Wojcik Farm in Blackstone, MA; Foppema’s Farm in Northbridge, MA; and Douglas Orchard in Douglas, MA to buy locally grown produce, jams, and baked goods from an old fashioned farm store. If you would rather get your fruit directly from the field, Sunburst Blueberry Farm in Uxbridge, MA offers pick-your-own blueberries in July. Be sure to come early! Between the efforts of long-time local pickers and the birds, there aren’t many ripe blueberries left by the afternoon.
So Much to Do, and So Close By!
When you need a day away but don’t want a long commute, the Blackstone River Valley is the perfect place to take a break. Whether it’s learning the history of the region, exploring on a trail, eating fresh food, or simply relaxing at one of the many parks, you can be sure to find something that interests you. I hope you enjoy your next trip to the Valley! Be sure to tell them that I sent you.
Written by Ebru Ece Gulsan, Ph.D. student in Chemical Engineering
We have all heard horror stories about grad school. We knew advancing our research and coursework, while balancing our finances and life outside of grad school, would be challenging. But knowing and experiencing something is different. Maybe as an undergraduate, we were one of those students who seldom struggled with the assignments. Maybe our friends and family used to point at us as the overachiever of the crew. Maybe we played sports, planned events for social clubs, volunteered at animal shelters, or got straight A’s and graduated in Dean’s List of Honor. We know we were more than capable of overcoming the struggles of grad school. But, maybe we thought it would be just like a breeze, that we thought we would be an exception. But are we really an exception?
Maybe you come here as an overachiever and the very first experiment you designed fails. Graduate level classes are actually really hard, and now you have to assist undergraduates about a class that you took 3 years ago and barely remember the basics. Then maybe your second and third experiments fail, and your self-confidence falls through the floor. You realize you are not giggling while incubating your bacteria and start questioning if you are actually happy or meant to be in grad school.
So here is the deal:
It is OK to experience failure in grad school. You are literally creating knowledge and performing cutting edge research – and that science is built by figuring out what doesn’t work as much as by figuring out what does.
It is OK that your experiments take more time than you thought they would. There will always be bottlenecks and inevitable setbacks on your timeline and sometimes they are not predictable.
It is OK that some weeks you will have to work day and night, but some weeks there will not be much to do. You will not be burnt out every single day. Having ups and downs is completely normal. Steady state assumption only works for solving hypothetical chemical engineering problems.
It is OK that your initial hypothesis on your thesis proposal was wrong. It would be a miracle if you guessed it right on your first time. I know it can be frustrating to come up with a new idea, but do not forget about what you have learned along the way. You deep dove in the literature and read a tremendous amount of research articles, did numerous experiments, defended your ideas in rigorous discussions. You know much more than you used to – even though you are not aware of it yet! You will be surprised how natural it will be to come up with a new hypothesis.
It is OK that you mixed up the bottles when you were preparing your solutions. So what? You can make them again! I guarantee you that even the third year PhD student in your lab, who you think is very confident in their work, once made the same mistake.
Grad school is a place where pretty much everybody is brilliant. Your group members are brilliant, your faculty is brilliant, your classmates are brilliant, your advisor is brilliant (probably the most brilliant person you have ever met in your life). Everybody has certain personality traits that brought them to grad school: time management skills, dedication, organization; the very same skills that brought YOU to the grad school! So please remind yourself that there is no smooth way to achieve your goals. Even the people you consider successful scientists have failed many times on their way to where they are standing right now.
Luckily, Tufts offers numerous resources we need to balance our countless responsibilities as graduate students. I tend to see exercising and fitness as a “binding agent” for all my other tasks; moving my body always gets me through my daily responsibilities smoothly. The Tisch Fitness Center provides a safe and healthy environment for those who would like to use the exercise studios and gym equipment upon reservation. Counseling and Mental Health Service (CHMS) understands the unique challenges of being a graduate student and offers short- and long- term counseling, group meetings, and telehealth services. The International Center always has an annual calendar filled with events for Graduate Students and all students, even in the middle of a pandemic, to assist us in our journey and increase the knowledge of immigration laws and international student rights.
