Elijah Mensah, Environmental Policy & Planning M.S. Candidate
Hi Everyone, my name is Elijah. I am an international
student pursuing an MS in Environmental Policy and Planning here at Tufts! I
aspire to acquire knowledge and practice in the field to contribute to the
policy and planning of cities. First, I would like to speak briefly about where
I am from.
A country located on the west coast of Africa, formerly known as the Gold Coast during British colonial rule, and now Ghana after independence in 1957, is one of the best places to live in Africa! The country was called the Gold Coast because of its vast Gold reserves and other minerals. This played a crucial role in attracting European businessmen to the country until the slave trade became the next lucrative commodity. Fast forward to modern Ghana, we are known for being affable, welcoming, and peace-seeking people. Today some of our most significant trading commodities remain gold, bauxite, diamond, manganese, timber, petroleum, and cocoa.
I was born and have lived all my life in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Due to school and other engagements, I have had the opportunity to travel around the country. I completed my elementary education in rural Accra, Senior High education in the Volta region, and my undergraduate degree in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Growing up, I was puzzled by the environmental issues making headlines in the news and radio discussions. I was interested in how I could contribute to addressing the notorious littering, poor waste management, and flooding in my community. I witnessed firsthand human actions that lead to garbage and plastic waste clogging waterways and flooding during the wet season, which caused destruction of properties and sometimes claimed human lives.
Research studies in the country have attributed poor waste management to the outbreak of cholera and malaria diseases, which has dire impacts on public health. All of these influenced my decision to pursue a BS in Natural Resources Management. Later I teamed up with friends and colleagues who found the current waste management and climate change crisis a significant threat to our country. We worked together to cofound a community-based nonprofit called “Keep Ghana Beautiful.” Our mission was to educate community members and school children on the issues of poor waste management and climate change and encourage them to reduce, reuse and recycle waste and plant trees to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Through my nonprofit organization, I was selected as a fellow for the Atlas Corps Program. It provided the opportunity for emerging nonprofit leaders around the world to come to the US to hone professional skills and develop hands-on learning in a national nonprofit for 12-18 months and then return to their home countries to utilize the skills. I was privileged to have been stationed at “Keep America Beautiful,” a US national nonprofit with over 65 years of experience in addressing the issue of littering and promoting recycling through its over 700 affiliates across the US and Canada. Throughout the role, I lived principally in Stamford, Connecticut and traveled briefly to 10 states across the US. My thoughts about going to grad school started sometime during the pandemic when I worked from home. I first started broadly researching via the internet in the field I wanted to develop and focus my skills. I then narrowed the search to MA or MS programs. I was fascinated by Tufts’ academic success stories and its location within the Boston Metropolitan area. I found the prospect of pursuing an excellent graduate program in one of the top-notch schools in the US an accomplishment to begin with living my American dream.
Upon returning to Ghana after my fellowship, I began an application to Tufts. After some months of waiting I was surprised with that sweet congratulatory email of admission to the MS in Environmental Policy and Planning. After the back-and-forth issues of immigration and securing a visa, here I am living the dream! I am currently taking four classes this semester and I feel great about it. I like the immersive learning culture where students engage weekly in small group discussions with instructors. I love the discussion forums on the course Canvas site where students share their weekly journaling to the class. These stimulate conversations among students to learn of other perspectives on a specific topic. I think it is creative and transformational. I can’t stop without talking about my department building- the Brown House. This is home where all of the bonding and fun happen. We use it to connect with colleagues, study, organize events, meet our professors and administrative offices for assistance. One of the best parts for me is always free sncks in the kitchen. I love the community!
I want to use this platform to thank and send a shout out to my mentor and professor Julian Agyeman, at the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP), Tufts. He has been phenomenal in guiding and supporting me throughout my journey. Also, I would like to motivate someone out there that it is possible when you put in the hard work and seek the support you require. I tried many times to further my education but got rejected. On the occasions I gained admission, something may have changed in my life and stopped me from proceeding. 10 years after completing my undergraduate degree, I accomplished a near forgotten dream. Don’t be surprised to see me completing a PhD in the future.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, stay tuned for more!
As a student in the humanities, I am a book lover who likes to read all kinds of books, and my entrance to Tufts was a result of serendipity because of two books. The first, a collection of prose essays by Haruki Murakami, refers to his time teaching at Tufts. It made me curious about Tufts, and led me to search for Tufts online. And I found out that the Tufts motto is Pax et Lux. The unique mention of “peace” in the motto—which I understood from my one year of Latin study—was attractive to me as a humanities student. The second book was recommended by my good friend who studied history in a famous Chinese university. My friend and I are both interested in feminism. In a women’s history course, her professor led them to discuss the book Crossing the Gate to investigate daily life of ancient Chinese women. Coincidentally, this book was written by Xu Man, a professor at Tufts. I was excited that a Chinese scholar could be so proficient in English academic writing about Chinese history while gaining a high reputation in China. This definitely motivated me to apply to Tufts. Ultimately, Professor Xu Man has become my current mentor in the Department of History at Tufts.
