Every fall at Tufts brings new and exciting changes, among them building renovations, discussions about whether the newest class of freshman is the most attractive, and different flavors of frozen yogurt in Dewick. But this autumn in particular, the administration made a subtle but significant change. Instead of five associate deans to help students to understand the university’s academic policies and procedures, beginning this year students will have six. Robert Mack, the newest dean, is ready to deal with any and all separation anxiety that has resulted from the redistribution of students over the summer.
Last year, Mack was sitting in his office as the manager of advising services at Curry College when he came across a Tufts job posting. He knew that he wanted to work somewhere he would have more interaction with students, so he was especially interested that this position included the duty of implementing a new program for incoming first years, Bridge to Liberal Arts Success at Tufts (BLAST).
When Mack came to Tufts for his first interview, he was an hour early. He took a self-guided tour, and, similar to a prospective freshman, knew immediately that Tufts was the place from him. “From my first walk through campus, I knew Tufts fit with me, and with what I was looking for. Everywhere I’d worked previously felt oppressive in nature, and I could tell Tufts would be different.”
The BLAST program cemented that feeling of community. Mack imagines most students haven’t heard too much about BLAST, but for a select few, it can make all the difference. Admissions recommended incoming students “from schools that they had less experience with” to participate in a program where they would have basics reinforced before their first stressful semester. It proved to be an intensive experience, as students took History 54 and Math 11, earning two credits in six weeks. Their work paid off when, in the fall, an otherwise anxious transition to college was made easier and more fun because of the program It wasn’t just about academics, though. From painting the cannon to bonding at the Loj, students in the BLAST program got to share an experience that they can hold with them for the first few months as they settle in.
According to freshman Whitney Arnold, “BLAST was by far one of the most amazing experiences that could have happened to me at Tufts… We scholars became such a close family that there was never a boring moment.”
Another freshman, A.J. Enchill, echoed that sentiment, saying, “I am thankful that I participated in BLAST because now I have the tools that it takes to be a successful student at Tufts.”
It is clear that students like these are what matter most to Mack. “With every student that comes in, I learn a little more about the Tufts community… And I have to say, I’m very happy [here],” he smiled. “I get the opportunity to practice helping students when I don’t know all the answers. I’ve been very upfront about being new, because I know it just takes a little bit more time.”
So students with the last names beginning with N-R—or anyone else for that matter—stop by! Mack is friendly and eager to learn more about Jumbo life. Bring him some Tufts swag; his office is sorely lacking, and he says he’s ready for the challenge of matching brown and blue.