Last but not least, it is crucial to build a supportive community especially with the folks who go through similar experiences with you. Along with the welcoming environment of Tufts University, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) is always there as a representative body and a priceless catalyst for us to meet other graduate students and engage in valuable conversations with our peers.
My advisor once said if he already knew everything he had learned throughout his PhD before he started, his PhD would have only taken 6 months. There is a reason why PhD takes 5+ years. Just because you struggle with this aspect of your work, that does not reflect on you as a person. Making mistakes does not make you a bad scientist; it makes you a human. We are here to learn; this is a part of the process and should not be locked out of the experience. Failure is natural. It is organic. It is expected. The only superpower we need to have is hard work. We just need to learn how to pick ourselves up and move along.
Written by Abigail Epplett, M.A. student in Museum Education
Hello, readers! My name is Abigail Epplett, and I’m a master’s candidate at Tufts University in the Museum Studies program with a concentration in Education. I also love American History, so I’ve taken classes about that as well. I actually entered the Museum Studies program through the certificate track, but I moved to the master’s track over the summer.
Today, I’m going to talk about two important parts of my experience: why did I choose Tufts over other programs, and how do you transfer from the certificate to master’s track?
Part One: Why Tufts?
I was specifically looking for a museum
studies program within commuting distance of my home and my current job. Tufts
is about 60 to 75 minutes by highway from my house, depending on traffic and
weather conditions, and I anticipate the traffic being much lighter in the
coming semester because of COVID‑19. I enjoy taking on-campus classes, because
it gives me the chance to talk with other people in my field before and after
classes. Additionally, all the on-campus courses I have taken have been
scheduled for a three-hour session once a week. This is super convenient for
someone with a fairly long commute. Of course, I have to mention that the
center of Tufts campus is so pretty, regardless of the season! I love the
statue of Jumbo the Elephant in front of the Barnum Building, where I took my
first on-campus class.
I also appreciated that Tufts had online
learning options even before the pandemic. My first semester, I took an online
class about Digital Technology & Museums, which was taught online using
Canvas. I had experience taking online classes in middle school and high school,
so this was easy for me to learn. Plus, the topic lent itself really well to
being taught online. One tip to succeeding with online learning is to go into
the course module as soon as it opens and look everything over. Every professor
organizes the module in a different way, so knowing how to navigate the virtual
space beforehand is super important.
The third reason I chose Tufts was because of the Practicum, which is required of both certificate and master’s track students. This is an opportunity for Museum Studies students to work with a museum or non-profit organization and hone the skills they have learned in class, along with making connections with other people in the field. I took my practicum over the summer with Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc., a non-profit organization that works in collaboration with the National Park Service to preserve the history and environment of my area. It was a great way to see how non-profits and public agencies can work together to support local communities.
Part Two: How do I move from a Certificate to a Master’s program?
Because of COVID-19, museums are
currently laying off workers, rather than hiring them, so I decided that entering
the job market was not a good idea. Once the market improves, a master’s degree
will be considered more valuable to employers than a certificate. I had also made
a lot of new friends and connections while in the program. Another important
factor was that I was not going into serious debt to earn the degree, so the
investment was financially feasible.
Moving from the certificate to the master’s
programs is advertised on the Tufts Museum Studies website, but the actual
process is individualized and takes some pre-planning and organization. I
imagine that the process is similar for other departments. Here are some things
to keep in mind during the process.
Start by talking to your advisor and/or
the head of the department. These people are professionals and have helped many
other students transfer between tracks. They can often connect you with whoever
you might need to talk to in Graduate Admissions or Financial Services.
Make sure you know what tests you need to
take. Some departments require GRE or GMAT scores to be submitted with the move
to a new degree program. Because COVID-19 has stopped much of this testing,
this requirement was waived for me. Your application also requires a final
transcript, which you already submitted when applying to the certificate
program. Email Graduate Admissions to make sure this document is transferred
Once your transfer is successful within Graduate Admissions, you still need to manually transfer your credits in SIS, the online database that controls all of Tufts billing, financial, class schedule, course selection, and feeding times for Jumbo. (Okay, I made that last part up…) This is also called “petitioning to the head of the department,” and it can be somewhat confusing. For example, Museum Studies operates within the spheres of Education, History and Art History, so I had to petition to the Chair of the Education Department even though I had taken all Museum Studies classes, some cross-listed in different departments. Just remember to transfer your credits, or they will look like they have disappeared from your account, not to mention that your billing will not be correct.
