Op-Ed: Lighting the way to a brighter world

When I was in high school, I fell in love with journalism. Creative writing was never my strong suit, but the structure of a news story immediately made sense to me. And when I combined that with the process of developing a story idea, doing the research, conducting interviews and piecing it all together, I realized I had stumbled on a career path.

Almost immediately after arriving at Tufts as a first-year student, I attended The Tufts Daily’s open house and started writing for the News department. By the end of my first year, I had become a member of the editorial board. Over the course of the following three years, I committed myself to the Daily, and to journalism more generally, serving as editor-in-chief during my senior year. My most memorable spot on campus is still the basement of Curtis Hall, home to the Daily. Five days a week, we suffered through bad pizza, a leaky ceiling and a lack of natural light just to share the challenge of putting out a daily paper. (We had just launched a website when I graduated.)

I am proud that — without the oversight of faculty or administrators — we ran our own business at one of the smallest schools in the country with a daily paper. On our own, we learned how to recruit and train journalists, negotiate contracts with printers, sell advertising and run a small business. It was in this setting that I sometimes failed, and that I always learned. The Daily — and my classes with Tufts luminaries such as Sol Gittleman, who taught me that we can shape society through our daily actions — made Tufts such an incredible experience for me. Tufts launched my career; today I play a leading role at a national news organization dedicated to providing nonpartisan journalism, data, breaking news, and analysis of elections and public policy decisions.

My Tufts story is not unique. As president of the Tufts University Alumni Association (TUAA) — the official body of more than 115,000 living Jumbos from all of Tufts’ schools — I hear from alumni every day about the transformational impact of their experience at Tufts.

Tufts has announced the launch of a new fundraising campaign, Brighter World. When I was a student at Tufts, my experience at Tufts had little or nothing to do with university fundraising, as far as I could tell. It’s only now — 21 years after graduation — that I can appreciate that my time at Tufts was enriched by all of those alumni who gave back to an institution that had positively changed the course of their lives.

This is why the 250 members of the TUAA governing body — the Tufts Alumni Council — have pledged to contribute $30 million to support Tufts students and faculty through the Brighter World campaign. To TUAA, this campaign is all about you and the future generations of Tufts students. We want you to have even better experiences than we did.

Even if we were to set aside the transformational experiences of Tufts students, Council members believe that Tufts — as an institution — is a cause worthy of our investment. Tufts faculty are advancing knowledge in countless fields through research and discoveries that are changing the world. For example, at the School of Arts and Sciences, Marie-Claire Beaulieu’s work is making the humanities and classics accessible to many millions of people across the globe, and Mike Levin’s research into regeneration at the Allen Discovery Center could lead to medical breakthroughs in treating cancer and birth defects. At the School of Medicine, Phil Haydon is investigating the role that glial cells play in Alzheimer’s. Christina Economos’ ChildObesity180 at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy may help reverse the national trend of childhood obesity. And Tufts at Tech within the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine provides low-income pet owners with excellent care while equipping Tufts veterinary students and high school vocational students with critical training.

Those aren’t the only ways Tufts is changing the world. The Tisch College of Civic Life teaches undergraduate and graduate students how to lead, how to get involved in their communities and how to have civil discussion. I think we all can agree that this work is more important now than ever, no matter your political persuasion.

I first got involved as an alumni volunteer for Tufts because the university meant more to me than just a degree or credential. It changed the course of my life. I had a transformational experience at Tufts, and I’ve been able to build on those experiences well after graduation. As an ambassador for Tufts alumni, I can assure you that we are here for today’s Tufts students, just as you will be for tomorrow’s. And that is what Brighter World is really about.