Besides these two books, coming to Tufts was also out of practical considerations. My undergraduate program focused on liberal arts education, so I took many courses related to politics, philosophy, and sociology beyond my history major. Although my interest in a wide range of subjects enriched my experience and thinking, it also made me want to gain more skills in the area of historical knowledge acquisition. Therefore, when application season came, I decided to apply for the history master’s program to learn transnational history and historiography more systematically and improve my academic skills. At this point, Tufts’ MA in History program came into my consideration. Compared with the one-year programs in the UK and Singapore, Tufts’ two-year program gave me plenty of time, with more complete academic training. As one of the top universities, Tufts also holds rich academic resources and provides abundant opportunities in academia. My mentor from my bachelor’s degree also highly recommended Boston as a city to study the humanities in. Therefore, I finally decided to come to Tufts to experience this top academic training opportunity.
Although there are only ten new students in the History department, all of them have diverse backgrounds and different research interests, such as European history, women’s history, history of ideas, etc. In the mandatory historiography course, I have listened to the speeches of classmates from Harvard College and marveled at the questioning ability of doctoral candidates. As the only Chinese student, I was initially nervous in and out of class, but my professors and classmates were all friendly and open-minded. They have encouraged me, praised my presentations sincerely, and invited me to the party warmly. In addition to studying history, I’ve also taken part in a writing workshop held for international students from which I got to know some master’s and doctoral students from different disciplines.
Since coming to Tufts, I’ve been to Boston several times, taken a duck boat ride with friends, and gone whale watching. There are many opportunities to see musicals, concerts, baseball games, etc. in Boston, which made my Chinese classmates envious. Life in the suburbs of Medford is good and being at school is comfortable as well. As I am a liberal arts student, I am frequently in Tisch Library to read books and search for sources. When I am tired or stressed, I usually take a slow walk to enjoy the beautiful campus scenery, see the squirrels and rabbits on the lawn and take a nap in the chairs under the shade. The campus under the sun in September reminded me of summer dreams in many books, and the red leaves in autumn are also so pleasing. Thanks to my decision to Tufts, I am satisfied with my study-life balance in a foreign country.
Christine So, Diversity & Inclusion Leadership M.A. Candidate
To be completely honest, I never imagined myself going
to graduate school and furthermore to end up at Tufts.
Prior to being a graduate student here in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, I was at Michigan State University for my undergraduate degree doing a BA in Music with an Entrepreneurship minor. I originally thought I wanted to do a degree in Oboe Performance, but eventually found myself doing a BA in Music as I had a wide variety of interests within the classical music industry/fine arts.
My oboe professor at the time encouraged me to consider graduate programs as she felt I would be a good fit in the arts administration route. However, to keep my options open, I looked into programs that I felt also suited my other interests within music. Within the classical music industry, there are a lot of issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ). I became passionate in my undergraduate institution as a student leader advocating for DEIJ-related issues. As a marginalized person with intersecting identities, I became very passionate about bettering the communities I was a part of to better the student experiences. This passion continued into my career path, which leads to why I am here at Tufts.
When looking at graduate programs with a DEIJ focus, Tufts is one of the few in our country to have an actual master’s degree. Globally, the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Program is one of 14-15 master’s programs. Most institutions offer a certificate in this field, which Tufts also offers, but very few have a master’s degree option. Despite Tufts being extremely competitive, I decided to shoot my shot and turn in my application. After about a month of feeling both nervous and excited, I got my acceptance into the program!
When I saw the class that was accepted into the
program, which was about 15-20 students, I knew I had to come to Tufts. To be 1
of 20 individuals, I felt Tufts wanted me to be here because I deserved to. The
work in DEIJ is never done and I was excited to see what the program could
offer me to further my passions in being an advocate in the spaces I care for.
I was also accepted to be a Resident Assistant in the Beacon Street dorms for
first year BFA students at SMFA at Tufts as well as the SMFA Student Affairs
Graduate Intern for Programming.
It’s only been a month, but I’m excited to see how the
rest of the semester goes. I have met amazing people in my program and at work
and the Tufts campus is so cute. Coming to Tufts, I’ve realized more and more
that I belong here with my peers and have worked hard to be a fellow Jumbo.
Tiffany Wu, Environmental Policy & Planning M.S. Candidate
Hi there, my name is Tiffany and I am one of the new Graduate Bloggers this year. I’m a first year MS student in Environmental Policy and Planning and am excited to share a little about myself and my program!