In the Museum Studies program,
certificate classes were paid per credit at a discounted rate. Master’s classes
are paid in bulk in the first two semesters of the program, while only fees are
paid for the second (or third) year, although the amount of fees might surprise
you. If you feel as though you cannot afford to pay for the entire program up
front but find payments over four semesters more feasible, start with the
certificate program and then move to the master’s program.
Another layer gets added if you are eligible for scholarships and federal work-study. When moving to the master’s program, be sure to ask your advisor if there are scholarships available. This can take a lot of money off your bill. Make sure you fill out your FAFSA ahead of time, even if you aren’t sure if you will receive aid, because this information is often required to receive scholarships. You also have a chance to receive Federal-Work Study hours. Once you receive your bill, make sure to look at it right away – if you are not understanding what you see, contact Financial Services. They are really good at explaining each item on the bill and explaining future billing. For me, my second semester bill will be pro-rated to account for the classes I took while in the certificate program. Please note that there is currently a three-day waiting list for Financial Services emails on account of COVID-19, so be patient and kind while emailing them! They will certainly return the favor.
I hope that answers the questions you may have about why I chose Tufts for my master’s alma mater, and how to move from a certificate track to a master’s track. If you have any more questions about my experience or the process of moving to a certificate to a master’s program, feel free to reply in the comments, and I’ll try to answer you in a timely manner. Enjoy your time at Tufts!
Written by Ruaidhri Crofton, History and Museum Studies M.A. student
Most Tufts students will likely know of the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s Ride, and the Battle of Bunker Hill, just a few of the many significant historic events that have taken place in and around Boston throughout the city’s nearly 400-year history. However, many are surprised to find out just how many cool and quirky historic claims to fame can be found in their own backyard. Though Boston may often overshadow its smaller Medford and Somerville neighbors, these two cities are themselves home to a number of interesting historic sites. With many within walking distance or a short bus ride of the Tufts campus, a visit to any of these sites is not only a great way to get to know your new community, but a fun opportunity to do some exercise in the process!
Please note that given the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency in Massachusetts and around the world, I would strongly advise against planning a visit to any of these sites until the situation improves.
Jingle All the Way…to Medford Square! (Medford)
Inspired by popular sleigh races that used to take place on Salem Street in Medford in the early 1800s, James Pierpont is said to have penned the now iconic Christmas song “Jingle Bells” at Simpson’s Tavern in Medford Square in 1850. This seasonal claim to fame is rather dubious as the city of Savannah, Georgia, where the song was copyrighted in 1857, also claims to be the where the song was first composed. However, a small plaque now marks the site of Simpson’s Tavern as the site of the song’s birthplace and is sure to bring some holiday joy to Tufts students looking to take a short stroll from campus to see it.
Walking Distance from Tufts: 0.7 miles, 14 minutes
Just Call Me #1! (Somerville)
Charles Williams, Jr. arguably had the easiest phone number in the world to remember: 1. In April 1877, the Williams family home at 1 Arlington Street in Somerville became the site of the first permanent residential telephone line in the world. The owner of a telegraph manufacturing facility in Boston, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson experimented with the telephone in Williams’ shop and eventually installed a phone line connecting his house in Somerville to his office in Boston. What was the first conversation held over this line? A brief message from Williams to his wife after work: “Caroline, I’m coming home!”
Walking Distance from Tufts: 2.4 miles, 49 minutes
“To Grandfather’s House We Go!” (Medford)
In yet another claim to lyrical fame, Medford is also home to the Paul Curtis House, said to be the “Grandfather’s House” in Lydia Maria Child’s beloved poem “Over the River and through the Wood” written in 1844. Originally published as “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day”, the work recounts the author’s childhood memories of visiting her Grandfather’s house during Thanksgiving. An unknown composer eventually set the poem to the tune that remains popular today.
