Tufts University

Four Years,
Infinite Possibilities

The evolution of a Tufts undergraduate.

Spring 2008: The halfway point

Fall 2006: The beginning | Spring 2007: One year down

Brittany Cahoon

Reaching the halfway point, Brittany Cahoon feels like she finally has her feet on the ground.

At the beginning of the spring semester, she declared herself an economics major, a plan that has been in the works since she stepped foot on campus.

"It's challenging, but it is something I want to go into," says Cahoon, whose long-term goal is working on Wall Street.

To help her on her business path, Cahoon will participate this summer in the business track of Boston University's Summer Study Internship Program, consisting of course work for half of the summer and ending with an internship at a business of her choice.

"I am not sure what business I want to work with yet, but definitely something in Boston's Financial District, trading stocks or something along those lines," she says.

Cahoon will also come to the end of her sophomore year having discovered something that can't be found in a textbook—self-confidence.

"I am taking a lot more risks and getting involved in a lot more things," Cahoon says. "And I am learning how to juggle it all."

One of those involvements—joining one of Tufts' three sororities, Alpha Omicron Pi (AOPi).

"I pledged AOPi in the fall and now I am a sister and the social chair," Cahoon says. "This is something I didn't think I could do as a freshman."

Cahoon says she chose AOPi, whose supporting cause is juvenile arthritis research, because she felt their morals and goals were in tune with her own. Recently she helped organize the sorority's 100-year celebration, which brought AOPi's international president to campus. The Tufts chapter was one of the organization's first.

Along with her efforts for the sorority, Cahoon is continuing her work as treasurer of the Sophomore Class Council and as a member of the Programming Board.

Cahoon is also applying to be an orientation leader at the end of this summer and has already begun planning for the summer of 2009, when she hopes to participate in the Tufts-in-Talloires program, studying in the French Alps.

"It has gone by really fast, but these have been the best two years of my life, and I think it is just going to continue to get better and better," Cahoon says. "It is great to be moving towards a goal, and getting closer to the finish line, which will be either going to business school or going straight out into business. It is nice to see all the hard work paying off."

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Edna Gonzalez

"It is very true that one class can determine and change all of your plans in college," Edna Gonzalez says.

For Gonzalez, that class was "Race in America," a fall 2007 course taught by lecturer and Tisch College program director Jean Wu. It led Gonzalez to completely rethink the political science major she had declared upon arriving at Tufts.

"The course went beyond all my expectations, and at the end of the fall semester I declared American studies as my major and political science as my minor," she says. "I went into the course determined that I had my own plan of study and ideas of what I wanted to do with my [next] three years at Tufts, and I stepped out of the course with a different perspective."

Moved by how the class changed the way she understood American political, social and economic issues, Gonzalez joined with three other students in the course to create a video on the importance of having a course at Tufts about diversity and race.

"We wanted the course to be considered as one of the humanities distribution requirements for undergraduates, in order to open discussion among all students at Tufts and not make the topic of race a taboo issue," Gonzalez says.

In just two years at Tufts, she has taken full advantage of all the university has to offer, becoming an International Orientation Host and serving as the Tufts community representative for the Association of Latin American Students where she represented the Latino study body within the Senate and was a member of its Culture, Ethnicity and Community Affairs subcommittee. Gonzalez also serves as the co-social coordinator for the Catholic community at Tufts and acts as a student representative from Nevada for the Tufts admissions office.

The 2008 Presidential election has also piqued her interest in the political scene. Along with several other Tufts students, Gonzalez experienced the New Hampshire primary in January, seeing "a different side of American political life."

"I came back from New Hampshire excited and moved from seeing active voters making educated decisions and putting to the test the things I've learned in my American politics course."

This past fall, Gonzalez was invited as a Nevada representative to the inaugural Democratic Hispanic Youth Summit in Washington D.C., where she examined the work of different organizations and committees in Congress working on public policy in education, immigration, voting and the criminal justice system.

She plans to study in Chile or London during her junior year and is waiting to hear back from the Tufts Study Abroad program.

Overall, she says that sophomore year has been a gratifying whirlwind of events.

"I view every day as a new opportunity," Gonzalez says. "You never know what could happen on an ordinary day at Tufts. These two years have been an academic and personal challenge, but I continue to try new things and pursue my dreams."

