Lighting the Way in Education
Tufts University is a moderately sized university in Medford, Massachusetts with a focus on scientific research and liberal arts. Named for Charles Tufts, an American businessman and philanthropist, who donated 20 acres of land to the school in 1852 and later an additional 80 acres, Tufts University is now one of the longest standing colleges in the Boston area.
There is a local legend surrounding Charles Tufts and the university he built. It is said that when Charles was asked what he planned to do with “That bleak hill over in Medford,” he replied: “I will put a light on it.” 150 years later, Charles’ vision for the university he built has truly been fulfilled. Tufts University is a great symbol of light and an institution of enlightenment on the highest hills of Medford, Massachusetts.
The university has more than 11,400 students, 5500 of them in undergraduate studies and nearly 6000 in graduate and professional studies. There are more than 1500 faculty members and 3300 staff across four campuses. The main campus in Medford is home to five schools of study: the Tufts School of Arts and Sciences, the largest of the Tufts schools; the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for graduate programs; the School of Engineering, added to the campus in 1898; the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, sponsored by Tufts alumnus Dr. Austin Barclay Fletcher in 1933 with a donation of $1 million; and the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.
The Boston campus has the Tufts School of Dental Medicine and the School of Medicine; the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences where groundbreaking stem cell research is being done; the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy where researchers just this year discovered an important link between fasting glucose and weight loss; the USDA Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, where researchers look at how nutrition and aging are connected; and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.
In Grafton, Massachusetts Tufts has a school of Veterinary Medicine where a great deal of research is being done in the area of animal medicine and, in some cases, that research is being adapted to help humans. For example, recent research related to degenerative myelopathy, which is a canine version of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, otherwise known as ALS, could provide insight into how the disease affects humans. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease without a cure. Veterinary researchers from Tufts teamed with other Tufts researchers studying ALS in humans, and together they have been looking at how the disease affects dogs and humans and expect to gain new information that could help both.
It is the mission of Tufts University to foster an environment for creativity and innovation. Providing a space conducive to in-class learning is one step on a longer road to a building a network of collaborative relationships that result in bold ideas that will shape the future.
In November of 2013, the university embarked on a new journey through the implementation of a ten year strategic plan designed to improve the school in a number of ways. The plan is based on four themes, as outlined on the university’s website at provost.tufts.edu/strategic-planning/. The first theme is a series of foundational initiatives that serve as the basis for the rest of the plan. The second theme is enabling transformational experiences, which includes a number of specific efforts to improve the faculty’s capacity to teach and the student body’s capacity to learn. The third theme is engaging and celebrating commonalities and differences, which is a deliberate effort to be more inclusive through financial aid, diversity and inclusion efforts, and global programs. Finally, the fourth theme is fostering innovation through new areas of research and the Tufts Innovation Institute.
In order to implement this bold new strategy, a number of key, foundational goals have been set. Working toward these goals will help lay the groundwork that will enable the success of the plan going forward. These goals include improvements related to faculty such as a focus on building a path to success for faculty members through tenure and promotion policies, programs that enable collaboration, and resources for faculty members to pursue goals in their relative fields. In order to build an environment conducive to learning for students, the admissions policies built into the new strategy will look at quantifiable information such as grade-point average and test scores as well as letters of recommendation and interviewing. Another key aspect to the foundation of the new strategy is a recognition of the university staff that enables much of the school’s success. It is only upon these foundational concepts that the strategic plan can expect to be successful.
The second theme of the plan is the enabling of transformational experiences. Classroom lectures are only one part of what it takes to help build innovators and encourage bold thinking; much of what a student will take away from their post-secondary education is what they’ve learned through their experiences. Tufts University understands this and has made a commitment to providing the faculty and student body opportunities for stimulating learning experiences. Staying abreast of the latest research on teaching and learning through seminars offered by the Center for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, and the Educational and Scholarly Technology Services program, the school can stay current with teaching methods, the most effective pedagogical practices and technological innovations. The result is that faculty members are given access to the resources that will enable them to provide transformative learning experiences for their students.
The third theme is engaging and celebrating commonalities and differences. The university recognizes the value in a faculty, staff, and student body made up of people from diverse backgrounds. In 2012, the university created the President’s Council on Diversity, and throughout the new ten year strategy it will explore many more diversification opportunities. These will include economic diversity through efforts to make financial aid more accessible, and cultural diversity through global programs that challenge students to think and work outside their own cultural experience.
Finally, the fourth theme is creating innovative approaches to local and global challenges. Innovation is a cornerstone to the Tufts mission, and providing an environment that fosters and encourages the bold ideas that lead to innovation is a large part of the commitment that’s being made through the university’s strategic plan. Many of the world’s most critical areas of research are being studied by researchers at Tufts University, and new, innovative approaches are being implemented all the time.
Tufts University is considered one of the nation’s top research universities. In 2016 it was recognized by Forbes magazine as the 12th research university in the nation and 18th in its top colleges category. A large number of notable research projects are underway at the university in varying areas of study. Some examples include a study that is leveraging mathematics to combat gerrymandering and defend the voting rights of the electorate, a study about what factors drive snack purchasing decisions made by children, research into bee colony declines, and much much more.
Earlier this year Donald Trump announced major funding cuts that are a significant threat to some of Tufts University’s research efforts including the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA). As a result, Anthony Monaco, President of Tufts University, traveled to Capitol Hill to publicly express his disapproval. In Washington, President Monaco and Vice Provost for Research Simin Meydani met with members of congress to discuss the problem. In the end, all of the senators and house members from Massachusetts agreed with Monaco, and collectively signed a letter stating as much.
Tufts University is one of the most respected and influential research universities in the United States. When the University was founded more than 150 years ago, Charles Tufts wanted to put a light on a bleak hill in Medford, Massachusetts. Today, his legacy truly is a beacon of light for the world.