This month’s feature in the Leaders in the Civic Engagement Movement (LCEM) series features two outstanding leaders at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. Alan Solomont and Mim Nelson have different backgrounds, but they are both committed to increasing the impact Tufts students have in the surrounding community, and vice versa.
Alan Solomont is the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts. His career, spanning four decades, started as a community organizer in Lowell, Massachusetts – shortly after his graduation from Tufts. He spent much of his professional career in the health- and elder-care arenas. He served as chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service board of directors, and capped his long career in public service as the ambassador to Spain and Andorra during the early years of the Obama administration. Here’s an excerpt of his interview with Jim McKeag, in which he reflects on his early years as a campus activist at the very university he now helps lead:
For Dean Solomont, higher education can help develop students’ appreciation for hard work, dedication to social justice and the importance of small steps. Service leaning opportunities can immerse students in local communities, and colleges and universities have a duty to help students develop the skills and knowledge necessary to become leaders in a democratic society; to value civic institutions, develop an ability for discourse and a respect for differences. Referring to his own campus activism and early impatience, he said, “we got people’s attention, but it was really the clarity of our arguments and the moral persuasion that made the difference. You don’t get anywhere just throwing stones.”
Mim Nelson is new to Tisch College, but she has been an important contributor to the Tufts University community for decades. She is an academic, researcher, and international best-selling author who has been the principal investigator of multiple studies on exercise and nutrition,and has leveraged her research to create community-based, evidence-supported interventions that improve nutrition and physical activity nationally. As Associate Dean, she leads Tisch College’s community engagement, student programming, and communications efforts. She was interviewed by Sarah R. Jimenez:
Dr. Nelson was an early pioneer in the field. When she started her work in nutrition and exercise research at Tufts in 1983 people “didn’t even have the term ‘community based participatory research.'” She cares about impact and making a difference, believing that direct engagement of citizens and stakeholders in the community is critical to developing systems to shift culture, values, and practices within a community in a sustainable manner. This approach is at the center of Tisch College’s mission of civic renewal, the movement to improve societies by engaging their citizens. Community engagement, Dr. Nelson explains, “makes for a much richer and better informed body of work.” And on top that, she adds, “it’s more interesting and inspiring, and importantly, leads to better outcomes.”
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