Tufts University and its Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service today will launch Tufts 1+4, a novel bridge year program that will offer incoming students of all economic backgrounds the opportunity to engage in a year of full-time national or international service before beginning the traditional college experience. Tufts 1+4 will place these admitted first-year students in selected service organizations starting in the fall of 2015, before they begin their four-year undergraduate studies the following fall. The program is one of the initiatives springing from the 10-year strategic plan unveiled by Tufts in the fall of 2013.
Tufts 1+4 will officially kick off with a 5 PM Symposium on Service and Leadership at which the keynote speaker will be retired general Stanley McChrystal, who chairs the leadership council of the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project. The Franklin Project calls for making military or civilian national service a voluntary rite of passage for all young Americans and for creating one million full-time national service positions as part of a renewed commitment to engaged citizenship. At the symposium, which will also include talks by undergraduate students and a student service fair, McChrystal is expected to urge American higher education to join this effort and recognize Tufts’ contribution in this arena.
Removing Financial Barriers
While “gap years” have become increasingly common, they have often been out of the reach of lower-income families and isolated from students’ subsequent college studies. Many programs have also focused only on international service. Tufts 1+4 will offer interested students who have been accepted for undergraduate admission the option for a transformational experience of national or global service that will also include academic content and teaching of civic and leadership skills. Tufts 1+4 aims to “democratize” this opportunity so that no student will be precluded from participating because of limited financial resources.
“This program aligns perfectly with Tufts University’s historic commitment to innovative and active engagement in the world, and with our mission of providing our students with an education that can truly change their lives and the lives of others,” said Tufts University President Anthony P. Monaco. “We hope it will inspire students to use their talents to contribute to the world around them.”
“Through this unique experience, young people will develop their abilities and passions in ways that will strengthen their studies and experiences at Tufts, as well as their personal and professional trajectories. They will contribute in significant ways to solving pressing social problems while making discoveries about themselves and diverse societies,” said Tufts Provost David R. Harris.
The program will be based at Tufts’ Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, whose research and academic programs seek to infuse civic engagement and active citizenship across the university’s schools and programs.
Alan D. Solomont, Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of Tisch College, believes the 1+4 program speaks to a renewed desire among young people to be part of something bigger than themselves. Solomont was a community organizer in Lowell, Mass., after graduating from Tufts in 1970 and went on to chair the board of directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service and serve as U.S. ambassador to Spain and Andorra.
“This generation of students is interested in finding practical solutions to problems. As the Franklin Project has also said, most young people want to make a difference in the world, but their interest exceeds the service opportunities that are available. Tufts 1+4 will meet that need by identifying meaningful opportunities, whether mentoring schoolchildren or advocating for the homeless, and ensuring that lack of means is not an impediment to performing such service,” Solomont said. “At the same time, students can have a powerful impact on 1+4 partner service organizations by helping to meet specific community needs, and the 1+4 service experience will enrich the education that Tufts offers. Tufts 1+4 is a trifecta.”
Integrating Service Year and College
Tufts will issue a comprehensive request for proposals to potential service site organizations this spring. The RFP will define the specific criteria for service opportunities and a framework for placing students.
While participation is expected to grow over time, Tufts’ target for the initial year is 50 students. Tufts envisions each service site accommodating four to six Tufts students, working alongside others not affiliated with Tufts, which will enhance learning opportunities, team building and leadership development.
Tufts students will take part in an on-campus orientation before beginning their year of service.
Regular communication with Tufts advisors throughout the service year will encourage students to discuss how their experiences will inform future academic studies and career aspirations. The experience will also build and strengthen the civic skills needed to “participate in the public square,” as Solomont puts it. Research done at Tisch College has examined the kinds of skills that are most effective in community service, and will be incorporated.
When the service year ends, Tufts 1+4 students will come together on campus to reflect on their experiences and connect the experience to the students’ academic studies. Regular meetings, workshops, events and informal gatherings will also equip participants to build on their experiences and serve as campus leaders throughout their years at Tufts.
Tufts has secured early donor funding to launch 1+4; program expansion will rely on additional gifts. Donors include Brian H. Kavoogian, university trustee, member of the Tisch College board of advisors and a 1984 Tufts graduate; university trustee Thomas M. Alperin and Marsha C. Alperin, members of the class of 1981; J.B. Lyon and Tom Bendheim, members of the class of 1985 and funders of the Lyon and Bendheim Alumni Lecture Series; and Daniel H. Schulman and Jennie A. Kassanoff, parents of a Tufts sophomore.
– Information from Tufts University