FOR LIFELONG LEARNING
Mary Hill Peters describes herself as a teacher who likes to find
For some 14 years
she has worked at the Perkins School for the Blind with blind
and deaf children for whom simple tasks can seem overwhelming.
Peters finds herself frequently thinking up inventive ways to
help her students accomplish tasks like brushing their teeth,
pulling on their socks or climbing into a bathing suit.
In solving such challenges,
Peters has collaborated with occupational and physical therapists
to strategize and invent devices to meet specific challenges.
I have terrific respect for them and their understanding
of the human body," she says. More often than not,
a clinician will come up with a dream or idea and we will attempt
to make it a reality.
While looking for
a program that would give her a nuts and bolts educationI
didn't want to write a thesis. Im too pragmaticPeters
discovered a brochure for Assistive Technology among some conference
papers. The program, offered in collaboration with the Department
of Psychology, the College of Engineering, and the Boston School
of Occupational Therapy, sounded like a match. Anticipating the
increasing need for adaptive equipment, the program is geared
toward therapists, architects, engineers and special needs educators
who want to help individuals achieve independence.
I was pleased
to find something so compact: four courses, two required and two
electives, says Peters. It was perfect.
A 1972 graduate of
Fitchburg State College, Peters also sees her technical preparation
as a natural extension of her training in special education. She
was one of the first in Massachusetts to be certified in special
education and in 1982 she earned a masters in vocational
rehabilitation from UMass-Boston.
Her professional growth
has always been a means toward the greater good, and not only
at Perkins. As a supervisor of international student teachers
from programs for the deaf and blind, she marvels at the challenges
other countries are facing. She recently traveled to Bulgaria,
where she shared ideas for programs to serve blind, multihandicapped
So far, the Tufts
courses are paying off. After one assistive technology class on
wheeled mobility, Peters dreamt about a child who has special
I dreamt about a walker for a child who really needs a kind
of seat along with the walker, says Peters. I described
it to a physical therapist, who asked a few more questions, and
within a week she had designed a prototype. Its working,
and the child is delighted. Im learning theres so
much more I can do by thinking a little differently.
For Jim Wagner, a hat belonging to Rose Kennedy does more than
describe fashion trends. Worn in the late 1930s, while her husband
was Ambassador to the Court of St. James, the hat features a wooden
stork and nine figurines, one for each of her children.
I feel it epitomizes
the pride she must have felt as a mother, says Wagner. I
was intrigued by that piece from the first time I saw it and wanted
to learn more about it.
As a staff assistant
at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, Wagner had
the opportunity to research and tell the hats story as part
of the coursework for the Tufts Museum Studies certificate program.
Offered in collaboration with the Departments of Art History,
History and Education, the program draws on the expertise of Tufts
faculty as well as that of museum professionals at the Concord
Museum, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, and the Museum
of Fine Arts, among other resources.
Working in the JFK
museum, first as a volunteer and later as a curatorial assistant
helping with the inventory of some 17,000 artifacts, Wagner brought
his certificate assignments to bear on preservation, conservation,
and research at the worlds leading research center on John
F. Kennedy. At the same time, he stretched himself beyond his
For his certificate
internship, for example, he planned, designed and installed an
exhibit at the Provincetown Museum on Cape Cod that celebrated
the life of the founder of the Provincetown airport and one of
the countrys first commuter airlines. His commitment to
museum work as a career goal, and to strengthening his museum
skills comes, he admits, as a bit of a surprise.
been interested in history, although I never imagined making a
career in the museum world until I was actually doing it,
says Wagner, who majored in English as an undergraduate at Merrimac
College. But I cant say enough good things about the
Tufts program. It strengthened my abilities in everything I was
doing here. It was the first time I ever really studied something
in terms of a career.
project is assisting in the planning of an exhibition on the April
1962 dinner for the Nobel Prize winners of the Western Hemisphere.
It was the largest dinner the Kennedys hosted while in the White
House. Stories like these, told through such exhibits, he says,
consistently reveal the potential of museums to enliven history.
There are still many stories to tell here and thousands
of artifacts yet to be inventoried, he says. As I
found with Rose Kennedys hat, those stories are just waiting
to be discovered.
Joy Larsons life has an enviable international flavor. She
has consulted on housing policy in Estonia and on economic and environmental
programs in Bolivia, Jordan and Nicaragua. In the Democratic Republic
of the Congo (formerly Zaire), she spent six months on a program
evaluation project that looked at the relationship between deforestation
and child nutrition.