I am from coastal Los Angeles and graduated from Cornell
University in 2018. I spent two years working at a climate research lab at UC
Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and knew I wanted to attend graduate
school to strengthen my technical skillset in data science and econometrics. A
yearlong internship with the Stockholm Environment Institute at their Tallinn,
Estonia office cemented my burgeoning interest in GIS and smart cities, which I
hope to pursue in depth at Tufts.
During the graduate school application process, I looked into a variety of programs at different institutions, including MS, MPP (public policy) and MSEM (environmental management) programs. I ultimately chose Tufts UEP because I wanted an interdisciplinary program that was well-established and involved working on real-world projects as part of the curriculum. This program is fully accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board and has a unique focus on sustainability and social justice.
The Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Department (UEP) offers an MA/MS in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, a mid-career Master of Public Policy, and an MS in Sustainability. While the core requirements for each program are different, students see each other in elective classes and at campus events. The Planning and Sustainability students also jointly participate in Field Projects during their first spring semester, where student groups partner with community organizations and agencies to come up with a proposal or solution. You can learn more about UEP’s programs from the Practical Visionaries blog (which is run by UEP faculty)!
Getting to learn from professors, policy experts and practitioners
in my classes has been a great feature, with some bringing their research and
academic expertise, and others their decades of experience in consultancies and
design firms. I also liked the smaller cohort sizes at Tufts that I knew would
allow me to get to know people better — I would categorize the atmosphere of
UEP as friendly, close-knit, and collaborative.
I have only been on campus for a month and a half, but it feels like longer as I already know my way around the buildings well and have gotten to know many of my classmates through our coursework, student organizations, and hanging out. I’m also starting to notice how UEP punches well above its weight and have met alumni in the Greater Boston area and beyond who are doing incredible work in the planning and policy fields. In fact, when I volunteered at the Southern New England Planning Conference in October — Professor Julian Agyeman was the keynote speaker — there were at least two dozen of us who were affiliated with UEP!
I’m looking forward to what these next two years at Tufts may bring and am thrilled to be spending them in the Somerville / Medford / Cambridge area. Thanks for reading!
When I was in high school, I was known as the dental guy. I attended a vocational-technical high school where I took the typical courses that are offered at most high schools, like math, science, history, and English, however, I also had the opportunity to take dental assisting courses, even becoming certified in dental radiology when I was 16. Throughout high school, I had competed at the national level in Dental Science competitions through an organization called HOSA Future Health Professionals, even medaling in the top 3 in the nation two times. A fire had ignited deep within me. I was going to be a dentist, and no one could tell me otherwise.
Fast forward a few years and I was pursuing my undergraduate degree at the University of Delaware with a concentration in pre-dentistry. Among other prerequisite courses, I remember sitting in my Organic Chemistry class and constantly thinking, “This is not for me,” though I kept moving forward, nonetheless. At this point, I had convinced myself that I would be better off suffering through numerous dental school prerequisites that I was not passionate about rather than giving up on the career that I had been interested in since I was in the sixth grade. The idea of having to start over and find a new career path was just too daunting for me to even fathom, yet I couldn’t help but notice that the fire within me was slowly dimming.
In the Fall of 2017, this fear suddenly felt insignificant, after a tragic event occurred back at home, feeling like my world had stopped completely while the rest of the world continued to fly past me. As a result of this tragedy, my mom was critically injured, ultimately having to receive intense physical and occupational therapy. I watched her go from being intubated in the ICU to using a walker around the house to now being fully independent and working as a nurse again. My mom’s strength was truly undeniable. Her resilience inspired me and the work that her therapists did to help her to heal both physically and mentally opened my eyes to a new field of careers. By the winter of 2019, just months before graduating from undergrad, I decided to shift my focus to a career in the rehabilitation sciences.
When considering this new field of careers, I initially decided to pursue physical therapy. I had a general idea of what the role of a physical therapist was from accompanying my mom to physical therapy appointments when I was home from college. When I was younger, I even went to a PT myself for a rotator cuff injury. During my final semester of undergrad, I started volunteering for a few hours a week at the University of Delaware Physical Therapy clinic—a clinic run by clinicians and student PTs from the university. Being able to see patients on a weekly basis and ask questions about their treatment excited me. I ended up even attending a career fair held by my university for students to find jobs and summer internships specifically focused on PT. At this fair, I met numerous representatives from different companies and the small, welcoming family feel that I received from the Premier Physical Therapy & Sports Performance team pushed me to hand over my resume. Just around a week or two later, I had landed a job working with them as an exercise technician beginning a few days after my graduation in May of 2019.
