From the beginning, TELI has been a workshop for faculty who wanted to incorporate environmental themes into courses across the curriculum. This desire typified the Tufts approach to environmental literacy for its students: rather than being forced to take one or two designated courses on the environment, they would be repeatedly exposed to environmental issues in courses ranging across all disciplines.

The concept of investing in faculty literacy on environmental issues was pioneered at Tufts. In 1990, TELI was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and grants from corporations. In part because of the corporate role, the program received an award from President George H.W. Bush in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House. In subsequent years, programs to develop faculty literacy on environment and sustainability have been launched at other universities. The primary impetus for reviving TELI in 2008 to address both climate change and climate justice was the urgency of the issues: colleges and universities are ideally positioned to lead the development of solutions.

The rationale for TELI goes beyond subject matter – it enhances interdisciplinary collaboration. A study examining the long term effect of the 1990s version of TELI revealed that although faculty committed to work on only one course, half of those surveyed changed more than one course, and some changed as many as four. Many of these are the foundational courses of departments, enhancing curricular impact. The impact on research and interdisciplinary collaboration was also substantial. Collaborations in grant proposals and interdisciplinary teaching were reported by 58% of Tufts participants.[1] Among participants in the 2008 and 2009 TELI workshops, 80% had plans to incorporate what they had learned into courses they taught.[2]

TELI 2011 will be co-run by Colin Orians, Chair of the Environmental Studies Program and Professor of Biology and Julie Dobrow, Director of Communication and Media Studies and Lecturer in Child Development. TELI is administered by the Tufts Institute for the Environment (TIE). Antje Danielson serves as the TIE Administrative Director and Heather Angstrom, Program Coordinator. Two graduate interns, Ayesha Dinshaw and Katie Walsh will help to coordinate TELI 2011.

For more information, contact Heather.Angstrom(at)tufts.edu.

[1] Peggy F. Barlett and Ann Rappaport. “Long -term Impacts of Faculty Development Programs: The Experience of TELI and Piedmont.” College Teaching. Publication forthcoming.
[2] Mahaffy, E. “Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute (TELI) Program Evalution.” October 21, 2009.