Tisch Scholars program makes revisions based on feedback from internal task force, community

Dean of Johnathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service Alan D. Solomont introducing lecturer Eboo Patel on Sep. 21, 2015. Alex Knapp / The Tufts Daily Archive

The Tisch Scholars Program at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service will alter its curriculum by extending its current required course to a full-year foundational class and by offering academic credit for community work in a diversified group of community placements beginning in fall 2016. The multi-year program emphasizes developing organization and policy skills to address social issues as part of its dedication to “active citizenship.” The College is also revising its recruitment process and how it distributes course credits, according to Scholars Program Administrator Sara Allred. 

While in past years, only first-years and sophomores could apply to the program, Allred noted that applications are now available for all students who will be on campus for the entirety of the coming academic year. The recruitment period for the program has also been shifted from the beginning of the fall semester to the start of spring semester, which, Allred posits, will be more fair to first-year students in particular.

Having the recruitment in the spring instead of as soon as the school year starts in the fall may be more manageable for first-year students, as they have had more time to adjust to life at Tufts and know the Scholars Program is a program they want to commit to,” Allred said.

Allred explained that many of the outlined adjustments were decided upon by a task force formed last year, which collected feedback from current Tisch Scholars and some of the scholars’ community partners. The potential program improvements were also informed by feedback from the Community Partnerships Committee, an advisory group for Tisch College’s Community Partnerships office, she said.

Allred went on to explain that, despite structural changes, no alterations were made to the core goals of the program.

The overarching goal of the program – which is to provide education and opportunities for students to gain skills, knowledge and values in order to affect positive social change in our local communities and beyond – is still the same, but we are updating the model to better attain our goal,” she said. “We are excited to increase opportunities for…reflection and applied learning.”

Alan Solomont, Pierre and Pamela Omidyar dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, said he believes that the revisions will help Tisch College to more effectively reach its overarching goals.

“At Tisch College, our goal is to support students in developing the knowledge and skills to take action in communities and work toward positive social change,” he said. “These changes to the Scholars Program will allow us to better achieve that objective.”

Allred echoed Solomont’s sentiments, noting that the coming months will be critical to the process of fine-tuning the program to help it better reach its goals. 

“[In the spring and summer, Tisch College will] continue to engage our community partners to be sure that what the new scholars are learning best prepares them and supports them in community-based work,”Allred said. 

Tisch Scholar Eric Halliday explained that he is cautiously optimistic for the program alterations. He commended Tisch College for being responsive to student concerns regarding the program. 

One of the great things about Tisch Scholars is we evolve according to the critiques and the opinions of the Scholars themselves,” Halliday, a senior, said. “These changes resulted from conversations that have been going on in the program between scholars and Tisch staffers for years.”

Halliday described a task force among scholars from the 2013-2014 school year that analyzed, assessed and articulated weaknesses within the program, and informed some of the changes that are being made. 

“I know a lot of those recommendations were incorporated within the current changes,” Halliday said. “They definitely followed up, they did their best. Everything was as transparent as they could make it.”

Tisch College’s responsiveness to student and community interests left Halliday confident about the direction of the program, despite the lack of concrete details on the changes’ mechanics, he said. 

“Obviously not everything is ironed out, but I think the important thing to consider is that the Tisch staff will work with any scholar with any issue that arises,” he said. “The program isn’t about complying with requirements, the program is about getting the best experience possible.”

Allred predicts that students across campus will maintain a strong interest in Tisch College’s future projects and opportunities.

“I hope that students are excited about the new opportunities the updated program structure provides,” Allred said. “Regardless of whether or not a student is accepted to the Scholars Program, I hope they will stay connected with Tisch College and participate in the array of programs and opportunities we provide and promote throughout the year.”