Our Favorite Stories of the Year

Tufts writers look back over the year and talk about the stories that meant the most to them in 2018
Archivist at Tufts with 1960s protest posters
“It’s not like an intentional time capsule, but it acts like one,” said archivist Adrienne Pruitt. Photo: Anna Miller
December 18, 2018

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The writers in the editorial group at Tufts, which produces Tufts Now as well as Tufts Magazine and the five school-based alumni magazines, turn out a lot of stories in any given year. We asked them to talk about one story they wanted to revisit—and why it was a highlight for them in 2018.

Power to the People!

Photo: Anna MillerReporters love a scoop, so that’s why this story rose to the top of my list of favorites in 2018. The discovery of the vintage, anti-war posters was brought to my attention while I was visiting Digital Collections and Archives as part of a general visit (Old-fashioned Footwork 1, Google 0). How students stumbled on them, what the posters said and how powerful they spoke were intriguing - but they also set up a continuing conversation. They provided a chance to show how Tufts is taking care to preserve its history and they gave our Tufts Now alumni readers a chance to rekindle memories; some also wrote us to suggest the posters’ connections to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Sometimes a story is a straight line from A to B—other times a story takes you much further down the alphabet on a journey full of surprise and mystery, inviting wonder and reflection. This was one of those. —Laura Ferguson

Is It Time We All Ate Bugs?

Photo: IngimageThis story was fun because it pushed the boundaries of taste. Just trying to figure out what artwork to use revealed a lot: Would a close-up photo of an insect turn readers away, or intrigue them? Should we show a burger garnished with mealworms? Everyone on our staff had a different take based on their own very personal feelings about bugs. It was fascinating, too, to find out how passionate some people are about eating insects—the cricket farmer in this article bristled at the very idea that people (maybe me?) would find eating insects repulsive. By the end of my reporting, I was surprised to find myself—a thoroughly unadventurous eater—willing to try all the cricket products in our taste test. Still, I can’t imagine the day when I would willingly eat a mealworm. —Julie Flaherty

Leading the Charge

While researching possible stories for Tufts Medicine’s issue celebrating the medical school’s 125th anniversary, I uncovered one that had never been fully told in our pages: In the mid-1960s, Dr. H. Jack Geiger worked with Tufts to launch the first two community health centers in America, igniting a movement that has led to 1,400 health centers today treating some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations. I had the privilege of interviewing Geiger at his Brooklyn home—though blind, his memory is sharp, and he spoke for more than four hours about his experiences. I was in awe. I also referenced newspaper articles, archival materials, and studies, and interviewed others who spoke to the lasting impacts of his vision. But it was Geiger’s insight and illuminating quotes that really made the piece sing.  —Courtney Hollands

Becoming Mateo

Photo: Alonso NicholsMy favorite story I worked on this year was my profile of Mateo Galeano. Alonso photographed him as an incoming freshman, and I caught up with him as an outgoing senior. It was finals week when we met, so I was ready for him to rush through a pretty standard story about the classes he liked and the friends he made. Instead, he told a thoughtful tale about how as a freshman he’d been really defensive, afraid to ask for help, always playing down his Latino identity—and how over the next few years, thanks to great friends and professors, he began embracing his identity, reaching out for support, and finally mentoring a freshman who was going through the same struggle he had. It was such a genuine and heartfelt story, I cried a little when I wrote it (don’t tell Mateo!). And I loved how the whole thing was reflected in his ultimately deciding to go by “Mateo” with a soft t (as it’s pronounced in Spanish) instead of a hard t, which gave me the idea to call the story “Becoming Mateo.” I hope his parents read it and are super proud of him. —Monica Jimenez

Overfishing and Modern-Day Slavery

Photo: AP ImagesJessica Sparks, a Cummings School alumna and current faculty member, was once a social worker helping abused children. Now she is bringing that sensitivity and urgency to research she is doing on the connections between overfishing—which is destroying the marine life vital to the health of the oceans—and modern-day slavery on ocean-going fishing vessels. For me, the connection is personal, too, and why I wanted to write this story. Combatting the scourge of modern-day slavery was something my late son, Jeremy, felt passionately about, starting with an eighth-grade project on child labor and slavery in the cocoa production business. Jess’s passion for the subject was so evident when I interviewed her, and the work she is doing is so important, that I felt great being able to highlight her work and this subject: the more people who know about it, the more that can be done to alleviate suffering. —Taylor McNeil

A Fruitful Learning Experience

Photo: Alonso NicholsLet’s face it, some people have the mistaken idea that writing about dentistry is not exciting. But they are wrong. This summer, I got to get as close as I probably ever will to practicing dentistry without a license—or four years of dental education, for that matter. Associate Professor Melissa Ing, D89, was patient enough to walk me through the basic steps of how to apply sutures—using a banana, as dental students themselves do as they first learn the skill—in the School of Dental Medicine’s impressive Simulation Clinic. It was far from easy. The exercise left me convinced I made the right career choice. It left the unfortunate fruit—and maybe my readers?—in stitches. —Helene Ragovin

Birth of a Veterinary School

Photo: Pam PriceAs Cummings School and I are roughly the same age, I never knew New England as a place without a veterinary school. And as a once-wannabe veterinarian, for most of my childhood I assumed Tufts was where I’d go to school someday. So I never really thought about what life was like, well, before. However, when Rosalind Rolland, V84, mentioned during an interview about whales that—back when she was in Tufts’ second class of veterinary students—she used to sleep in the unheated attic of a Grafton campus building, I was intrigued. Could that possibly be true? If so, what else was life like for those early students? And why on earth would anyone ever gamble on attending a brand-new veterinary school? I started asking around—and I’m glad I did, because it was shocking to learn how many smart and passionate women and men from around the region had been shut out from becoming veterinarians before Tufts launched its veterinary school. Thanks to the participation of sixteen faculty, alumni, and staff—plus one former Massachusetts governor—I got the chance to time travel back to the 1970s and ’80s, a trip that was, for me, by turns hilarious and inspiring. —Genevieve Rajewski

Continent of Technology

Photo: Alonso NicholsI wrote this article about Andela, a tech startup that has raised more than $80 million, after visiting its hub in Nairobi. The place was like a miniature Googleplex, complete with beanbag chairs and a pool table, as well as a lot of young Kenyan software engineers writing code. This side of Africa—smart, technologically advanced, and globally connected—often gets overlooked, so I had fun offering readers a window into it. —Heather Stephenson

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