Walking Distance from Tufts: 0.7 miles, 14 minutes
Powder House to Pickle Factory (Somerville)
First built as a windmill c. 1704, the Old Powder House in Somerville was eventually converted into a gunpowder magazine in 1747 by the colonial government of Massachusetts. In the lead up to the American Revolution, Governor Thomas Gage ordered the removal of military stores from arsenals like the Old Powder House in an attempt to prevent the outbreak of war amongst colonists. On September 1, 1774, a force of approximately 260 British Regulars removed all of the gunpowder held in the Old Powder House before returning to Boston. This led to panic amongst colonists throughout the countryside amid rumors that bloodshed had occurred, resulting in thousands of militiamen mobilizing and streaming toward Boston in response. Since then, the property surrounding the Old Powder House has been used as a farm by the Tufts family, a carriageway, and even a pickle factory. Today, the Old Powder House stands in Nathan Tufts Park near several restaurants popular amongst Tufts students and next to another eccentric landmark: the “Museum of Modern Renaissance”.
Walking Distance from Tufts: 0.5 miles, 10 minutes
The Royall House and Slave Quarters (Medford)
The Royall House and Slave Quarters preserves the 18th century home of the Royall family, the largest slaveholding family in Massachusetts, along with the only remaining slave quarters in the northern United States. Visitors are welcome to visit the site from mid-March to mid-November where they can take a guided tour of both the mansion and slave quarters to learn more about the property’s role in the history of race, class, and slavery in North America. Though the stories preserved and interpreted by the site can be troubling to hear, a visit to the museum provides an impactful means of learning about this country’s past and its significance today. Admission is typically only $10, but Tufts students are able to visit for free.
Walking Distance from Tufts: 0.2 miles, 5 minutes
Although not exactly a historic landmark you can visit, Somerville is the birthplace of perhaps one of the most famous guilty pleasures in the Northeast: marshmallow fluff! In 1917, Somerville confectioner Albert Query began marketing the sweet, sticky concoction door-to-door before selling his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower in 1920. Today, the Durkee-Mower factory in nearby Lynn, Massachusetts continues to produce marshmallow fluff to be enjoyed on its own or as a key ingredient in a New England take on the peanut butter sandwich: the fluffernutter. Every September, Somerville hosts the annual “What the Fluff?” festival in Union Square to celebrate the local invention. While you’re there, be sure to check out The Mμseum – perhaps the smallest art museum in the world!
Walking Distance from Tufts: 2.4 miles, 50 minutes
Amelia Earhart’s House (Medford)
Before she became the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932, Amelia Earhart worked as a teacher and social worker at a Boston settlement house during the 1920s. During the week, Earhart worked to teach classes and hosted programs for new immigrants and their children at Denison House. During her time off on weekends, she gained experience doing what she is now most famous for: flying. Originally from Kansas, from 1925 to 1928 Earhart made her home in Medford with her mother and sister in a small house on Brooks Street. A small plaque in her honor can be found outside the private home today.
Walking Distance from Tufts: 1.5 miles, 31 minutes
Don’t know where to start in your move to the Greater Boston area? Check out posts by graduate students and alumni in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering, all whom came to Tufts from afar.
I was fairly young when I
discovered that getting a doctorate meant something other than becoming a
medical doctor, which meant that I was fairly young when I decided that I was
going to get a doctorate. I’ve been working towards this since I was five, and
even though the path to get here was hard and full of unexpected gap years and
tough situations, I am very happy to finally be here.
But my story isn’t everyone’s story. Not everyone learns about doctoral programs when they are five years old and decides to get their Ph.D. before they even start going to full-time kindergarten. Some people might be considering this fresh out of undergrad, wondering if they need graduate school or even if they made the right decision to apply. So I asked some friends for their stories, gathered up ideas, and wrote a list of common reasons why people should (or shouldn’t) go to grad school.
You have a dream job that needs a graduate degree
This one is very common. If your dream job is to become a professor at a university and mentor undergraduates or graduates while working on your own research, it is almost guaranteed that you need a Ph.D. Similarly, there are many lab manager, industry professional, and administrative positions that require a master’s degree, at minimum. Research what you need in order to succeed in your field and go for that.
