Going Global: Tufts’ 1+4 Program Takes Aim at Real World Issues

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Forget the Villa Borghese, Tufts’ 1+4 program offers students a true educational experience. (Author Illustration)

This is no glorified study abroad program. Nor is it a variation—despite its institutional billing—of the negatively perceived “Gap Year.” Tufts’ 1+4 program is neither of these things, really. It’s an educational anomaly.

The 1+4 program is charting new ground for civic engagement. It’s providing incoming freshmen, regardless of financial ability, an unprecedented first-look at organic struggle domestic and international. For a year. For free.

Peter Levine is the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs in the Jonathan Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University.

Peter Levine is the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs in the Jonathan Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University.

Needless to say, 1+4 is creating waves among traditionally minded service trips. Truthfully, it’s a much-needed disruption of the decidedly predictable higher education model. A model, of course, obsessed with retention and four-year graduation rates—marketable statistics for university administration and important criteria of popular ranking systems.

Involvement at this level is altogether personal and impossible to quantify. Yes, 1+4 does indeed equate to a 5-year undergraduate experience. Because of the program’s key characteristics skeptics might argue that graduates of 1+4 are at a distinct disadvantage. A year late to the job market and a year removed, socially, from the majority of their entering class, participants could be inadequately prepared for entry into the professional world. They might argue it’s backwards in focus—a flipped version of Northeastern University’s famed Co-op program—without enough emphasis on career promise.

However, this is far too technical an observation. This argument is not without a modicum of merit, but it is unbearably restrictive. Not only does it assume that college is a one-size-fits-all experience, but also that an education itself is a means to an end. The 1+4 program is open source for the open-minded. It’s about the individual in the most selfless sense. The academe version of “Tuft” love, the program assumes a level of maturity and intrapersonal understanding among its aspirant. And it ought to. Sensible leaders, after all, are responsible for mapping their own course.

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2 thoughts on “Going Global: Tufts’ 1+4 Program Takes Aim at Real World Issues

  1. I hadn’t heard about this program but I think it’s an excellent idea. I wish the concept of a “Gap Year” was more widely embraced in the U.S., not derided as something only a slacker does on the pretense that they will eventually go to college but then never do. I know I certainly would have benefited greatly from a program like this.

    I really like the header graphic you created for this post!

    • Thanks, Alyssa!

      I think the conventional notion of higher education is at a current impasse. With an influx of unorthodox models for degree completion I am always surprised by the extreme divisive argument: If we all, in fact, learn differently, then why the technological divide? Why are academics still slow to embrace online methods of knowledge delivery? Who defines a college education? Those in their brick and mortar ivory towers? Or those yearning to learn, regardless of how they do it?

      If students choose to participate in the 1+4 program, then they should have the full support of the university. The fact that the option for students is even available shows extreme progress in reinventing the state of higher ed.

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