Tufts officially launches pre-matriculation service program

The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service yesterday unveiled its new “Tufts 1+4 Program” during its Symposium on Service and Leadership, in which retired General Stanley McChrystal spoke at Cohen Auditorium.

The event began with a welcome from University President Anthony Monaco who introduced Alan Solomont (A ’70), the recently appointed dean of Tisch College. Solomont emphasized Tufts’ commitment to community service.

“The Tisch College offers testimony to the fact that fostering civic engagement is not peripheral to the Tufts mission,” he said. “It is central to it. It lies at the heart of what makes this university exceptional.”

Solomont then introduced two undergraduate students, freshman Lydia Collins and sophomore Philip Ellison, who took gap — or bridge — years before their freshman year. Both students spent this time performing community service similar to that which fuels the “1+4 Program.”

“I have an understanding of the difficulty of making the world a better place,” Collins, who spent the 2012-2013 school year volunteering in Ecuador, said. “Hopefully myself and those with similar experiences as me, will be able to harness that knowledge and use it to make communities better.”

Ellison, who spent time working in the South Bronx with City Year, an education-based volunteer organization, echoed this sentiment and explained the important lessons he learned during his gap year.

“Our work seemed like it never ended, but to us, that was the point,” Ellison said. “The year was a rare opportunity to do meaningful work alongside families and communities that had been there forever … During the gap year you begin to understand the world around you in a way that the classroom really can’t provide.”

Provost David Harris followed Collins and Ellison with an announcement of Tufts new “1+4 Program.” He emphasized the value of these yearlong service experiences and said that the program seeks to facilitate more students’ participation in similar programs.  

“Philip and Lydia shared with us the transformational experiences they had before coming to Tufts, making a positive difference in local and global communities while discovering what is common across people and what makes us different,” Harris said. “Starting with the young people who will apply to Tufts this fall … 1+4 will allow up to 50 students each year to have the kind of transformational experiences that only a select number of young people enjoy currently.” 

He explained that the program fits well with both the goals of the Tisch College and the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project, which McChrystal chairs.

“This is a student-centered research university where we push students outside their comfort zone, to put them in stressful situations in which they integrate their personal development with their intellectual development,” Harris said. “This is a university committed to innovative approaches to local and global challenges.”

McChrystal followed with his keynote address, extolling the benefits of partaking in national and international service. He said that current destructive trends are negatively impacting people of all backgrounds and regions.

“We are stuck in a political gridlock that is being bemoaned by everyone but fixed by no one,” McChrystal said. “Voting rates — such a basic right of our citizens — are tremendously lower than the standards set not just by history, but by other nations around us. This is not consistent with our values.”

McChrystal explained that America has faced and resolved such problems before. He said this was especially true during the World War II era, when 16 million Americans joined the military and many more offered their service back home.

“These accomplishments were amazing,” he said. “Not because of what [the American people] did in the war, but because they came together during a depression and the threat of a second world war. It changed a generation.”

He explained that while the service was widely seen as compulsory during that era, many in today’s generation would object to anything mandatory. However, he said he hopes the current generation will display a similar dedication.

“What we need to do is change our culture so that civilian service is voluntary, but expected of everyone,” McChrystal said. “People everywhere in America should have the opportunity to serve because after you serve you feel differently about things.”

Participating in service is invaluable to both oneself and the global community, McChrystal explained.

“The value has no price tag,” McChrystal said. “I think that the idea[s] that it costs too much, that it’s too hard, that it might make some people uncomfortable, [are] dwarfed by the idea that in the inside we all think it would be a better place if we each did more.”

Following McChrystal’s speech, the other speakers returned to stage to take questions from the audience. The questions ranged from how to pay for a national service program, to the military agreement between the United States and Afghanistan to overcoming failures. McChrystal emphasized the importance of not allowing failure in service to prevent one from continuing.

“The message that is worth conveying is that accepting failure is part of the process,” he said. “This is really an ongoing struggle to make little improvement both in yourself and in the world around you … Refus[ing] to accept cynicism is the answer.”

McChrystal also emphasized the importance of education and its role in promoting active citizenship.

“You really need to invest your money in things that pay off long term,” he said. “When I think of national service and I think of education, I think of them as a yin and a yang. They’re almost interconnected.”

McChrystal explained that the current generation of students has the potential to fill a much needed void in national service. 

“The generation that’s going to have to do [national service] is the one we want in the driver’s seat,” McChrystal told the Daily. “I want to … stimulate thinking about that.”