You need to advance in your career
On a related note, sometimes getting that master’s or Ph.D. will help you go further in a career you already have. That is awesome! I know many people, especially teachers, who go this route. Getting a graduate degree can help advance your knowledge of the field, increase your salary, or even land you a promotion.
Side note: don’t get more than you
need if the previous two reasons are why you are attending graduate school. If
you need a master’s, don’t go to a Ph.D. program. It will take at least twice
as long, is much more likely to be full-time, and may even make you
overqualified for your desired position.
You want the opportunity to improve your research capabilities
While there are plenty of industry jobs that require you to do research, they generally don’t give you the same educational support that grad school does. If you’re working on Project X for a company, you might learn exactly how to complete the necessary tasks A, B, and C. If you’re working on Project X in grad school, you might learn the theoretical backgrounds of tasks A and B, the reasons why task C is so important to the project, and how to do related tasks D, E, and F, along with the research another professor is doing regarding Project Y. And, maybe you work with them for a bit to see if that is interesting, and if it will help you develop Project Z for your dissertation. The breadth of knowledge and understanding you develop for your work is built into the graduate program. You might get this depth of experience in industry depending on your field, so it’s up to you to decide if a graduate degree will get you an education your field cannot provide you with.
You love to learn
This does not mean the same thing as “you like school.” Graduate school isn’t set up to be the same school experience as high school or even undergrad. It is more challenging, more demanding, and designed to expand your mind more than it is designed to teach you things. If you have a passion for learning and growing, and love what you are learning, grad school is likely worth it. This is the reason I decided to go to graduate school when I was five, and it is still one of my most important reasons for staying. I love being here, I love learning, researching, and growing every day. It’s hard, but I don’t regret it.
Of course, these are not all of the reasons to attend grad school. There are many, many, many more. And there are just as many reasons to not attend grad school. What matters is that you make the decision for yourself, based on your own desires and goals. You can talk to your advisor, your friends, current graduate students, potential schools, or your employer, but when it comes down to it, the decision is yours to make. Make sure that you know you are doing what is best for you, so that you are as prepared as possible should you decide to pursue applying to graduate school.
Written by Ruaidhri Crofton, History and Museum Studies M.A. student
As a graduate student, much of your time will no doubt be spent attending classes or dedicated to other forms of research and study. However, being able to take what you have learned and apply it to “real world” scenarios through internships, fellowships, jobs, and other positions is another great learning experience that many students at Tufts will have the opportunity to engage in during their time at the university. Not only does this help to reinforce the information you have already learned through study, it also allows you to gain valuable new skills and knowledge outside of the classroom. This summer I was lucky to have an opportunity to do just that while working as the Camp Director of the Chase Ranch Museum in Cimarron, New Mexico. As someone pursuing a master’s in History and Museum Studies, this seasonal position provided me with a great way to put many of the topics I had covered in classes to use, while simultaneously learning about the rich history of an often overlooked yet incredibly unique historic site in the rural Southwest.
When many people think of New Mexico, they likely picture a hot desert. Although the state is certainly is warm and often arid, much of its land has been used for ranching and agriculture for a considerable portion of its history. This was particularly true in the Northeast corner of the state where the small village of Cimarron, population 903, is located. Having grown up in another town just an hour and a half or so south of here, I am used to “small town living”. However, living in Cimarron for three months was quiet even for me. There’s everything you may need: a couple of gas stations and restaurants, a few stores, a hotel, and a three-officer police force, but it’s certainly different from life in a city like Boston. Despite its size, Cimarron was once a bustling stop on the Santa Fe Trail, and home to trappers, ranchers, cowboys, miners, loggers, outlaws, and railway workers. Today, its main claim to fame is Philmont Scout Ranch—a 140,000 acre wilderness in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains run by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and visited by thousands of Scouts on hiking trips annually. In addition to their wilderness programs, the BSA also runs four museums on the property tasked with sharing the history of the area, including the one where I had the privilege of working this summer.
