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August 19, 2008

a wooden house at the edge of campus

Last Friday, I visited the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership. This is an important organization that provides "classes, global research, internships, workshops, simulations and international symposia" for Tufts students and for many other people in the US and overseas.

But I don't want to write about the Institute today; I want to mention the building. It's a modest-sized wooden house near the edge of Tufts. It contains meeting spaces with chairs pulled up in circles, cubbyholes with young people hunched over computers, and lots of books, framed photos, news clippings, and gifts of art from around the world. When I visited, Kurdish folk music was playing on the speaker.

The Institute's building is more attractive than most of its type. TGI focuses on documentary photography, so many of the pictures are stunning. Its international programs have yielded handsome works of art. And someone with an aesthetic sense has helped pull it all together. But what struck me most was the familiarity of this place. I have enjoyed visiting similar institutes and centers in former private houses on the margins of campuses from Berkeley to Oxford. I think especially of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana; or Telluride House at Cornell, where I spent my 18th summer; or the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers. These are my favorite parts of academia. In contrast to most teaching departments, they house collaborative projects that provoke intense debate, reflection, and interaction of people from different backgrounds on common issues.

August 19, 2008 2:48 PM | category: academia | Comments


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