When prospective students ask what it’s like being a member of the Tufts community, it’s easy for answers to become almost like listicles; current students name-drop all the good feelings, extracurricular activities, and acronyms that make Tufts feel like home to them. Indeed, Tufts students are able to effortlessly provide concrete examples of what it means to exist within a community (a vague concept you’d be forgiven for being confused by). But an integral portion of that buzzword, especially at Tufts, is our faculty.
Before college, I had a preconceived notion about college professors. I’d watched plenty of films and television episodes. I’d heard the horror stories and talked to my siblings. I was terrified at the prospect of sitting in big lectures, cramming my head for daunting exams with no help, and spending more time learning from my teacher’s assistants than my actual professor. These ideas were most certainly inaccurate (but try telling 17-year-old Chris he was wrong).
For Tufts professors, these ideas couldn’t be further from the truth. They’re interactive and engaging (regardless of class size), helpful and resourceful (even when it’s the night before the test), and they teach their classes and grade their assignments. They lead research programs, advise you on senior theses and projects, and hold weekly office hours. I’m giving lots of examples (we’re veering into listicle territory here) but I think it’s all helpful information. I think it’d also be helpful to tell you about one of my professors. My freshman fall semester, I took an introductory film production course with Howard Woolf. Howard’s the Director of the Experimental College (ExCollege) and a longtime professor and Gandalf-like figure at Tufts. Now, as my I entire senior fall semester, Howard’s my major advisor, senior thesis advisor, ExCollege guide, and friend.
I’m actually quite sentimental thinking about Howard and how much he’s helped me the past few years. It’s thanks to him that I’ve taught courses and joined the board at the ExCollege, my favorite community at Tufts. I owe him much of my academic success; he’s given me plenty of opportunities to see if working in the film industry is really what I want to do. And as I start working on my senior thesis, I’m looking forward to many Zoom (or socially distant) meetings and check-ins. I’m lucky to have such a strong connection with my professor, but Howard and I certainly aren’t an anomaly at Tufts.
Across departments on campus, there are countless professors just like Howard: caring, dedicated, and excited to work with students. Tufts professors aren’t just here to do their research and teach a class or two. They’re here to connect. Ask any current Tufts student about their professors, advisors, and faculty. Ask them about the research they do and the office hours they spend talking. You’ll get a variety of answers, but they’ll all boil down to an important fact: professors are just as ingrained in Tufts’ community as any student. They’re vital to our success, connections, and futures.
You’ll notice that much of what I’ve discussed has to do with campus—in other words, friendships made on the Hill (in offices, in person, and without masks). That doesn’t mean that COVID-19’s impact on life at Tufts has damaged the bond between professors and students. If anything, it’s shown how resilient that connection is. Zoom calls are lively, phone calls and FaceTimes are fun, and socially distant walks are fulfilling. Professors are still here to support students and still apart of this community. It comforts me to know they’re here no matter what.