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Andrew Mulherkar

Time management has played a large role in Andrew Mulherkar's life as he pursues a dual degree with the New England Conservatory.

"If there is anything I learned about the double-degree program, it's that the program makes it difficult to be consistent," Mulherkar said.

Originally unsure of what his Tufts focus would be, Mulherkar has officially declared an international relations major with a concentration in environment and economics, to coincide with his interest in environmental policy.

"Last semester I took an excellent class called Environmental Economics, which confirmed that I was on the right track," he says. "Somewhat along those lines, I have also been to a few meetings of the Energy Security Initiative, a great organization that gets students to talk about current energy issues.

"Now that I have a general idea of where I'm headed, I hope to find more outside opportunities, such as internships or research related to my major."

With concerts and rehearsals filling up much of his time, Mulherkar says it is hard to find time for additional interests, but he continues to find a way.

"Other activities I have tried adding to my schedule include Tufts CORES, a volunteer English tutoring program with Medford and Somerville residents and Tufts Cycling," he says. He also works part-time for Tufts Recycles.

Though pursuing a dual degree is sometimes tough, Mulherkar says the program has been all he had hoped for when coming to Tufts.

"I often have to make compromises in my saxophone practice time or study time in order to make things work, but when it does work, the result is incredible," he says. In a recent week, the Tufts sophomore had between one and three rehearsals a day, three days a week; concerts two nights in a row and six classes. "I was also able to stop by a discussion at NEC with one of my favorite musicians, the bassist Dave Holland. So the challenges of balancing the two social lives, the academic and musical worlds, and outside involvements can have a huge payoff."

As the summer approaches, Mulherkar plans to work and then travel with his family, while also making time to do a project with Climate Solutions, an advocacy group he worked with last summer.

"One opportunity that I am excited about is a teaching internship at the Stanford Jazz Workshop," he says. "The application is due soon and I may not hear back for a few weeks, so I won't know for a while if I have received the position."

Realizing he has reached the halfway point of his college career, Mulherkar says he has already begun to see how beneficial the Tufts-NEC program is when it comes to future careers.

"Two of the most recent graduates have gone off in different directions, one working for the U.N. in Colombia and another has gone off to do music in New York. They still have some options to explore, and I'm doing my best to keep those sorts of paths open."

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Jane Song

As a Tisch Scholar, Jane Song has spent much of the last year working to promote financial literacy in Somerville.

Looking at the city's programs, Song saw a void when it came to addressing issues like maintaining a budget. Working with the Women's Commission of Somerville, Song had originally planned to concentrate on financial literacy for women of low income or immigrant status before she began to see the big picture.

"We couldn't really focus on advocacy for the financial education of women if no one was currently paying attention to the issue as it pertains to the general community," she says.

Song has spent the year writing reports to city leaders suggesting why it is important to educate citizens about budgets and savings and how it could be helpful to the city. Her work culminated with the Somerville Money Fair, held on April 5 at the Elizabeth Peabody House.

"The Somerville Money Fair is a project that was initially started by another Tisch Scholar," Song says. "She laid the seeds and now I am trying to plant them."

Song says that one of the goals of the fair was to bring something to the table for the entire family, providing a panel of four bankers to speak to the adults, talks on credit cards for the teens and piggy bank painting and savings talks for the kids.

"We want to try to teach children at an early age what it means to save, which is a topic that they don't cover in the school systems," Song says. "This idea of advocating for financial education really spoke to me. I have always been interested in helping women and the financial aspect is something I haven't really paid attention to until this year."

At the beginning of the spring semester, Song says she joined fellow Tufts students from her downtown Boston church on a mission trip to Costa Rica. The students worked with youth at a local church in Costa Rica and helped with small church development.

In the fall, Song will be studying in China and she was recently accepted to the Tufts program in Hong Kong for spring 2009. She plans to minor in Asian studies and her major in international relations.

As the year rolls to a close, Song says she has been able to narrow down her interests, which was a goal she had set for herself when she came to Tufts.

"Freshman year my interests were really spread out, but now I have a better idea of what I can see myself doing in the future."

As for the summer, Song says she was able to use her Tufts connection to snag an internship in the New York international wholesale office of the well-known handbag designer Coach.