On a dirt road three miles outside of town sits the headquarters of the Chase Ranch. Originally hailing from Wisconsin, Theresa and Manly Chase first moved to the New Mexico Territory in 1867 and eventually purchased 1,000 acres of land in 1869 where their family would remain for the next 143 years and four generations. At their height, Manly and Theresa were managing an extensive cattle, horse, and sheep operation on over one million acres of land, in addition to running a dairy, a coal mine, and tending to an orchard of 6,000 fruit trees producing over 500,000 pounds of fruit annually. In the generations that would follow, the Chases continued their legacy of ranching and contributing to the Cimarron community. Gretchen Sammis, the last member of the Chase family to live on the ranch and the great-granddaughter of Manly and Theresa, was herself an award-winning rancher in addition to being an accomplished soil and water conservationist, teacher, and sports coach. Awarded Cattleman of the Year in 2008, both Gretchen and her Ranch Manager, Ruby Gobble, were also inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1982 and 1996 respectively.
Following Gretchen and Ruby’s deaths in 2012 and 2013, ownership of the ranch was passed on to the Chase Ranch Foundation, which today partners with Philmont Scout Ranch in a 50 year lease to open the now 11,000 acre ranch to Scouts on trek, maintain operation of the property as an active cattle ranch, and transform the historic 1871 ranch house into an educational museum open to all. This summer it was my task to ensure that the historic house museum was open for the 5,000 plus Scouts and other visitors we hosted over the course of three months. This included, among other things, training staff, leading tours, historic research, developing education programs, artifact care and cleaning, gardening, and occasionally helping to corral a runaway cow or two! As you can imagine, this was no small task, and I was very thankful to have a staff of fantastic colleagues to support the museum’s mission along the way.
I was also thankful for the insight professors and classmates in both the History and Museum Studies departments at Tufts had equipped me with throughout two semesters of coursework examining collections care, Southwestern history, and museum education, among other topics. Thanks to this baseline of knowledge, throughout my summer I gained experience in putting this information to work “in the field,” as well as a considerable amount of additional knowledge that helped me better understand best practices and approaches to museums and management. It was an incredible opportunity to not only work in this special place, but to also build upon what I had learned in the months leading up to it. Although certainly not everyone has an interest in working at a remote historic house museum, there is no shortage of opportunities that will fit your specific interests and goals, regardless of your program, and a similarly extensive number of resources at Tufts to help you find them. So do some research! You never know what cool experiences you might be able to find.
The most prominent factors I considered when looking at graduate school programs
By Audrey Balaska, Mechanical Engineering: Human-Robot Interaction Ph.D. Student
As you may have figured out, I am a graduate student at Tufts University. Specifically, I am a first-year student in the Mechanical Engineering and Human-Robot Interaction joint Ph.D. program. Before coming to Tufts, I received my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New Hampshire in May 2019.
Since I’m such a new student, the application process is still fresh in my mind. One of the steps I found the most challenging was deciding which schools to apply to and then which position to actually accept. I’m going to talk about my personal journey, and if this doesn’t resonate with you, that’s ok! There are many paths one can take to get to graduate school
Deciding where to apply to
When I was considering schools, I learned about them in a variety of ways. Some I found through online research on labs which had rehabilitation engineering as a research area. Others I remembered from my search for undergraduate programs. Some I learned about because faculty recommended them to me based on my research interests. And some, like Tufts, I learned about at a graduate school fair.
Rather than inundate you with further information regarding every school I looked at, I’m going to explain to you why I decided to apply to Tufts, and why I ultimately decided to come here for my graduate degree.
Like I said, I learned about Tufts University from a graduate school fair – specifically, the one at the Tau Beta Pi (the oldest engineering honors society in the United States) National Convention in Fall 2018. While a decent number of schools were represented at this fair, I did not apply to all of them. I first decided to look more into Tufts because the representative from Tufts University showed genuine enthusiasm for the school, and was able to tell me some specific aspects of Tufts University I might find interesting after I told her my research interests. Having someone so knowledgeable about the school at the fair reflected really well to me. Just because someone you meet from a school isn’t in your research area, doesn’t mean they don’t reflect the university’s community and environment.