at Premier was such an incredible opportunity for me. I was able to receive
hands-on experience working with patients, observe treatments being performed
by PTs, and ask as many questions as my heart desired. Though, I slowly found
myself gravitating toward the back corner of the clinic, an area where people
were constantly talking and laughing, even being referred to as the “fun
corner” by my clinic director on a few occasions. I began speaking with the
clinician working in this area, an occupational therapist working in hand
therapy as a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT). At this point, I knew almost
nothing about what an occupational therapist was, but I was interested in learning
In August of 2019, I began shadowing Katie, an occupational therapist working in both an outpatient setting and an acute care setting. I remember the very first patient that I had observed her working with, an individual who had experienced a stroke and was having difficulty performing several of their activities of daily living (ADLs) independently. On this day in particular, Katie was working with them to straighten their pointer finger, which was tightly flexed as a result of a trigger finger. Katie set up a Jenga tower and played with them, encouraging them to focus on straightening and using that one pointer finger specifically. On a different day, this same patient came in and stated that they were unable to buckle their seatbelt without assistance from their partner. Katie then brought us all outside, had the patient get into the passenger seat like they normally would, and then observed them attempting to buckle themselves. She quickly noticed that the center console was what was getting in the way and that once it was flipped up, the patient could fully extend their pointer finger, reach down, and buckle themselves on their own. Katie made treatment fun, but it still had purpose. She listened to the specific concerns and goals that mattered to her patients and did everything she could to support them so that they could live their lives to the fullest. After a few sessions of shadowing Katie, the fire within me that had almost completely extinguished a few years earlier was now ignited all over again—fueled by the idea of one day becoming an occupational therapist, providing holistic care and helping people to do the things that matter most to them.
Once I had officially decided that I wanted to become an OT, it was time to start preparing. I decided that I would take a full year to finish up my remaining prerequisites, gain hours shadowing in multiple settings, and continue to work as an exercise technician. In the fall of 2019, I was shadowing in a school-based setting, an outpatient setting, and a hospital while taking two classes at a local community college and working throughout the week. While things were overwhelming at times, I loved everything that I was doing and grew to appreciate how my schedule was structured despite having so much going on. In each setting that I was shadowing, I was learning more and more about how the role of the OT is similar over-all, but still noticing specific differences. For example, one morning I could be in a school-based setting observing an OT that was working on pre-writing strokes with younger children and the next morning I could be observing an OT helping a post-operative hip replacement patient to learn how to use adaptive equipment before being discharged from the hospital. I sometimes envied my friends who had done their observations over the summer during undergrad, not having to worry about schoolwork, work, and other responsibilities that I had at this time. Though simultaneously, I felt like this experience was incredibly valuable, allowing me to have time to really research a field that was new to me, giving me the opportunity to broaden my personal scope of what I understand OT to be.
The chaotic schedule that I had come to love was promptly interrupted in March of 2020, when the whole world shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was suddenly furloughed from my job, being promised that I would be brought back as soon as possible, though we all had no idea how long this pandemic would last. Suddenly, my busy days of work, school, and shadowing experiences had turned into monotony. I woke up at 9 or 10 AM each day, sitting on the couch and doing all my homework within the first two days of the week. For the rest of the week, I mainly just sat around the house, only leaving for daily bike rides around the neighborhood in an attempt to keep myself sane. One afternoon, as I was looking up information about different graduate schools, I decided to sign up for as many virtual information sessions as possible. I had attended almost 10 in a one-month period, eventually even having a pre-Zoom routine that I would follow. I would go upstairs about 15 minutes early, wash my face and brush my hair, put on a polo or a button-down shirt (though I was almost always wearing shorts or joggers from the waist-down), adjust the lighting in my room, and then pull up a master document that I had created with information about every single school I was interested in. On May 6th, 2020, I attended the Tufts OTD information session, knowing almost nothing about the program but knowing that it was a strong school overall. I still remember how friendly and passionate Jill Rocca was, an Admissions Coordinator for the OT department who had attended Tufts for her Post-Professional Masters and her Post-Professional Doctorate in OT. When listening to the current students in the program speak about their experiences, they seemed so happy with their decision to attend Tufts and seemed to have a lot of support from their classmates and faculty. At the end of this Zoom call, Tufts had risen to the top of my list and I was going to do everything in my power to try to be in their next cohort.
In June of 2020 I was finally called back into work, where I gradually went from working one or two days a week to working five days a week once I had completed my last prerequisite courses. I was the only exercise technician at the clinic and felt a bit overwhelmed. However, this helped me to work on my time management skills, prioritizing tasks, and working on my overall self-care before, during, and after work. In July, I began to apply to schools. I was only able to focus on applications in the evenings and on the weekends due to my busy work schedule. Nonetheless, I was diligent and submitted all my applications by mid-August since I completed my personal statement back in May and reached out to my references in advance.
Once I started to receive interviews, things began to feel so much more real and my Zoom meeting routine had now turned into a Zoom interview routine, requiring me to leave work early or come in late. In November, I had received my acceptance letter from Tufts and genuinely could not believe it—quite literally falling to the floor in disbelief when I had received the email. The conversations that I was having with patients at work began to shift from, “I’m preparing to apply to graduate school” to “I will be attending graduate school,” which was such a surreal feeling. As my last day of work approached and the reality of moving away for school truly began to sink in, I felt overwhelmed about finding roommates, buying furniture, making sure my financial aid was in place, and so much more—something that I had forgotten about after being out of school for a few years.
