Missed Connections: The Separation of Graduate and Undergraduate Lives at Tufts

As you stroll the streets of the Tufts Medford campus, you might hear undergraduates discussing the latest midterm IRs, fraternity party stories, and housing sweepstakes. But have you encountered graduate students in your daily social activities, club meetings, and pick-up sports? Approximately 49% of Tufts’ student population consists of graduate students, of which approximately 30% study on the Medford campus through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, and Fletcher School. However, Tufts’ undergraduate population rarely interacts with this important part of the campus community outside of class, whether at club meetings, sporting events, or social gatherings. My peers and I have often wondered what graduate students might do after their classes if they didn’t participate in the activities that most undergraduates associate with the traditional Tufts experience. There, instead, appears to be an unrecognized problem that simmers in the undercurrents of graduate student life – their lack of presence on campus in major academic organizations and cultural clubs.

Lei Mao, a graduate student studying software systems development at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, spends most of his free time working at Tufts’ Human-Computer Interaction Lab. His busy schedule is one of the reasons he feels withdrawn from the social scene on campus. Mao said he had too much schoolwork to join student organizations like the Chinese Students and Scholars Association.

Mao, however, praised the IT department for holding weekly department meetings. He also mentioned that there is a Slack for graduate students in the computer science department where students have the opportunity to interact online.

First-year computer science master’s student Nisitaa Clement agreed that there is a deficit in the social lives of graduate students.

“The IT department is making an effort to organize socializing events, but these just started a few weeks ago,” Clément said.

Clement, who also works the front desk of the Curtis Hall graduate student lounge, expressed their disappointment with the lack of student presence and engagement in this space.

Both Mao and Clement said that many of these resources have either been created only recently or are largely dormant.

Many graduate students rely on their department to host social and networking events. The Graduate Student Council also occasionally hosts bonding events. The council organized events including an apple picking and a scavenger hunt.

Vinit Varu, a first-year engineering management student at Tufts Gordon Institute, enjoyed the few council events he attended. Despite this, Varu felt that events had not fostered a sense of community.

“It didn’t promote connection with other students as people formed their own 2-4 bubbles with people they already knew,” Varu wrote in an email to The Daily. “I’m sure a lot of people didn’t consider going…because they didn’t have anyone they knew. I myself have skipped events because of this.

Ultimately, these bonding events worked best for short-term relationships and existing friend groups, but were not conducive to longer relationships and new friendships.

Due to the way these bonding activities are handled, graduate students who have just arrived on campus at the start of the semester may be forced to rely on their own network and connections to make friends on campus. , which may seem impossible without a pre-existing network. or enough opportunities to meet new people.

If graduates could easily participate in “undergraduate” organizations, these obstacles might seem less daunting. However, these options seem almost impossible to students like Varu.

“I had tried to contact [student organizations]. It was so hard to find them…in the first place, but not getting an answer from them was a big blow to me,” Varu wrote. “Some [student organizations] even prevented graduate students from joining or just made us feel left out of the undergraduate crowd.

Clement’s roommate applied to be an environmental representative, but her application was ultimately rejected due to her status as a graduate student. With few on-campus organizations hosting graduate students, campus life is woefully inadequate for this part of the Tufts community.

It is understandable that some student organizations on campus deny leadership positions to graduate students in the name of fairness due to the difference in experience they have compared to undergraduates. However, in light of the obvious gaps in graduate student life, student organizations need to do more to create spaces for the graduate community. Organizations like the Graduate Student Council should also consider hosting more social events suited to students’ busy schedules.

Fostering a tight-knit community among graduate students is just as important as it is for undergraduate students. Both Tufts students and administrators are responsible for creating a welcoming environment for students at all levels of their education, whether through student organizations or sponsored spaces and events. university so that students can connect with their peers and find respite from their stressful academic schedules. .

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