Tufts Now staff cast an eye over the year and share their personal highlights
At the end of the year, we ask the Tufts Now team to pick the favorite pieces they wrote or produced—and what those pieces meant to them. Read on and learn more.
My favorite piece that I worked on this year was the commencement video for the Class of 2022. This was the first in-person commencement since COVID, and you could really feel the excitement in the air. From arriving bright and early in the morning, to filming all day and everything in between, it was a day I’ll definitely never forget.
The whole content team got to collaborate in person in a little “mission control” style room throughout the day, and the atmosphere was something you’ll only find on commencement day. —Jenna Schad
The people we have spotlighted in our Earth Advocates series are kindred spirits who embrace the complex challenges and opportunities of climate change. They are energized by ideas, programs, and innovations with local, regional, national, and global impact, and by sharing their stories, I want to show how they are tackling climate change head on.
Through Earth Advocates, and the steady surfacing of alumni—and now also students—we discover our capacity for revolutionary change. Some change is more entrepreneurial, some is more mainstream, but adapting rapidly to meet the crisis on the home front is crucial. Other change happens in education and inculcating values, some evolves from new attitudes about cooperation and inclusion.
At the start, I had a hunch that if we looked, we would find no lack of inspiring Tufts graduates to fill our Earth Advocates calendar. There is no doubt either that their skills, social consciousness, and, perhaps most importantly, their optimism and perseverance—strengths for which many give direct credit to their Tufts education—are indeed mobilizing others and advancing new ways of living on our fragile planet. I hope to inspire others to also take up the mantle of climate responsibility in whatever way possible. —Laura Ferguson
Few things can chase away the blues faster than 65 preschoolers singing “This Little Light of Mine” on a grassy hill on a gorgeous spring day. That was the scene earlier this year on the academic quad at Tufts during a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School.
Amid song-and-dance breaks, administrators and teachers reflected on a century of nurturing children, supporting families, and building community. And they discussed the increasing importance of the school’s long-held core values of anti-bias education, mindfulness, and connecting children with nature.
While working on this story, I had the pleasure of getting to know the dedicated educators at EPCS, learning about the school’s origin story of being founded by two visionary women, and digging through hundreds of archive photos of the school dating back to the early 1900s for a slideshow that’s paired with the story.
During a year that made me feel a little hopeless—with the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, increased gun violence, and still more COVID-19—bearing witness to the next generation learning with such joy and curiosity gave my jaded soul a much-needed boost. —Angela Nelson
I think many college graduates can remember the restaurant that you’d order from during a late-night study session or spend time with your friends on weekends. Upon seeing the comments on a reshare of a Boston.com article that we posted on the Tufts Alumni Facebook page about the closing of Espresso Pizza on Boston Ave. in Medford, I immediately knew that Espressos, as it was called, was that place for many Tufts alumni.
Alumni spanning nearly 50 years commented about their memories at Espressos on the post, sharing memories they had there and expressing well-wishes to the owners of the restaurant.
When I was assigned to write an article about alumni experiences at Espresso Pizza, I knew immediately that I would be getting a real glimpse into what it was like to be a student at Tufts. No matter the graduating year of the alums I spoke or emailed with, the sentiments were very similar: Espressos was a staple of the Tufts Medford/Somerville campus experience and provided food over which students bonded and became lifelong friends.
In addition to writing for Tufts Now, I manage the Tufts Alumni social media channels, and upon publishing my article to the Tufts Alumni channels, as well as the Tufts University channels, I again saw comments from alumni sharing their Espresso Pizza memories. I feel extremely lucky to have written about such a special place that was a core part of the Tufts student experience. —Sara Norberg
As the Taliban took power and chaos erupted in Afghanistan in August 2021, I watched from a distance and felt helpless. But some remarkable members of the Tufts community sprang into action. Working round-the-clock, they used their skills and connections to help those in danger who were trying to flee the country.
This package shares the stories of that remarkable effort, which included Tufts graduates in Afghanistan. Several people who described harrowing experiences could not be identified by name, to protect the relatives they left behind.
One story (told also in video) describes a convoy circling an Afghan airport for nearly 24 hours, crowded with people trying to get onto a flight out of the country before international military forces withdrew. Another article focuses on a successful campaign to help schoolgirls whose education was threatened. I also wrote about inspiring efforts by three Fletcher alumnae, including the Afghan ambassador to the United States, Adela Raz, F11.
Wondering what happened next for those who fled, we described how a Tufts graduate and his nonprofit tapped community volunteers to help Afghans resettle in the United States. We also talked with writer and former Marine Elliot Ackerman, A03, F03, about his book describing America’s chaotic departure from Afghanistan and his own lessons from military service there.
And in August 2022, I was happy to write about Mir Ahmad Shekib Mir, a former fellow at The Fletcher School. He was one of the Afghans in that convoy a year earlier, trying to get into the airport to leave Kabul. Now he is rebuilding his life in the United States—and working at Tufts. —Heather Stephenson
Tufts doctoral student Nick Dorian, A16, AG23, taught me that every city block can be teaming with wildlife, you just need to take the time to look.