Something that I struggled with more than I was expecting was the overall adjustment to being a full-time student again. The first 6-week summer session of the OTD program consisted of an OT Foundations course and Gross Anatomy for the first half of the summer, then Neuroanatomy for the second half of the summer. While I had taken prerequisite courses a full year prior to this, I could hear the comments of people I had talked to in the past echoing through my head, telling me how hard it would be to get back into school after taking time off. Once the semester began, those voices progressively got louder. I felt lost navigating Gross Anatomy, as this course was so densely compacted with challenging material. I realized that my study strategies from undergrad weren’t holding up very well in graduate school and that I would need to adjust quickly. Though it took some trial and error, I eventually decided to make Quizlet flashcards, creating one study set for each lecture and one specific study set with all the muscles and their attachments, actions, and nerve innervations. I wrote most of my flashcards as questions, creating a practice exam that I could randomize and add images to if I wanted. I also carried around a small whiteboard and markers in my backpack, drawing the brachial plexus, arteries of the upper and lower extremity, and whatever else I needed to see visually over and over. While it was frightening to make these big changes so early in the semester, I feel like it was helpful to realize that I am not the exact same student that I was in undergrad. Similarly, the program I am in is very different from my undergrad program, which means that changes are to be expected.
Another challenge I faced when beginning grad school was my struggle with the overall transition. In undergrad I experienced homesickness in my first semester, though, after that I began to love college, the people I had met, and the freedom I had. When I started at Tufts, I assumed that it wouldn’t be so bad since I had already lived away from home before. Nevertheless, after just a few weeks, I quickly began to miss my family and my dogs. I was extremely nervous about having to meet so many new people in a graduate-level program. I had an overwhelming feeling of imposter syndrome, like everyone around me was so intelligent and had such remarkable life experiences, and I was constantly comparing myself to others. The times where I really struggled to get out of my own head or had trouble grasping concepts, I turned to the OT faculty. I appreciated their willingness to listen to me and to help me.
Some of these meetings were more personal and would range from talking about things I was struggling with in a specific lesson to delving deeper into what is important to me as a student and what I want out of my education. Fortunately, as time passed, these negative thoughts began to diminish, and I began pushing myself out of my comfort zone and immersing myself in the many great opportunities that are available at Tufts.
In the summer, I mustered up the courage to run for a position within Tufts’ Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA), and I was elected to the Student-Faculty Representative position for my cohort. I was so excited to have the opportunity to bridge the gap between my cohort and the OT faculty, working to make sure everyone’s voices are heard. In the Fall, when the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) was coming for an on-site visit with our program, I was one of the students that was selected to help represent the students of our program, which meant a lot to me. Though the most meaningful experiences for me, outside of my education, have been the close relationships I have formed over the months that I have been here. From the casual summer get-togethers with my cohort, to the Annual Fall BBQ and apple picking events hosted by the Graduate Student Council, to the tight-knit relationships I have made with individual classmate’s one-on-one. I genuinely feel like I have become a valued member of the Jumbo community, making Tufts feel like home for me.
Seeing all my hard work pay off, the loud voices of negativity within my head gradually silencing, and the support I have felt from classmates and faculty have proven that I genuinely deserve to be here. I now view the time that spent out of school as a positive. I had time to work out in the real world, make connections, and grow in a way that I may not have been able to do if I had come straight to graduate school from undergrad. Since starting at Tufts, the fire within me continues to roar as my passion for this profession only increases as I learn. I’m seeing myself grow into the clinician that I had hoped to become.
By Lan Anh (Bella) Do, Ph.D. Cognitive Psychology PhD Candidate
Applying to graduate schools, for me, was a process of searching for a P.I. whose research interests fit with mine. In other words, professors were the main motivation for all my applications, rather the schools themselves. At Tufts, I was interested in working with Dr. Ayanna Thomas who is currently the editor-in-chief of the journal Memory & Cognition. Her work in memory, learning, and metacognition was in line with my research experience and more importantly, she examines such topics in the context of stress, an important but understudied factor that is highly relevant to education. Fortunately, she offered me admission to Tufts, but it was not the only offer that I received. That was when I had to truly think about the question: Why Tufts?
