TCU Senate Trustee Reps present venture projects

The three Trustee Representatives on the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate delivered a mock presentation of their venture projects in Eaton 203 last night, in preparation for their upcoming meeting with the Board of Trustees this Friday.

The venture projects include improving access to career counselors, increasing financial aid opportunities for non-Tufts study abroad programs and offering more support for first-generation college students.

Senior Lia Weintraub, a trustee representative, presented first, outlining her venture project’s objectives, which included improving the career counseling program at Tufts and helping students – especially those on financial aid – secure internships.

“Right now in this economy, it is necessary to have internship experience in order to succeed,” she said.

Weintraub explained that Tufts only has one career counselor for every 1,144 students, while peer institutions have fewer students per counselor. She said she would work with the Career Center to resolve this issue and make career development a more integral part of the undergraduate experience. Weintraub also said she hopes to work with the Career Center to provide internship funding for all students on financial aid – 40 percent of the class – and to develop workshops to teach students career skills.

“I think what’s unique about my presentation is that finding internships and employment affects all students, Weintraub said. “I felt like addressing this particular topic could have great yields for the entire student body.”

Enxhi Popa, a junior, then presented her ideas for facilitating financial aid access for students participating in study abroad programs outside of Tufts. She noted that while Tufts currently offers 10 study abroad options, only three are accessible to students who have not studied a foreign language. This is in contrast with the 47 pre-approved study abroad options from other colleges and independent programs.

Popa said that this ratio and cost considerations make students likely to pursue study abroad options outside of Tufts. She further explained that it would be sensible to allow financial aid to be transferred to other programs, something other institutions, including Williams College, do.

“Beginning this discussion is much needed to create more inclusion and, in a way, better-quality education for students,” she said.

Senior Rose Mendelsohn delivered the final trustee presentation, which focused on improving support for first-generation college students who account for nine percent of the student body. She explained that such students are more likely to come from lower income families and rural areas, and that it is important to fulfill their needs when they arrive on campus.

Mendelsohn explained that she has been working with the administration, as well as student organizations such as the First Generation College Student Council, to better understand how to help these students adjust to life at Tufts, through workshops, advising sessions, social events and other innovative means.

“The First Generation Council has been working to create a community of people who, while very diverse, have this connection and may share experiences,” she said. “This topic is multifaceted, and there are many perspectives to it. I think it begins with the recognition that there are first-generation students at Tufts who deserve increased attention.”

Following the presentations, TCU President Joe Thibodeau reflected on the presentations and acknowledged the importance of the venture projects.

“I’m very proud of the work that these three women have put into their presentations,” Thibodeau said. “I think that this year’s Trustee Representatives are speaking to issues on their campus that aren’t always talked about or discussed openly, but which are so critical to the students here and their college experience. I really hope the Board of Trustees listens to them and takes to heart their messages.”