By Ling-Mei Wong
Alan Solomont takes community service seriously.
As an undergraduate student at Tufts University, his senior thesis in 1970 was on community health planning. After graduation, he became a political activist in Lowell, working on local neighborhood issues, housing conditions and labor conditions. Today, Solomont is dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service of Tufts University, founded in 2000 to make community service part of the university’s fabric for faculty and students.
“Tufts has a tradition of graduating students who went out and were active citizens engaged in the community, nation and world,” Solomont said, who stepped into the dean’s office in January. “Fifteen years ago, the president of Tufts wanted to make that a permanent signature. We made the college one of public service, not one that awards degrees. Our mission was to reach across the entire university — to influence the veterinary school, medical school, dental school, education and engineering — to ensure everyone who gets an education at Tufts receives the values and knowledge to be an active citizen for a lifetime of involvement in their communities.
The university is active in its local communities, from the Medford campus to Chinatown’s medical school. One of its efforts is the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health committee, which looks at the health effects of Route 93 on local communities and how to mitigate those effects.
“Our research puts the university to work at solving problems in the world and community where we’re hosted,” Solomont said.
Other public service efforts are tied to the curriculum. Tufts medical students are required to do 50 hours of community service, which they frequently exceed. And Tufts veterinary students offer their services to low-income Worcester students. Tufts students can also serve in the Josiah Quincy Elementary School, along with community organizations.
“We believe this generation of students we educate — the so-called ‘millennials’ — want to be part of something bigger than themselves and want to make a difference. They want to put their passion and values to work, both in their education and careers,” Solomont said.
Before becoming dean, Solomont was the U.S. ambassador to Spain for four years. He lived in Madrid, and has fond memories of art and “futbol.”
“Spain is a beautiful, wonderful country,” he said. “It has the most generous people I’ve ever known.”
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