One word I would use to describe Tufts is citizenship. We are all citizens of this university—the students, the admissions counselors, and even the dining staff. We are citizens of the dorms we live in and the clubs we are engaged in. Our shared experiences waiting for the Green Line and enjoying J.P. Licks in Davis Square make us Tufts students. But more so, they make us citizens of Medford and Somerville.
Inside Barnum Hall, behind the iconic Jumbo statue, lies the home of the Johnathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. Tisch is home to dozens of student-run clubs, non-partisan initiatives, and a civics studies co-major (the first of its kind). CIVIC (Cooperation and Innovation in Citizenship) and ACTION (Advancing Civic Thought in Our Nation) both generate dialogue about civic engagement on campus and beyond. In addition, students can get involved in CIRCLE (Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), a leading research organization of youth voting, and TUPIT (Tufts University Prison Initiative), an organization that offers degree programs to incarcerated students and joint classes between Tufts undergraduate and formerly incarcerated citizens. The opportunities to be involved at Tisch are endless, and if you find a gap in the organizations or a place where research can be done, you can apply for a monetary grant for a student-run project through the Tisch Fund.
The Tisch College umbrella is far reaching, and Tufts’s mission to promote “active citizens of the world” does not stop in Greater Boston. Typically, 40-45 percent of Tufts undergraduates participate in full-year or semester-long study programs around the world.
One unique way to immerse yourself in experiential learning and social justice work is the Civic Semester. Open to students with curiosity and passion, students can apply to Civic Semester on Common App at the same time as the regular application. In 2024, two cohorts of 8-12 students each will begin their Tufts journeys in Peru and Thailand—submerged in community engagement.
As a Civic Semester student myself, I can say that the world becomes your classroom. Every conversation brings a new perspective linking Pachamama to climate change or foreign investment and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). My Spanish has improved to the point of near fluency, but I’ve also learned daily phrases in Quechua, the Indigenous language of the Andes. Lectures in our Latin American Civilization class are accompanied by hikes on the Incan Trail or trips to Cusco. The conversations that we have about our positionality, privilege, and citizenship as Tufts students is a lesson that no textbook can replace.
During the first half of the Civic Semester, the cohort visited about 10 NGOs and co-ops varying in mission, size, and structure. We reflected on our experiences through the course Community Change in Action and put academic theories into practice. In late October, we began individual placements at one of these organizations. I recently started my internship at Hogar Semillas de Jesús, a home for children from rural, high altitude communities that would not have the opportunity to attend school without. Other members of my cohort spend their Mondays and Fridays doing data entry and analysis at Sacred Valley Health, picking strawberries at Corazones Para Peru, and learning about ancient Quechua weaving techniques at Tika.
Through our group visits and individual placements, we’ve learned about coalition building best described as Ayni. Ayni is a Quechua term and Incan philosophy that best translates to reciprocity. It is a communal mindset based on “today for you, tomorrow for me.” At our visit to Canastas Verdes, a small female farming co-op, we discussed sustainability, permaculture, and climate change through this lens. The women happily work on each other’s fields only asking that they would do the same the next day. Beyond the cultural knowledge that they shared, we saw true citizenship over individualism in action.
With that being said, as you apply to Tufts, consider your own citizenship—who you are, what groups you are a part of, and where you see yourself in the future. Take advantage of all the opportunities that Tisch College offers. And be open to new ways of learning whether that is on the Hill or four thousand miles away.