An Interview With TIE’s Co-Directors

Since its inception in 1998, Tufts Institute of the Environment has benefited from support by a sizable number of faculty members. Over time, the number of TIE-affiliated faculty university-wide has grown.

Initially, TIE’s governance structure was composed of a director and a large steering group of staff and faculty. This turned out to be a rather inefficient structure and in 2007 the Provost Office decided to change it. Today, TIE has four directors, each responsible for developing a certain area of TIE’s engagement as well as creating a coherent plan for TIE. The administrative director of TIE holds a full-time position and is also the chief executive officer of TIE. The other three directors are faculty members with a 0.1 FTE appointment in TIE. Their area of responsibility is undergraduate education, graduate education, and research in a specific area (water and health in 2012/13).

This faculty co-directorship has undergone some change recently, as outgoing directors Gretchen Kaufman, Elena Naumova, and Rich Vogel have gone on to pursue other projects. We wish them the best of luck in their endeavors.

The new faculty co-directors are now Tim Griffin, Associate Professor and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment Program of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, David Gute, Associate Professor in Tufts’ Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who will be joining Colin Orians, Professor in Biology. We would like to extend a warm welcome to them all! The TIE directors will be joined ex-officio by Professor John Durant who is the new Chair of the interdisciplinary Water: Systems, Science, and Society Program (WSSS) Steering Group, replacing Rich Vogel. Together the TIE directors structure the mission and direction of Tufts Institute of the Environment, as well as coordinate projects and promote environmental education. Recently, the three newest members spoke about their unique role at TIE and what they perceive as TIE’s contributions to the Tufts community. Following are a few of their comments, many of which touch on the importance of creating productive interdisciplinary collaborations and prioritizing environmental issues and activities.

What do you bring to the directorship of Tufts Institute of the Environment and/or WSSS?

Tim: I think I bring three things to TIE. First, I have worked on environmental issues related to agriculture for most of the last 25 years. Second, because I am in the Friedman School, my involvement with TIE allows me to connect the food system and the environment in which food production takes place. And third, most of my work (with farmers, with the federal government, and at Tufts) has been and continues to be interdisciplinary.

David: Having been very much involved with the early days of TIE I bring to the directorship a keen sense of excitement derived from re-committing to an organization that has evolved in significant ways in connecting with and adding value to various elements of the University. On a very practical level, being an epidemiologist, with research as my core focus as a Director, I look forward to capitalizing on my history of strong relationships with many of the Tufts schools to both sustain prior collaborations but to also forge new alliances which lead to consequential research opportunities.

John: I bring to the TIE leadership my great passion for environmental engineering education and research. Also, I bring many years of experience running academic programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level at Tufts. I greatly enjoy working with Tufts students and faculty, and look forward to helping TIE meet new challenges.

Why do you feel TIE is an important resource in the University?

Tim: TIE provides a focal point for environmental issues and activities at Tufts (including student engagement, development of curricula, and research). This coordinated approach allows students and faculty to be involved in many ways.

John: TIE is a unique resource to the university. Its main purpose is to promote dialog and collaboration between students and faculty involved in environmentally-relevant education and research programs from across the three Tufts campuses. TIE has helped to cross-fertilize many, many collaborative teaching and research endeavors that would have been unimaginable in its absence.

David: The conduct of environmental education and research requires an ability to function effectively and fluidly in an interdisciplinary milieu. TIE has consistently emphasized the development of such a capability while at the same time advocating for the enhancement of disciplinary strengths found in each of the Schools that comprise Tufts. In my view, TIE has matured in its ability to meet these obligations increasingly through the leveraging of expertise and resources spread across the entire University.