ExCollege hosts ‘The ExCollege Experience’ to display courses, celebrate new space

Howard Woolf, director of the ExCollege, poses for a portrait in his office on Feb. 22, 2018. Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily Archives


Leadership from the Experimental College (ExCollege) organized a showcase of next semester’s classes in an event called “The ExCollege Experience” Thursday. Students who will be teaching courses in the spring were able to present and pitch their classes to people who may take them.

Howard Woolf, the director of the ExCollege, described the event as a way for the ExCollege to make full use of its space at 95 Talbot Ave., which used to house both Film and Media Studies (FMS) and the ExCollege until FMS moved to Barnum Hall.

“We had always wanted to create an area for our faculty to come and use to meet with students as they prepare for class, and we were able to do that,” he said.

However, Woolf said that student input changed the course of what he and other ExCollege staff imagined the space would be.

“We did a survey [where] we asked students what they wanted, and we got back very consistent results. People wanted a place to hang, they wanted food and a computer and a printer,” he said, saying that these suggestions led the creation of a lounge on the top floor of the building. 

In addition, the movement of all of the FMS equipment from the downstairs of 95 Talbot Ave. to Barnum led to the creation of the new makerspace.

“It’s really a combination of ideas that we had for 11 years when we first moved in here,” he said.

According to Woolf, before the FMS program moved to Barnum, 95 Talbot was overflowing with people and equipment, with one faculty member having an office space in the kitchen.

“At a certain point, it was clear that they [the FMS program] needed more space and the administration understood that,” Woolf said.

Woolf said that the purpose of the event was to serve as an opening for people to see and experience the building as an exclusively ExCollege, not ExCollege and FMS, space.

“The idea of previewing some of our courses on top of that was to give people … a chance [to see] some of the interactive courses of next semester,” he said.

Woolf added that one of the classes he was interested in that tabled at the event was entitled “Biofabricated Food: Cellular Agriculture and Sustainability” (EXP-0012-S).

Natalie Rubio, a fourth-year graduate student teaching the class in the biomedical engineering department who is one of three instructors teaching the course, said in an interview with the Daily that her course would study meat that is grown from cells rather than whole animals.

“We’ll talk about the history of food and biotechnology,” she said. “Part of the field called acellular agriculture, which is more of the protein-based products, so milk without cows and eggs without chickens, and then we’ll also go into our specific research.”

She said students would have the opportunity to go to labs and see how to isolate cells from animal tissue in order to grow them into meat. 

Andrew Stout, another graduate student of biomedical engineering who will also teach the course, said the group discovered the ExCollege through their faculty advisor. He said the students desired to teach a course in which many people would be interested. 

John Yuen, the third graduate student who will be teaching the course, said that such foods would be important in the future because of the environmental cost that meat delivers.

Thomas Risoleo, who will teach an ExCollege course with Jefferson Xu next semester titled “The Avengers and Beyond: Faces of the MCU,” described his course as an exploration into the Marvel universe.

“This is an idea that I had for a while, before I came to Tufts,” Risoleo, a junior, said, adding that he and his friend, Xu, also a junior, wished to show that the Marvel universe has substance and depth through the course.

Other courses offered that were featured at the event include “Face It: The Art and Science of Caricature,” “Gender, Justice, and True Crime” and “Sheep to Shawl: A Hands-On Exploration.”