After missing celebrations in 2020 and 2021, Tufts welcomes neighbors back to campus
The last Tufts Community Day may have been in 2019, but by all measures it returned on Sunday without skipping a beat.
The October 2 event, suspended by COVID-19 precautions, once again turned the Academic Quad into a festive celebration. Centered on the theme of arts and innovation, it brought together more than 70 community organizations, university departments, and student groups that showcased both civic work and university ventures.
For the younger set and their parents, Community Day continued to put fun center stage by offering an array of creative activities: lawn games, creative projects in two art and craft tents, and entertainment in the form of more than 20 live performances, including a cappella groups, dance teams, and thespians.
As always, everything was free and open to the public.
“It’s great to be back, and to be better than ever,” said Rocco DiRico, executive director of government and community relations at Tufts. “For the past two years we haven’t been able to be able to welcome our neighbors to campus at all, so this is a big treat for us.”
Some 3,000 neighbors and friends dropped by, including Ingrid Fickel, who was certain that it would appeal to her young sons. “I just love it,” she said, as her two boys were, indeed, fully absorbed in a Lego-inspired building challenge offered by engineering undergraduates promoting the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO).
“The kids enjoy it very much,” she said. “This year I see a lot more students at the tables, which is great; they are more involved when they give more information about what a department does.”
Nine-year-old Aidan gave a thumbs up to the challenge: building the bridge that can hold as least one C battery with as few pieces as possible. “I was really into it,” he said.
Nick Guziewicz, of Somerville, was attending with his three daughters, who were busy making the rounds. “It’s been great,” he said, adding an appreciative note about the live performances. “They seem to move through [the groups] pretty quickly,” he said, “which is good for short attention spans.”
Kasey Fitz, of Medford, was happy to find an activity that engaged her three-and half-year-old daughter, Hannah. “It's awesome to have something like this for kids to do,” she said, as Hannah concentrated on threading small colored beads at a table organized by the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA).
“I like the silk,” said Leo Castellano, 9, of Medford, who had just visited the table run by staff and students of Tufts Silklab, where innovation is directed at inventing and designing sustainable manufacturing materials and products with silk. Technically sophisticated, perhaps, but staff and students stoked curiosity of the younger set by inviting them to put faces on a silkworm cocoon. They also boiled a silkworm cocoon as part of showing visitors how silk fibers can be extracted. (Those fibers ultimately can be transformed into sustainable materials with potential uses far beyond textiles.)
“He’s very into recycling, and not using plastics,” added Leo’s mother, Maria. “He thinks it’s wrong to use straws, so it’s very interesting to him. And we’re also just having a good time; it’s a great way to hang out with his friends.”
As for the communities, Somerville was well represented by groups such as the Somerville High School Robotics Team, Somerville Media Center, Somerville Homeless Coalition, and the Somerville Public Library. Medford community groups included the Medford Family Network, West Medford Community Center, Kitty Connection, and Mystic Valley YMCA.
Community leaders staffing their respective tables agreed that they welcomed the chance to widen their reach. “It’s important for us to be able to share with as many people as possible,” said Teresa Rodriguez, director of enrollment for the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative.
Similarly, Celia Lee, board member with Arts Collaborative Medford, was eager to promote a new arts center, slated to open in the spring. “We're trying to get the word out,” she said. “It’s very exciting to be able to have a home for the arts, at last.”
Tufts programs also took the opportunity to get the word out about the many ways the university engages with the wider world, including the Tufts Pollinator Initiative and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives hosted a table that displayed in great visual detail the many-layered story of Tufts. Their giveaways were appropriately historical: a sticker replica of a vintage Jumbo illustration and a button (made on the spot) of an archival images of Jumbo, the Illumination Ceremony, and other campus scenes.
“We really like to get material from the archive out to people rather than having people have to come us,” said Dan Santamaria, director and university archivist. “They can learn about the history of Tufts, what's available to them in the archives, and how we can help people connect to Tufts’ past and to its communities.”
Tufts students, meanwhile, proved up to the assignment of being enthusiastic ambassadors for a wide range of Tufts programs, including Autism Smiles, Tufts Electric Racing, and Engineers Without Borders.
Julia Silberman, A23, perhaps best expressed a feeling shared by her classmates who hope to spark the curiosity of children. She was among those staffing a table for the Tufts chapter of the American Chemistry Society (ACS), where they were immersing yarn pieces into a small vat of a plant-based dye to demonstrate the process of making indigo.
“I really love getting kids excited about chemistry, even if they don't know all the technical terms,” she said. “They can see directly how indigo works and because it’s indigo, I can say: ‘Look! Your mom was wearing blue jeans!’ We really want to share that excitement for chemistry with a larger community, so it’s great to be out here."