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Into the Wild

Into the WildFor EPIIC students, participating in an Outward Bound weekend as part of orientation prepares them for the academic rigors to come.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.30.08] Few Tufts students can say they've camped in the wilderness for a weekend with their fellow classmates. However, every graduate and current student of the EPIIC (Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship) program at Tufts can say they've had three days of class in the New England outdoors.

Now entering its 24th year, EPIIC instituted an "Outward Bound" weekend as part of the course's orientation process nearly 20 years ago. This year, the program took place Sept. 12-13 on Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in Newry, Maine.

"It's a team-building process," according to Sherman Teichman, EPIIC director and head of the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership. "Students are introduced to the Outward Bound methodology, which is to physically test your intellectual and psychological intensity. It's done in a very reinforcing, reassuring way-it involves risk, but the risk is always mitigated by security."

The Outward Bound component is just part of the orientation for students who hope to take part in the year-long course. Interested students also attend a three-hour overview of the EPIIC program then go through an interview process. This year 43 students were chosen to participate in the EPIIC program, which will focus on the theme of "Global Cities." The annual EPIIC symposium on this topic will be held Feb. 19-22, 2009

Sophomore Lumay Wang (A'11) says the Outward Bound program places great importance of team building

"For our class to be effective, we must work together as a community," Wang says. "Due to a lecture-style seating for a seminar class, it is difficult to interact with your classmates and really get to know them. The goal of Outward Bound is to bring together 43 individuals and create one team."

To gives students an idea of what the EPIIC program will entail, many aspects of the course are integrated into the weekend's activities.

"Outward Bound is essentially the EPIIC experience squeezed into two days," says Brittany Sloan (A'11). "Through team-building and 'adventure activities,' the weekend helped build group cohesion and cooperation, reinforce problem-solving skills, and opened us up to the myriad of opportunities connected to the EPIIC program."


Sloan talked about this experience in a reflection essay she wrote for the program. "Instead of choosing our own activity groups, we were immediately forced to learn new names, solve a 'toxic waste problem' with a blindfolded teammate, and cooperatively unscramble building puzzles," she wrote.

The Outward Bound weekend also features a guest speaker who will participate in the EPIIC program. This year the speaker was Professor Janice Perlman, founder and president of the non-profit Mega-Cities Project Inc., which focuses on "income generation, environmental re-generation, and participatory democracy" around the world.

"We always bring away someone that is going to be formidable in the context of the course," Teichman said, citing her relevance to the "Global Cities" theme. "[Perlman] is a major player, and our students are going to be working with her both on research projects, as well as potentially being part of the next generation of her Mega-Cities project."

Students are already excited about Perlman's contributions to the course.

"The Mega-Cities project sounds like an amazing dimension to incorporate into our studies this year, and since we all want to do research in some capacity, learning researching theory and technique from Professor Janice [Perlman] will be invaluable," wrote sophomore Meera Pandit (A'11) in a reflection on the weekend. "It gives us a goal and a purpose beyond the symposium, and adds practical application to what we are studying."

Beyond testing themselves mentally and physically, students on an Outward Bound weekend get to see a side of their classmates that they may never glimpse in a classroom setting.

"Outward Bound brings out the very best in people in very primitive environments," said Sloan. "That weekend, we saw each others' leadership skills, generosity and comedy not during a conference or while performing research, but while we were in the woods. Rarely do you get to interact with your peers in such a way that brings out so many facets of their personalities."

Some students came away with not only a better understanding of EPIIC and their classmates, but also a greater appreciation for the Great Outdoors.

"I was not much of an outdoor person," wrote Pandit, "but I'm a new convert to sleeping in a tent."

Profile by Charlotte Steinway (A'10).
Photos courtesy of EPIIC.

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