During my first fall semester at Tufts, I had friends who took classes in the Experimental College, colloquially ExCollege, on topics like The Bachelor, the sounds of nature, and self-driving cars. I didn’t even realize it was possible to take classes—for credit—on topics like that! It’s the purpose of the ExCollege to surprise you with timely and engaging courses, taught by both visiting lecturers and Tufts students.
From then on, I became involved with the ExCollege. My first Film and Media Studies teacher (and later my major advisor) Howard Woolf, is the Director of the ExCollege. I later applied to be on the ExCollege board (the group of students and faculty who decide on important ExCollege matters, like courses—it feels quite official, to be honest). Then one of my first feature assignments for JUMBO Magazine, Tufts Admissions’ publication for prospective students, was about the ExCollege. The rest—including teaching an Explorations course last fall semester—is history. I can confidently say that the ExCollege is not only my favorite institution I’m involved with on campus, but my favorite community (a home away from home).
When I talk about the ExCollege, I immediately became a salesman. I’m not sure why. It might have to do with how passionate I am about the 56-year-old institution. It’s home to plenty of amazing people and programs, but a standout is certainly its Explorations program. These academic advising seminars are taught by juniors and seniors. They feature a variety of topics—re: The Bachelor course my friend took—and act as a way to learn how to do college with a community of other first-years. Think of it as a pre-orientation that’s much more fun and goes on until December (and even afterwards!).
My Explorations course last fall was “The Force is Female: Star Wars and Female Characters.” I’ve always loved the Star Wars saga, film reading, and character analysis. And along with fourteen incredible first-year students and our faculty advisor Claire Schub, I got to explore the Star Wars films and their interesting female characters. Teaching that seminar—along with my upcoming fall 2020 Explorations course “From Star-Crossed Lovers to the Love Triangle: Love in Modern Film”—has been a highlight of my time at Tufts.
What makes Explorations unique are the opportunities it presents to everyone involved. The teacher(s) get to design a syllabus they’re passionate about and lead a community. The faculty advisors are able to work with bright, young minds who are excited for their time at Tufts. And the first-year students are given the opportunity to explore an interesting topic while also learning about how college works. When it comes time to register for classes or think about declaring a major, there’re various networks of support to help. It’s a chance you don’t want to miss out on; my single biggest Tufts regret is not taking an Explorations course my first fall semester.
It’s so different from anything else on campus. I’ve been a Residential Assistant (RA) and seen community build in the residence halls. That’s great and it certainly has its place in the first-year experience. I’ve seen pre-orientations and how they connect first-year students (I did FOCUS and loved it). But pre-orientations end and campus is much bigger than you might think it is during that week before Matriculation. It’s important to branch out and find a stable foundation for support. That’s where Explorations comes in. It’s not only connects you to fellow first-year students with common interests, but it also gives you an immediate support system of juniors, seniors, and faculty.
So yes, this blog serves to partially advertise Explorations (and possibly my course in particular, but I’ll never fully own up to that). But it also acts as a reminder of how much there is going on at Tufts. It never ceases to amaze me. The campus is full of opportunities that’ll change your thinking and make you question new ideas and perspectives. The ExCollege is just one piece in that puzzle. But for me, the Tufts experience just wouldn’t feel complete without looking into the ExCollege more, learning its history, and taking a course or two.