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Cummings School’s First-Year Students Kick-Off the School Year with TVOP
Students break the ice with figurative class icebergs
October 15, 2021
Quote about Design Thinking

The 104 first-years at Cummings School bonded before classes began at the Tufts Veterinary Orientation Program (TVOP). The event took place on the beautiful morning of August 23 in Agnes Faris Auditorium.

Group of students doing team-building activity during Tufts Veterinary Orientation“TVOP was a great way to connect and get to know my fellow classmates,” said Eve Joyce, V’25. “For me, and I’m sure for the majority of the class, it was my first time getting to see everyone in person, and it really helped to start to solidify the sense of community I feel at Tufts.”

Known for its engaging team-building activities, TVOP was started by professor Lois Wetmore and Professor Emeritus Mary Rose Paradis. Over the years, they involved the students in classic ice-breaker activities like human knots and some original ones, for example, giving students the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator and assembling the class into a grid by personality type.

Assistant professor Marieke Rosenbaum organized this year’s TVOP, knowing it would be a little different in 2021-with no physical games or contact.

“I wanted to keep the same spirit of bringing students together casually to get to know one other and think about themselves as a unified class and members of the community from day one,” said professor Rosenbaum.

She began by asking the students to imagine their lives as an iceberg and to reflect on the tip of their iceberg-what they show to the world-and the iceberg’s base supporting that tip. Several Cummings faculty, alumni, and current students shared their personal icebergs.

The first-years created their individual icebergs with words that convey their experiences, achievements, and perspectives, then compared similarities and differences across the class.

“On the base of their icebergs, the biggest word in the cloud was anxiety,” said professor Rosenbaum. “It was a little shocking to see, but also important for the students to realize they are not alone.”

The students developed a class iceberg before transitioning to a design-thinking exercise.

“Design thinking is a process to brainstorm novel solutions to a problem and develop a prototype for the solution,” said professor Rosenbaum. “In this context, students thought about how we collectively can support the base of the class iceberg, now and beyond.”

Students first brainstormed on their own, then came together in small groups to discuss their ideas and select one to present to the class. They posed solutions such as a giant ice cream sundae, a student mental health clinic, and even a rage room with balls, punching bags, and sensory objects to relieve anxiety.

“It was inspiring to hear stories from students and faculty about their journeys in the veterinary field and to know that even if we fall sometimes, we will have the support of the whole Cummings community to help us get back up,” said Megan Gulsby, V’25. “It really made me feel like I chose the right school.”

TVOP concluded outside on the lawn with the first-years enjoying the sunshine-and knowing they are all on this iceberg together.