"I knew I wanted to get into the fashion industry, but I wasn't sure how," Song says. Tufts Career Services helped her connect with Ariana King-Sternberg, an alumna who was also the intern coordinator at Coach. "She called me to come to New York for an interview and I luckily got the position."

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Shea Sullivan

While Shea Sullivan continues to express her creativity as a member of the sketch comedy group Major: Undecided, the troupe's title no longer applies when it comes to her life as a Tufts sophomore.

Torn by her love for both art and science, Sullivan has decided to take on a double major in music and biomedical engineering.

"It's definitely ambitious," Sullivan laughs. "I am taking the introductory course for biomedical engineering this semester, and it is just so fascinating and really thrilling to be in the class."

Still planning for medical school and a future as a reconstructive plastic surgeon, Sullivan had originally thought of art history as a major, but recently decided that music made more sense for her lifestyle.

"I ended up taking some classes in art history and after mulling it over and looking into my real life options, I didn't see myself making it as a curator," Sullivan says. "My dad was a music major at Boston University, and even though he is a writer he still will play his music from time to time when we could use some supplementary income.

"I figured since I am still dreaming of med school, playing a few gigs here and there couldn't hurt."

For the summer leading into her sophomore year, Sullivan held two positions that helped fuel her artistic side. While interning with the Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival (LAWTF), she gained "invaluable experience" in the world of non-profit research and grant writing. She also worked as a production assistant on a Movies.com video segment called 'Fan on the Street.'

On the personal side, she recently made an interesting discovery into her heritage.

"I am going to be Canadian soon, which is exciting," Sullivan says. "My dad recently found out that his mother was born in Canada, so he worked with some lawyers to gain dual-citizenship, after which my mother decided, why not make the whole family Canadian.

"It is kind of a random fun thing to discover, but I am hoping that maybe it will help open the door for new medical school options, such as McGill."

Of all the things to happen this year, Sullivan says she is most excited about declaring her music major.

"It's nice because I am really starting to feel like I am part of the department and I am living in that building night and day," she says. "I feel like I am taking the path my dad took, in which he always found a way to incorporate music into his work. I can see why he really loves it."

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Pacific Tuyishime

When going through his options for Tisch Scholar projects, Pacific Tuyishime saw an opportunity to use his status as an international student to make a difference.

Working for the Intergenerational Literacy Program (ILP) in Chelsea, an organization focusing on the city's immigrant population, Tuyishime says that he has been able to uniquely relate to the population he is serving.

"I work with these immigrant families helping them learn English, while at the same time helping them with literacy issues with their children," Tuyishime says. "I feel that having the experience of being an international student, I am in a somewhat similar situation with these families who have recently come over to the United States and are struggling to try and fit in."

Originally from Rwanda, Tuyishime says he has been able to make a personal connection with immigrants who have also come from Africa.

"There are a lot of families who have come from Somalia, and being from East Africa, not too far from Somalia, I felt that I could bring something to the table that someone being from the U.S. or another part of the world may not bring."

Furthering his work with ILP, Tuyishime is also enrolled in a tutoring program for Chelsea's youth immigrant population. As part of his Tisch Scholar project he is also planning an ILP event centered on the promotion of literacy as a family project, featuring fun literacy activities.

Having always been interested in engineering, Tuyishime has focused his studies around computer engineering. He believes this will help him keep up with the changes his country is currently going through with information technology.

Reaching the midpoint of his Tufts experience, he says he is beginning to focus on work relating to his major.

"So far I have tried taking a variety of classes in international relations and sociology, and I am realizing now that I need to go back and start focusing on computer engineering," Tuyishime says. "I need to go begin to really take advantage of all of the great engineering opportunities here at Tufts."

Tuyishime says he has enjoyed being a part of Tufts international community and the people he has meet as part of that experience. He also hopes to study abroad in the future.

"I feel it has been a good two years," he says. "Most of my friends are part of the international community here at Tufts, and I feel that meeting other international students has been a great experience for me. I hope to meet more in the future."

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Fall 2006: The beginning | Spring 2007: One year down

Profiles written by Kaitlin Melanson, Web Communications

Photos by Alonso Nichols for University Photography, except for photos of Gonzalez by Melody Ko, University Photography.

This story originally ran on Apr. 14, 2008.