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Executive Summary

 

The Task Force on the Undergraduate Experience was created by President Bacow during the Fall of 2001 to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Tufts' undergraduate curriculum, co-curriculum, residential life, and the undergraduate experience as a coherent whole; to identify the resources necessary to implement any recommended changes; and to bring forward those recommendations which have broad-based community support.  The final recommendations to the President are due in June 2003.  This Interim Report is designed to initiate community dialogue on the ideas proposed herein.  The Task Force will use the feedback it receives from the community in the wake of this report to shape and refine its ideas before preparing the final set of recommendations.  The ideas that follow have come either directly or indirectly from the committee's first round of outreach to the Tufts community, and are organized around three themes: Climate, Community, and Coherence. 

 

This report is the beginning of a process of reporting out ideas for community discussion.  Within the Task Force, we have separated our discussion into two categories: co-curricular and residential life on the one hand, and the curriculum on the other.  This distinction is somewhat artificial as many of the ideas we've discussed involve both curricular and co-curricular/residential elements.  Though the committee has reached consensus on a number of specific proposals regarding the former, we have not yet reached sufficient agreement on the latter to report out proposals.  We, therefore, position our discussion about the curriculum more broadly as a series of questions for the community to consider along with the committee.  Once we have processed the community's feedback on these matters, we will follow up with a separate report with our proposals for the curriculum.  

 

We propose three major initiatives that reflect our deliberations and interrelated goals for Arts, Sciences, and Engineering in each of these areas.  The initiatives, elaborated in detail in the body of this report, include:

 

1.         Constructing a Tufts College System

 

We propose a transformation of Tufts' existing residential system into a system of four colleges.  These colleges would create smaller, more intimate communities in which all students could maintain a connection to a core group of faculty, staff, and other students throughout all four years of their Tufts experience.   Each college would serve as a vehicle for academic, social, and cultural activities and, as such, become the central foundation of each student's intellectual and social growth at Tufts. 

 

2.         Promoting Intellectual Engagement

 

We propose an interconnected set of initiatives both to promote a climate of intellectual engagement across curricular, co-curricular, and residential life and to provide increased coherence across the four undergraduate years at Tufts.  With regard to the curriculum, we put forward for the community's consideration a developmental perspective which encourages engaged learning in each phase of a student's intellectual experience at Tufts.  We also propose several initiatives in the co-curricular realm which are geared to enhance the intellectual climate on campus and to make connections between a student's life inside and outside of the classroom.  In particular, we note that physical space can powerfully shape the sense and purpose of a community.  As such, we make a number of recommendations with regard to space as a means for enhancing the intellectual climate at Tufts.

 

3.         Building Community and Strengthening Diversity

 

We propose a series of initiatives designed to address the concern we have frequently heard from students, faculty, and staff alike that although there are many sub-communities at Tufts, Tufts lacks a sense of overarching community.  We seek to build community in this larger sense and we approach this goal from several angles.  First, just as space can be used to enhance intellectual climate, we believe it can also contribute to community building.  Toward this end, we strongly recommend the completion of Campus Center Phase III to provide Tufts students, faculty, and staff with a social center better able to fulfill the purpose for which it was intended.  Second, we recommend that Tufts move toward need-blind admissions, thus allowing the institution to construct a community of students that provides the richest possible experience for all Tufts undergraduates.  Third, we seek the creation of an Alumni Community Network that will enable students and alumni to connect with each other in ways that reconceptualize Tufts as a life-long intellectual community. 

 

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These proposed initiatives attempt to make the most of Tufts’ distinctive profile as a liberal arts college and engineering school embedded in a research university, where faculty members have the unusual, challenging, and highly sought-after profile of being both cutting-edge scholars and caring teachers.  Embedded within the initiatives are statements of current, if implicit, goals at Tufts  –  academic excellence, community enrichment, and commitment to diversity – and also a newly articulated set of outcomes that represent desired educational goals for a Tufts University graduate.  Described in detail within the report, these outcomes cover six areas: intellectual engagement; critical thinking and creativity; communication skills; appreciation for complexity, synthesis, and application; personal, ethical, and social development; and a sense of community and culture. 

 

We encourage all members of the Tufts community to discuss, debate, and critically evaluate the ideas and proposals in this document.  Our charge from President Bacow is to "work hard to achieve a consensus for change."  It is our intention to meet with campus groups to gather further input, to discuss this document and – as a community – to determine how best to move forward to a new level of excellence.  Tufts will embark on a new capital campaign in the next few years.  We take seriously the promise of the President that "[t]he work of the Task Force will help to shape the priorities for undergraduate education and life in this new capital campaign."

 

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