Somerville Community Growing Center, Maisie Somerville—a diverse city of 76,000 residents occupying a mere 4.22 square miles just northwest of Boston—was once identified as the most densely populated city in the United States. Its history reflects our nation’s patterns of expansion, from early colonial settlers through a steady stream of Italian and Irish immigrants to the influx of recent newcomers in response to global demographic shifts and changing world politics. As new cultures and languages have established themselves in Somerville, the pressures on its community systems—and the opportunities for its residents—have increased exponentially.

At Tufts, we have a long legacy of positive involvement with our host city. Every year, our faculty members, staff, and students commit themselves to projects with community organizations and government agencies, supporting the Tufts mission of education for active citizenship while addressing current needs and concerns in the city of Somerville.

Citizenship and Public Service Scholars

Over the past year, 19 Tisch College Citizenship and Public Service Scholars have been working in Somerville, each contributing 8 hours a week to a wide variety of projects including after-school programs, community organizing campaigns, ESL classes, tutoring, and researching economic programs for low-income residents. Several Scholars recruited significant student support to help with programs addressing the community’s needs. Learn more.

Tisch Active Citizen Summer Fellows Program (ACS)

Somerville Groundwork ACS provides support to students who are taking an active role as committed public citizens to build stronger communities. To be considered for funding, a student must submit an application and a proposal detailing a partnership with a local organization. Learn more .

During the summer of 2004, ACS student Arthi Ananth worked with Groundwork Somerville on an environmental project, helping to plant more than 500 native plants (many grown on the Tufts campus) along the Somerville Bike Path. Read an article.

Tisch Civic Engagement Fund

This Fund was established to encourage greater student participation in active citizenship, expand community support beyond existing Tisch College programs, and foster new ideas for positive change. Learn more .

Sophomore Maisie Ganz teamed up with the Cummings School and the Somerville Community Growing Center in 2005 to offer classes and field trips and develop support materials for elementary school teachers. This project—designed to bring more young kids outside, where they can learn from nature— expanded to tapping trees for maple syrup in Somerville and the Medford campus. Tufts Environmental Studies and UEP students were also engaged in the Somerville Maple Syrup project.


Somerville Jumpstart This national program, which has a site at Tufts, works with children in four day care programs in Somerville and provides other volunteer services to promote literacy with very young children and their families. During the 2003-2004 school year alone, 45 Tufts students contributed more than 9,000 hours of service to more than 200 children and their families in Somerville. Learn more about Jumpstart.

Tufts Literacy Corps (TLC)

TLC supports the Tufts commitment to public service by providing training and supervision to students who work with children in the Medford and Somerville schools. Student volunteers from Tufts help K-8 students at several Somerville schools develop literacy skills. Learn more.

The Leonard Carmichael Society (LCS)

A highly active student-run volunteer organization, LCS supports active citizenship and community services through programs ranging from after-school assistance to annual fund-raisers for Somerville community organizations. Learn more.

LIFT Somerville (Formerly NSP)

LIFT operates a national network of resource centers staffed by student volunteers from colleges and universities to provide immediate problem-solving services and research to community residents in need of employment, social services, education opportunities, and more. LIFT volunteers are trained to work one-on-one with their clients. Learn more.

Academic Courses and Internship Opportunities

Internships and professional training requirements frequently place students into Somerville settings through Tufts programs such as Occupational Therapy, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, and Child Development. In some departments, courses with strong education for active citizenship goals build positive links between academic learning and the work of community organizations, often providing students with experiential learning opportunities in Somerville. View the Resource Guide .

Shape Up Somerville: Shape Up Somerville: Eat Smart. Play Hard™, a grant-funded project started in September 2002 by Tufts Professor Dr. Christina Economos, piloted an environmental approach to obesity prevention targeting 1st-3rd graders in Somerville. Community partnerships foster healthy eating and physical activity through messages modeled by teachers, staff, and parents throughout the day. More than 100 Tufts students were involved in all aspects of the program, from coursework to internships. Learn more.

Urban Community Courses: Tisch College Faculty Fellow Susan Ostrander taught two popular sociology courses: Urban Community Organization (Soc 149A) and Wealth, Poverty and Inequality (Soc 130). Students learned about the concept of “community” and strategies of community organizing, using Somerville as an example of how this works in a culturally diverse urban setting. Students were able to opt to spend four hours a week observing the work of a Somerville community agency. Local community organizers served as guest speakers.

Urban Borderlands Course: Deborah Pacini-Hernandez, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, will once again offer this course in Fall 2006 which explores the concerns of immigrants in her course Urban Borderlands: Learning in and from the Community (Anth 183). Students conduct research in Somerville, interviewing Latinos in the local community to learn their stories. Learn more.

SEEP: Science Elementary School Education Partnership: Taught by Ronnie Yashon, SEEP is offered each semester as part of the Tufts Experimental College. Tufts students volunteer in Somerville and Medford elementary school classes to help teach science to children.

For information, contact Shirley Mark at 617-627-3656 or email to