This past summer, we embarked on a video project, “Let’s Go on A Pollinator Safari!” and filmed native bees, butterflies, flies, wasps, and beetles on the Tufts Medford/Somerville campus. Dorian’s curiosity and excitement about native pollinators was infectious, and it was thrilling to discover new species I had never seen before. I realized that there’s a whole world happening on a macro scale—right under our noses! —Anna Miller
I pitched a story on why we’re obsessed with serial killers, thinking it would be a fun, creepy Halloween piece. The answers I got from the mystery novelist / psychology alum and the sociology lecturer I interviewed opened something so much bigger and deeper than I expected.
We talked about celebrity culture, the commodification of the macabre, and our deep—and contradictory—desires as humans and Americans to transgress, punish transgressors, and witness transgressors redeem themselves.
It was illuminating and great fun to have serious academic discussions about why Joe Goldberg is so relatable in Netflix’s You, and why all that killing is somehow acceptable in Showtime’s Dexter. Plus, it yielded one of my favorite quotes of all time, which must sadly remain unattributed to protect my source’s right to private snarkiness: “Serial killers are the Hot Topic / pumpkin spice latte of being edgy.” —Monica Jimenez
I was a relative Tufts newbie around commencement this year, having joined the University Communications and Marketing team in early May, but I was honored to help tell the stories of the celebrations that weekend. One such celebration included lifelong friends Luke Weinstein and Caleb Jeanniton, classmates since kindergarten, who were seated side-by-side on May 22 as they prepared to receive their undergraduate degrees from the School of Arts and Sciences.
Photographer Matthew Healey snapped a photo of the pair, and discovered their unique story. I was invited to speak with Jeanniton and Weinstein to learn more about how they ended up and Tufts and what it meant to them to go on the Jumbo journey together.
Through my #OurTufts conversation with them, I was able to grasp just how special Tufts is to its students (and recent alumni) and realized just how special this chapter in my life as a writer would come to be for me. —Emily Wright Brognano
On a sunny afternoon in late May, I enjoyed coffee with Tyrone Reese, D25. Reese had just completed his first year as president of his class at the School of Dental Medicine. We were there to talk about leadership, and it was a subject to which Reese had obviously given considerable thought.
“I feel like everybody has it in them to be a leader. Leading people just means having a certain confidence in yourself,” he says. As our conversation meandered and we learned a little about each other, it was apparent how easily Reese connects with others. “I just talk to people, and we go from there. That’s one thing my mother taught me early in life: ‘Stop being shy. Just say hello.’” —Helene Ragovin
For this video featuring the Tufts Marathon team, I interviewed five students and filmed them on training runs and at the Boston Marathon itself. I vividly remember when senior Natalie Bartlett told me how this was her first marathon, and that she would be running it with her father, a Tufts alumnus. Her father had done the same with her brother in his senior year. It was a bonding experience for them, she said.
I have a 7-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter, and Natalie’s story made me think how wonderful it would be to experience something like that with them.
On Marathon Day, besides filming all the students running and hugging Coach Don Megerle on mile 9, my colleague Jenna Schad and I drove all the way back to Boston to try and capture the students crossing the finish line, including Natalie and her father. My camera battery lasts only 20 minutes for filming 120 frames per second at 4K. For almost two hours I tried to film all our seniors crossing the finish line, turning the camera on and off multiple times. Finally, I had just one minute of power left, waiting only for Natalie and her father.
I waited and waited. I was very tired after a long day of filming, the crowd was very loud, and someone’s elbow kept hitting my back repeatedly. I was about to give up on Natalie’s shot when I decided to give it a last try. I was feeling optimistic, and 20 seconds later, Natalie and her father held hands while crossing the finish line together—I felt so joyful, for them and for me. With Natalie’s story, I now have a new goal: to run a marathon with my kids in their senior year. —Jandro Cisneros
When I approached biologist Sara Lewis, a world-renowned expert on fireflies, earlier this year for an interview, I had no idea that she planned to retire from teaching at Tufts this month, although she will continue her research. It made me all the more grateful that I had a chance to talk to this scientist who after decades in the lab and in the field is still so filled with wonder by the natural world.
I can’t tell you how many surprising details I learned about fireflies, like that they spend most of their lives (1-2 years) underground and only go above the surface for the last few weeks of their existence, when they are totally focused on securing a mate through their come-hither flashes. Watching their usual lightshow in my backyard this summer, it made me feel a little intrusive, butting in on their personal lives.
Lewis’ research, long centered on the detailed study of firefly anatomy and behavior and their relationship to evolution, has metamorphosed into a focus on conservation. In short, she wants to make sure that fireflies will be around to inspire future generations the way they have her. —Julie Flaherty
I don’t know if it’s because autoimmune diseases are becoming more prevalent, or that I just coincidentally know more people suffering from them, but lately I’ve come to realize that so many of us suffer from them. They range from skin conditions like psoriasis to sometimes deadly diseases like lupus, and include celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
I wanted to understand what they are—how they work and what can be done about them, so I reached out to Pilar Alcaide, an immunologist at the School of Medicine. Growing up in Spain, she had suffered from the skin rashes of psoriasis as a kid—very unusual in a sunny climate—and ended up focusing her research on the immune system.
What she described was a fascinating and complex web of complications with our immune systems attacking us instead of helping us. She also pointed to some hopeful areas of research that could alleviate suffering. It was a fascinating conversation—one of the perks of my job is talking to smart people like Alcaide and learning more about issues that affect us all. —Taylor McNeil