Everyone has their own criteria when selecting a graduate school but perhaps the ultimate aim is to find a place that matches their needs and values. For me, an ideal program is the one that, first, allows me to work with not only my advisor but also other top-notch experts in the field of my interest, and second, financially supports me through the duration of my study. I see myself as a realistic person so typically I don’t need a beautiful story to back up my decision, but in this case I looked at the facts. Tufts is one of the R1 institutions that is well known for its high research activities. Also, at Tufts, the PhD in Psychology is a fully funded program, which allows students to work with payment as an RA and/or TA during the semester. Besides the stipend, Tufts provides a wide range of other funding for research related activities and travel grants for attending conferences. This is especially important for an international student like me because I probably wouldn’t be able to complete a 4- or 5-year PhD program if I had to worry about my budget.
When I think of Tufts, it feels like a tree to me – a huge oak with a big trunk and spreading boughs – a tree that can cover my head on both sunny and rainy days, but it also has a young vibe of a blue sky that allows people a lot of freedom to come up with new ideas. When I imagined myself flying away from South Korea, my second hometown, and moving to America, to live and study at Tufts for the next 4-5 years, I was not nervous, but rather excited. I listened to my instinct, and I picked Tufts to be the next destination of my journey.
After my first one-and-a-half months at Tufts, I have discovered many other advantages of being a student here, besides its prestige and generous financial support. Everyone is friendly and reaches out to me to ask if I need any help. I am able to call all the faculty in my department by their first names, so it is comfortable to communicate with them. This is a big difference and a nice surprise for me, a student coming from Asian cultures, specifically, Korean and Vietnamese, where there was always a hierarchy between students and professors, and such hierarchy forms the way we behave and talk to one another. There seems to be more room for open conversation and for students to express their opinions when they can talk to their professors in a more casual way.
Also, probably due to its smaller size, people at Tufts are very responsive. Whenever I have a problem and email the school offices to ask for help, they always respond quickly with a proper solution. From an international student’s perspective, this is a huge advantage of Tufts. I have faced quite a number of troubles since I moved to America, from course registration, mobile phone number, payment and countless other situations I have had to handle to start a new life. I’m glad that there is always someone whom I can reach out to for help.
In this semester (Fall 2021), I’m taking three classes and one of them is Advanced Statistics I. There is homework almost every week and a quiz every month. It may sound like a huge burden for some students, but as an educational psychologist, I’m aware that it’s actually a good teaching and learning method. Repeated retrieval practice and rehearsal can strengthen our memory and help us remember more of what we learned and for a longer period of time. Making such activities, however, can be demanding especially for the instructor (Dr. Daniel Barch). Thus, I’m grateful for the effort he spent on creating all the learning materials, and I expect to learn a lot from this course.
One bonus point that I like about Tufts is the huge and beautiful lawns on campus. It’s probably the first time in my life seeing this much green around me and having the freedom to walk on it. Hopefully, this amount of freshness can help everyone, including me, make the best of our education at Tufts, given the pandemic situation.
By Lindsey Schaffer, Museum Education M.A. Candidate
My whole life I have been torn between two passions: English and History. It wasn’t until I discovered museums that I realized the two could be combined. Because to me, museums are just another venue for stories, except instead of using words they use objects to convey a narrative. I knew that I needed an advanced degree to get my foot into the museum field which is why I decided to apply to multiple graduate programs. I wanted to find somewhere that was challenging traditional narratives and actively seeking to make museums a more inclusive space. After deliberating over six schools, I knew that Tufts was right for me. Their Museum Education program focuses on fostering community, confronting social issues, and creating innovative lesson plans, which set them apart from the other programs I was looking at. I know that upon graduation I will not only be prepared for a career in the field, but also for a life in an ever- changing world.
Before I confirmed my enrollment at Tufts I
met (virtually) with a few second-year graduate students in my program.
Although I was originally intimidated, I was quickly put at ease by how warm
and supportive they were. It assured me that the dynamic at Tufts would be
collaborative, not competitive. This has been reflected so far in all my
classes. Everyone brings a unique perspective to class and I am always so happy
to listen and contribute. Being an introverted person, I was nervous about
participating in discussions. However, I have found it easy and worth-while to
share with the class.
Another plus of my program is that Museum Education is a small group of people. This year’s cohort was only 10. This reminded me of my undergraduate experience at the College of Saint Benedict, which also had small, discussion-based classes. In this setting I can make deeper connections with my teachers and colleagues.
I have always had a dream of moving to Boston. Little did I think about the smaller areas outside of the city that could provide me with the same access at less cost. Living in Somerville near campus has allowed me to live near Boston without the noise and traffic of the city itself. It has been so fun to learn to navigate the MBTA’s Red Line and discover all the places it leads. I have not had that much time to explore yet, but what I have gathered so far is that each area of Boston has a unique feel to it. I have spent a day visiting museums in Fenway-Kenmore, walked along the Charles River and stopped at a brewery along the way, watched live music at an Irish pub in Davis Square, and so much more. Davis Square is about a mile away and it is where we go if we want to get coffee, dinner, or need to pick up some necessities. I know that regardless of what I need (directions or otherwise) the Tufts community will help me get me to where I need to be.