Meeting someone from the graduate admissions staff wasn’t enough to get me to apply, though. That occurred when I researched the program more and found classes and research labs closely related to my own research interests.
Deciding to Attend Tufts
Then, I got into Tufts University, along with a couple of other schools. That was when I had to make the big decision of where to spend the next 4-6 years of my life.
One thing that I didn’t consider much when applying to schools, but definitely did at this stage, was the location. I realized after some thought that I really wanted to be close to a city, or even in one. That caused me to decline one school, and pushed Tufts even higher on my list.
Another thing that I really liked about Tufts was the graduate student environment. Tufts University has some awesome graduate student organizations, and hosts multiple professional and social events each semester. Not all universities have this, and it was something I was excited to see existed at Tufts.
Most importantly, however, was my advisor. I got to speak with him via Skype during my winter break after I applied, and then got to meet him in person once I had been accepted to the program. Both times I found that I liked his personality, his research, and his leadership style. Honestly, having met him, it became very easy to say yes to Tufts. If you are applying to doctoral programs, make sure you take the time to try and meet your potential advisors. I had other potential advisors whose research appealed to me, but found that when talking to them our personalities were not a great match.
Ultimately, when deciding on a graduate program it is crucial to decide what is most important to you. I realized I cared a lot more about my location than I initially thought, but some people I know really had not cared about where their school was. Before deciding on a school, take the time to decide what is actually important to you. Maybe, one day, the school that you pick will be Tufts!
Graduate school — and in particular Ph.D. Programs — are strange because at times you feel like there is an indefinite amount of work to do and that you might just be in school forever. But at the same time, that feeling of permanence can be comforting. Once I settled into my routine, Tufts became my home and I’ve loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. And with that comes a whole bunch of emotions — the excitement for the next step, the sadness for leaving my Tufts community, and the stress of finishing degree requirements.
I am currently right in that sweet spot. Over the summer, I had the good fortune to accept a postdoctoral fellowship which will begin in early 2020. That means that I get the opportunity to finish my Ph.D. Without the added pressure of finding a job. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my success in finding a job is a testament to the experiences I’ve been afforded at Tufts. Not only did I receive world class mentorship, but the professional development opportunities (Graduate Institute for Teaching and the NOD Workshops) helped me hone my marketable skills. I am incredibly excited for my next step, but over the next few months I have a LOT to take care of — namely finishing all that writing. I’ve decided to give you some of my tips for getting down to business and finishing that pesky dissertation.
1. Schedule, schedule, schedule
I cannot overstate the importance of planning. When I have a lot of projects going on, it sometimes seems easier to just do things and be productive. When all you have to do is writing, it can be difficult to focus. Staring at a blank page and thinking about how you have to ill it up is… daunting. I have found that the best way to avoid this feeling of desperation is to have realistic, scheduled goals. Focusing on one section in the morning and one section in the afternoon has helped me not get bored with the material and continue progressing.
2. Write in different places
Although I love my desk, sometimes you need a change of scenery. Luckily, there are at least 5 different coffee shops within a 10 minute walk of campus. My favorite coffee shop for writing is Tamper: it’s nice and quiet, serves delicious food, and offers beer options for later in the day. I’m also a huge fan of working in Tisch Library. There’s something about being surrounded by stressed out undergraduates that motivates you to get your own work done. By switching up my physical writing space, I have been able to make progress even when it doesn’t feel like it.
3. Get the blood pumping
Most people know that when you are stressed, making time for physical exercise is crucial. This becomes even more important when you’re writing your dissertation, which should be a marathon and not a spring. I try to make time and head down to the Tisch Fitness Center or go on a run along the Charles River. These are great opportunities to clear your head, which always helps with writing.
4. Don’t forget to have fun!
Most importantly, I think, is remembering that writing your dissertation should have some elements of fun. This can be the hardest task, because you’ve spent years in your program and you might feel jaded with your topic. But after all, these will be the final months of your time at Tufts. For me, it has been the perfect opportunity to reflect and remember where my passions first began. Tufts has been a fantastic chapter of my life that I will remember fondly.