Tufts Student Affairs recently announced the creation of a new summer pre-orientation program called SHAPE, short for Students Heightening Actionable Political Engagement. Although the program is still in development, SHAPE aims to invite civically-minded and politically curious students to solve pressing issues in the Tufts community and beyond.
The program advisors for SHAPE include Kevin Kraft, associate dean of student affairs, and Peter Ciccarone, assistant director for student affairs for orientation. Advisors have been working with student coordinators Sophia Chung and Naheim Washington, both sophomores, to create a four-day experience for incoming first-year students to make an impact at Tufts before the first day of classes.
Including SHAPE, Tufts now has nine pre-orientation options, ranging from programs like Tufts Wilderness Orientation, a multi-day backpacking operation, to Students’ Quest for Unity in the African Diaspora, which fosters and celebrates relationships within the African diaspora. Kraft spoke on the decision to add a new pre-o program to the roster.
“Civic engagement is an important part of what makes Tufts special, so we decided to add an option to the already strong lineup of pre-orientation programs that would give incoming students a chance to jump right in and start their Tufts career with civic engagement,” Kraft wrote in a statement to the Daily.
Ciccarone added that SHAPE aims to provide new undergraduates with an opportunity to meet peers who share a common purpose.
“The new student experience is a special time, and we look forward to helping SHAPE participants kick off their Tufts career with a memorable experience,” Ciccarone wrote in a statement to the Daily. “Students who participate in SHAPE can expect to form connections and friendships that help them transition into Tufts. And they can take pride in having their first act at Tufts be to make a positive impact on the community we all share.”
Although SHAPE’s schedule is still in development, a typical day may include daily recreation, off-campus community engagement experience and bonding and social activities. Additionally, the program will consist of three essential themes: learning about civic engagement, practicing civic engagement to make a real-world difference and getting connected to Tufts.
“Possible activities include seminars and workshops on navigating situations where there is a disagreement or a tension between two values, hearing from Tufts alums who work in public service, and working with city officials and neighbors to solve problems,” Kraft wrote. “Participants will also be getting to know each other and Tufts with fun social activities, mentoring relationships with peer leaders, and adventures in greater Boston.”
SHAPE differentiates itself from First-year Orientation CommUnity Service, another service-minded program, by working on civic topics in particular. The program will involve working in “think tank” groups that shape policy and problem-solve in conjunction with local governments and neighbors.
“The think tank will be a combination of incubator and team builder where SHAPE participants will be provided with a challenge and a set amount of time to provide their client with innovative solutions for their challenge. Each SHAPE team will pursue specific areas such as: community engagement, communication, scaling and sustainability, etc., all designed to address the client’s goal,” Kraft wrote.
All pre-orientation programs at Tufts, including SHAPE, are student-led. Chung shared her goals for the program.
“We want to have designated times and spaces for the freshmen to get to know and build relationships with the peer leaders and with each other, not only within their cohort of five but also within the general program as a whole,” she said. “One of my goals is to make it a less overwhelming and more accessible experience to build those first-year relationships."
Advisors are still in the process of determining which local governments, community partners and Tufts alumni students will be working with. Additionally, the number of students accepted into the program this summer will be capped at 30.
Program advisors and students are excited to see how the program evolves and grows in the coming years to reflect Tufts’ values.
“The inaugural class of SHAPE participants and leaders will be starting a new tradition at Tufts and will get to leave their mark on something that will last for the long term,” Kraft wrote.