Work Goes On: Tufts UEP Faculty, Students on the Shift to Remote Learning


In response to growing concern over COVID-19, Tufts University and other schools in Greater Boston recently announced that all classes would shift to an online format for the remainder of the spring semester. As a result of these changes, the department’s upcoming Open House will no longer take place on campus, although the virtual Open Houses on March 17 and April 7 will still take place as planned.

Tufts UEP students and faculty are moving to adjust or continue with research, instruction, volunteering, and more in the wake of these shifts. Below, Maya Clifford, Minerva Ciaffone Rodriguez, and Professor Kristin Skrabut discuss their current work as well as plans for the future.

Watch the video with full interviews here:

Maya Clifford, M.S. Sustainability

“One of the amazing things about UEP is the community.” (Image credit: Tufts UEP/Bailey Hu)

“I’m actually the first person to graduate with this degree from UEP and Tufts University.”

“Right now I am working on an essay in my Sustainability Metrics [and Decision Tools] class. Basically I’m looking at sustainable fashion and what those metrics are, who’s using them, and what the importance of them is.”

“I am taking Intro to GIS this summer, that’s like the last class I have to take. I plan on working, my areas of interest are sustainable fashion and sustainable investment. But one of the amazing things about this program is that it prepares you for all levels of sustainability, from nonprofits to large-scale corporate institutions.”

“The thing I’m definitely focused on [now] is making sure I am not learning in isolation. One of the amazing things about UEP is the community, and I’m still a part of this community even though I’m at home. And so communicating with other peers distantly, and reaching out to have questions. And honestly, virtual learning gives me the opportunity to have more one-on-one time with professors and students that I wouldn’t normally get to talk to… I’m really looking forward to that.”

“…Everybody is so supportive. I can’t even explain to you the breadth and width that some of the faculty here have gone just for me, to expose me to different things and to show me the possibilities that not only UEP alum have done but what they have done as well.”

Minerva Ciaffone Rodriguez, M.A. Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning

“I’m thinking about creating a sound map of the entire farm.” (Image credit: Tufts UEP/Bailey Hu)

“I’m 24, from Brazil. I have an undergrad in music, and I’m doing the M.A. program here in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning.”

“I’m writing a program evaluation for Brazilian Women’s Group, which is an immigrant organization that I volunteer on.”

“[This summer I’m] applying for residency, which is in a farm in Maine. They have this interdisciplinary art thing. I’m thinking about creating a sound map of the entire farm, of the soundscape and noise pollution. And also, on top of that, just spend four weeks writing music, which I miss doing.”

“I know all the professors [at UEP], I talk to them, I know all the students. I’m really bad at names, but I know the names of at least half of the students. [laughs]”

Kristin Skrabut, Professor

“I just set up some Zoom office hours… so feeling very hip.” Image credit: Tufts UEP/Bailey Hu

“I’m an assistant professor here in UEP. I have a PhD in anthropology. My research is focused on housing and anti-poverty programs in Peru.”

“Right this second I was just giving one of my students feedback on one of their thesis chapters. Her thesis is going to be absolutely brilliant and so that was pretty exciting. [It’s] about just transition in Holyoke.”

“I’m currently editing a chapter on single mothers in Peru and trying to think about what make single mothers… The conflicted position that single mothers occupy both as people who are portrayed as sort of hyper-deserving recipients of aid but are also often demonized as amoral reproducers of poverty.”

“Assuming everything gets back to normal, this summer I’m working on book revisions. And then next year I will be back in Peru working on trying to understand how biometric technologies are reshaping their legal system. And their strategies of governance in general, and how people are leveraging them to gain more access to government services, but also how those same technologies create new challenges and inequalities that we should be mindful of.”

“[Because of remote learning] I’ve been watching all sorts of online tutorial videos about how to use Zoom. I just set up some Zoom office hours on my Canvas website, so feeling very hip. And just emailing my students, letting them know that I’m available via Skype if they need anything.”