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When Tufts created what is now the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Deborah Jospin, J80, A14P, became a founding member of its national advisory board, which she now chairs. In this role she recently led a university-wide appraisal of Tufts’ 10 Boards of Advisors, formerly Overseers: the new name reflects members’ roles not only as advisors to the schools, but also as advocates and ambassadors for the university. A former director of AmeriCorps, Ms. Jospin, also a Tufts University trustee, lives the mission of active citizenship in both her professional and private life. She is a founding partner in sagawa/jospin, a Washington, D.C. based consulting group that provides expertise to foundations and nonprofit organizations. Ms. Jospin is president of the Daniel A. Dutko Memorial Foundation, established in memory of her late husband. Through its Dutko Fellowship program, outstanding Tufts graduates interested in public policy got their critical “first job” in Washington, D.C., working in politics, in media, or for a nonprofit organization. Ms. Jospin was also a leading force in creating Tufts’ Active Citizenship Summer program. While at Tufts, Ms. Jospin played varsity tennis and was a long-distance runner. She earned an M.Sc. in public policy from the London School of Economics in 1983 and a law degree from Georgetown in 1989. In 2009, Ms. Jospin received the Light on the Hill Award, the highest honor that the undergraduate student body bestows on Tufts alumni. Blueprint asked her to share her perspective on active citizenship.

Q. How does an idealist adapt to getting things done in Washington’s corridors of power? Sharp elbows?
A. Maybe I am the biggest idealist of all, but I still think a sharp mind gets you further than sharp elbows! Before you can get anything done in Washington, you need “hands on” experience with the issues that matter to you. You also need to do your homework, to understand all sides of the issue, including why people may disagree with you. And always be respectful—a little graciousness goes a long way these days.

Q. Public service can be an expensive privilege when one is tens of thousands of dollars in debt after college. What can we do to not only encourage but enable young people to put their talents to good works?
A. Tufts is already doing it. The Tufts Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) helps Tufts graduates working in public service repay a portion of their annual Tufts-incurred education loan debt. Believed to be the first university-wide program of this kind in the country, LRAP encourages and enables Tufts graduates to pursue careers in public service and reduces the extent to which their educational debt is a barrier to working in comparatively low-salaried jobs in the public and nonprofit sectors. I am super-proud of this program and the fact that we are a leader in this area.

Q. What is most gratifying about your work with the Tisch Board of Advisors?
A. The most gratifying thing about my work with the Tisch Board is getting the chance to support the amazing civic engagement work of Tufts students and faculty. I also love working with the talented and committed staff of Tisch College, and with my fellow board members, all of whom are the most active citizens—they inspire me every day.

This Interview first appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of Blueprint. To read the full issue, click here.