But after she moved
to Cambridge in the fall of 1997 with her husband and two small
children, she realized it was time to rethink how she could use
her economics skills closer to home. I didnt want
to travel internationally anymore, but rather focus on domestic
issues, particularly affordable housing, and to develop program
evaluation skills, she says. I had also taken off
time to have children and wanted to reenter the job market in
a new field where I had few connections and little direct experience.
bridge is Tufts Program Evaluation certificate, a new program
aimed at mid-career professionals and others interested in program
evaluation. Tapping faculty from the Departments of Child Development
and Urban and Environmental Policy, the School of Nutrition Science
and Policy and the School of Medicine, the program draws professionals
from fields as diverse as social service, public health, community
development and environmental protection.
Larson, who earned
an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Colorado,
Boulder, and a masters degree in agricultural economics
from the University of Wisconsin, says: I can now build
important skills and make a transition to a new field without
enrolling in a full-time graduate program. It has also provided
me with links to the community.
Through the certificates
flexible schedule, Larson balances family responsibilities with
schoolwork. At the same time, she enoys the chance to delve more
deeply into an emerging interest, affordable housing. And being
a student again has been a positive experience. She speaks enthusiastically
about her first course, Program Evaluation. For her
final project she wrote a plan for evaluating the role of tenant
participation in large-scale public housing reconstruction projects.
I loved it,
she says. Fran Jacobs [professor of child development] was
marvelous, very high energy and accessible. I learned a great deal
from her and the students as well. Looking ahead, Larson is
optimistic that her coursework is a good investment in building
a career. Federal agencies and others are increasingly requiring
evaluations as a provision for funding; designing and implementing
effective evaluation strategies will put her back in the arena of
addressing social needs. Program evaluation is a growing field,
she says. This program will be an important step toward refocusing
my diverse experiences into a useful and rewarding career.
Jonathan Berz, A94, started thinking about medical school during
his junior year in Paris, when he made friends with biology majors.
As an international studies major, he found the discipline of biology
comparatively "down to earth." When he got back to Tufts,
he signed up for physiology and was "inspired."
After graduation, Berz
worked with AmeriCorps in Memphis, tutoring inner-city children
in math and reading, but it was an additional job in the trauma
unit of the city's public hospital that opened his eyes to the responsibilities
of the medical profession.
"I saw everything
from gunshot wounds to some gruesome, desperate situations,"
he says. "But it was the helping aspect that appealed to me
and at that time the science of medicine, in particular, physiology,
was really interesting in itself as well."
Dimitri Bacos, A93,
tells a similar story. For him, a medical career didn't come as
an epiphany but emerged from his life experience and a "craving"
to learn a hard science. He majored in English and enjoyed writing
fiction and poetry, but his thoughts about medicine became focused
teaching English in Romania with the Peace Corps. "I was challenged
by my limited ability to really change anything," he says.
"I knew I wanted to work in developing nations, and I thought
that as a doctor my capacity would be broadened by medical training."
These experiences brought
Berz and Bacos back to Tufts after graduation. While neither was
a science major or pre-med, the Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program
gave them a second chance to take the courses necessary for applying
to medical school. A minimum of six courses in biology, chemistry
and physics, and calculus prepares students for careers in medicine,
dentistry, veterinary medicine, occupational therapy, or nursing,
among other health care professions.
Now both are students
at Tufts Medical School, where the drive and inspiration that drew
them to pre-med studies is apparent. "I'm glad the program
was there," says Berz. "It gave me a chance to explore,
to take my time choosing a career in medicine."While Berz is
not sure what his specialty will be, he has already made a strong
commitment to public health. He volunteers at the Sharewood Project
in Chinatown, an urgent-care service run by Tufts medical students
on Tuesday evenings for uninsured community members.
"I was attracted
to the idealism of it all," says Berz. "It is a free clinic
and it's a way to get hands-on experience in medicine . . . I am
really interested in being a human to patients, not a detached scientist.
I see myself as someone who, as a primary care physician, will be
involved in the people side of the disease."
That idealism is shared
by Bacos as well. Enrolled in the MD/MPH program (a joint degree
in medicine and public health), he is pursuing a growing interest
in epidemiology and hopes to work in Bangledesh this summer.
He is particularly interested
in exploring nontraditional medicine, and helped form a student
group that augments regular coursework with studies in holistic
and humanistic health care, such as a recent visit to the New England
School of Acupuncture. "What appeals to me in medicine is the
constant cutting-edge nature," he says. "You can never
really learn enough."
Looking back, he is
grateful that the Post-Bac Pre-Med program recognizes that some
undergraduates need more time than others to discover their career
goals. "I really never anticipated being a doctor; not everyone
is geared to it since birth," says Bacos, who sustains his
literary passions by writing in a journal and reading. "The
Peace Corps gave me a way to experience the world, and provided
a safety net while I figured out what I wanted to do. I'm glad that
the Post-Bac program exists, so I can fulfill one life and pursue
another one later on."