For the past few years, my two cousins, my sister, and I have selected one weekend in October to travel to a new location for the weekend. Our first trip was to Washington D.C., where we stayed in an Airbnb with an incredible host on a street that just happened to be having a crazy block party on the exact weekend we were visiting. Our most recent trip was to a log cabin in the Shenandoah Valley, where we spent the weekend playing games and hanging outside on the deck in the middle of the valley as we laughed and talked until the sun came up. In 2019, our destination of choice was Boston. At the time, I was a recent college graduate who had just officially decided to pursue a career in occupational therapy. This weekend was a mini-vacation away from all the daily tasks that had transformed my Google Calendar into an abstract art piece of colored time blocks. At this point, my average week consisted of working as an exercise technician at an outpatient rehabilitation clinic, shadowing OTs in school, outpatient, and acute care settings, and taking my remaining prerequisite courses at a local college. When looking back on this weekend, I remember standing in front of the Old State House in Boston and being mesmerized by the contrast between this historic building and the modern high-rises surrounding it. As I walked the city, I found myself falling in love with it, actually being able to see myself living there at some point in my life. After a morning of sightseeing and walking the Freedom Trail with my cousins and sister, I remember everyone wanted to take a quick break to rest our legs and grab some coffee. As we sat in a little coffee shop, I pulled my phone out and quickly searched the American Occupational Therapy Association’s website and looked for programs that were near Boston. During this quick search, I found Tufts, promptly added it to the long list of schools I was interested in at the time and then continued on with my weekend trip in Boston.
Just a matter of months later, the world had changed drastically, as we had entered the beginning of a pandemic. After being furloughed from my job in March, my day-to-day life was pretty repetitive. I would make avocado toast in the morning, finish all of my schoolwork for the week by Tuesday or Wednesday each week, go for a bike ride around the neighborhood in the afternoon, and color in my anatomy coloring book while simultaneously bingeing any and every Netflix series I could find in the evening. With OT applications opening in just a matter of months, I decided to sign up for as many virtual information sessions as I could, taking notes and trying to narrow down the number of schools I would actually apply to once applications opened in July. At one point, I must have attended ten separate information sessions in a three-week period. On one evening in May, I closed my bedroom door, adjusted the lighting in my room, and opened Zoom like I had done for the numerous other information sessions before this one. I remember Jill Rocca starting the meeting and introducing herself as a Tufts OT graduate and a current Admissions Coordinator. She was so genuine and happy to share her personal experiences from the program while also allowing current OTD students to talk and answer questions about their experiences as well. I could feel myself becoming more and more excited by the idea of joining this program, as I loved how many opportunities there were for hands-on learning, from the service-learning opportunities that take place in your first Fall semester to your fieldwork experiences. As someone who is particularly interested in the idea of working in hand therapy and wound care down the road, the fact that students in the OTD program could take upper extremity and hand rehabilitation courses alongside practicing OTs overjoyed me. Most importantly, all of the current students expressed how approachable the OT faculty was and how supportive everyone in the program has been from the very beginning, from the faculty to their fellow classmates. I remember going downstairs after the information session concluded and walking straight up to my mom and saying, “I have to go to Tufts.” It just felt perfect.
Fast forward to November. I had submitted all of my graduate school applications and had been back to working as an exercise technician for a few months. I had the poor habit of refreshing the email app on my phone approximately eighty times a day, just hoping that I would eventually see an update about my Tufts application. At this point, I knew that decision letters could be sent out at any moment, but I just didn’t know exactly when. However, on November 17th, 2020, at 10:02 am, the email notification popped up on my home screen. I immediately felt my stomach drop and a sense of panic overwhelmed me. After weeks and weeks of trying to convince myself (and others who asked me about it) that I would be completely fine if I was not accepted at Tufts, it all flew out of the window the second as I received this email. Without even taking a second breath, I rushed to open my phone and clicked on the email. I then read the one word that I truly was not expecting to see, “Congratulations!” I fell to the ground and started quietly screaming to myself, “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe it! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!!” Later, when my mom had gotten home from work, I shared the news with her and she immediately burst into tears. After listening to me gush over this program for months and share how much I would love to attend, it was now a real option for me. It truly was a feeling like no other.
This past April, my mom and I drove up from Delaware to Massachusetts together in order to visit Tufts for the first time. My mom is the reason I wanted to become an OT in the first place. After a tragedy that had occurred back in 2017, she was in critical condition and was bed-bound for months, requiring intense physical and occupational therapy to get back to living her life independently. Years later, my mom and I were sitting together at Tufts, enjoying a beautiful day on campus together. As we sat on campus together on this cool Friday afternoon, we both experienced such a huge feeling of relief. After the long two-year journey that I had taken on following my graduation from the University of Delaware, I finally knew where I would be taking the next steps in my professional journey and it was exactly where I wanted and needed to be.
I’ve spent the last 4 years in graduate art admissions, after completing my MFA (’17) and Post-Bac (’15), I hear a similar story from prospective Master of Fine Arts students every year. Artists coming to grad school are looking to expand their voice, hone their practice, as well as find and develop a connection with a network of other artists.
The goal of a grad program in interdisciplinary contemporary art is to expand and refine who we already are as artists, and much of that can’t happen in a bubble, without our peers. The connections we make in graduate school, are more than colleagues in the classroom; our graduate cohorts become our support systems, our curators, our collaborators, our gallerists, our teachers, our recommenders, and (if we’re lucky) our good friends.
Last month, I stopped into the newly opened Nearby Gallery in Newton Center, for the exhibition opening of “In Mid Air”. Nearby Gallery was founded by Cal Rice (MFA ’18) and Sam Belisle (MFA ’18). The show was a fabulous and experimental collection of work, from 3 recently graduated SMFA at Tufts undergraduate students, Lightbringer, Calla King-Clements, Daria Bobrova. In the crowd of the reception, there were families, community members, and an assortment of SMFA alumni. At one point as a group of alumni discussed the show and gallery, I realized I was in conversation with MFA graduates from 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and a current MFA candidate, set to graduate in 2022. There is excitement in watching people meet, reminisce, and connect; artists sharing their work, talking about their galleries or studios, planning to collaborate, and celebrating the work of both the artists and their expanded cohort success.
What I love is that this group support is not an isolated incident. Each month artists of Boston flock to First Friday events in SOWA to see our peers in juried or solo shows. We work with SMFA alumni like Alexandra Photopoulos (MFA ‘10), Allison Gray (MFA’17),and Doug Breault (MFA’17) who run exciting galleries in Cambridge, like Gallery 263; spaces that offer opportunities to submit proposals or join group shows and residencies. We leave our studios and solitude to attend each other’s events, and to celebrate our work and community, creating lasting connections.
Each year, as I work to recruit and admit classes to the MFA and Post-Bac programs, I feel a little bit selfish (in the best way) to be able to invite in future members of our extended SMFA graduate cohort. I am excited this year to welcome to campus, the next class of MFA and Post-Bac students who will join our conversations, shows, and the greater community. We’re thrilled to have you.
Written by Olivia Hobert, M.A. student in Child Study and Human Development
I’ve officially been a graduate student at Tufts for a little over two weeks now, and I have to admit things are not as I had imagined they would be six months ago.
Back in early March, right before the country went into lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I had this vision of the fall: moving into my first apartment in the Medford/Somerville area. Walking around Tufts’ campus in between my classes. Making new friends in my program and eating lunch together. Back in March, I was so excited to begin grad school. Flash forward to now, and my grad school career is off to a bit of a strange start – don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely grateful to be where I am. Tufts is an excellent university with an outstanding reputation. But my day-to-day routine is a bit different than I’d expected. To state the obvious, the COVID-19 regulations have been put into place: everyone you see is wearing masks, and staying six feet apart. Everyone gets tested for coronavirus at least once a week, and there are barely any in-person classes. College life has surely changed drastically over the last six months, but despite the physical distance between everyone, there’s a sense of community in the air. And for that reason, I’m very happy with my decision to enroll in a graduate program at Tufts.
So, what made me apply to Tufts in the first place? To be completely honest, I applied on instinct. I applied without believing in the possibility of actually being accepted. Growing up in the Boston area, I knew Tufts as this extremely competitive, high-end, rigorous university. I didn’t apply to Tufts for undergrad because I didn’t think I would get in. Last fall, though, when I was applying to grad school programs, I came across the Tufts’ Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development’s website and thought it sounded pretty close to perfect. After doing some thorough browsing of the program, I decided to fill out an application for the heck of it. I had a feeling I’d be rejected, but I figured there was no harm in applying.
I initially applied to the PhD program. However, about a month and a half after submitting my application, I received an email from Ellen Pinderhughes, professor and admissions coordinator at Eliot-Pearson, inviting me to apply to the MA CSHD program instead. I was completely shocked to get that email – I had not been expecting the program to show interest in me. Of course, after corresponding with Ellen about my academic and career interests, I applied to the MA program, and was accepted in early February.
“Imposter syndrome” is a term a lot of grad students become familiar with. Essentially, it’s the belief that you don’t deserve to be where you are today. In the context of grad school, a lot of students feel as if they don’t truly belong in their program. I can admit I still feel this way: I have many moments throughout the day where I think Wait, what? I’m actually in grad school at Tufts? Me? It feels too good to be true. If you’re a prospective grad student reading this, I encourage you to take a risk and apply to that program you’re excited about. Even if you’re absolutely sure you won’t get accepted, you never know when the unexpected will occur.